By Scott Guyatt, contributor.
We were preparing our family for one of Australia’s classic long distance walks – Tasmania’s iconic Overland Track (which you will hopefully be able to read about here soon!). Along with regular day walks, we decided that to help get ready and test out some gear, we would head for an overnight walk in south-east Queensland. After looking at some options we chose the Lower Portals at Mt Barney National Park as an ideal spot for a walk, camp-out overnight, swim in the creek and return.
I have to say this is a great place for a family adventure. The walk in to the Portals and return is an easy day-trip, but it’s also an ideal first taste of overnight hiking.
We set sail with our full troop of sons & daughters of adventure – 9, 12 and 14 year olds – along with the two adults.
It’s no accident that the Mt Barney region is one of south-east Queensland’s bushwalking meccas. It’s scenic, well established, and within easy reach of Brisbane. There are lots of walks on the high mountains (including Mt Barney itself), but this walk stays down in the low-lands, taking in the sights of Mt Barney Creek along with typical Australian bush. The walk in from the carpark takes a couple of hours, and runs up and over a series of ridges on the way to the creek itself.
There’s nothing too demanding on the walk, and it’s easy enough to follow. Even the nine-year old who isn’t the biggest bushwalking fan ambled along happily and made it easily (it’s only 3.7km each way!). You can hit the National Parks website for all the information you’ll need for the walk. There are some nice views along the way, but the main reason to do this walk is for the destination.
Mt Barney creek tumbles down a rock-filled creek bed along the foot of Mt Barney. We arrived at the creek and sent the kids looking for an easy way across – eventually finding a spot to rock-hop across the creek just a little downstream from where the track comes out so we could keep our boots on and feet dry. It doesn’t take long to realise it’s a stunning location.
Once across the creek, head downstream a short distance for the bush camping area, or upstream for the Lower Portals themselves. Follow the trail up alongside the creek and then scramble up through a crack in the rock to arrive at an absolutely beautiful swimming hole, tucked away in the gorge. We spent ages swimming and playing in the fresh, cool, clear waters of the swimming hole.
We also found a steep bypass track around the Portals (a place where the gorge closes in tightly on the creek so there is no easy way through) and climbed up to the top to take in spectacular views of Mt Barney itself. It was about 15 minutes of careful climbing and scrambling up the track to a great little lookout. We’ve earmarked a climb up the mountain for another trip.
After swimming, soaking, climbing and exploring we headed back downstream to the camping area – a group of large level campsites tucked in the forest and set up camp. One 3-man and one 2-man tent covered our family of five, and then we set about cooking a simple dinner on the fuel-stove (no campfires allowed here). There were also a few members of a Brisbane bushwalking group staying in the campsite, so we swapped stories with them for a while before retiring for the night.
The next morning the kids (and the kids at heart) went rock-hopping in the creek, exploring this beautiful location for ages before packing up and starting out on the walk back to the car.
I won’t go into too much detail about equipment, except to say that all our kids carried something. The youngest just had a small pack with her own clothes, while the older two carried all their own gear and a small amount of our family camping gear. Every family will make their own choices about this, but we were keen for the kids to contribute, and for the older two in particular to continue training for the upcoming Overland Track walk they’d be joining us on.
The Lower Portals, like I said, is a fantastic place for a family adventure – whether as a day walk with a picnic lunch, or like we did as a place for a first attempt at overnight camping with packs. It can easily be converted to a through walk over 3 days and two nights with a little further planning. Be aware it’s not a graded walking trail, and the track itself is rough in places. Signposting is minimal once you’ve left the carpark, and it is worth having a suitable map with you and an idea how to read it.