Eungella National Park is perched atop the Clarke Range of the Mackay Highlands, which comprises Australia’s longest stretch of sub-tropical rainforest.
This article was originally published in 4x4 Australia's May 2012 issue.
Ideal for a family weekend escape, the national park and surrounding forests offer a network of short walking tracks and four-wheel drive tracks to get you out in the cool mountain air so you can fully appreciate the gorgeous landscape.
The park is serviced by the Mackay-Eungella Road, which weaves through the Pioneer Valley from Mackay, surrounded by farming communities. Make sure you stop in at the Pinnacle Pub on the way through to sample their revered Pinnacle pies.
Not far past Pinnacle is the township of Finch Hatton. Follow the signs to the gorge to indulge the senses with a number of short walks through the lush rainforest, featuring fast-flowing streams and waterfalls. Don’t forget your bathers as a rock pool rewards the climb at the end of each walk.
Back on the Mackay-Eungella Road, the road winds sharply and steeply up the Clark Range to reach the Eungella township.
If cabins or camping with hot showers, a camp kitchen and powered sites are part of your get-away-from-it-all requirements, turn right at North Street and follow the signs for a couple of hundred metres to Explorer’s Haven, a cosy campground offering around 20 sites (powered and unpowered) and five cabins, all sharing a tremendous view down the valley.
From Eungella, take the first left towards Broken River for park information, picnic facilities, short walks and viewing decks from which to spy a platypus or two. Pick up a visitors guide which lists a suggested itinerary – the sights along sealed roads, country back lanes or getting the wheels dirty along isolated forest trails.
If bush camping is more your style, the Diggings Campground on Broken River (21 10 26.20S, 148 28 46.32E) is easily the pick, with plenty of space, flat ground, mature shade and the river to cool off in. There is no toilet, so bring a porta-potty, thunderbox… or a shovel.
The camping area is easily accessed along Diggings Road which spears off the main tourist road to the right, just before Sky Window which, as the name suggests, offers an unsurpassed view down the valley.
Diggings Road is unsealed and narrow in parts and generally easy going until it reaches the river crossing and campground. From there it’s high-clearance 4X4 only, crossing the mountain range before joining up with the Eungella Dam Road.
Denham Range in the adjacent Crediton State Forest is the other off-road camping alternative in the vicinity, but there are few flat sites and it seems better suited to the walk-in fraternity, as opposed to vehicle-based camping.
The campground is located on the mountain ridgeline bordering the Homevale National and Conservation Parks.
A 4X4 track meanders along the border for around 10km to reach a locked gate and the beginning of the walkers-only Dray Track, which makes its way to Moonlight Dam. The track is part of the 56km Mackay Highlands Great Walk.
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Vehicle access to Eungella is back the way you came, with some steep sections, red clay and rainforest pockets. It is generally easy going with a high-clearance four-wheel drive and a compact off-road camper-trailer.
There are a number of other worthwhile areas to explore nearby, including the Crediton Loop and historic Crediton Hall and campground; the Eungella Dam; and the Mia Mia State Forest.
With everything on offer, you could easily occupy a weekend or more in Eungella National Park. And at such close proximity to the bustling township of Mackay, it makes an ideal family getaway – without taxing the mind or body.
Eungella National Park is in the Mackay Highlands, 80km west of Mackay, Qld.
PERMITS AND ACCESS
Camping permits are required in Eungella NP and Crediton State Forest. Visit derm.qld.gov.au/parks or phone 13 74 68.
Crediton Hall campground; water, toilets.
Denham Range campground; water, long-drop toilet.
The Diggings campground; no facilities.
Eungella Dam campground; water (subject to blue-green algae), toilets, bins. Dogs allowed.
Explorer’s Haven; 07 4958 4750
WHAT TO TAKE
Insect repellent, drinking water, binoculars, swimming gear, walking shoes.
Basic supplies are available at the Eungella Store. Otherwise Finch Hatton has two pubs, a post office and a general store with eftpos and a newsagency. There are no ATMs in the Pioneer Valley.
Easy. Diggings Road is rocky and slow-going in parts. Note: forest trails may get tricky after rain.
MAPS AND GUIDES
Mackay Highlands & Eungella NP Visitors Guide.
Phone 13 74 68 or see derm.qld.gov.au/parks and mackayregion.com.