To get out there and experience the great outdoors you don’t need fancy hiking boots or Olympic-level fitness – simply lace up your sneakers and mark one of these incredible locations in your GPS.
These nature experiences are for everyone, whether you’re a keen hiker, total beginner, or just want somewhere scenic to lay down a picnic rug.
Here’s where to experience Mother Nature’s finest in Southern Queensland Country.
Ravensbourne National Park, Toowoomba Region
Trickling streams pass through palm groves and towering trees in Ravensbourne National Park. Wandering one of four trails through the park will take you up close to birdlife and incredible rainforest that once covered this part of the Great Dividing Range.
Choose to knock out the easy 500-metre trail or tackle something longer like the 6.2 kilometre return loop. Keep your eyes (and camera) ready to spot red-neck pademelons and swamp wallabies darting across your path.
Stop for a picnic at one of Ravensbourne’s day-use areas, or take your rug to the Gus Beutel Lookout where green grass, picnic tables and panoramic views over the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim await.
Crows Nest National Park, Toowoomba Region
If you have always wanted to see a platypus in the wild, you might get lucky at Crows Nest National Park. Wait quietly and patiently at any permanent watering hole for one of the mysterious and shy duck-billed creatures to pop to the surface.
The 2.1-kilometre Crows Nest Falls Lookout track is a favourite, taking you past the dramatic falls where water plunges 20 metres over steep granite cliffs. If it’s a hot summer’s day, extend the circuit by adding the Kauyoo Loop to The Cascades, Kauyoo Pool and Bottlebrush Pool.
Besides the elusive platypus, look out for swamp wallabies, echidnas, bandicoots, lace monitors, birds, and the endangered brush-tailed rock-wallaby along the way.
Girraween National Park, Southern Downs
It’s likely you’ve seen photos of people pretending to hold up the precariously balanced giant granite boulders in Girraween National Park, but take it from us, this park is more than just an Instagram moment.
Around 120,000 keen hikers wander into Girraween each year to explore 11,000 hectares of unusual landscapes and spot golden wattle, pea flowers, dainty orchards and blackbutt trees.
Experienced hikers will want to tick off Mount Norman’s peak. While the hike is only 4 kilometres long, the tough Grade 4 track requires rock climbing experience to reach the very top.
Luckily Girraween has more than 17 kilometres of walking trails to explore with easier walks found in the northern part of the park, like the 280-metre Wyberba Walk and the 1.2-kilometre Dr Roberts Waterhole.
Sundown National Park, Southern Downs
Witness the spectacular, untouched beauty of wild Sundown National Park. A lesser-known National Park in the Southern Downs, this border park is filled with dramatic ridges and peaks that rise over 1000 metres above the Severn River.
This isolated patch of wilderness is not short on nature activities and experiences. Hike serious trails, camp beneath river red gums, fish by the river, swim in waterholes and mountain bike down trails surrounded by box, ironbark and cypress trees.
Just remember, Sundown National Park is 4WD only.
Bunya Mountains National Park, Western Downs and South Burnett
There’s something alluring and magical about the Bunya Mountains National Park. Standing 1100 metres above sea level, Queensland’s second oldest national park offers walking trails, panoramic views, wildlife encounters and the world’s largest stand of Bunya pines.
Look for Bunya nuts on the forest floor, which after falling 25 metres from the canopy split open to be feasted on by native critters.
Once a day the Bunya Store offers a bird feeding experience where you can get up close with wild Australian king parrots and crimson rosellas. Stick around until dusk to see the wallabies who appear under the Bunya pines to graze.
Barakula State Forest, Western Downs
The largest state forest in the Southern Hemisphere, Barakula State Forest offers no shortage of epic nature experiences with 283,000 hectares of land to explore and work up a sweat.
Lace up your sneakers and make tracks for Turkey Mountain – the highest peak in the park. The uphill climb takes you 492 metres above sea level with views across the forest along the way – worth the incline to enjoy views from the top.
Keep an eye out for glossy black cockatoos, powerful owls, turquoise parrots and 200 other species of birds. Plus, if you camp, venture out at night to look for the yellow-bellied glider or golden tailed gecko.
Lockyer National Park, Lockyer Valley
Got the keys to a 4WD vehicle? Take it off-road at Lockyer National Park, a 90-minute drive from Brisbane. This wild park has no formal walking trails, so unless you’re an experienced remote bushwalker, the best way to explore is with wheels.
A handful of off-road trails are designed for 4WD and motorbike fun. Kick up dirt while crossing creeks and tackling the terrain, passing remote sandstone gorges and stunning eucalypt forest.
Lockyer National Park is also home to the vulnerable brush-tailed rock-wallaby, so quiet the engine, give the suspension a rest and see if you can spot one in the wild.
Lake Coolmunda, Goondiwindi
Getting in touch with nature doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s why Lake Coolmunda is the ultimate spot to sit back, relax and recharge your batteries while enjoying the great outdoors.
Located 13 kilometres east of Inglewood, spend the afternoon casting a line, bird watching or simply enjoying the sunset at the massive lake.
If you need a faster pace, get your adrenaline racing with action-packed water sports and then kick back at the campsite nearby.