THE CROWN JEWEL of the World Heritage-listed Wooroonooran National Park, Mt Bartle Frere, is a must see for enthusiastic trekkers and nature lovers. Climbing the 1622m Mt Bartle Frere is no small feat, but Queensland’s highest peak offers a variety of landscapes and wildlife that are sure to reward the committed adventurer.
The smaller of the green giants, Mt Bellenden Ker (1593m), is the state’s second-highest mountain and offers a similar assortment of natural treasures on its foothills – although the trail up this mountain is privately managed.
The nearby township of Babinda is an historical sugar town, oozing art-deco style and decorated with sugar canes as far as the eye can see. There’s no shortage of watersports around Babinda and Tully, as the area receives the highest rainfall in all of Australia.
Walking trails at Wooronooran
Alternating from rich green rainforest, to boulder fields and scrubby vegetation, the ascent up Mt Bartle Frere is a gruelling 10-12 hours (15km) with camping allowed at the summit. It’s recommended you give yourself two days to tackle the ascent and another day for the descent. The track begins at the stunning Josephine Falls and intersects Majuba Creek (clean drinking water) an hour later. Those who make it to the top are rewarded with spectacular views – if not cloudy – across the sugarcane fields, out to the Great Barrier Reef islands and to the Coral Sea.
Wooroonooran's wayward weather
Weather on the mountain is unpredictable – it can be extremely humid, very cold and very wet (especially in the summer months). With an average of 8000mm of rainfall annually, the summit has one of the highest rain intensities in the world. Trails may be closed during the wet season. Shorter versions of this walk are also available. Insect repellent is essential as mosquitos and leeches are common.
Wildlife at Wooroonooran
Take the challenge to ascend Mt Bartle Frere and you will be rewarded with chance sightings of rare endemic fauna. Many reptile and frog species occur only on the summit, including the chameleon gecko and the Bellenden Ker nursery frog. It is also an important bird area listed by BirdLife International, sporting the golden bowerbird among many other endemics. Venture out at night with a head-torch and see the night come alive with fireflies and raucous frogs calling out for mates.
Location: Babinda is approximately 60km south of Cairns.
Accommodation: Camping is allowed on Mt Bartle Frere at four bush camping sites. Bookings and permits are required year-round.
Food/Drink: Food can be purchased from nearby Babinda or from Cairns. Clean drinking water is plentiful on the mountain.
Points of interest: Situated 16km south of Babinda is the crystal clear Josephine Falls which is a short walk from the carpark and one of the most refreshing places to swim in the area.
Maps: Available at www.nprsr.qld.gov.au and the local visitor centre.