CONONDALE ... Qld
7km south of Kenilworth in the hinterland of Queensland Sunshine Coast, quietly sits a national park that has been set up for everybody that loves the outdoors. Camping areas range from easy access through to areas where you need high clearance 4wds, there are a host of bushwalking trails where you can explore an old gold mine, pristine rain forests, climb an active fire tower or do loops within the park. The Kenilworth - Maleny road runs right beside Conondale NP and that's a great place to start exploring this hidden gem. Little Yabba Park is a perfect spot to stop before heading bush as there are toilets, plenty of grassed areas beside the Mary River and you can stretch the legs by a walk around the Fig Tree loop trail.
The Kenilworth - Maleny road runs right beside Conondale NP and that's a great place to start exploring this hidden gem. Little Yabba Park is a perfect spot to stop before heading bush as there are toilets, plenty of grassed areas beside the Mary River and you can stretch the legs by a walk around the Fig Tree loop trail. There are two main campsite within the park, Charlie Moreland camping area is suitable for two wheel drive vehicles and Booloumba creek which has 4 campgrounds depending on your camping style, but is only accessible to high clearance 4wds due to several river crossings. The turnoff to Booloumba Creek camping ground can be found 500 metres past Little Yabba park and it's only a short 5km drive from the turn to the entry of Conondale along this sealed yet narrow road.
Where the tar ends its nearly straight away that you have the first of three river crossings as you head towards camp. Most of the time they shouldn't be a problem, the base is firm and there is little flow but when storms are about it could be a different senerio as you can see the river can be extremely wide and there is debris 30 feet up in the trees. Depending on your pre booked campsite, determines how far you need to travel to camp. Camp 1 and 2 is suitable for beside the car camping, camp 3 you need to cross the river 3 times and is suitable for tents and walk in campers. Straight across the road from camp 3 is camp ground 4, suitable for camper trailers and off-road vans. The main road to 3-4 does have steep sections as you climb out and back down to the creeks, slow is the way to go.
When entering the camps at your pre booked site, you need to fill out an ID tag as you enter camp. Most of the campsites are more than generous in size, there are plenty of fire rings, water taps are scattered around the campgrounds and toilets are simple yet clean. Don't expect to go and gather firewood in the park, as it's illegal and the surroundings are lush rainforest so the wood is always damp, the best option is to stop at one of the many stalls on the way in and purchase a bag of wood for a mere $10.
Once settled at camp there are a few options available depending on your level of energy. From all of the camping areas you can start a number of walking trails that range from a few hundred metres to the Conondale Range Great Walk, which is an amazing 56 km loop around the park. You can walk to some unique features including an abandoned gold mine that's apparently full of little bats, there is also a trail to a very strange rock cairn with a fig tree growing out of the top and also a 5.5 km walk to Mount Allan fire tower where you can climb to the top for 360' views of the area. The fire tower walk is hit and miss due to weather conditions and the height of the mountain, some days clear but on our day it was terribly misty and foggy.
These walks are fantastic as they wind here way around old and gnarly gums, Bangalow Palms that must be 40' tall and strangler figs that have sucked the life out of their host trees. Bracken fern lines the track as it winds its way around the cool rainforest pockets. Yet in other areas dry Sclerophyll Forest cover remaining areas. Conondale is a very special place. For those who want to hop in the car and go for a drive, from camp 4 it is a 9km drive to Booloumba falls day area. The road is very steep and narrow in places and occasionally closed due to trees falling across the road. Half way up keep an eye out for the lookout on the right where you have a direct view of Pinnacle Mountain and the gorges below. There is phone reception here and up at the fire tower if help is needed.
The road is shadowed by huge gums, strangler figs, palms and tree ferns all searching for a little sunlight. There are a few 4wd tracks that do shoot off into the forest but you need local information as some of these tracks zig zag throughout the valley. During the warmer months swimming is refreshing in the Mary River that cuts its way through the park. Crystal clear water is home to freshwater Cod and Platypus. When out on the walks keep an eye out for yellow footed Wallabies, black Cockatoos, petite little Wrens, parrots and the odd Carpet Python soaking up the sun. Around camp bush Turkeys roam frequently looking for scraps and Whip birds call out to each other. It's an amazing place.
Camp number 2 has a facilities for tent camping, day use and is a major hub for the start of the Great walk but you need to cross the river to access in a 4wd. Information boards, shelters, several gas bbqs that over look the Mary river and plenty of parking often sees this area full. An ideal time to visit to explore the walks and maybe swim a little would be either spring or Autumn. Be well prepared if attempting any of the bigger walks as there is no communication along the tracks and you may see no other walkers. Fuel and supplies can be sourced out at Kenilworth but expect to pay a little more than larger towns. With Brisbane being less than 2 hours away, Conondale would be very busy throughout summer and holiday times. Queensland NPWS have gone to great lengths to accommodate and to highlight the features in this park, a very special place for all.