Bunya Mountains National Park

© Tourism and Events Queensland

Bunya Mountains National Park

Discover the world's largest stand of ancient bunya pines towering over lush rainforest on the crest of a magnificent mountain range.

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At the summit of Mount Kiangarow, stand beneath ancient grasstrees and follow the changing hues.
At the summit of Mount Kiangarow, stand beneath ancient grasstrees and follow the changing hues. Darren Jew © Queensland Government
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Park Bunya
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Park Ranger Park Ranger

Experience a spellbinding landscape where spectacular bunya pines tower over tall rainforest along a mountain range that rises dramatically from the surrounding plains. Soak up stunning mountain scenery and spot a diverse range of wildlife as you explore on foot. Relax in a scenic picnic area or pitch your tent and stay a night…or three!

Enjoy the scenery along the Great Bunya Drive to reach the park then set out to explore on foot. Walk through stands of tall bunya pines and feel a sense of connection with the Aboriginal people who for thousands of years celebrated the bunya nut harvest in this area. Discover natural grasslands (locally known as 'balds').

Take your binoculars as you walk to spot some of the park's 120 species of birds. Look for brilliantly-coloured Australian king-parrots and crimson rosellas and the blue-decorated bowers of the satin bowerbird. Spotlight at night to spy common ringtail possums and watch red-necked wallabies lazing around the picnic areas.

Enjoy amazing views as you laze over lunch in a scenic picnic area, and make time to visit the Bunya Mountains Information Centre. To truly escape everyday life, stay a few days in one of the spacious grassy camping areas.

Keep discovering

Top things to see and do

Dandabah camping area is the perfect spot for a family getaway.

Bunya Mountains' camping are...

See Bunya Mountains' camping areas.

Experience the best of the Bunya Mountains National Park on the Scenic circuit.

Bunya Mountains' journeys

See Bunya Mountains' walks.

Enjoy a picnic on a quiet grassy 'bald' surrounded by forest.

Bunya Mountains' attractions

See Bunya Mountains' picnic areas and information centre.

Getting there and getting around

Bunya Mountains National Park is 200km north-west of Brisbane and 125km north-west of Toowoomba in the South Burnett region.

Several steep, narrow and winding routes, signposted as the Great Bunya Drive, lead to the park. The Bunya Mountains Road passes through the park from the south-east to the north.

From Brisbane via Toowoomba

  • Drive 138km west along the Ipswich Motorway and Warrego Highway to Toowoomba.
  • Continue 44km along the Warrego Highway to Jondaryan and turn right towards the Bunya Mountains.
  • Travel 34km to Maclagan, turn left and follow the signs for about 31km to the park; 2km of this road is gravel.

From Brisbane via Yarraman

  • Travel up the Brisbane Valley through Esk, or the D'Aguilar Highway through Kilcoy.
  • Drive to Yarraman then turn left onto the New England Highway towards Toowoomba and travel 20km.
  • Turn right to Maidenwell on Kingaroy-Cooyar Road, then turn left to the Bunya Mountains; about 3.8km of the road is gravel.

From Nanango

  • Drive 30km to Maidenwell on Nanango-Tarong Road and turn right to the Bunya Mountains. This 55km route has about 4km of gravel road.

From Kingaroy

  • Drive via Kumbia on the Bunya Highway and turn left onto Bunya Mountains Road and drive to the northern park entrance. This 56km route is sealed road.

From Dalby

  • Travel 25km along Dalby-Cooyar Road to Kaimkillenbun, then drive 30km via Yamsion to Bunya Mountains Road and through to the south-eastern park entrance. These roads are sealed.

Road conditions

  • All access roads into the park are steep, narrow and winding. Some routes have short unsealed sections.
  • These roads are unsuitable for travel by long or heavy vehicles, such as caravans, large motorhomes and large buses.

Fuel and supplies

  • You can't get fuel on the mountain.
  • Fuel and supplies are available at Kumbia, Maidenwell and Maclagan.
  • For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Wheelchair access

Westcott picnic area, Dandabah picnic area and Burtons Well picnic area have wheelchair-accessible toilets.

Camping

Escape the heat and camp in cool mountain air surrounded by ancient bunya pines. Bunya Mountains offers a range of camping experiences from small walk-in tent sites, to open areas suitable for larger groups and vehicles.

See camping areas

Other accommodation

Walking

Enjoy weaving in and out of bunya pine forest, eucalypt forest, rainforest, vine scrubs and 'grassy balds' as you explore this surprising park on 35km of walking tracks.

Picnicking

Relax over a picnic with a scenic backdrop or in the shade of ancient bunya pines. Laze the afternoon away with a BBQ in peaceful surrounds as you contemplate which walk to take next.

Viewing wildlife

You can see colourful birds and other wildlife in this park. Watch red-necked wallabies lazing around the picnic areas. Look for brilliantly-coloured Australian king-parrots and crimson rosellas.

On the forest floor, spot the blue-decorated bowers of the satin bowerbird. Listen for the 'crying baby' calls of green catbirds, raucous 'yaas' of paradise riflebirds and two-part 'whip-crack' calls of eastern whipbirds.

Spotlight at night to spy common ringtail possums feeding high up in trees on leaves, fruit and flowers, a sight you will not see anywhere else in the world.

Cultural and historic sites

Step back in time in this park with a rich and colourful heritage.

  • Find out why countless generations of Aboriginal people gathered here for ceremonies and feasting.
  • Hear stories of timber felling and bullock-haulers on the mountain from the 1860s onwards.
  • See reminders of our history in the old school house near the Dandabah picnic area and the well that was used to water bullocks and horses at Burtons Well picnic area.
  • Feel a connection with past visitors, who have enjoyed the Bunya's scenic beauty since the early days of European settlement. The Bunya Mountains became Queensland's second national park in 1908.
  • Read more about the park's cultural history.

Four-wheel driving and scenic driving

Take a scenic drive along the winding Bunya Mountains Road across the mountain from Dandabah picnic area in the south-east to Burtons Well picnic area at the park's northern end. Soak up the views, stop for a picnic and a wander along a short walking track or two.

Other things to do

Weddings

Many couples find the Bunya Mountains the perfect venue for their wedding.

Organised events

  • If you are planning a school excursion or organising a group event such as a wedding, fun run or adventure training, you may need an organised event permit. Maximum group sizes and other conditions apply depending on location and activity type.

When to visit

Opening hours

Climate and weather

Bunya Mountains has a cool temperate climate and an annual rainfall of about 1000mm. Most rain falls during the summer months. Heavy fog and mists occur at any time of year and winter mornings can be frosty. The average daily temperature range is 17–29°C in summer and 5–19°C in winter.

Permits and fees

Camping permits

Organised events

  • If you are planning a school excursion or organising a group event such as a wedding, fun run or adventure training, you may need an organised event permit. Maximum group sizes and other conditions apply depending on location and activity type.

Pets

Domestic animals are not allowed here.

Staying in touch

Mobile phone coverage

Unreliable. Check with your service provider for more information.

Tourism information

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Be prepared

  • Parks are natural environments and conditions can be unpredictable. You are responsible for your own safety and for looking after the park.
  • Read stay safe and visit with care for important general information about safety, caring for parks and essentials to bring when you visit Queensland’s national parks.

Camping

  • Take warm clothing (even in summer) and a raincoat as the weather is changeable.
  • Read camp with care for tips on camping safely and camping softly.

Open fires

  • Where allowed, you can have an open fire in fireplaces provided, except when fire bans or prohibitions apply.
  • Please use the supplied firewood sparingly and make sure your fire is out before you leave it. Be aware that summer is a high fire risk time in the Bunya Mountains.
  • Where open fires are not allowed, bring a gas or fuel stove for cooking.

Drinking water

  • Tap water is provided in at Dandabah picnic area and the camping areas but is not suitable for drinking.
  • Treat all water before use.
  • We recommend bringing your own drinking water.

Rubbish

Walking

  • Be aware that ticks are active all year round. Avoid contact with stinging nettles and giant stinging trees, even if they appear to be dead.
  • Beware bites and stings.
  • Avoid lingering under bunya pines between December and March, when soccer ball-sized bunya cones, weighing up to 10kg, fall from the tops of towering trees.
  • Take care after rain when walking tracks can become muddy and slippery.
  • Read walk with care for tips on walking safely and walking lightly.

Natural environment

Refuge in the mountains

The Bunya Mountains were formed about 30 million years ago and are thought to be the remains of an old shield volcano. The lava flows cooled and hardened into basalt, and over millions of years the rock has eroded and weathered to form deep, nutrient-rich, red-brown and black soils.

The deep, moist gullies and varying aspects and altitudes of the Bunya Mountains provide sheltered environments and geographically isolated habitats in which a diverse range of plant and animal communities thrive. A mix of moist rainforest, dry rainforest, grasslands, open forests and woodlands cover the mountains.

The Bunya Mountains are like an island surrounded by plains and cleared farming land. They are a refuge of biodiversity, harbouring ancient species, distinct plant and animal communities and more than 15 rare and threatened species.

Many kinds of rainforest

Rainforest covers most of the Bunya Mountains, and not just the distinctive subtropical rainforest with distinctive bunya pines emerging through the canopy. At least nine different kinds of rainforest, including dry rainforest, can be found on the mountains and lower slopes.

Bunya pines Araucaria bidwillii tower over tall, moist rainforest along the range crest. You can recognise the distinctive dome-shaped crowns of bunya pines emerging above the canopy. Under the canopy it is relatively open and ferns carpet much of the forest floor.

On steep, lower slopes, hoop pines Araucaria cunninghamii emerge above dry rainforests and vine thickets. The forest canopy is lower and the understorey is a mass of prickly, small-leaved shrubs and vines.

Drier rainforests and vine thickets cover less elevated areas. Narrow-leaved myrtle Backhousia angustifolia is prominent in places, but on the western and northern slopes, where it is drier, rainforests are dominated by narrow-leaved bottletree Brachychiton rupestris. On some lower western slopes of the park, belah Casuarina cristata and brigalow Acacia harpophylla occur in open forest, woodland and vine thicket communities. Vast areas of brigalow forests and bottle-tree scrubs have been cleared across southern Queensland and these are now considered to be endangered regional ecosystems.

Birdlife

The Bunya Mountains' rainforests are known for their bird life. Hear the 'crying baby' calls of green catbirds Ailuroedus crassirostris, raucous 'yaas' of paradise riflebirds Ptiloris paradiseus and two-part 'whip-crack' calls of eastern whipbirds Psophodes olivaceus. See flocks of topknot pigeons Lopholaimus antarcticus feeding at fig trees and colourful crimson rosellas Platycercus elegans inside the rainforest or at its edge. Be scolded by noisy yellow-throated scrubwrens Sericornis citreogularis as you walk, stalked by a bold Australian brush-turkey Alectura lathami or amazed by a satin bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus tending to his highly decorated bower.

Shy black-breasted button-quails Turnix melanogaster (considered vulnerable) live in dense scrub. Dish-shaped scrapes in the dirt are the tell-tale signs that these secretive birds have been searching for food on the forest floor. You sometimes hear the 'walk-to-work' call of noisy pittas or see the piles of land snails' broken shells that pittas leave beside large rocks.

If you shine a torch at night on a rainforest track or in the camping area, you might spy short-eared possums Trichosurus caninus or the common ringtail possum Pseudocheirus peregrinus feeding high up in trees on leaves, fruit and flowers. Yellow-footed antechinus Antechinus flavipes sensu lato dart about on the ground to pounce on insects and 'bulldoze' leaf litter in search of prey. Keep watch for red-legged pademelons Thylogale stigmatica and swamp wallabies Wallabia bicolor bounding through the undergrowth.

Disappearing rainforest frogs

The loud 'wark' calls of great barred frogs Mixophes fasciolatus resonate during summer when their huge tadpoles can be seen in mountain streams. The vulnerable tusked frog Adelotus brevis and many other frog species from rainforest streams along the Great Dividing Range seem to have disappeared without trace.

Balds and burns

One hundred and nineteen native grasslands, known locally as 'balds', are dotted across the Bunya Mountains. The blue grass Bothriochloa bunyensis, considered vulnerable, was first discovered in the Bunya Mountains and grows only in the eastern Darling Downs.

Swamp rats Rattus lutreolus, brown quails Coturnix ypsilophora, and red-backed Malurus melanocephalus, variegated Malurus lamberti and superb blue fairy-wrens Malurus cyaneus live in the grasslands, as do other animals that would not survive inside dense forests. The rare skink Lampropholis colossus is only known from the Bunya's balds.

The balds are an endangered regional ecosystem. A quarter of the area of grassland on the Bunya Mountains was invaded by woodland and rainforest between 1951 and 1991. Scientists believe that grasslands covered more of the Bunya Mountains during the last ice age (18,000 years ago) than now, and that the grasslands (which contain temperate plant species preferring cooler, moister climates) are gradually disappearing under forest in response to Australia's warming climate. The rapid invasion of the balds by woody plants could be because regular fire events undertaken as part of past Aboriginal land management no longer occurred during the 1900s.

Regular fire is being reintroduced to the grasslands through experimental burns of varying frequencies and intensities. Researchers and rangers are working to find the right fire regimes to maintain the open character and species diversity of the balds before they are lost forever.

Out in the open

One step from the closed, dimly lit rainforest brings you into bright, warm sunshine of open eucalypt forests and woodlands. Here fire-adapted flowering plants such as forest red gum Eucalyptus tereticornis and thin-leaved stringybark E. eugenioides tower over wattles, grasstrees and other shrubs. Wedge-tailed eagles Aquila audax soar overhead, while Burton's legless lizards Lialis burtonis and the vulnerable collared delma Delma torquata hide in the grass. Carpet pythons Morelia spilota bask in sunny spots. Koalas Phascolarctos cinereus, greater gliders Petauroides volans, squirrel gliders Petaurus norfolcensis, sugar gliders Petaurus breviceps and other possums forage at night in the tree tops, while by day, grey fantails Rhipidura albiscapa, tree-creepers and honeyeaters forage among leaves and flowers.

Tall grasstrees Xanthorrhoea glauca subsp glauca grow on Mount Kiangarow. At almost 5m high, they are some of the tallest grasstrees you will ever see and are at least several hundred years old. Grasstrees shoot out tall flower spikes that attract butterflies, bees, other insects and birds such as the tiny eastern spinebills Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris.

Walk back in time

A walk though the bunya pine forest takes you back to prehistoric times when ferns, followed by gymnosperms (cone-bearing plants such as conifers), then flowering plants appeared. The Bunyas are now rich in all these plant types.

Conifers, including the ancestors of the bunya pine and hoop pine, replaced ferns as the major vegetation about 200 million years ago. Despite their name, neither are true pines. They belong to the cone-bearing Araucariaceae family, which was once distributed worldwide but is now restricted to Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Zealand, islands in the Pacific and South America (from where the family gets its name).

Araucarias were a major part of Australia's forests in wetter times. Today bunya pines are mainly found between Gympie and the Bunya Mountains, with a two small populations in the wet tropics of northern Queensland giving a hint to their past distribution. Bunya Mountains National Park protects the largest stand of bunya pines in the world today.

Hoop pines are distinguished from bunya pines by their less rounded crowns, smaller needles and darker, rougher bark, which is shed in a hoop shape.

Hoop pine seeds are light and disperse on the wind with fine, papery wings. In contrast, bunya pines produce large, pineapple-shaped cones with 50–100 edible 'nuts', each surrounded by a thick, fleshy outer-casing. Heavy cones can't travel very far, except if they roll downhill after plummeting to the ground. Hungry short-eared possums, fawn-footed melomys and other animals devour seeds and help spread them away from the mother tree. One can only imagine what kind of dinosaurs feasted on bunya nuts more than 100 million years ago, before marsupials became dominant across Australia.

Same plant, many names

The revered bonye bonye tree was first officially recorded by a non-Indigenous Australian in the 1830s when collected by Mr Andrew Petrie, the Moreton Bay settlement's Superintendent of Works. It became known to some as Petrie's pine. But the bunya pine's botanical name, Araucaria bidwillii, honours the botanist John Bidwill who sent specimens to Kew Gardens in London.

Educated about bats

Chocolate wattled bats Chalinolobus morio emerge just after dark from the walls and roof of the old timber school house (now known as the bat house) at Dandabah picnic area to feed upon insects on and around the mountains during the warmer months of the year. This is Australia's largest known maternity colony of chocolate wattled bats. About 25 different bat species have been recorded at the Bunya Mountains, including little pied bats Chalinolobus picatus and golden-tipped bats Kerivoula papuensis.

Preying night and day

At night, owls take to the skies to hunt. Rare sooty owls Tyto tenebricosa tenebricosa prefer the dark, damp rainforest while powerful owls Ninox strenua (listed as vulnerable) live in open forest and woodlands, snatching greater gliders, sugar gliders and ringtail or brushtail possums and sometimes birds from among the leaves.

Rare grey goshawks Accipiter novaehollandiae are active during the day, swooping upon insects, reptiles, birds and small mammals. Peregrine falcons Falco peregrinus are magnificent hunters that can be seen darting out from cliffs to seize unsuspecting birds.

  • Request a species list to see what plants and animals have been recorded here.

Culture and history

The bunya pine is as central to the human story of the mountains as it is to the landform's name.

Bounty of the bunya nut

From December to March, bunya pines drop cones containing edible seeds known as bunya nuts. Heavy crops occur about every three years. For countless generations, large groups of Aboriginal people gathered at the Bunya Mountains to take part in what today are known as the bunya festivals, coinciding with this natural event.

Custodians of the Bunya Mountains and Blackall Ranges (nearer the coast) invited people from as far south as the Clarence River in northern New South Wales, west to the Maranoa River, east to Wide Bay and north to the Rockhampton area to join the gatherings. For local and visiting groups, the bunya festivals were times for ceremonies, law-making and resolving disputes, renewing friendships, passing on lore, sharing ideas and revitalising spirituality.

The soft, juicy, young nuts were eaten raw while the mature nuts were roasted. After cracking the outer shells of mature nuts on an open fire, kernels were pounded into meal and roasted into a kind of cake that could be stored for several weeks. Rich nutty meals were the main food. Hunting of wildlife was strictly controlled during the gatherings, which could last for several months.

Expansion of European settlements, along with increased logging activity and clearing for grazing and farming, disrupted the large gatherings, making it difficult for visiting Aboriginal groups to travel along their traditional pathways. Despite Aboriginal people leaving or being removed from their country, and the last great festival being held in the late 1800s, connections still run deep. Aboriginal people (even those living far away) still have ties with the Bunyas through trading, family, songs and stories.

Harvest of the bunya pine

European settlement spread rapidly across the Darling Downs and South Burnett during the 1840s and 1850s. It wasn't long before timber-getters were drawn to the abundant supply of red cedar and other valuable timber growing in the mountains. Cedar workers were tough and resourceful people, who felled trees and snigged them to sawpits to cut them up. Timber was carted to Dalby and other fledgling townships.

From small sawpits to engine-driven mills, about 25 sawmills are believed to have operated on or around the Bunyas. Each had its own small community of workers and their families.Initially bunya pines were left unharmed (for Aboriginal people) but soon the cedar stands were depleted. When the Great Bunya Sawmill opened during 1883 in the foothills on the mountains' southern side, the assault on hoop and bunya pines began in earnest.

Timber was hauled out of the forest by bullocks or horses (and later trucks), but getting logs to sawmills in the foothills was a challenge. Carbine's chute (an earthen trench running almost vertically down the mountain) was the first of many chutes down which slippery, wet logs hurtled to the valley below. It can still be reached today after a 1.5km walk from Munros camp.

However, logs sent down the chutes splintered, and the rocks that pounded into the wood damaged saws. When Lars Andersen built a mill at Wengenville in the eastern foothills of the mountain in 1923, he developed an ingenious log transport solution consisting of winches, winders, flying foxes and a 670m long tramway. Logs made the 250m descent undamaged in minutes. However, by 1928 timber prices had crashed, the mill was sold and the tramway dismantled.

Harvestable stands of timber were still available on the mountain top in the 1930s. A mill was operating at Munros Camp and another at Dandabah (known at that time as the Lucerne Patch) opposite where the national park office now stands. The last sawmill on the mountain operated until 1950 and when the mill at Wengenville ceased operation in 1961, nearly 100 years of logging in the Bunyas came to an end.

Protecting the bunya forest

Even as far back as the 1860s, European settlers were travelling to the Bunyas for the scenery and to relax. During a visit in the 1880s, the Premier of Queensland was shown (by the Superintendent of the Great Bunya Sawmill) visions of a tourist town with accommodation and roads allowing people to experience the mountains and views.

In 1881 a timber reserve was declared over 12,150ha. Following more than 20 years of lobbying against powerful timber and grazing interests and numerous visits by inspectors of forests, a 9112ha national park was declared in July 1908. The words of Inspector of Forests GL Board in 1903 reflect widespread sentiment:

'...it would be a disgrace to allow this beautiful spot to be alienated or otherwise lost to the public.

The Bunya Mountains National Park became Queensland's second national park and first of substantial size.

Despite national park status, and contrary to today's strict legislation, timber from the park continued to be cut and sold until about 1917. By the early 1930s roads had replaced snig tracks to the mountain top. With construction of the first walking tracks in 1939, a new age of conservation and tourism dawned. By the end of the 20th century many private houses had been built for rent on the area surrounding Dandabah.

Additions to the park, including donations by the Stirling family, and conversion of some state forests, have increased its area to 19,493ha.

Survival of an icon

In 1842, Governor Gipps declared that no licences be granted for logging of lands bearing bunya pines, in recognition of the importance of these plants to Aboriginal people. Long before such laws were written on paper, an ancient system of rules and protocols dictated who could harvest bunya cones.

Bunya pines and their ancestors have outlasted dinosaurs, while many other primitive plant species have been overtaken by more modern, flowering plants. Araucarias have survived a decline from being a widespread feature of Australia's warm and wet environment during Cretaceous and Jurassic times (65–210 million years ago) to become mountain refugees in today's warmer and drier climate. While the bunya pines are protected today from direct human disturbance, it is not known what effects human-induced climate change might have on these pre-historic survivors.

Last updated: 07 September 2017
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