We might be the coldest place in the state, but come December 1, we’re just as ready as the rest of Queensland to head outside, relish the longer days and soak up Summer on the Southern Downs and Granite Belt. You’ll enjoy the lack of humidity here, prompting you to venture into the National Parks and explore nature’s playground. Swap the surf for natural waterholes and cool rainforests and check out our top 7 must visit spots for your endless summer.
1. Girraween National Park, Ballandean
Work up a sweat on one of the many walking trails at Girraween National Park before exploring the rock pools near Bald Rock Creek and Castle Rock. Beware, the water will be extremely refreshing (read: freezing!), so it’s perfect for a post-trek dip in the middle of summer! Campgrounds are also available.
How to get there: Follow the New England Highway south of Stanthorpe, and continue past Ballandean before turning left on Pyramids Road. There is parking available at the Information Centre of the Bald Rock Creek day-use area.
2. Goomburra, Main Range National Park
The Goomburra section of Main Range National Park is home to rugged mountain ranges, spectacular lookouts, lush subtropical rainforest and some of the region’s most beautiful swimming spots. Fill a backpack with swimmers and a picnic and head off on one of the trails leading you to secluded waterholes:
CASCADES CIRCUIT: Enter the National Park and embark on the Cascades Circuit walk, which features a series of cascades and rocky pools. 6.5km return
ARAUCARIA FALLS: This track leads to the base of a small but spectacular waterfall surrounded by lush rainforest. 3.63km return.
How to get there: Goomburra can be reached from both the New England and Cunningham Highways and is well signed as you approach. The last 6km of the road to the park is unsealed and can be closed after very heavy rain, so check road conditions with RACQ before you visit.
3. Queen Mary Falls, Killarney
While you can’t swim at Queen Mary Falls, this tourist hot-spot must be added to your summer adventure checklist. A short walk will give you breathtaking views above the waterfall tumbling 40m to the valley below. This park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, famed for its unique landscape, ongoing geological processes, evolutionary history and diversity.
How to get there: Travelling from Killarney, take the Falls Drive, which will lead you past Browns Falls, Daggs Falls and onto Queen Mary Falls.
3. Leslie Dam, Warwick
Leslie Dam is one of Queensland’s most popular freshwater fishing and camping destinations. It’s also an ideal spot for swimming and watersports, so BYO kayak, tinnie or jetski and head out onto the water!
How to get there: From Warwick travel along the Cunningham Highway for 10 minutes before turning left onto Leslie Dam Road.
5. Severn River, Sundown
Sundown National Park is a rugged wilderness escape, lying on the QLD/NSW border. Perfect for keen 4WDers, all camping areas except Red Rock Gorge are on the banks of the Severn River, providing plenty of options for a refreshing dip. For an adventure to the best swimming hole, start at the Broadwater camping area at the park’s south entrance and follow the walking track from the information hut to ‘Permanent Waterhole’ – this waterhole is permanent even in the driest of times and is about 5m deep. At dawn or dusk keep your eyes out for platypuses surfacing as they feed.
How to get there:Sundown National Park is located south of Ballandean. The Broadwater camping area at the southern end of the park can be reached by any vehicle (no 4WD needed) from Stanthorpevia Texas Road, which turns into Glenlyon Dam Road.
6. Condamine River, Southern Downs
The Condamine River flows through Killarney and Warwick before heading west. The pontoon at Federation Park is the perfect launching pad for a day of swimming and sunbaking and is popular with locals in summer.
How to get there: When you enter Warwick from Brisbane, turn right into Victoria St after you’ve crossed the River – there is ample parking available and plenty of spots for a picnic.
7. Storm King Dam, Stanthorpe
Storm King Dam rests in a picturesque rural setting with many water birds (including pelicans) and is an ideal spot for fishermen (with golden perch, murray cod, silver perch, jew and river black fish) and families, with plenty of spots for swimming, water sports and picnics.
How to get there: Storm King Dam sits about 10kms southeast on the road to Eukey.