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Coastal and Wilderness Walks

Southeast Queensland lays claim to some of the world's most superb wilderness areas, and the best way to explore them is on foot. Behind the Gold and Sunshine coasts are national parks, forests, and nature reserves dense with trails. Several also trace scenic sections of the coastline.

Coastal trails wind along the beachfront, trace rain-forest-clad headlands, and meander through waterfront reserves from the Gold Coast to the national parkland north of Noosa.

A string of national parks and wilderness areas connects the Gold and Sunshine coast hinterlands, laced with trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. Walkers are rewarded with memorable sights: dramatic waterfalls and pristine pools, tracts of ancient rain forest, and glow-worm caves; wildflowers, wildlife, and exceptional views, some stretching as far as the coast.

Safety

For bushwalking you'll need sturdy shoes with grip, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, wet- and cold-weather gear, drinking water, food, camping equipment and permits (if overnighting), and a map and compass. Leech-proof yourself by wearing long socks over your pant legs and carrying a lighter to burn off any hitchhikers. Let others know your planned route and timing, even for day hikes.

Over summer's wetter months trails may be muddy or closed. January to March, conditions can be hot. Watch for snakes. The EPA (www.epa.qld.gov.au) provides trail maps and up-to-date information.

Queensland's Great Walks

If your schedule allows it, tackle one of Queensland's Great Walks. A A$10 million state government initiative, the Great Walks aim to allow visitors of all ages and of average fitness to explore significant wilderness areas in a safe, eco-sensitive way.

A standout is the 54-km (34-mi) Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk, linking the species-rich, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area of Lamington and Springbrook plateaus via the glorious Numinbah Valley. En route, you'll traverse ancient volcanic terrain and pristine rain forest, passing torrential streams and waterfalls and 3,000-year-old hoop pines. Allow three days for the full walk, camping at designated sites en route, or trek just one section.

The Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk, a 58-km (36-mi) hike traversing the Blackall Range northwest of Brisbane, includes sections of Kondalilla and Mapleton Falls national parks, Maleny Forest Reserve, and Delicia Road Conservation Park. The four- to six-day hike takes you past waterfalls and through open eucalypt and lush subtropical rain forest teeming with native birds, reptiles, and frogs.

The Cooloola Great Walk meanders through Great Sandy National Park north of Noosa. A 90-km (55-mi) network of graded walking tracks passes the spectacular multihue sand dunes of Rainbow Beach, and covers walks of varying distances and difficulty.

Fraser Island Great Walk rewards hikers with exceptional scenery—wide, white-sand beaches, pristine deep-blue lakes, rain-forest tracts, and plenty of birds, reptiles, wallabies, and dingoes.

For downloadable trail maps and detailed information, visit www.epa.qld.gov.au. For camping information and permits, go to www.qld.gov.au/camping or phone 13-1304.

Shorter Options

Coastal Trails. Compact Burleigh Head National Park (07/5535-3032), midway between Surfer's Paradise and Coolangatta, includes coastal rain forest and heath that's home to wallabies, koalas, lizards, snakes, and brush turkeys. Trek the 2.8-km (1.75-mi) coastal circuit for excellent views, or the shadier, shorter, 1.2-km (0.75-mi) rain-forest circuit.

Hinterland Trails. Mt. Tamborine, Springwood, Witches Falls-Joalah, and Lamington national parks in the Gold Coast hinterland are all ideal for exploring on foot. Several wilderness retreats in the region offer guided bushwalks as part of the package.

West of the Sunshine Coast, short scenic walking trails in Kondallilla National Park, near Montville, take you past waterfalls, boulder-strewn streams, and lush rain forest teeming with wildlife. Or stroll along easy trails through Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, near Montville.

Updated: 07-2013

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