How to do the Stinson Walk in the Gold Coast Hinterland
History nerds and hikers rejoice! The Stinson Walk in Lamington National Park is the next big hike for you to add to your list.
The walk ticks all the boxes; it’s physically challenging, has an engaging backstory, gorgeous scenery, and a plane wreck. Intrigued? Walk on, friend.
Who or what is Stinson?
During a stormy night back in 1937, the Airlines of Australia Stinson crashed into the green mountains of the Gold Coast Hinterland. Tragically, four men died on impact, and three were left stranded in the dense, virgin rainforest.
Limited technology in the day meant most of the search was happening almost a 1000kms south near Sydney, where locals reported they heard a plane crash.
About a week later, with the wreckage still missing, an unassuming bloke by the name Bernard O’Reilly set out into the Gondwana rainforest, on a hunch. He ended up locating the two remaining survivors and spearheading a rescue mission to get them out. One survivor had already left the crash site to try and get help.
The story captured the attention of Australians back in 1937 and remains legendary today.
Why do the Stinson Walk?
The hike is ripe for history buffs. Walking in the footsteps of one of the most famous rescue missions in Australia is not something you do every day.
It’s a pretty advanced hike, so you’ll also gain serious hiker cred for having done it. It’s physically and navigationally difficult.
Plus, there are several lookouts on the way, with expansive views of the McPherson range.
Highlights of the walk
The walk starts along Border Track and the first lookout is Echo Point. The elevation changes and scratchy lawyer vines will start coming strong after Echo Point, but power on, little grasshopper! You’ll soon hit Mt Throakban, where Bernard scaled a tall tree to see if he could spot signs of the wreck, 81 years ago. Your most admirable duty will probably be just to have a snack and a ponder here under the shade of a tree, but that’s cool too.
Once you’re fuelled up, your next stop will be the aptly-named Point Lookout. Closeby is the steep descent to the wreckage, and a grave commemorating the four men who lost their lives. The descent will continue all the way down to Christmas Creek. Westray’s grave, who survived the crash but died later while getting help, is a short walk up the creek here, amongst the ghost gums.
Finally, you can put your blistered, bloated feet in the creek! Follow the creek down to get to Christmas Creek Rd.
How hardcore do you want to make this?
Can you slog close to 40km in a day, challenging the very definition of a ‘day’ hike? Or would you prefer to split it up into a weekender?
If you’re going to go the whole distance in a day, pack torches and start before sunrise – it’s going to be a very long walk. If the latter option sounds more appealing, a clearing near the wreck used by the rescuers 80 years ago is a good spot to pitch your tent. There are a few smaller campsites on the way, too, best located through GPS coordinates on your app of choice.
Alternatives are to start at Christmas Creek and make your way up and back the same way – but this is the steepest part and it won’t be much easier on the knees this way. The Stretcher Track nearby, starting from near the Stinson Park Campground, is also a great alternative or add-on.
If you’re making the weekend a more leisurely pursuit we’ve prepared an epic itinerary for you.
Guided or Self-planned?
We all love a spontaneous hike or weekend adventure – but this walk requires a bit of preparation and experience. The trail past Border Track can be overgrown and hard to find so you’ll need to be organised enough to download a good app and map the trail beforehand.
To fully appreciate the history of the hike, read Green Mountains by Bernard O’Reilly for his firsthand account of the rescue. Did I just assign you homework? Maybe.
If you really want to take in all the flora and fauna on the hike (including ghost gums, Bowerbirds, a variety of snakes, and walking stick palms), not worry about getting lost, and hear the full details of the rescue mission from experts, you might consider doing the guided walks with O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. There are several held throughout the year so check directly with O’Reilly’s for details.
Where is it?
The Stinson walk is located in Lamington National Park just over 90 minutes drive south of Brisbane. The start of the hike follows the Border Track, which will be familiar to hikers who explore Lamington National Park on the regular. It starts immediately from O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, so parking is super convenient.
The walk traverses almost 40km of track through the area and, if you get to where you’re supposed to be at the end of the day, you’ll be at Christmas Creek Road. If you have friends, good for you! You can exploit them and their cars and do some fancy leapfrog parking at the start of the day so you can get back easily.
If you aren’t up to a hardcore hike but still want to explore the area, this guide shows you how.
1. It’s a reallllyyy long walk so wear a good pair of hiking boots
2. The lawyer vines are pretty gnarly so a long-sleeve shirt wouldn’t go amiss
3. Start early! If you’re truly dedicated to the mountains, you’ll start walking an hour before first light to make it to Echo Point by sunrise. It’s wicked.
4. Get inspired and read Bernard’s book, Green Mountains