11 of the Best National Parks in Queensland from Brisbane to Cairns to Visit Now!

11 of the Best National Parks in Queensland from Brisbane to Cairns to Visit Now!

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Our favorite and Best National Parks in Queensland to visit along the eastern seaboard!

Queensland, Australia’s sunshine state, is home to the world’s largest reef (348,700 km²), the world’s oldest rainforest (180 million years), and arguably some of the world’s best beaches. But, did you know that Queensland is also home to the most national parks in Australia!

Queensland boasts an impressive 237 national parks just beating out New South Wales’ 235 parks.

But with so many national parks to explore, how do you know which is the best national park in Queensland to visit?

Some of the state’s best natural attractions lie along the popular coastal route that connects the state capital in Southeast Queensland with the tourist hub of Cairns in the far north. We have rounded up the best national parks between Brisbane and Cairns you have to see.

This list of the best national parks in Queensland from Cairns to Brisbane is not ranked in any particular order but rather sorted south to north.

Noosa National Park

Surfers enjoying a perfect day in the stunning Noosa National Park, one of the best national parks in Queensland
Surfers enjoying a perfect day in the stunning Noosa National Park, one of the best national parks in Queensland

The Sunshine Coast boasts some of the best beaches in Australia with the northern beaches of Noosa being some of the most stunning, famous and most popular.

Not only does Noosa have crystal clear waters, pristine white beaches, and amazing surf, but the Noosa Headland is also home to one of the best national parks in Queensland, Noosa National Park.

Noosa National Park set on the Noosa headland and offers a variety of walking tracks to explore the 4,000 hectare park. The most popular walk is the iconic Coastal Walk. This stunning 5.4 km one-way trail takes you past beautiful stone-strewn bays, white sand beaches, and picturesque views of the stunning coastline framed by coastal forest.

Make sure to get to the Noosa National Park early to avoid the crowds and the fierce Queensland sun!

Great Sandy National Park

Outrunning the rain on K’gari’s / Fraser Island’s western beaches, potentially Queensland’s best national park

No list of Queensland’s best national parks in would be complete without mentioning K’gari and the Great Sandy National Park.

Great Sandy National Park is divided into two sections, the Cooloola Recreation Area which runs from Noose Heads to Rainbow Beach, and K’gari / Fraser Island, arguably one of Queensland’s best travel destinations and the largest sand island in the world.

Cooloola Recreation Area

Cooloola Recreation Area is known for its wind swept beaches, sand dunes, freshwater lakes, paperbark swamps and more. While certain parts of Cooloola Recreation Area are accessible by conventional vehicle, it is best to visit the area with a 4WD. The one of the most popular thing to do in the Cooloola Recreation Area is to tackle the kilometers and kilometers of beach with your 4WD and for 4WD enthusiasts, the national park offers several 4WD tracks.

Other things to do in Cooloola Recreation Area include camping behind the dunes at Double Island Point, fishing, canoeing, and tackling some of the nature walks and trails available.

K’gari / Fraser Island

The island, which is known by both its indigenous name K’gari and more recent European moniker Fraser Island, is a bucket list destination for many Australians and international travelers. The largest sand island in the world is accessible only by 4WD and is a true wonderland for any outdoor enthusiast.

While having your own 4WD provides the most flexibility, if you are visiting from overseas or do not have a 4WD, tag-a-long tours are available which allow travelers to explore the island with a 4wd as part of a tour group.

And what do you do on the worlds argest sand island? There are plenty of things to do on Fraser Island. Visit Lake Mackenzie with its unbelievably blue water and soft white sand. Drive down 75-mile beach, (but make sure to check the tides). Catch the sunset over Harvey Bay on the west coast as you fish for dinner. Spot dingos, just don’t get too close! Take a dip in the champagne rock pools! Discover the history of the island, exploring the old logging station in the island’s central rainforest, or discovering the Maheno shipwreck on the island’s eastern beaches. And this is only the beginning of the great places to visit and things to explore on Fraser Island.

If you visit just one of the national parks in Queensland, I would make sure it is Fraser Island. It might just be the best national park in Queensland if not in all of Australia.

Burrum Heads National Park, Kinkuna Section

Kinkuna, one of our favorite things to do near Bundaberg is camp here.
Looking back on the beach from Burrum Heads National Park, Kinkuna Section, one of the best national parks in Queensland. Can you spot the wallabies feeding?

Despite being only 26 km south of Bundaberg, the Kinkuna Section of Burrum Heads National Park feels remote and wild making it one of the Queensland national parks not to miss.

There is not much to do in the Kinkuna Section of Burrum Heads National Park, but that is the reason to visit. Camp behind kilometers and kilometers of unspoiled beach, fish as the sun rises over the ocean every morning, and take long walks on the beach.

Kinkuna Section of Burrum Heads National Park has no facilities and is accessible only by 4WD. The track from Bundaberg (north) is easier to traverse than the track from Woodgate (south).

Capricornia Cays National Park

school of fish in body of water
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

It is impossible to list the best national parks in Queensland or really the best national parks in Australia and not include some of the islands in the Great Barrier Reef.

Capricornia Cays National Park is comprised of eight islands in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Each island is a coral cay or a small sandy island developed on the surface of a coral reef making a visit to Capricornia Cays National Park a unique experience.

The islands of the Capricornia Cays are undeveloped, remote, and reachable only by private charter, making a trip here an exercise in logistics and planning. The payoff? Camping on some of the planet’s most beautiful tropical islands, in the stunning Great Barrier reef for just $6.75 per night.

There are three different islands in the Capricornia Cays National Park you can visit. The islands are accessible for Camping and day trips from 1770, Gladstone or Bundaberg.

North West Island

North West Island is the furthest of the Capricornia Cay National Park Islands 75 km off the coast of Gladstone and also the largest of the three islands. North West Island can accommodate up to 150 people at a time at the camping location.

Popular activities on North West Island include snorkeling, fishing, turtle watching, and bird watching. North West Island also has one 1.7 km one-way walking track through the shady pisonia forest across the cay to the southern beach.

The day use area is open year round while camping is available from the first day of Easter school holidays in Queensland to the day after the Australia Day long weekend or day after Australia Day if the holiday falls mid-week.

Lady Musgrave Island

Lady Musgrave Island is one of the most pristine and well-preserved islands in the Great Barrier Reef. The beauty of this island is not only the island itself but the coral reef and the abundance of sea life just at the island’s edge.

The Beautiful Lady Musgrave Island Photo Credit: Lawrence Wang
The Beautiful Lady Musgrave Island Photo Credit: Lawrence Wang

Lady Musgrave Island includes one walking track 1.1 km one-way through the pisonia forest which are typically only found on coral cays. Don’t miss the 600m return side track to the “lighthouse” on Musgrave Island!

Lady Musgrave Island is the only island serviced regularly by commercial tours. The Lady Musgrave Experience offers full day tours for $220 per adult ($120 per child).

The day use area is open year round while camping is available from the first day of Easter school holidays in Queensland to the day after the Australia Day long weekend or day after Australia Day if the holiday falls mid-week.

Mast Head Island

Only 60 km off the coast of Gladstone, Mast Head is the closest of the Capricornia Cay National Park Islands. Mast Head, however, is also the most wild with no facilities or toilets available here. Mast Head has tent sites for up to 50 people so booking in advance is imperative.

Mast head is open from the first day of the Easter school holidays in Queensland to the 14th of October for both day use and camping.

Carnarvon Gorge National Park

Hiking through Carnarvon National Park in one of the best national parks in QLD!

Arguably one of the most interesting national parks in Queensland on this list is the Carnarvon Gorge National Park. A gorge formed over millions and millions of years, it is a place locked away in time preserving native plants, animals and indigenous art and sacred gathering places that have existed in this special place for thousands and thousands of years.

To truly understand the exceptional beauty of Carnarvon Gorge National Park one must follow the footsteps of those gone before. The Main Gorge Track takes you 9.7 km into the gorge to a small campsite. On your way along the Main Gorge Track, you can visit other attractions on sidetracks such as the amphitheater or ancient aboriginal art.

But the absolute best way to visit is to camp at Big Bend Carnarvon Gorge. This hike-in hike-out campsite is located at the end of the Main Gorge Track in the shadows of the gorge walls and beside the Carnarvon Gorge Creek. The campsite has only ten sites, so booking in advance is essential.

Cape Hillsborough National Park

Enjoying the views from one of the many walks in Cape Hillsborough National Park

Cape Hillsborough National Park, located 50 km north of Mackay, is a great place to stop on any Brisbane to Cairns road trip. Cape Hillsborough National Park belongs on the list of best national parks in Queensland as it is the only location in Queensland where kangaroos visit the beach!

The Cape Hillborough kangaroos visit the beach each morning. Make sure to get there early so you do not miss them as the kangaroos only visit in the morning just before dawn.

Other great things to do in Cape Hillsborough National Park include camping at Smalley’s Beach, nestled amongst the lush forest behind the beach, embarking on one of the Cape Hillsborough walking trails for picturesque views over the bay and Wedge Island, or simply enjoying the beautiful beach with a picnic!

Girringun National Park

Wallaman Falls is best seen from the Djyinda Trail

Girringun National Park located in the World-Heritage Listed Wet Tropics is hard to leave out of any conversation on the best national parks in Queensland. While there are many reasons to visit Girringun National Park, one of the main reasons is to see the spectacular Wallaman Falls.

This stunning waterfall holds the title of Australia’s highest perennial single-drop waterfall. Water cascades 268 meters straight down into a small pool below. Set against the backdrop of the world’s oldest rainforest, this picture-perfect spot is one of Queensland’s most stunning National Parks.

Enjoy the views of the waterfall from the top of the gorge or hike the Djyinda trail for an up close look at this natural wonder. The Djyinda trail is a 1.5 km walk which takes hikers down a series of sharp switchbacks into the gorge to the base of the waterfall. The trail is a moderately easy hike down, but can be strenuous on the way back up to the top.

Camping is available in the national park nearby at the Wallaman Falls camping area. Booking is essential and costs $6.75 per person.

Hinchinbrook Island

The view from the Thorsborne Trail Hinchinbrook Island, one of the best national parks in Queensland.
The view over Nina’s Bay on Hinchinbrook Island, one of the best national parks in Queensland

Hinchinbrook Island is Queensland’s largest island national park and forms part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Stretching some 52 km north to south, Hinchinbrook Island is a must for any outdoor adventure seeker or bushwalker.

Hinchinbrook Island is most famous for the Thorsborne Trail, a 32-km hike along the eastern coastline. This trek is undoubtedly one of the best ways to experience all Hinchinbrook Island National Park has to offer showcasing the wide range of vegetation and environments found on the island.

Wooroonooran National Park

Nandroya Falls is one of the reason Wooroonooran National Park is one of the best national parks in Queensland

Wooroonooran National Park is located just outside of the Atherton Tablelands and is also part of the World-Heritage Listed Wet Tropics. Wooroonooran National Park has plenty of attractions worth visiting all on their own which is why it deserves a seat at the table in the list of best national parks in Queensland.

Wooroonooran National Park is home to some of Far North Queensland’s best outdoor experiences. Tackle Bartle Frere, Queensland’s highest peak at 1,611 meters. Hike up Walshs Pyramid, the highest freestanding natural pyramid in the world. Or, visit one of the many stunning waterfalls such as Nandroya Falls or Josephine Falls.

There is so much to see in do in Wooroonooran National Park that one could easily spend a week or more exploring this stunning national park.

Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands

The Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands are comprised of more than 16 national parks. Deciding which one of these 16 national parks should be on the list of best national parks in Queensland is a difficult task.

Lucky for you they are all accessible as part of any trip to the Atherton Tablelands. Here are some of our favorite Atherton Tableland national parks.

Crater Lakes National Park

A glimpse of the lake through the foilage on our walk around the circuit trail at Lake Eacham in Crater Lakes National Park, one of the best national parks in Queensland.
A glimpse of Lake Eacham through the foilage on our walk on the circuit trail

Crater Lakes National Park was one of our favorite national parks in Atherton to visit and should be on any Atherton Tableland itinerary. The Crater Lakes National Park is home to Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. While both lakes are crater lakes, each lake is different which is why we recommend visiting both!

Visit Lake Barrine and the Lake Barrine Teahouse for the most scrumptious scones in all of the Atherton Tablelands. Make sure to grab a table outside with views over Lake Barrine. There is also a walking trail that circumnavigates the lake which can be enjoyed, but there is no swimming at Lake Barrine.

Lake Eacham, on the other hand is the perfect place for a refreshing dip. Grab a canoe or stand up paddleboard and enjoy the beautiful blue waters of Lake Eacham. And even if you don’t want to go in the water, Lake Eacham has plenty of other things to do. Enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk in hopes of glimpsing the resident saw-tooth turtles. Or circumnavigate Lake Eacham on the 3 km walking trail through the rainforest for beautiful views of the lake through the foilage.

Curtain Fig National Park

The Curtain Fig is an impressive strangler fig and one of the best national parks in Queensland and the Atherton Tablelands.
The incredible Cathedral Fig Tree

The centerpiece of the Curtain Fig National Park is the massive eponymous Curtain Fig Tree. The Curtain Fig Tree is one of many strangler figs native to the Atherton Tablelands. The creation of this unique natural wonder begins when a small bird or bat drops a seed into the canopy of a host tree. The seed germinates and as the seedlings grow, their roots reach downward until they envelop the host tree. Eventually, the roots overtake the host tree and what remains is the weaving of roots from the strangler fig.

The seedling that is now the Curtain Fig Tree overtook its host tree causing the host tree to fall. The giant strangler fig continued to spread and overtake other nearby trees resulting in its curtain like appearance.

This incredible wonder is something you must see for yourself. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled in the surrounding canopy as the Mabi Forest is home to the elusive tree kangaroo as well!

Danbulla National Park and State Forest

Which is more impressive? The Cathedral Fig (above) or the Curtain Fig (also above)

One of the main attractions of the Atherton Tablelands is Lake Tinaroo located in Danbulla National Park and State Forest. Families flock to the lake during school holidays and long weekends to fish, swim and participate in water activities such as jet skiing and skiing. With more than 6 campsites spread around Lake Tinaroo and a few caravan parks, there is more than enough space to accommodate everyone.

Outside of enjoying the lake, there are also other things to do. Enjoy the moderate 5.1 km Jungaljungal walk through the rainforest, visit the Cathedral Fig Tree, or stroll along one of the many other short circuit walks.

Other Atherton Tableland National Parks and State Forests

We have included our favorite national parks and state forests that we visited during our time in the Atherton Tablelands, but there are plenty more national parks in Atherton to visit. Check out the links below for details on the other national parks in the Atherton Tablelands. Maybe you will find one you think should be on the list of best national parks in Queensland!

Daintree National Park

The view of Cape Tribulation through the rainforest foilage
Views don’t get much better than this one!

As the oldest surviving rainforest in the world, the Daintree National Park deserves a spot on the list of the best national parks in Queensland. Located 125 km north of Cairns, the Daintree National Park is most famous for being the place where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef.

Not only is the Daintree where the rainforest meets the reef, but the it is also home to some of Queensland’s most beautiful attractions. Visit Mossman Gorge, a stunning gorge formed millions of years ago. Walk one of the many walking trails through the rainforest. Climb to the top of Mount Sorrow for stunning views over Cape Tribulation.  Camp under the rainforest canopy at Noah Beach. Or tackle the Bloomfield Track, a 4WD enthusiasts track connecting the Daintree with Cooktown.

The options of things to do in Daintree National Park are endless and it is a Queensland destination not to be missed on any trip to Australia.

With so many national parks in Queensland, it is hard to decide just which ones are actually the best! Hopefully our short list of the best national parks in Queensland will give you a few ideas of where to visit on your next holiday!

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14 thoughts on “11 of the Best National Parks in Queensland from Brisbane to Cairns to Visit Now!”

  1. What gorgeous landscapes- I am sure you all are just waiting for the borders to open and travel again. I had no idea Queensland is so beautiful.

  2. I love hiking in the mountains and through forests, so I’m sold with all of these NPs, but Capricornia Cay and Lady Musgrave Island especially caught my attention. Can’t wait for borders to open to go see them all!

  3. Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef is waaaay up at the top of my bucket list!! These places all look so incredible, I can’t wait to visit someday!

    1. You better get here soon! Who knows what the Great Barrier Reef will be like in a few years if we continue abusing our planet.

  4. Great post! You found so much variety!

    I would be sooo happy to see kangaroos on a beach, and I love the waterfalls so Wooroonooran looks epic! Wowza! But I keep hearing amazing things about Fraser Island so I am very keen to go there too one day. 🙂

    1. Everyone loves kangaroos, and Fraser Island is SO AMAZING! If you make it to Australia you 100% need to visit this magical place!

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