Dandabah is one of three three camping areas in the Bunya Mountains National Park, along with Burtons Well and Westcott. Dandabah is the main site and the location with the National Parks office where you can get permits from if camping overnight.
Dandabah also has a number of places to get something to eat or drink. There is also a small general store. There are quite a few
The Bunya Mountains is the largest stand of ancient bunya pines, set in a rainforest. The bunya pines drop cones of edible seeds called bunya nuts. The young nuts can be eaten raw while they are soft and juicy, and older nuts can be roasted like chestnuts. Aborigines ground the roasted nuts into flour and roasted into a cake of sorts that can be stored.
The area was an important part of Aboriginal culture. Aborigines used to gather in the Bunya Mountains which could last for months. Both locals and visitors take part in ceremonies, law-making, resolving disputes, passing on lore, and sharing ideas. During the gatherings, hunting of wildlife was controlled.
After European settlement blocked the traditional pathways to get to the Bunya Mountains, the gatherings eventually ceased, with the last known gathering held in the late 1800s.
Dandabah provides access to a lot of the walks in the Bunya Mountains.
- Bunya Bunya Track
- Scenic circuit, including Festoon Falls, Pine Gorge Lookout and Tim Shea Falls
- Barker Creek circuit, including Paradise Falls and Little Falls
- Barker Creek Lookout and Tree Identification Walk
The Bunya Bunya Track and Scenic circuit through Festoon Falls were closed when I was there due to fallen trees from an earlier storm. I walked the Barker Creek circuit, which still let me see most of the places.
I did the Barker Creek circuit anti-clockwise, heading first towards Tim Shea Falls.
I was still able to detour through to Pine Gorge Lookout along part of Scenic circuit that was still open and double back to Barker Creek circuit.
Walking from Dandabah through to Tim Shea Falls is a spectacular walk passed towering bunya pines and massive strangler figs.
The strangler figs were taking more of my interest than the bunya pines through this section. About 7 minutes into the walk, a boardwalk takes you through the middle of a large strangler fig. It had a queue up of people taking photos.
Next, I arrived at the top of Tim Shea Falls, about 25 minutes from leaving Dandabah grounds. The walking trail then leads away and comes to the juncture of the Barker Creek circuit and the Scenic circuit. If you are wanting to walk the Barker Creek circuit, it is a short walk back to the base of Tim Shea Falls to include it.
I continued passed the base of Tim Shea Falls to go to Pine Gorge Lookout. Along this section is a creek which contained numerous tadpoles of the great barred frog. The tadpoles can take 3 years to grow land legs, so there is a good chance you can spot some at any time of the year.
Pine Gorge Lookout opens up on the side of a hill along a gorge filled with pines, with distinct lines of pines and eucalypt growing through the valley and up the hills. From Tim Shea Falls, the walk took about 30 minutes at a quick pace, and about a 1 hour detour from Tim Shea Falls.
Continuing on, Big Falls Lookout and Barker Creek Lookout are along an offshoot from the main circuit. Barker Creek Lookout is 1.5km return from the offshoot. Big Falls Lookout and Barker Creek Lookout are close to each other, basically looking in two different directions from a similar point.
Big Falls didn’t show any falls, apparently requiring recent heavy rain, the view is still nice looking across the valley. Barker Creek Lookout offers long distance views away from the Bunya Mountains, framed with pines growing on the hill.
Back to where the offshoot to Barker Creek Lookout is, I headed towards Little Falls. In between the trail opens up revealing a long and wide view of the valley you look over from Big Falls Lookout, and beyond the Bunya Mountains. This isn’t a listed lookout on the park map. Maybe it was partly because it was unexpected, but I found this view better than both Barker Creek Lookout and Big Falls Lookout.
Little Falls was a beautiful arrival. By this stage, I’d been working for 3 hours on a hot day, and the walking trail starts to become noticeably more uphill than down. Little Falls is a nice spot that felt cool and calming, with some flowing water.
Paradise Falls is about 10 minutes further on from Little Falls, continuing in an anti-clockwise direction. The water was flowing here too, but it was mostly happening underneath green cover up the face of the falls.
From Paradise Falls Dandabah is nearly 3.5kms through dry rainforest to complete the circuit. A path 340m from Paradise Falls leads to the Paradise parking area. The top track runs more directly back to Dandabah from Paradise Falls, taking about 1 hour.
The track passes through a fallen pine cut to walk through it. It gives a sense of how big these trees are realising the trunk is as thick than you are tall.
The Barker circuit took 4 hours to complete at a fairly quick pace (less quick on the last hour). There are no places to top up on water, so make sure you have plenty with you, at least a couple of bottles or a water pack, especially on hot days.
If the Scenic circuit wasn’t closed through Festoon Falls, I think it would be better to do the Scenic circuit, then do Barker Creek circuit from the Paradise parking area. From here you could go to Paradise Falls and Little Falls quite easily, and perhaps continue on to the unmarked view that opens up looking down the valley towards Big Falls. Then return back to Paradise parking area. I would continue on to Big Falls and Barker Creek Lookout, if there had been enough rainfall to have water flowing over.
To get there:
From Bunya Hwy, turn into Bunya Mountains Road, and follow 24.3km. Turn left into Bunya Ave at Dandabah.
From Burtons Well, turn left into Bunya Mountains Road, and follow for 7.9km to Dandabah.
From Maidenwell, turn into Maidenwell Bunya Mountains Rd, and follow for 25.5km to the end. Turn right into Bunya Mountains Rd and continue for 2.7km. Turn right into Bunya Ave at Dandabah.
Cost: Free for day use, Camping Queensland Park and Forest Fees
Water: No, not potable
Food: Yes, multiple cafes
Wheelchair accessible: Yes, around campgrounds but not the walks
Showers: Free hot showers