Breathtaking mountain vistas, spectacular waterfalls and quaint country towns.
While traditionally, travel has involved packing the suitcase, organising the visas and booking the airline tickets for far-flung destinations, in today’s COVID-controlled world our travel adventures invariably involve exploration much closer to home. And that’s a good thing.
Over the last 12 months, Dinah and I have seen more of our own great state of Queensland and more of Australia than perhaps we otherwise would have. And it has been great with many of our best loved destinations within just a few hours of our home on the Sunshine Coast. South East Queensland is a beautiful region with a sub-tropical climate and spectacular coastal and inland scenery. The Scenic Rim region south west of Brisbane is one of the most beautiful, offering rugged mountain ranges combined with lush green valleys and waterways and dotted with picturesque small country hamlets, wineries, craft and cottage industries.
Our MDC Forbes 13 hybrid van in tow, we travelled south on the M1 bypassing Brisbane as we headed towards Ipswich before taking the Cunningham Highway west to Warwick. On the way we climbed steeply through spectacular Cunningham’s Gap, a narrow gap in the mountains of the Main Range National Park hewn out of solid rock. About 20 kilometres past Cunningham’s Gap we turned off the Cunningham Highway and drove around 45 kilometres south-east through the small country villages of Freestone, Yangan, Emu Vale and Tanneymorel to our first destination – Killarney and Queen Mary Falls. After the recent rains the countryside is lush and green, making this an extremely pleasant drive.
A tribute to the axemen of the past
Located in the Southern Downs region, Killarney is small country town of just under 1000 residents. Established in 1878, the town boast a history based mainly on timber. Not surprising, as the region is surrounded by densely forested hills. There’s the Killarney Hotel, a service station, a co-op with a well-stocked grocery store, hardware store and rural supplies store as well as a selection of small specialty shops. There is also an excellent heritage centre and museum paying tribute to Killarney’s axemen. The Heritage Centre is definitely worth a visit.
Queen Mary Falls. Spectacular!
Having stopped in Killarney for fuel and supplies, we headed out of town towards Queen Mary Falls and Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park where we were booked to stay for five days. The park is located on the Spring Creek Road, about 10 kilometres from Killarney and is literally right opposite Queen Mary Falls. The park offers spacious powered and unpowered caravan sites as well as a selection of cabins, some with their own full facilities. This is a beautiful destination where you can find a shady spot for the van under giant gum trees within easy walking distance of the facilities, including a camp kitchen. Sites are flat and grassy and easily accessible, most with their own stone fireplace. Buy a bag of wood and enjoy an open fire in the evening. Here it’s more like country camping that staying in a caravan park. There’s also a café at the entrance to the park that caters for both park guests and the dozens of visitors each day to Queen Mary Falls. And yes, pets are allowed.
Check out Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park at: www.queenmaryfallscaravanpark.com.au
Literally across the road from the caravan park is the car park and entrance to the Queen Mary Falls Park. The top of the falls is easily accessible via an easy 800-metre walk. There is a viewing platform at the top of the falls that offers an uninterrupted and spectacular view of the falls. The recent rains meant that during our stay at Queen Mary Falls, the falls were flowing strongly. You can also opt to take the 2.5 kilometre walk down through the gorge to the bottom of the falls. It is steep and slippery in parts and needs to be undertaken with some caution. It’s a steep climb down and back up. Dinah and I undertook the walk and have to admit that the view from the bottom of the falls looking back up was very definitely worth every step.
There is lots to do here, including hand-feeding the magnificent parrots, taking a self-guided twilight native animal walk, bush walking as well as 4-wheel driving and sightseeing. Queen Mary Falls is actually the top tier of three waterfalls, the other two being Browns Falls and Daggs Falls which you pass on the drive up to Queen Mary Falls. Both are also a must to see. Our stay allowed us time to visit the falls a number of times as well as to explore the local countryside. We also visited Killarney to more fully explore the town, including having ‘one off the wood’ at the historic Killarney Hotel, as well as visit the Heritage Centre. I also discovered a new pass-time – shaping trekking poles from local forest timbers. Could be the start of a new enterprise!
Bigriggen Park. One of the best locations we have ever stayed at!
Five extremely pleasant and relaxing days later and it was time to move on, our next stop Bigriggen Park outside Rathdowney. Also located in the Scenic Rim approximately 90 minutes from Brisbane via Beaudesert, Bigriggen Park is set on 100 acres of high hilltops and gentle river flats, surrounded by Australian bush and national parks.
From Killarney, we travelled to Warwick and then back along the Cunningham Highway through Cunningham’s Gap to the small village of Aratula. Here we took the road to Boonah, about 90 kilometres almost due east then 30 kilometres south to the small town of Rathdowney. This is very definitely a one-pub town, with a small grocery store, petrol station, caravan park, school, sports oval and police station making up the town. Bigriggen Park is about 15 kilometres out of Rathdowney, in the lea of the twin-peaks of Mount Barney.
This is one of the most beautiful and well-managed parks we have ever stayed at. It is both picturesque and immaculate, with well-maintained powered and unpowered sites that are spacious and well presented, most with a brazier for an open fire. We had booked a hilltop site overlooking a stretch of the freshwater Logan River that was also the local ‘swimming hole’. Sitting outside our van we could look down on the river and see both adults and children frolicking in the water of floating downstream through the gentle rapids on inflatable mattresses.
The park is huge and can easily accommodate hundreds of visitors in caravans, campervans motorhomes and big rigs on flat, grassy sites under shady trees, many of the sites with river outlooks. There is also plenty of room for campers. The office and shop are well stocked. Here you can also purchase wood for the fireplaces. The park facilities are spacious and very clean. Hot showers require a $1 coin for 5 minutes. Very generous. One thing to be aware of…there is no mobile phone reception throughout the park sites however there is reasonable phone reception at the office.
Bigriggen Park is a great place for families, with bike trails, swimming holes, fishing in the nearby creek and space for kids to run and play. There is even a small BMX track in the centre of the park. For us adults, its just about relaxing in the camp chair with a glass of cab sav and watching the sun set before lighting the evening fire and turning on the Webber!
We can’t speak highly enough about this place. It’s like free-camping – but with 240-volt power. So close to Brisbane and the Gold Coast, yet a million miles from anywhere. We suggest that you check out Bigriggen Park for yourself at: www.bigriggen.com.au
And Rathdowney? Yep, had a beer or two at the Rathy Pub while we were in town shopping for ‘essentials’!
Too soon it was time to head home after 10 days away in the van – five days at Queen Mary Falls, five days at Bigriggen Park. Just a short sojourn to the Scenic Rim, our first but very definitely not our last. You’ll find more on the Scenic Rim at: www.visitscenicrim.com.au/
Main Picture: Queen Mary Falls
- The Falls Drive from Killarney to Queen Mary Falls
- The long drop – spectacular Queen Mary Falls
- The top tier of a series of three magnificent waterfalls
- Dinah enjoying the view from the observation platform
- The Queen Mary Falls walks are spectacular
- Historic Killarney Hotel – classic country pub
- The Heritage Centre, a tribute to the Killarney axemen
- A new pass-time – shaping trekking poles
- Great sites at Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park
- Architecture of old near Rathdowney
- Cattle yards at the entrance to Bigriggen Park
- The imposing twin peaks of Mount Barney
- The swimming hole at Bigriggen Park
- Expansive spaces in the park
- You just can’t beat a Queensland country home