Queensland is world-renowned for its stunning natural environments – heritage listed rainforests, famous surf beaches, iconic outback landscapes, mountains, mangroves and marine parks including, of course, the Great Barrier Reef. But after moving here from Melbourne some years ago, the last thing I expected to find was a Queensland national park that felt more like a little slice of Victoria.
With its large granite boulders, rocky outcrops, woodlands and streams, Girraween is reminiscent of Mount Buffalo National Park where I spent countless childhood holidays camping in Victoria’s high country.
Meaning ‘place of flowers’, Girraween comprises 11,800 hectares of red-gum, stringybark and blackbutt eucalypt forest, sedgelands and heathlands that transform into a spectacular carpet of wildflowers each Spring.
Located 260km south-west of Brisbane on the NSW border, Girraween National Park has walks of various lengths and abilities (class 2, 3 and 4), a visitor information centre and campgrounds set in open forest at Bald Rock Creek and Castle Rock.
The area is culturally significant for First Nations People, with rock markings, tools and marked trees providing a glimpse into their deep connections with this ancient landscape.
Girraween is one section of the Stanthorpe Granite Mass underlying Queensland’s Granite Belt. Frogs, lizards and snakes rustle among the woodlands and the park is a haven for bird watchers looking out for turquoise parrots, yellow-tufted honeyeaters and fairy-wrens.
Our family visited in July when it was icy cold, with overnight frosts and clear, crisp mornings perfect for bush walking. In the middle of winter, Girraween felt so unlike a Queensland holiday destination that I wondered how many locals had experienced the uniqueness of this stunning National Park right on their doorstep.
Away from the east coast light pollution, the night skies were magnificent. An unexpected highlight was star gazing with a local astronomer who had built a 4.5m observatory dome on his property at Ballandean (well worth an overnight stay for curious kids and amateur astronomers).
A Girraween getaway can also include sampling local produce and wine tasting in Queensland’s only wine growing region (thanks to the unique combination of Granite Belt soil, climate and altitude). For me, the rolling hills full of vineyards were another nostalgic reminder of north east Victoria.
So next time you’re seeking a bush escape, visit Girraween National Park for great walking trails, spectacular views, all access camping and the added bonus of cellar door sales at many local wineries.
My next trip will be in Spring to see spectacular yellow, purple and red pea flowers, golden billy buttons, blue bells, white heath bells and sarsaparilla splashed across the rugged granite landscape.