How to do the Glass House Mountains
There’s a family in South East Queensland you really need to meet. There’s dad, Tibrogargan, Beerwah is the mother, and although they have many other children, their eldest son is Coonowrin.
The family live about an hour north of Brisbane, an easy drive for a day visit. You may already know them as the Glass House Mountains: 11 awe-inspiring volcanic peaks rising from the Sunshine Coast’s patchwork of coastal farming plains, home to the Jinibara and Gubbi Gubbi peoples.
The Dreaming tells the family’s story, explaining the features of the landscape created 25 millions years ago. There are lots of opportunities to view the peaks from different angles (Wild Horse Mountain Lookout near the Bruce Highway or Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny are two of the best) or get up close and personal with walks that will take you around and right to the summit of several of the peaks.
Mount Tibrogargan (364m) – who’s your daddy?
One of the most significant characters (as all fathers are) in the Dreaming Story is Tibrogargan — easily recognisable, looking like a hunched old man with face-like features gazing out to the ocean. One day he notices the ocean rising and starts to gather all the children together to move to safety.
Especially suitable for a visit with your own family, Mount Tibrogargan includes the easiest of all the mountain trail options, including a 4km circuit (1.5 hours) through casuarina groves and eucalypt forest around the mountain’s base.
There’s also a 6km circuit — the 2-3 hour Trachyte walking circuit — through open woodland and heathland linking Mount Tibrogargan and Mount Tibberoowuccum.
Extra keen? The 2.6km-return summit route only recommended for the fittest rock scramblers (the average slope is 55-60 degrees!).
Access is via Barrs Road (off Steve Irwin Way) or Marshs Road from Old Gympie Road.
Mount Beerwah (556m) – the mother of all mountains
Mum Beerwah is pregnant (and remains so to this day). When Tibrogargan starts to gather the children together he asks the eldest son to look after his mother — Coonowrin’s not aware she’s pregnant though, so figures she’s big enough to look after herself.
Beerwah has an easy 200m-return walk through eucalypt forest to a grassy viewing and day-use area, with views of Mount Beerwah and its remarkable geological formations. There’s also some more challenging walking trails, like the 2.6km summit route (allow 3-4 hours). Pack plenty of water and leave plenty of daylight to complete — this mother packs a punch including steep exposed rock faces and strong winds.
Access is via Mount Beerwah Road (off Old Gympie Road).
*Feeling peckish? Head to the Glass House Mountains Lookout (Glass House-Woodford Road) where there are a gas BBQ area and picnic tables, or stop at The Lookout Café — part of the Glass on Glasshouse luxury cottage accommodation — on the way.
TIP: The Glass House Mountains are spiritually significant to the Jinibara and Gubbi Gubbi peoples and while Tibrogargan and Beerwah are open for climbing, traditional owners request visitors not to climb them.
Mount Coonowrin (377m) – at breakneck speed
Rather than help his mother to safety, Coonowrin decides to flee the impending danger on his own, and in doing so angers his father. Tibrogargan runs after his eldest son, striking him and breaking his neck.
As a result, Coonowrin is probably the most recognisable of all the peaks thanks to his broken neck — a narrow column of crooked rock at the mountain’s top. You can enjoy great views of Coonowrin from Mount Ngungun.
Mount Ngungun (253m) – easy to spell, hard to say
The many streams flowing through the Glass House Mountains area are said to be Coonowrin’s brothers and sisters crying with shame at their brother’s selfishness. Although Coonowrin does seek forgiveness for his actions, Tibrogargan instead turns his back on his son, never to look back.
One of Coonowrin’s siblings, Ngungun, features one of the most popular hikes on the Sunshine Coast, and it’s spectacular to see at sunrise and sunset, so take your camera!
From Ngungun’s 360-degree view summit, you can see Mount Beerwah with Coonowrin sitting directly in front of her.
The summit walk is easy to moderately challenging, 2.8km return and takes around 2 hours.
TIP: With the Glass House Mountains Visitor Information Centre nearby in the township of Glasshouse (off Steve Irwin Way), Ngungun is a good place to get acquainted with the mountains. Even better, you can learn more about the plants you will see on your walks by collecting a copy of the ‘Ranger field guide: Native plants of Glass House Mountains National Park’. There’s also a kids play area complete with mountain-themed equipment to get kids in the mood.
Wild Horse Mountain (123m) – child’s play
Wild Horse is the smallest of the mountains and the only one located on the east side of the Bruce Highway in Beeburrum State Forest: Wild Horse was said to be always running away to play by the sea.
This mountain has an easily accessible lookout across to her parents and siblings, perfect for happy snapping. It’s a 700m (steepish) walk to the lookout.
TIP: Stop into Glasshouse Mountains Coffee for locally roasted beans. The café is part of the Service Centre on the Bruce Highway and the coffee is top notch.
Mount Beerburrum (278m) – too much fun
You can access Mount Beerburrum via Beerburrum Road (off Steve Irwin Way). Adjacent to the Beerburrum State School car park, you’ll find the trailhead for the lookout Mount Beerburrum summit walk: a steep 3.5km return, which takes approximately 1.5 hours. This is a very steep paved pathway that leads to a fire tower with views over the surrounding park—make sure you have non-slip shoes!
Stop off at Matthew Flinders Park on Steve Irwin Way for a break or head into the local township of Beerburrum for a look around.
TIP: In addition to walking tracks, the Glass House Mountains offer rock climbing, abseiling, and a shared trail linking Beerburrum and Tibrogargan trailheads for mountain bike touring, walking and running. More shared trail opportunities for mountain-bikers, runners, and walkers, as well as horses, are provided nearby in Glass House Mountains Conservation Park . Too much to do in just one day? Camp overnight at Coochin Creek or in nearby Beerburrum State Forest.
Been for a visit to the Glass House Mountains? Which was your favourite?
This post was published in August 2017 and updated in August 2019.