A combination of trails on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays that combines sunrise from Passage Peak, a stop at the remote Escape Beach and views from the Resort Lookout.
It’s an early morning start to catch the sunrise from Passage Peak. I set off from the Hamilton Island Resort Lookout Trail entrance, torch in hand, at 6am. The narrow but well-constructed trail ascends steadily from the resort towards Saddle Junction. There are views from the track toward Whitsunday Island and Whitsunday Peak to the east.
After a kilometre the walking trail meets a maintenance / 4WD road that follows the ridge, and shortly afterwards there’s a small detour along the road to the Flat Top Hill Lookout. Although it’s still a bit dark, there are views over Hamilton Island resort and Catseye Bay.
With the sky starting to lighten I fear I’ve started the walk a bit late (shouldn’t have hit the snooze button three times on my ‘phone before finally getting out of bed!). I push on towards Saddle Junction: from here there’s just under a kilometre to go, but it’s the steepest part of the walk. I can see my destination ahead – what looks like a small hill in the distance.
There’s more views from the trail to the north-west as it climbs up towards Passage Peak.
The last 200m is quite steep, but I make it just in time to see the sun rising above the ocean, behind Haslewood Island.
There’s 360-degree views from the top of Passage Peak – the highest point on Hamilton (although it’s only 234m above sea level).
To the south-east is Perseverance Island, the closest one to Hamilton Island, and in the distance Pentecost Island and Lindeman Island.
To the west is Catseye Bay and Hamilton Island Resort, and just behind the resort is Dent Island (home of the Hamilton Island Golf Club), with Long Island and the mainland in the distance. You can also see the maintenance road that goes along the ridge to the end of Hamilton Island.
I spend ten minutes or so on at the lookout, before heading back – it’s much quicker going down 🙂
I’m only re-tracing my steps for 200m, back to South East Head Junction. From here I’m taking the long way back, via South East Head and Escape Beach. The first few hundred metres is a wide maintenance track, and then I turn onto a narrow walking trail that roughly follows the coast south.
Halfway along the trail, there’s an abrupt change from light forest to a sea of grass trees (these are quite common on the sandy and infertile soil of ridges on Whitsunday islands).
A sulphur-crested cockatoo is enjoying the large flowering spike of the grass trees.
The trail is getting closer to the coast as it nears South East head, with Perseverance Island just across the narrow channel.
The trail rounds the headland, with South East Head jutting out into the ocean. The track is still fairly exposed here, although it’s only 7:30am so it’s pleasant walking even without shade.
The track drops into a small valley, crossing a small stream before ascending very gradually through a section of forest. Soon Escape Beach is visible below the trail.
There’s a very obvious (but not sign-posted) track down to the secluded Escape Beach. At this time of the day there’s no-one here – and I suggest there’s a good chance of having the beach to yourself for most of the day. It’s not particularly picturesque at low tide – high tide would be the best time to visit.
From Escape Beach the walking track ascends gently up to Saddle Junction, which will complete the circuit of South East Head.
From Saddle Junction I’m re-tracing my steps along the walking track to Resort Lookout Junction. Except now it’s daylight, while two hours ago I was walking up the same track by torch-light.
Once I reach the Resort Lookout Junction, I take the left fork towards the Resort Lookout – this part of my route is on a graded maintenance road (also used by ATV tours) and it not particularly nice walking. It adds about 4km to the walk, but I want to go back via one more lookout…
…Resort Lookout is a huge cleared area, that’s above the Hamilton Island airport and is also used for weather monitoring equipment. There’s a picnic table here, but it’s not a particularly nice place. The views are pretty good though, if you walk around the edge of the large lookout area. The lookout is almost directly above the resort and Reef View towers.
In the opposite direction is the mainland.
The quickest way back to the resort would be to return to Resort Lookout Junction and take the trail down to the Resort Trail Entrance. In hindsight, I should have done that… but instead I follow the maintenance road to Palm Valley. I’m heading away from Passage Peak, at the other end of the island, and towards the airport.
The trail leaves the park near the southern end of the runway, on Palm Valley Way. From here it’s about 2km along the road, past the Hamilton Island Airport and past the marina back to the resort. It means I’ve done a second big circuit rather than returning the same way from the Resort Lookout – but the walk from the last lookout to the resort isn’t particularly nice walking.
Starts at Resort Trail Entrance near the Hamilton Island resort. Return to same location or Palm Valley Way near Hamilton Island airport.
Chance Bay, a secluded bay in the Whitsunday Islands National Park is a short walk from the popular Whitehaven Beach.
Located on Whitsunday Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Whitehaven Beach is considered one of the world’s most unspoiled and beautiful beaches and was named ‘number one beach in Australia’ by TripAdvisor in their Travellers’ Choice Beaches Awards. Getting there is a 30min boat ride from Hamilton Island – slightly longer today due to several stops to watch whales breaching on both sides of the boat.
The 7km-long Whitehaven Beach is stunning – white sand and crystal-clear sand. We moor at the southern end, near a few other commercial boats.
The walk to Chance Bay (and Solway Circuit) starts near the very southern end of Whitehaven Beach, and is well sign-posted.
Guarded by a monitor lizard, the recently wood-chipped path heads gradually up and away from the beach. Although it’s still mid-afternoon, the forest provides shade along most of the trail.
It’s easy walking and only 500m before the turn-off to Chance Bay (on the other side of the headland) is reached. I take this trail and head up to the lookout on the way back – if there’s time. I’ve got about 90min before our boat leaves, and according to the information I found on-line it’s a 7.2km return walk.
The sandy trail is pretty flat and and remains shaded as it traverses a mix of eucalypt, hoop pine and grass tree forest.
As I’ve discovered a few times with Queensland trails, the signage is grossly incorrect – not sure if it’s incompetence or an attempt to discourage people from doing the walk. I reach Chance Bay in just under half an hour, with my GPS measuring the distance as 2.3km (a rather large discrepancy from the signage and on-line information that has the distance as 3.6km each way). The small beach has the same white silica sand as Whitehaven Beach – without the crowds. I’ve seen a handful of people heading the other way, and when I reach Chance Bay I have the entire beach to myself.
In the distance is Pentecost Island, the Lindeman Group and Cape Conway directly ahead.
I’ve got time for a quick swim here, before heading back up the trail.
When I reach the main trail again, I turn right, to continue to the end of the trail and the Solway Lookout. The lookout is part of the Solway Circuit, a circular walk, but from April 2018 – June 2019 part of the circuit is closed due to construction activity. Although the lookout elevation is only about 50m, there’s views over Solway Passage, Pentecost and Haslewood islands and Cape Conway.
From the lookout, it’s a short 700m back to Whitehaven Beach, and then back onto our boat for the return trip to Hamilton Island.
Whitehaven Beach can be reached by boat or seaplane from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island, in the Whitsunday Islands. (Closest major airports are Proserpine on the mainland, and on Hamilton Island. Both have direct flights from Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.)
Return distance to Chance Bay and Solway Lookout is 5.1km
(Ignore the signs – distances shown are incorrect.)
Easy. Total elevation gain of 100m
All year. Temperatures most pleasant in winter.
Routie GPS trail – view route and export to KML format.
A tough ascent of Mount Barney East (1,351m), one of the highest mountains in Queensland’s “scenic rim”, about two hours from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
It’s my first solo overnight walk since hiking the 3-day Thorsborne Trail (also in Queensland) back in 2006… I could have done Mount Barney as a day walk with an early start. But as I’m flying up from Sydney and don’t arrive at Mount Barney National Park until 8pm, it makes more sense to camp at the base of the mountain and get an early start the following morning.
It’s pitch black when I arrive at the Yellowpinch carpark and trackhead, but even by the light of my head-torch the first thing you notice is the warning signs. Be prepared. Make sure you’re equipped. Why don’t you consider another walk… Someone at the Parks office must have have had their annual bonus paid on the basis of how many people they could discourage from undertaking this hike. The mountain is known for rapid weather changes and there’s been a few bushwalker rescues by the local SES. But I can’t help feeling that a bit more effort could have been spent on having the various routes to the top shown on the topographical map, if safety is a concern. I’ve got both a printed and an on-line topographical map, and not one of the three summit routes is shown.
The other striking thing is the stars – being a completely clear night and far away from any towns, the night sky is incredible.
Three Routes to the Mt Barney Summit
There’s many ways to get to the top of Mount Barney – all of them being fairly rough. The warning signs outline the two “official” routes, but makes no mention of one of the most popular routes to the top.
South East Ridge (SER) – one of the official summit tracks and also one of the longest routes. The signage suggests not to descend using this route due to some steep scrambles.
South East Ridge – an alternate and popular route; it’s the most direct and steepest. No official signage at the start of the trail. I went up this way.
South Ridge (SR) aka Peasants Ridge – the second “official” route which is slightly longer. It’s the only route that provides camping sites close to the summit (Rum Jungle and Old Hut sites). I came down this way.
Although I didn’t do all three routes, both the South East “Unofficial” and South Route were of similar difficulty (in terms of both navigation and rock scrambling). I met a group who had gone up and back down using the South East Route (SER) and they didn’t experience any difficulties. If you’re planning to camp near the top, then the South Route would be the best option; otherwise going up the South East “Unofficial” track is the (arguably) quickest way to the top! (It’s feasible but not officially allowed to camp on the summit – there’s plenty of space but the ground is very rocky and covered with vegetation – and it can get very cold and windy!)
South East Ridge – going up
I’ve camped at Cronan Creek 9 (booked and paid for online the previous day – see link at bottom of post): it’s one of two official camping spots along an old forestry road that follows the valley, providing access to all the summit trails. I leave the warmth of my tent around 6:30am, and continue down the firetrail.
Cronan Creek 9 camp site at Mount Barney
Main trail at Mount Barney
About 500m further I pass Cronan Creek 10, an equally nice camping spot – both are situated close to Cronan Creek, which had a decent flow of water (there had been some rain over the previous days).
Cronan Creek 10 camp site at Mount Barney
Cronn Creek behind the camp site
It’s only about 15min to the start of South East Route; I knew what I was looking for from previous online research – a tree with arrows scratched into it, next to a fallen log – although there is no official signage here. The track is narrow but easy to follow, as it immediately starts climbing through tall forest.
Start of South East Ridge – the unofficial route
South East Ridge track near the start
One of the advantages of the South East Ridge route is you get nice views along the trail to the east and west: below is the view looking south towards Mount Ernest (964m), another peak in the Mount Barney National Park.
About half-way up there’s two markers with “SER”: nice to know I’m on the track, but a little baffling as this is the “unofficial” South East Ridge track that isn’t meant to exist… there are two of these markers close together.
As the trail follows the ridge up, it gets rockier and the trees more stunted… to the left (east?) the trail often passes closes to the edge of the ridge, with steep drop-offs to the valley.
About two thirds of the way up is the only time that I think I may have lost the track… there’s a rocky outcrop that looks a bit daunting, but is actually fairly easy to traverse. A nice view again from the top of the outcrop…
After clambering over the outcrop, the track then drops slightly into a small gully, before climbing up what I hope is the summit (I’m now at about 1,100m asl). It initially seems there’s no obvious trail on the other side of the outcrop, but after a bit of searching I find a trail that continues up the next ridge!
There are frequent views out to the south, and as you gain altitude Mt Lindesay (1175m) starts becoming visible behind Mt Ernest.
There’s one tricky section where a rope would come in handy – it doesn’t look too difficult in the photo (below) and there’s no exposure – but it takes some effort to get up one large boulder. After a few attempt, I wedge my feet into a narrow crack and haul myself up the rock. I wouldn’t have liked to do this with a heavy pack!
Although the views are generally to the south, there are a few vantage points where you can look out the north east, with Mt Maroon (967m) to the north – this is another peak that has a trail to the summit.
I’m now at around 1200m, and there’s a final ridge to climb to what I hope is the summit – it looks impossibly steep. But the track winds up the steep ridge, between rocks and along a few sections where you’re pulling yourself up with the help of exposed tree roots.
Finally I think I’ve reached the summit… but it’s a false summit. The Mount Barney East peak is tantalizingly close, but first I need to drop down slightly into a saddle and back up the peak.
I’ve got the summit to myself: s group of four hikers is behind me, and I meet a family who have just finished lunch and head off down the South Ridge track. The views are pretty impressive.
To the south Mt Lindesay is clearly visible behind Mt Ernest, which has a long ridge line.
To the north west is a glimpse of Lake Maroon and the Main Range National Park.
South Ridge – going down
After a short break at the top, I decide to descend South Ridge, and continue along the scrubby summit ridge. Directly ahead of me across a saddle is Mount Barney West (a few metres higher than Mount Barney East, at 1353m).
I’m heading for Rum Jungle, an area of dense forest in the saddle between Mount Barney East and Mount Barney West.
It’s a fairly steep descent with no obvious path – most of the time I’m trying to walk on top of the large sections of rock, and avoiding the thick scrub. I’m aiming for a small clearing at the bottom – the Old Huts site, where there used to be a few huts (nothing remains there now). From here there are occasional markers, which helps as the track from Old Hut site, which crosses a small creek, is hard to find. This would be a nice camping spot, with a short but steep hike up to the summit.
Here I lose the track – or rather, take the wrong track which leads to nowhere – before backtracking and finding a faint trail to Rum Jungle. This is another nice camp site, very shaded and I’ve read prone to leeches if it’s been raining.
I make a small diversion up Mount Barney West, which provides a nice view back to the Mount Barney East summit. I don’t have the energy to scramble to the top of this peak…!
The start of the track from Rum Jungle down South Ridge is not obvious… but once you’re on it, there are orange “SR” markers at regular intervals. There are a lot less views from this track – although you do get occasional views to the south.
It’s a lot less steep than the South East Ridge track, but a bit longer… it feels like the descent take forever as it descends through light forest and the occasional rocky section. Looking the GPS track afterwards, it’s about 3km up via the South East Ridge track and 5km down via the South Ridge track,
In contrast to the South East Ridge track, with its tricky slab near the top, the South Ridge has a couple of steep bits near the bottom. The first one is a long and steep section, which is not difficult, but would be more challenging if wet. Shortly after there’s a big rock that requires me to precariously cling to the rock and some handy grasses growing out of the rock… the group behind me takes one look at me stuck halfway down, and finds an easy way around the rock!
From here it’s another easy 1.5km or so back to the main firetrail, through tall forest and a few sections of rainforest.
Unlike the South East Ridge trailhead, this one is well-marked.
It’s starting to feel late in the day, even though it’s only about 3pm – sunset is around 5:30pm. I’ve got time to explore a bit more, so rather than heading back to the car at Yellowpinch, I continue up the firetrail to have a look at Conan Creek Falls. It’s easy walking, although slightly uphill (you gain about 100m), and the firetrail crosses the creek a couple of times (all of the crossing can be rock-hopped without getting wet feet!).
I reach the sign-posted track down to Cronan Creek about 2.6km from the South Ridge trail head. It’s then only 100m down to the creek. I think it’s worth the walk – there’s no-one else here, and if it was a few degrees warmer I would have gone for a quick swim.
Now it’s straight back to the Yellowpinch car park, via my camp site where I need to pack up my tent and collect overnight backpack. It’s about 5km down the firetrail to the national park boundary, where a weir crosses Logan River.
The last 2km passes through light forest and farmland – it seems the firetrail is actually on private land. The mountain directly ahead is not Mount Barney – it’s a much lower peak.
There are glimpses of Mount Barney East to the west, rising above the forest.
A bit further (about a kilometre before the car park) is the well-marked start of the “official” South East Ridge track, with Mount Barney in the background.
From here it’s another 20min or so back to the car. I’m back just after 4pm, and with plenty of time to get my evening flight back to Sydney. A great walk that I’d do again… but with time to catch sunrise/sunset from the peak.
Start at Yellowpinch car park, about 100km from Brisbane or the Gold Coast. Do not enter “Mount Barney” into Apple or Google Maps or you’ll end up at the wrong place!
Approx 1-4km to start of summit trail (depending on which one).
3km ascent via South East Ridge (unofficial) or 5km via South Ridge.
Approx 22km as walked (3km Day 1 / 19km Day 2)
Hard. Total elevation gain 1,100m. Some difficult sections of rock and some trails are distinct but unmarked
All year. Winter is definitely the best time. Avoid walking in the middle of the day in summer.
1:25K Mt Lindesay topographical map
Create a bespoke topographical map which can be downloaded as an image or PDF at QTopo
Mount Barney National Park map PDF download – not much use for navigation
A long day walk that combines waterfalls (Coomera Circuit) with views over the Byron hinterland (Mount Hobwee Circuit).
Lamington National Park is part of the Scenic Rim, a group of forested mountain ranges that was formed by volcanic activity and encompasses south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. The national park is also part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, which includes an extensive area of subtropical rainforest. The park is divided into two sections: Binna Burra on the eastern side and Green Mountains on the western side of the Lamington Plateau; the Border Track links these two sections by foot. The Border Track also forms a significant part of the Queensland “Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk” (not a walk I would recommend or undertake, as it involves a long section of road linking two sections of the bushwalk.)
Lamington National Park has over 150km of trails (largely constructed during the Great Depression) that were designed by Romeo Lahey. There are references to Lahey laying out these trails based on his observations of dairy cow movements on the surrounding hills, with their paths never having a gradient of greater than 1:10 [source: Wikipedia]. While I haven’t found primary evidence of this, it is noticeable when hiking that the paths are never steep, and often “zig zag” endlessly up the side of steeper peaks.
It’s been just over eight years since my last hike in Lamington National Park, so I’m taking the opportunity to squeeze in a walk before an IT conference that’s being held on the Gold Coast. Being easier to get to Binna Burra (it’s 30min less driving than Green Mountains), I awake early and I’m on the track by 7:15am. I’m starting off on the Coomera Circuit, which is regarded as one of the best walks in this section and takes in a number of the 400 waterfalls that are in Lamington NP. It was rated as one of the best day walks in Australia by Australia Geographic.
The tracks are well made, and I’m travelling at least as fast as a cow as I leave the Binna Burra track head.
The Coomera Circuit trail soon branches off to the right (the Border Track goes straight ahead), and descends into the Coomera Gorge. The first waterfall, at the 5.4km mark, is the most impressive. Coomera Falls has a drop of 64m, below a viewing platform 160m above gorge.
The track continues through rain forest as it follows the Coomera River, ascending gradually (the Coomera Falls lookout is the lowest point of the walk, at 695m above sea level). The vegetation is lush and it’s cool on the track, with a number of smaller side waterfalls. Fortunately, there are no leeches!
Gogindara Falls (Lamington National Park)
Coomera Circuit track following the river (Lamington National Park)
The next falls are the Gwongorenda Falls and Goorinya Falls. My pace is now slowing, as I stop to take photos every few hundred metres.
Coomera River near the Gwongorenda Falls (Lamington National Park)
Goorinya Falls, on the Coomera Circuit (Lamington National Park)
Another ten minutes and down a short side-track is the Bahnamboola Falls, which cascades into a deep pool.
Next, there’s Kagoonya Falls and the smaller Gwongarragong Falls, both of them quite different but all of them very picturesque.
Kagoonya Falls on the Coomera Circuit track (Lamington National Park)
Gwongarragong Falls on the Coomera Circuit track (Lamington National Park)
Mercifully, as my progress has now slowed considerably (I’m well below cow-speed, despite the very gradual ascent) with the constant photo-stops, there’s 500m or so before my next step. Moolgoolong Cascades are small, but drop into a large and still pool.
Moolgoolong Cascades on the Coomera Circuit (Lamington National Park)
Small pool on the Coomera River
A bit further on, I reach the junction with the Border Track, having walked 10.6km. It’s still early in the day, so rather than turning left and returning via the Border Track, I turn right and continue further. It’s about another kilometre to the next junction, where I leave the Border Track and join the Hobwee Circuit (I’m now about half-way to O’Reillys Guesthouse, at the Green Mountains end of the track). The thick rainforest has been replaced by more open wet sclerophyll forest.
A side-track leads to Dacelo Lookout, with views over the Byron Shire. Mount Warning is the highest peak, directly ahead in the distance (another good hike).
The Mount Hobwee Circuit track gradually ascends to the summit of Mount Hobwee, which is the highest point of the walk at 1,164m. There is no view, so I take a photo of the sign, eat my chocolate bar (it’s lunch time) and continue on my way.
I add one more side-trip to my walk, taking the Wagawn Track (4km return) out to Mt Wagawn. There’s again no view from the Mt Wagawn summit (1,015m), but a rough track that leads down the ridge from the summit provides some views to the south. (According to my map, the track should continue down the ridge to Bushrangers Cave, but the track peters out, and I don’t have the energy to bush-bash down to the cave. Post-walk research reveals that the cave is best visited by starting from the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road, at the bottom of the ridge.)
From here, it’s back to the starting point… I’ve walked 18km and it’s more or less all downhill from here. From the Wagawn Track I re-join the Hogwee Circuit, and then I’m back on the Border Track. There’s one more nice view from the Joalah Lookout, this time out over the Woggunba Valley and the Springbrook National Park beyond.
I’m almost back… another 5km and I arrive back at the car, finishing the walk at 1:15pm and in time to get to my afternoon meetings in the Gold Coast – and a well-earned beer!
About 110 km / 2 hour drive south of Brisbane and 45m / 50min from Gold Coast, both via Beechmont
The Mount Warning track is a steep hike to the top of a volcanic plug, and the first place on the Australian mainland to be touched by the morning sun.
The remnant of an ancient shield volcano, Mount Warning stands to the south-west of Brisbane in the Tweed Ranges. A place of cultural and traditional significance to the Bundjalung (Aboriginal) people, the mountain was officially recognised as Wollumbin in 2006. It’s a popular walk undertaken by over 60,000 people each year (Source: Wikipedia), many of them to watch the sunrise. Under traditional Aboriginal culture, Wollumbin is considered a sacred men’s site and people are discouraged from climbing the mountain (there’s signage at the start), although very few Web sites mention this and it’s a popular walk.
Today is my second time doing this hike, this time taking Luke, my (7-year old) son, with me. We set off from our hotel at Kingscliff around 7am, and we’re at the start of the trail just after 8:30am. The track immediately starts climbing up through subtropical and temperate rainforest.
It’s a well-made track; a few sections are a bit rough and there’s sometimes a bit of mud (it looks like it could get pretty muddy in places after heavy rain) and we make good progress. As the mountain gets steeper, the track zig-zags up the hill maintaining a very constant or consistent gradient. There’s occasional views out through the foliage, but most of the time there’s not a lot to see.
The fun starts at the 4km mark, when the track turns into a steep rock scramble assisted by chains. This last section is about 400m, with 150m vertical ascent.
There’s a couple of platforms and benches on the summit, which is 1,156, m above sea level. There are views in all directions, from coastal views towards the Gold Coast and Byron Bay in the east to the Border Ranges National Park to the west. The ascent’s taken a bit over two hours, and the round trip including 30min at top is just under four hours.
The Sunrise Climb
My previous Mount Warning climb was in May 2014; this time on my own. I stayed overnight in the area, arriving at 11pm the previous evening and staying at the Mt Warning Rainforest Park. This meant I could get a 5am start, reaching the summit in about 1:15min. It wasn’t the best weather: it rained heavily overnight and while it did clear in the morning, I didn’t actually see the sun rising.
Hints and Warnings
It can get cold when you stop – bring some warm clothing.
There’s a chance you’ll get a leech; you can bring salt, pluck it off with fingers or wait until it falls off!
Don’t be on the summit (or on the section with chains) if there is a thunderstorm. [Update: a man was killed and his partner injured by lightning on the summit in December 2016. ABC News]
There is no mobile coverage on the trail.
Mount Warning is about 2 hours from Brisbane and an hour from Gold Coast. Head towards Murwillumbah.
8.8km return (3-4 hours)
Moderate. Steep climb (750m ascent).
All year round. Avoid being on the summit during thunderstorms