Eungella National Park Day-Walks


View from our cabin at Eungella

Eungella National Park lies in the Mackay Highlands, some 50 km inland from the coastal city of Mackay. It protects a large area of sub-tropical rainforest - a mountainous region with many creeks, rock pools and waterfalls.

After spending the last few weeks on the coast, it seemed a good idea to check out the walking possibilities of the interior. So, we drove up from Yeppoon to Eungella, a small village on the rim of the Highlands at the western end of the Pioneer Valley, where we had booked three nights in a cabin.

Sub-tropical rainforest of the Mackay Highlands

Unfortunately, the fair Nello still had a swollen and bruised calf due to the ruptured cyst, so I would be exploring on my own again.

Finch Hatton Gorge (5 km - 260m ascent - 260m descent)

Finch Hatton Gorge is probably the most popular walk in the National Park. It is a short track that climbs up to a couple of spectacular rock pools in a small gorge deep in the rain forest. It seemed a good place to start, especially as walking it gave us a break on our drive up to Eungella, where we planned to stay for the next three nights.

From the car park, a well-manicured path headed directly into the cool, dark shade of the rainforest. I strolled up it, to begin a steady gentle climb, briefly following Rawsons Creek before winding around several gulleys and spurs to reach a junction in the track. The left route, which I followed, headed downhill to emerge at Araluen Cascades, where the crystal clear water of Finch Hatton Creek flowed over a small waterfall - a lovely setting.

Hatton Finch rain forest

In the Finch Hatton Gorge

Araluen Cascades

A bouldery creekscape

Finch Hatton Creek

Returning to the junction, I continued on the main track towards the Wheel of Fire, an interesting name for the higher rock pool. However, the first task was to cross the creek at Callistemon Crossing. The creek was flowing, but not too high, so I was able to rock-hop across a series of boulders and keep my feet dry.

From the crossing, the track climbed more steeply, but some wooden boardwalk and several sets of stone steps (almost 300 in total) made for an easy walk. The track was now inside the small gorge and the babbling of the creek and tumbling cascades fringed by rainforest made it a pleasant walk as well.

The Wheel of Fire Pool

Boulders near the Wheel of Fire

Suddenly, I emerged at the Wheel of Fire, a dark shaded pool of clear cold water, fed by a waterfall hidden around the rock wall on its western flank. Picking my way across the boulders that partially blocked the exit stream, I managed to get a good view of the three tiered falls. It also looked like the gorge continued upwards, but unfortunately the track didn't.

I had some lunch on a sunny rock on the far side of the rockpool watching other walkers come and go. As mentioned, this is a popular track and short enough for people of varying abilities to experience the rainforest and its landscapes. It was a good introduction, but now it was time to retrace steps and head on to Eungella, sitting 500m higher on the edge of the range.

Hatton Finch Upper Falls in the shade

Looking down the gorge

One of several cascades in the gorge

Eungella National Park's main claim to fame is that it is one of the few places where you can observe platypus in the wild. So, having installed ourselves in our cabin, the fair Nello and I headed down to the park entrance at Broken River just before sunset and wandered out to one of the viewing areas above a deep still pool in the river. Eungella delivered - for only the second time, we were able to watch platypus swimming and feeding in their natural habitat .... with a tortoise thrown in as bonus. Enjoy the photos!

Platypi and a tortoise that call the pools of Broken River home

Broken River to Eungella (16.5 km - 260m ascent - 280m descent)

The plan for today was to do a longer walk from Crediton back to Eungella, following what is the first (or last) day of the Mackay Highlands Great Walk. However, we woke to a thick fog, which did not lift until after 1 pm - it was time to revise plans. Plan B involved splitting the walk into two stages - this afternoon, I would set out from Broken River and walk back up the Crediton Creek Track for a while and then return to complete a loop along the river. Then tomorrow, I will walk from Broken River back to Eungella to cover the last part of Plan A.


Picabeen palms and buttress-rooted trees


Crediton Creek

The tracks around Broken River Ranger Station are well maintained by the National Parks people and it was an easy stroll across the rainforest covered slopes - a shady mix of tall eucalyptus, buttress-trunked rainforest trees, palms, vines and shrubbery with a damp, composting floor.

Platypus habitat on the Broken River

The track brought me to a nice view of Granite Bend, a section of the Broken River where it had spread out over a wide rock bed. This was the start of the Crediton Creek Track, which follows the western bank of the creek for several kilometres. I headed out along it, enjoying the silence and deep shade of the rainforest cover, as the track wound around the small gulleys that cut into the slope or climbed up higher across spurs into the rainforest. For the most part, it was a series of babbling rapids, rocky cascades and still pools.

Rocks at Granite Bend


Crystal Cascade


On the Crediton Creek Track

On reaching Platypus Pool, a large and deep pool with the rainforest canopy reflected in its still surface, I stopped, suspecting that I had seen most of the landscape diversity. An added incentive to return was the leeches - I picked 6 of them off, but one had already crawled up inside my trouser leg past my knee (the imagination runs wild) and I suspected that my luck wouldn't hold.

A deep still stretch of Crediton Creek

Creekside rain forest

The Platypus Pool

Heading back to the head of the Crediton Creek Track, I dropped down to the river to follow a lower riverside trail back to the ranger station. It was already late afternoon and the platypus would be starting their evening activity. Eungella delivered again .... as I was able to sit and watch a couple of platypi in one of the pools. It was a great way to end an interesting rainforest ramble.

The next day was a repeat - waking up to a heavy fog that lingered until 1 pm before finally lifting. The fair Nello drove me down to Broken River to finish the walk. In fact it started as it had finished yesterday evening - watching platypi and tortoises swimming and diving in a large waterhole on the river. This is indeed a great spot for watching these unique animals in the wild.

Track through the rain forest near Broken River

After that promising start, I set off to follow the river back to the crossing point near Granite Bend. Once over, I climbed back into the rain forest to commence the Clark Range Track, which meandered its way beneath the dense canopy, following a contour that led in and out of deep palm and vine filled gullies filled with tall buttress-rooted trees. It was here that I picked off the the first leech - the battle had begun. In fact, by the time I finished the walk I had removed over 60 leeches trying to climb up my legs, as well as missing another two that managed to draw blood in the webbing of my fingers (and I thought that rolling my trousers into my socks and spraying DEET on my shoes would deter them).

The darkness of rain forest on a cloudy day


Pool near Granite Bend

Back in the rain forest

Crossing the range, the track emerged onto its eastern edge, with glimpses of the cane fields down in the Pioneer Valley. The spot was called Surprise Lookout - the surprise came a bit later as the cloud began to descend again to close out any views and envelop the rainforest once again in a mist.

The edge of the Highlands secarpment

Glimpse of the Pioneer Valley

Forest of the escarpment edge

The track followed the edge for a while before cutting inland - the only sound was the patter of water droplets falling from the canopy, sodden with condensation, and the occasional drawn out call of the whip bird. This seemed more like cloud forest than rain forest.

A small opening in the rain forest

The fog settles in

In the dark, still gloom of the misted-in rainforest, I kept a steady pace. Stopping for any reason other than to remove leeches risked even more leeches joining the walk. Eventually the track emerged into the open alongside an asphalt road. It is a rare walk when I would find this pleasant, but being in the open, even for a short while felt good.

In the forest of red cedars

Then it was back into the forest and out to the Sky Window viewing point - a grandiose name for a couple of spots where you can overlook the Pioneer Valley. Today the view was nothing but the thick whiteness of the clouds.

Track passing through a split trunk Strangler Fig

The trunk of a giant bunya pine

From Sky Window, the track re-entered the misty, dripping rainforest, passing areas where magnificent red cedars pushed up through the canopy, through the split trunk of a strangler fig, past valleys of tall picabeen palms and beneath the nobbly trunks of bunya pines stretching skywards. The rainforest is an interesting place, even in the fog, but I was glad when I finally emerged back at Eungella. A warm cabin is an inviting place in such weather.

Looking up at the misty canopy

Picabeen palm grove

Cloud on the highlands

I thought that the final leech count was 61-2 (i.e. I removed 61 and 2 drew blood), but when I took off my jacket and the fair Nello spotted the blood-drenched sleeve of my T-shirt, the count changed to 61-3. Such is the joy of walking in the rainforest.

FOOTNOTE: Just discovered that Eungella means "Land of the Clouds" in the local indigenous language. It was certainly well named.