Queensland’s National Parks
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Published by TOP4 Team
As may be expected in a state of its vast size, Queensland’s landscapes are of an extraordinary variety, many of them protected by designation as national or environmental parks.
Tropical coastline to desert heartlands. Most visitors will become familiar with the reef and rainforest parks of the tropical and subtropical coastline, but the spectacular and often unique parks of the interior demand attention too. More than 1,200 km to the west of the coast are the monotonous sandhills of the Simpson Desert, ‘Stretching interminably like waves of the sea’ according to the explorer Charles Sturt, who gave up his attempt to conquer them. Only crossed on foot in 1973, they still offer a challenge to anyone venturing into them today.
Further east, the sparse vegetation of the desert gives way to country characterised by grassland, wattle scrub, eucalyptus woodland, or by scattered individuals of the strange Queensland bottle tree. Among the spinifex and rugged hills of the Lark Quarry Environmental Park, the footprints of dinosaur that perished in a stampede 100 million years ago are preserved in mud that has long since turned to rock.
Further east still, a broad belt of sandstone gives rise to spectacular scenery. This is where many of Queensland’s major rivers have their origin; their erosive action has formed deep gorges in which a rich flora thrives, including the cabbage palms of Carnarvon National Park, also well known for its strange rock formations. As the land rises and rainfall increases, the blue-green of eucalypts gives way to the dark green of tropical rainforest, with its incredible wealth of species including ferns, climbers and other epiphytes. In parts of far north Queensland the rainforest descends to the beaches fringing the Great Barrier Reef, whose cays and islands are now conserved as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Wild north to friendly south. Cape York has some of the finest but least accessible of Queensland’s national parks, where nature displays herself in all her savage unpredictability. In the wet season, rivers fill with fierce-flowing, silt-rich, closing fords and cutting communications for weeks on end, only to dry up into a series of isolated pools when the rain has stopped. Strange termite mounds stud the inland landscape, while mangrove swamps grow from the mud of the coastal plain. In the south-east of the state, nature wears a kindler air. Brisbane must be one of the world’s best-endowed capital cities in terms of grand scenery within easy reach; a crescent of gloriously wooded highlands extends from close to the city boundary to on the New South Wales boundary.