Need to get back to nature? It’s easy to forget that the urban metropolis of Brisbane is surrounded by a diverse array of national parks protecting landscapes ranging from lush ancient rainforests to wind-sculpted sand islands, and rugged Aussie bushland to tucked-away historic sites, with plenty just a short hop from the city.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service website is the ultimate resource for reading up on national park facilities and checking timely updates before you go, and no matter which green space takes your fancy, remember that everything you bring into a national park must go back out with you. Here are six top spots within two hours’ drive of the CBD.
If it’s miles of sandy beaches and dunes, crystal-clear creeks and lagoons, wildflower-rich heathlands and epic snorkelling opportunities just a 75-minute ferry ride from Brisbane you’re after, Moreton Island (Mulgumpin) has got the goods. Come for the day to snorkel the Tangalooma shipwrecks or stretch your legs on a walking track or two, or pack your camping gear and make a weekend of it.
You don’t even need to leave Brisbane to check out one of the area’s most interesting national parks. Hugging the south bank of the Brisbane River, opposite Brisbane Airport, tiny Fort Lytton National Park is more of a historic site than park, but history buffs will love the pentagonal fortress it was named for. Built in 1881, Fort Lytton was used for the defence of Brisbane until the end of the Second World War.
Formed by the force of a waterfall over a basalt cave, Natural Bridge is the star feature of Springbrook National Park, a lush rainforest oasis around 1.5 hours’ drive south of Brisbane. By night, you can also spot glow-worms in this stunning natural formation. There’s only one camping area in the park (The Settlement), but there are 10 walking trails (ranging from 30m (100ft) to 17km (11mi)) to tackle if you’re feeling active.
Nestled in the Gold Coast hinterland, only an hour’s drive south of Brisbane, Tamborine National Park offers glimpses of the Pacific Ocean and the Gold Coast skyline to the east and the national parks of the Scenic Rim to the west from its lush plateau setting, home to 85% of animal species in the Gold Coast area. There are half a dozen picnic areas and 11 walking tracks to be found in the park, including the enchanting 1.1km(0.5mi)-return walk to stunning Curtis Falls, where you might spot a tortoise paddling in the pool at the base of the falls.
With one of its access points just 12km (7.5mi) west of Brisbane’s CBD, D’Aguilar National Park makes for an easy day trip when you need a breath of fresh air in the Aussie bush. Home to a diversity of landscapes, from lush subtropical rainforests to eucalypt woodlands, there is plenty to discover within the park’s boundaries, from stunning swimming holes to abandoned gold mines, and plenty of native wildlife. Kids will love the Walkabout Discovery Centre on the park’s southeastern boundary, which has a panoramic viewing platform and rangers on-hand to introduce you to some of the park’s wildlife on weekends, while hikers can discover the area’s gold rush history on the Golden Boulder track, which starts at Bellbird Grove.
When only a true Aussie bushwalk will do, Venman Bushland National Park, just 40 minutes’ drive south of the city, is the national park for you. One of the largest remaining areas of eucalypt forest in the coastal lowlands near Brisbane, this park is an important habitat for furry critters ranging from koalas to sugar gliders, wallabies to possums. Expect to spot some of them on the parks’ two walking tracks.