Saturday, 13 January 2018

Sandy Creek Circuit (Tamborine National Park)


A short but enjoyable loop in Tamborine National Park, the Sandy Creek Circuit explores a section of lush subtropical rainforest along the eponymous creek. Looping through the forest and staying close to the creek, the trail brings hikers to the head of the spectacular Cameron Falls before completing the circuit. While only a small walk, the Sandy Creek Circuit is the perfect introduction to hiking in South East Queensland

Distance: 2.6 km ('tadpole' loop)
Gradient: Largely gentle over its length with some steep sections. Rugged near the Cameron Falls section of the track.
Quality of Path: Largely clear and well maintained.
Quality of Signage: Clear and easy to follow trailhead with directional signage at key junctions. No trail markers over the length of the track. 
Experience Required: Some Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: 50-70 Minutes
Steps: Some steps leading down to the loop from the car park.
Best Time to Visit: All year.
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trail starts at the main car park on Knoll Rd. From Main Western Rd, turn onto Main St and continue until it becomes Knoll Rd. The car park branches left off the road approximately 850 metres along the road.   



After three and a half weeks of adventuring overseas in India and Vietnam, Alissa and I found ourselves on a whirlwind series of flights back to Australia, however we would not be returning home to Perth. Instead, due to an interesting series of events, our final destination would be to the Gold Coast where I had accepted a three month work position. Although warm climates are not among my favourite things, the fact that January through to March are some of the worst months for hiking in Western Australia meant that this served as a perfect opportunity to extend out the hiking season and explore an Australia state I'd never visited before.

Not sure how I'd go with the humidity and based on the recommendation of my friend and new housemate Simon, we decided to start small by heading out to the nearby Tamborine National Park to tackle the 2.6 kilometre Sandy Creek Circuit, also known as the Knoll Walking Track or even the Cameron Falls Track.



From the Knoll area car park, Simon, Alissa, our other new housemate Zach and I followed the track as it descended from the picnic area and parklands down into the forest.



While many of the trees in the Gold Coast forests are eucalypts, the sub-tropical rainforests of the area are completely different from the dry, often burnt Jarrah of the Perth region or even the majestic Karri and Tingle Trees of the South West. Instead, the tall palms and Wararie trees made the area look closer in appearance to somewhere like Singapore due to their lushness.



From the descending path, we eventually reached the main trail as it made its loop. Having done this walk before, Simon informed us that a waterfall was closer to the right of the trail junction. Wanting to save the best for last, we decided that walking in a clockwise direction was probably a better way for us to program the experience.



A nice aspect of this short walk was the abundance of name plaques attached to many of the trees in the area. For visitors who were unfamiliar with the forest species, this was a great way for us get to know our new environment.



We were not very far into the walk when we came to a bridge crossing the eponymous Sandy Creek. Being used to the horribly dry Perth summer, being able to see a creek with such a healthy flow was something of a novelty and we decided to head off the track and check out the waters more closely.



Due to the humidity, it was a real treat to dip our toes into the water and cool off a little. This was a really stunning section of the forest and an early highlight along this trail.



After taking Simon's photo as he sat on the rock, we realised that a large spider was just to my left. Simon looked down and saw that another one of these spiders had been right under him and he quickly hopped off the rock and away!



After a bit of time enjoying the stream, we continued on along the track as we made our way through more beautiful rainforest. Relatively flat, the walking was quite easy going, making for a high amount of reward for very little effort.



As we followed the trail, we were privy to some stunning glimpses of the creek through the beautiful trees along its banks.





The trail leaves the dense, lush forest as it reaches the edge of a cliff line, with the trail continuing on the right. Before heading right, we decided to check out a lookout that branches off to the left at the trail junction.



The lookout provides excellent views across the surrounding landscape, particularly of the valley below. Unfortunately, tree growth has resulted in less than satisfactory views of Cameron Falls itself, with only the barest of glimpses provided from this viewpoint



Heading back onto the trail, we began the short journey to the head of the falls. We would discover that the falls thankfully did not feature any safety barriers, and a warning sign in several languages alerts visitors to the potential danger in no uncertain terms.



Getting to the head of Cameron Falls was arguably the best moment of the entire trail, with stunning views of the falls and the surrounding landscape.



The lack of railings means you can get a good look at the falls in action, however the warning signs are definitely on point when it comes to bringing attention to the inherent danger of getting so close to the edge. Walkers really need to use their judgement and common sense in keeping a reasonably safe distance from what could be a fairly precipitous drop. 





Continuing along, the trail begins its slow, steady climb back to complete the loop as it reenters some lovely rainforest.



Although we had seen many of the rainforest trees throughout the entire walk, the last few metres of the loop's end featured some of the most impressive specimens of the entire track, with strangler figs growing around a number of the tallest trees. From there it was a simple matter of following the trail back up to the picnic area and car park at the start of the Knoll section.



At the car park, there is a large lookout overlooking the surrounding plains. With trees having grown into the field of view, the views were not as impressive it was from the head of Cameron Falls, however we noticed something more interesting happening just to the right of the lookout.



A large and inquisitive goanna had crept up on a couple having a picnic and began tasting an empty tray of chocolate biscuits. The goanna would taste the tray for a bit, back off slightly and then go back to the tray again. This continued for several minutes before the gonna moved over to another area of the lawn nearby. I've seen may of these creatures and their localised species relatives on our hikes throughout Australia, but seeing one this calm around people was quite a rarity.

Although a short walk, the Sandy Creek Circuit was a great introduction to hiking in South East Queensland. The blend of subtropical forest, Sandy Creek and the spectacular Cameron Falls all added up a thoroughly enjoyable experience. While there are better and longer walks in Springbrook and Lamington National Parks, Tamborine's close proximity to the Gold Coast makes it a convenient walk that is well worth a visit. 

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