Main Range National Park Camping; Poplar Flat and Manna Gum

Queensland has surprised us on so many different levels, particularly when it comes to unique, and amazing camp sites. In the last 6 months we’ve stayed at a huge number of different camp sites, and our latest one was in the Main Range National Park, at Poplar Flat, or Manna Gum.

Main Range National Park was amazing
We were quite shocked at how beautiful Main Range National Park is

Where is Main Range National Park?

You’ll find this national park on the edge of Scenic Rim, roughly 2 hours West of Brisbane, and about an hour south east of Toowoomba.

Interestingly, its right near a heap of other camping options on the way in, all of which are private property. You have the Janowen 4WD park, Gordon Country, Goomburra Valley and Bellrose Farm stay.

Looking out over Main Range National Park
You drive past a heap of other camping options on your way in

Do you need a 4WD to get there?

No, and we saw a few 2WD vehicles come and go. The road into the national park is a split between bitumen (some of which is damaged, but its still OK), and gravel. The gravel has a few corrugated sections, but nothing insane and certainly nothing you couldn’t do with your average 2WD or AWD vehicle.

Driving into Main Range National Park
The drive in is mainly bitumen, before its gravel for a short drive

Can you tow a caravan in?

Yep, and we saw a number of people doing this. Even the hills are quite kind on the way in, as you stay in the middle of the valley.

What are the camp sites like?

Poplar Flat is the first camp site that you get to, with Manna Gum being literally 400 metres up the road. Both are quite big, grassy and have fire pits spread around the place.

Poplar Flat Campground
Poplar Flat Campground from above

Poplar Flat is probably slightly less picturesque, but honestly, they’re both much of a muchness. We actually booked into Manna Gum, and with no one else around we decided to stay at Poplar Flat, so we could get the most privacy, and camp near a small pool of water and the creek bed, which the kids loved.

Manna Gum Campground
Manna Gum Campground is just a few hundred metres away

There is one section at the bottom of Poplar Flat which is much closer to the water, and we stayed down there.

Camped at Poplar Flat
We camped at the bottom of Poplar Flat, and loved it

One thing I was cautious of, and it determined greatly where we decided to camp, and that was the number of big gum trees everywhere. I don’t know how often it happens in this specific area, but camping underneath gum trees is generally advised as a bad decision, as they shed big branches and I’ve seen vehicles crushed when they come down. Yes, its probably a very slim chance, but if you can avoid it, why wouldn’t you?

Camping at Poplar Flat
We chose a spot away from the gum trees because, well, why not?

Costs to camp, and bookings

Camping at these sites is the standard Queensland National Park Camping cost. For us, its just under $22 a night, which is reasonable, but not cheap. You need to book online before you arrive, as there’s absolutely zero phone range in the National Park.

Main Range National Park Walks and hiking

One of the major attractions of the Main Range National Park is the different walk trails, and we saw a number of people come in just for the day, and head out. The Dalrymple walk is a short 30 minute one from Manna Gum Camp, that the kids absolutely love. It’s easy, with lots of boardwalks and bridges, and good scenery.

Dalrymple walk at Main Range National Park
Our kids loved the short Dalrymple walk at Main Range

From there, you can turn left and continue on the Cascades Walk, which we did, but it’s a 6.5km hike that ‘requires a moderate level of fitness’. This hike is no joke, and you want to have the right footwear, a PLB, some first aid gear, food and water. We’ve done a lot of hikes, and this was one of the more difficult ones with our two boys.

Cascades walk with the kids
We did the cascades walk after which was amazing, but its a hard slog

It winds its way back and forth over the stunning creek, but up and down considerably, before one big climb at the end, and then a massive descent down a slippery gravel track, back to Manna Gum Camp. This was a magic walk, and most of it is in the shade (except the last hill), but it certainly pushed Sarah and the kids to their limits.

Scenery on the Cascades Walk
The scenery is amazing though
Cascades walk is up and down
Expect to go up and down a lot

You can also do the Ridge track, which adds another 900m, or there’s plenty of other walks further back in the National Park. The scenery here is absolutely magic, and I said to Sarah that what we saw on the Cascades Walk was better than anything we did in the Bunya Mountains, and that was spectacular.

When is the best time to visit Main Range National Park?

This National Park could be visited any time of the year, but I reckon after rain would be the best for seeing the creek flow. We still had water flowing, and remarkably all of the water we saw was clean and stunning, but I would imagine if you went too much later it might start to dry.

The Cascade Falls were still running a bit, but not very much. On the flip side, it could get quite slippery, and crossing through water numerous times might not be your idea of fun, so choose wisely.

Stopping for a break at Main Range National Park
We enjoyed our time in late October, but the camp ground is starting to dry up a lot

Watch for rats in your engine bay

We’ve been travelling around Australia for more than a year now, and are familiar with the fact that rats can, and will get into your engine bay. However, this was the first time we got bitten, and it caused us a major headache the day that we left, with rats eating a good chunk of hoses in our engine bay and resulting in a breakdown on the side of the road. Rats broke my 4WD, and I was not a happy chap, so watch out!

Coolant sprayed everywhere
We had some decent rat damage that was a major headache

Our impressions, and would we go back?

I was quietly stunned at Main Range National Park. We visited in late October, and whilst the camp sites were not nearly the best we’ve stayed at, the area as a whole including the walks makes it truly well worth doing.

The change in scenery as you do the walks, and the stream that cascades its way down is absolutely beautiful. If you were looking for camping near Brisbane, to do on your own, with friends or family or in a big group, Main Range National Park is truly well worth doing.

Main Range Cascades Walk
This place was fantastic, and super close to Brisbane

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