We were all set to for a long drive to Tibooburra following an invitation to explore the Corner Country of north western NSW, including a visit to the new Narriearra Caryapundy Swamp National Park – and then down came yet another “unseasonal” wet weather event that left the far west area flooded and isolated. All national parks in the area were closed for an indefinite period, as were the roads to reach them.
With the TVAN packed and pet sitter already organised we opted not to waste a chance to get away and instead headed to a nearby area that has been on the must-visit list for quite a while – Girraween National Park.
Girraween means “place of flowers” and this amazing natural rock garden sits just above the Qld-NSW border in the granite belt area south of Stanthorpe, via the nearest township Ballandean.
At only three hours south of Brisbane we had a leisurely first day that included a stop at Stanthorpe for lunch and to collect some supplies to tied us over for a few days exploring. From the New England Highway turn off even the drive into the park is amazing, with naturally arranged granite boulders set amongst fields of flowing natives like yellow wattles and cassias with highlights of purple hardenbergia.
The camping areas at Girraween have recently been completely upgraded with freshly laid gravel roads and new amenities buildings. Bookings are made in a camping area but not for a discrete site, so you can choose where to set up when you arrive rather than locking in a spot from (an often misleading) online map. We chose the Kambuwal area for its more sheltered location amongst the trees, a mid-week visit meant the place was only half occupied and offered plenty of choices.
After getting our bearings we scouted out the campground and dropped the TVAN at a site with views over one of the park’s main attractions, the conical granite peak known as “The Pyramid”. With what remained of the afternoon we headed to a couple of easier trails at eastern side of the park before setting up the camper.
Underground Creek Track is a fairly easy 3km return walk from the eastern carpark, on a well formed track that follows course of Bald Rock Creek into the Mt Norman foothills. Its name comes from a section where the overhanging granite rock face has collapsed to form a pile of boulders which bridge over the creek, allowing it to run underneath and giving the impression that the creek emerges from underground. Its a very tranquil setting with the gurgling water and granite rocks amongst the cypress pines and gum trees.
From there it was a short return walk to detour via Dr Roberts Waterhole, a section of the same creek that opens into a beautiful rock lined waterhole named after an early nature loving doctor who lobbied for the area to be preserved as a National Park.
Back at the camp ground and time to set up the TVAN for what looked to be a chilly night. We brought firewood from home and soon had the Darche fire pit stoked up to prepare coals over which to cook tonight’s dinner, then soaked up the last couple of sunlit hours reading and relaxing until the warming sunshine was replaced by a chilly evening breeze.
The following day was set aside for a longer hike and we headed to Castle Rock, a 5km return walk that included some steep climbs to reach summit of this granite monolith.
It was a great hike with every turn opening up another gorgeous setting of native bushland and wildflowers scattered through piles of boulders and rock outcrops. The final climb takes you up stone steps until you clamber across granite slabs and through a narrow gap where a giant boulder has split in two – then you emerge onto an exposed rock ledge with a magnificent vista across the area. (A lot of words here trying to describe what is a really spectacular place that is well worth the panting and puffing to reach).
The walk back to camp was mostly down hill, making it easier on the lungs but harder on the knees. Before long we were back at the TVAN and knocked together salad wraps for lunch. On the way into the park we spied a small roadside chocolatery that was open at the time and which I promised Suzzanne we’d visit later, so we headed there after lunch – but unfortunately I missed reading that it was closed today, an oversight that cost me plenty of brownie points!!
We spent the afternoon like the one before – stoke the fire, read and relax then cook dinner over the smouldering coals. Tonight’s menu for two was steak matched with roast potatoes and grilled capsicum, a winning combination.
Our final day at Girraween started with a leisurely breakfast while admiring antics of the bower birds, currawongs and parrots that ducked and weaved around camp – then packing the TVAN and meandering our way back home.
Girraween National Park is a highly recommended destination for those seeking a tame but scenic camping experience within a few hours drive of Brisbane. We only sampled a few of the walking trails, you could easily spend a week here if you explored every corner of the park that includes a 4WD track and plenty of “walk in” bush camping sites. The campground has all basic facilities including disabled toilets, though there is no potable water (only untreated creek water) and no rubbish bins so its necessary to remove what you take in.