The Whitsunday Great Walk
The Great Australian Bush Meets The Sea
Strolling through lush tropical rainforest, wetting the toes in clear mountain streams while the sounds of birds and colours of butterflies fill the air. The track wanders around the butts of giant trees and opens up to lookouts with panoramic views over the Whitsundays. Sounds just perfect doesn't it?
Well I did forget to mention the 30 kms of sometimes steep and energy draining hiking involved.
The Whitsunday Great Walk is used by visitors and locals alike. Some walk all or part of the tracks as part of a regular fitness plan, some to train for other major walks such as the famous Kakoda Track, others to study the flora and fauna and there's those who just like to camp in the bush. Even if you are just an armchair bushwalker this lens will help you get to know a little about the Australian bush.
The Whitsunday region is the coastal strip and islands on the Queensland coast between Bowen and Mackay. The regional centre of the Whitsundays is Airlie Beach.
Where? What? How?
The Whitsunday Great Walk traverses the Conway National Park and Conway State Forest in Queensland's central coast.
The track begins at Forestry Road, Brandy Creek which is off Shute Harbour Road between Proserpine and Airlie Beach. A large sign at Brandy Creek indicates whether or not the walking track is open. The other end of the track comes out in Nara Crescent just above the tourist strip of Airlie Beach.
The region is accessed by bus, train or car from Brisbane or Cairns. Domestic airports are at Proserpine and Hamilton Island.
You have a number of choices as to how you approach this walk.
National Parks suggest it is a three day walk and have provided camp sites at various intervals. It is however, possible to do this walk in two or even one day. I will be describing this as a one day walk but hope to add to the lens camping options at a later date. The trip took me eight hours to complete however many take a little longer with extended stops and sightseeing. Each year a run over this track is held and the record is under two hours. I suggest you allow twelve hours if you intend to tackle it in one day. This may mean heading off before sunrise as we chose to do.
There are three shorter walks but I suggest you make these separate walks another day. Two of these are right before the start of the track and the third is near the end.
Permits from National Parks are required to camp but not for a one day walk. I recommend walking in groups of at least three in case someone is injured and requires assistance.
Hiking poles are useful over long walks and add a little safety bonus.
Choose from single or double hiking poles.
This walk is 30 kms long with several steep inclines. A reasonable level of fitness is required to complete it safely. Knees will be tested on the downhill slopes so if in doubt apply compressive knee support.
Check conditions before attempting the walk and do not attempt river crossings after heavy rain.
There are water tanks along the route but no guarantee water will be of drinkable quality. National parks recommend water is treated before drinking. To be safe I suggest carrying sufficient water for the entire trip.
Your backpack should contain:
First aid kit
Jacket or coat
Food and snacks
Toilet paper and a garden trowel
Compass and map
Wear clothing appropriate to the weather with enclosed footwear and a hat. It is a good idea to wear a high visibility safety vest so you can easily be spotted by others.
Read the safety information on the DERM website
Choose your backpack
The car park at Brandy Creek is the starting point for the Great Walk and two other short tracks. Here there are information signs that show the logging history of the area. You will be walking initially along the roads that were used to haul logs out of the state forest. Despite the fact that logging was only stoped in 1993, due to selective methods and replanting, there are very little signs of disturbance off the track.
The first leg of our adventure is an easy 8.3 km walk on fairly level ground along a wide track. The sides of the track here are lined with various wildflowers which attract a number of butterflies. The large deep blue specimen is the Ulysses butterfly and you should spot several of these during the course of the walk.
The river crossing is Impulse Creek (see intro photo) which unless it has rained recently should have very little flow. Boards across the creek provide good footing.
Before arriving at Repulse camp there is signed turn to the right that takes only a short distance to Repulse Creek.
What's In a Name?
This camp has a large open grassy area for camping. Sleeping platforms are provided as are solid, animal proof containers for your gear. Native rats and possums come around at night and will easily invade a backpack to get to your food.
There are toilets and rainwater tanks here making this an ideal spot to have a snack and prepare for the next, more difficult stage ahead.
BEWARE The Plants That Bite!
Well maybe not bite but they will sting you. I'm referring to the plant locally known as Moonlighter, Moonlighting, Stinging Tree or Gympie bush (pictured here and below)
I noticed a number of these on this next section of the walk. Contact with the leaves will result in a very painful rash which is likely to require medical attention. Avoid them at all costs.
Not long after leaving Repulse camp there are a couple of areas where you can bush camp. These sites have no toilets or water and are provided if you wish to rough it or camp away from others.
There is also a helipad signposted which is rather comforting. An open area of grass near here had partially overgrown the track here on our visit making it a littlie difficult to navigate. I'm told this is unusual and has been addressed.
What Goes Up.......
The track here becomes more like you would expect from a bush trek now the wide road has been replaced by a narrow rough winding path up some serious hills. You are climbing to the highest point on the walk, Mount Hayward.
At the top of this climb is Bloodwood camp and a lookout with views of Shute Harbour.
The trip from Repulse camp to Bloodwood camp is 11.5 kms.
Bloodwood camp is set among tall trees, is shaded and has toilets with rainwater tanks nearby. Again the animal proof containers are provided.
The view from Bloodwood Camp
The Home Stretch
From Bloodwood camp it is only 8.5 kms to Airlie Beach and the track goes over a series of hills and valleys through some very picturesque forest. We are now walking west and after about 5 kms there are some more rainwater tanks. A sign here indicates Airlie Beach is a mere 3.3 kms away.
The next 400 meters is the steepest and meanest bit of track of all. After just hiking 20 odd kms you don't need this. The good bit is that from the top of this climb it is pretty much all downhill.
On the way down there is a track to the left to another lookout. It will add another hour to your walk but if you have the energy the views are superb.
The track finishes with a downhill staircase into residential Kara Cres. If you don't have a car or someone waiting for you it is an all downhill walk to the main street of Airlie Beach.
Congratulations you have just completed the Whitsunday Great Walk.