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A guide to the Glasshouse Mountains National Park

Wild Horse Mountain - Glasshouse Mountains

The Glass House mountains are the remaining cores of 26 million year old volcanos. Get all the info you need to explore this dramatic National Park and region

We recently headed away for a couple of days in the Glass House Mountains.  This region is one of the 7 National Park on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.    It’s an area of 12 distinctive hills and mountain peaks located inland from the Sunshine Coast.  Their cragged and unusual form led to them being named by Lieutenant James Cook as he sailed up the coast of Queensland in 1770 because they reminded him of the glass furnace chimneys in his Yorkshire homeland.

The area is made up of around 880 hectares across eight sections of parkland and has received heritage protection for its historic and cultural importance.  Australia has some of the oldest geology in the world and these remnants of ancient super volcanos give insight into the formation of our unique geography.

It’s a dramatically beautiful area and an inviting contrast to the Sunshine Coast beaches only a 20 minute drive away.  To anyone visiting the coast we’d highly recommend that you head inland for a day visit, or a night or two if you can, to enjoy it fully.   From the nearest major city of Brisbane it’s less than an hours drive making it the perfect weekend drive.

The mountains have heritage protection within the Glass House Mountains National Park which sets aside substantial areas for recreation, wildlife protection, walking tracks, climbing and trails for horse riding and mountain bikes.

The Glass House Mountains

There are 12 individual mountains that make up the Glass House Mountains.  They aren’t much more than hills by most peoples definition based on their height but their gnarly peaks are so distinctive and ancient that they deserve the grander title.  Like much of Australia’s landscape it’s steeped in ancient history, its geography dating back 26 million years to when the volcano’s formed and erupted.  Over the millions of years since then the outer rock layers have eroded and washed away leaving the hardened rhyolite and trachyte core and a much smaller mountain than the towering volcano would have originally been.

Glasshouse mountains

Which peaks make up the Glass House Mountains

Not every mountain that makes up the Glass House Mountains is climbable, at least not by the novice like us but most do have lookouts, walking tracks or circuits that circumnavigate them.   The names of the 12 mountains are, in order of height:

  1. Mount Beerwah (556 metres)
  2. Mount Coonowrin (377 metres)
  3. Mount Tibrogargan (364 metres)
  4. Mount Tunbubudla (294 metres)
  5. Mount Beerburrum (278 metres)
  6. Mount Ngungun (253 metres)
  7. Mount Coochin (235 metres)
  8. Mount Tibberowuccum (220 metres)
  9. Mount Miketeebumulgrai (202 metres)
  10. Wild Horse Mountain (123 metres)
  11. Mount Elimbah (109 metres)
  12. Mount Cooee (106 metres)

What to do in the Glass House Mountains

One obvious answer is ‘do nothing’, sit, relax, let your body recharge and enjoy just being in this serene natural space.  Well as appealing as that is I fail at complete and utter relaxation when there is something new to discover so here are some locations to explore and activities you may enjoy while breathing that refreshing mountain air.

Wild Horse Mountain

Our first stop was at the base of Wild Horse Mountain.  It’s on the seaward side of the highway as you approach and is one of the smaller mountains but it’s there so you have to walk up it .. right?  In the Aboriginal legend surrounding the area Wild Horse was the little one who kept wandering off to play in the tide, which is adorable imagery so I had to take a look.  It’s not a rustic climb, in fact it’s a sealed road all the way to the top, one long straight sealed road.  So the walk is short at only 1.4 km return but reasonably intense at 700 metres on that incline.  Perfectly doable but while technically suitable for a wheelchair or pushchair I would be cautious about it.

There’s some partial views on the way up but the real view is from the fire tower at the top which provides unobstructed 360 degree views.  There’s also information boards attached to the roof that help you orientate what you are seeing in each direction.

Wild Horse Mountain - Glasshouse Mountains

Aboriginal Bora

As we headed inland we spotted a sign heading off Johnston Road to a Bora Ring.  Taking the turn up the dirt road we drove between the pineapple fields and the forestry plantation to the marked site.

A Bora ring is a sacred place for the Aboriginal people of Australia.  The designs differ slightly in various parts of the country but often are comprised of an inner and outer ring of stones surrounded by a mound of earth and a path joining the two.  They have a ceremonial function and are often associated with male initiation right.  The inner bora ring as preserved here would only have been used by the men.  A belief in the link between past, present and future means the site remains sacred even if it’s no longer used for it’s original purpose.  The earth mounding is all that remains at this site, there is no evidence of the outer ring or the path that may have connected them.  Despite that there is a feeling of reverence and peace, you feel the importance of the location.  Out of respect for Country and tradition never enter a bora ring if you do come across one whether or not it’s marked.

Bora ring in the Glasshouse mountains

Take in the view from the Glass House Mountain lookout

The next stop is the Glass House Mountains Lookout Ciruit.  There are a couple of good vantage points here to look out to the surrounding mountain peaks.  There are also covered picnic and gas BBQ facilities, toilets and an 800 metre walking track.  Keep a lookout for wildlife on the walk, we spotted kangaroos, a variety of birds including a nest with parent and baby Tawny Frogmouths and several different types of lizards.

Glasshouse mountains lookout circuit
Glasshouse mountains lookout circuit

The Lookout Cafe

By this time we we more than ready for lunch and retraced our drive less than a kilometre down the hill to the Lookout Cafe.  From the road it’s fairly unassuming but when you step inside the views are incredible.  We ended up lingering over lunch longer than we had planned but it’s that sort of place.  The food is also excellent, I loved my brie and caramalised onion tart with salad and Drew would highly recommend the burger.

The Glasshouse mountains lookout cafe

Wildlife and bird spotting

The regions has a diverse array of wildlife and birds.  It’s easy to spot grey kangaroos and goannas but you may also see echidnas and koalas in parts.  The bird life is abundant and especially if you stay in the area overnight the dawn chorus is really something to experience.  Perhaps my favourite are the glossy black cockatoo which are sadly now vulnerable to extinction.  It was lovely to see them in a large flock near where we were staying at Glass on Glasshouse and the lookout all day but especially persistent in the early morning and at dusk.

kookaburra
This adorable little face staring at me and every bite of my breakfast bacon.
Tawny-Frogmouth
One of two tawny frogmouth chicks in this nest with a parent bird
King parrot

Lace up your hiking shoes

You can’t walk or climb all of the Glasshouse mountains but there are a whole range of tracks through the area.  Some shorter walks to consider include:

  1. Mt Beerburrum is a steep paved walking track up to the fire tower and great views at the top.  It’s 1.4 km return and a grade 4 track.
  2. Mt Tibrogargan offers two options, an 800 m track up to the lookout or a 3.2 km circuit walk around the base,  Both are grade 3 tracks.
  3. Mt Ngungun summit walking track is 2.8 km and grade 4.  There are great views midway and from the top but walk carefully there are steep drops in some parts.

Read more:  The Australian hiking track grading system

Take a drive through the Blackall Range for a different view

If you’re staying in the area it’s worth a drive up the road to the Blackall Ranges.  You’ll find some quaint hinterland towns to explore such as Malaney and Montville and if you’re looking for an easy walk in the forest Mary Cairncross scenic reserve is a great spot to head for.  There’s a cafe on-site and if you cross the narrow country road the views out back towards the peaks of the Glasshouse mountains from here are spectacular.

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

Australia Zoo & Malaney Botanical Gardens

For something different in the area the privately owned Malaney Botanical Gardens are beautifully tended and have the best Devonshire tea I’ve yet experienced in Queensland.  Alternatively Australia Zoo established by Steve Irwin and his Dad has a good selection of Australian animals on display and an increasing collection of international wildlife on exhibit.

Glass House Mountains Accommodation

There are a couple of options if you want to explore the Glass House Mountains, other options are to base yourself from nearby Hinterland destinations such as Maleny and Montville or even down on the coast and drive inland to explore.

Glass on Glasshouse

We stayed here for a couple of nights recently, it’s located just a few hundred meters down the hill from the lookout and has some stunning vistas of its own.  There’s plenty of wildlife just beyond your window, plus peace and relaxtion in beautiful surroundings.  The accommodation has a complete glass wall facing towards the mountains beyond and is perfect for a couples getaway weekend.
Read our review of Glass on Glasshouse    |     Check latest prices here

Glamping in Australia - like camping in nature with a touch of luxuary

For other options in the Sunshine Coast hinterland the Maleny and Montville area is a favourite, here are a few options in the area.

Another option we have stayed at on the Sunshine Coast is the Mantra right on the beach in Mooloolaba, you can wake up to the sound of the ocean and it’s only a 30 minute drive to the Glass House Mountains from here so an easy day trip to explore.

Visitor Information

Where:  The Glasshouse Mountains National Park is on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.

How to get there:  It’s only an hours drive from Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland.  With around 880 hectares of parkland spread around 8 sections the best way to get around is with a private vehicle.  The train service does run to Beerwah with interconnecting buses but they service mostly tourist attractions and residential areas not the park itself.

Best time to visit: Any time is a good time in the sub-tropical climate of south east Queensland.  In the summer the hills and being slightly inland offers a slight respite from the heat and humidity while in winter time the views are clear, it’s slightly less busy and the wildlife is even easier to spot.

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Glasshouse mountains, Sunshine Coast, Australia
Glasshouse mountains, Sunshine Coast, Australia

 

18 Comments

  • Wow the photos you captured are truly beautiful! I used to live in Maleny (overlooking the Glass House Mountains). Such a nice part of the Sunshine Coast and considerably more tranquil and relaxing than the surfer vibe on the coast. Great work to you both and I hope you have amazing travels to come. 🙂

    • It’s always difficult with so many places to see and limited time. I do recommend staying overnight in or very close to one of the National Parks if you can while we’re here as many of the birds and animals are most active at dawn and dusk so you dramatically increase your chances of seeing them.

  • Hi mates,

    very nice article! I have never been to this national park while I was in Australia for 1 year, but I should have, Seems very cool! I just fell in love with this country. Especially all the national parks are just wonderful…

    Thanks again for the good content ;D

    cheers

    christian “volle” Vollmert

  • To be honest this is the first time I have heard about the glasshouse mountains and after looking at all those pictures I am stunned as to how could I never notice such a beautiful place! The colorful birds and beautiful scenery make you connect with nature which is truly amazing.

  • The views from the Lookout Cafe really are something! I would linger there after lunch too! And thank you for letting us know about bora rings and how we shouldn’t step into them. I would hate to disrespect any traditional areas.

  • It is a beautiful place and I love the photos of the birds. I like the way you , “What do you do here? Do nothing” … I mean that’s a great way imbibing the nature . Like you say , most people wound hardly call some of them even hills.. big rocks at the most 🙂

  • Amazing views of Glasshouse mountains! It should need more than a week if one plans to do all 12 mountains there. The idea of spotting wildlife there thrills me. Great pics.

  • Thanks for the guide, it looks beautiful! I’m planning on stopping here as part of our roadtrip along the East Coast, but unfortunately we only have time for a flying visit. Would you say the Wild Horse Mountain is the best place to head to if I’ve only got time for one stop?

    • If you are on limited time and just passing through then Wild Horse mountain is very convenient, it’s just a few minutes detour off the highway and has great views out to the coast and inland to the mountains. The downside is that the wildlife here is more limited than heading deeper into the National Park.

  • Love the view from Wild Horse Mountain. We’ve seen the fire tower from the highway but didn’t know you could go up there. Saved to Kiwi and Aussie Travel Bloggers Pinterest page.

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