Trail Mix: The Noosa Hike Network You Haven’t Heard Of
Hidden in the hills behind the glitz and crowded beaches of ever-popular Noosa, sits the Noosa Trail Network. In fact, it’s so well-hidden, it’s one of the Sunshine Coast’s best kept secrets. And when it comes to great Queensland hikes and walks, it’s pretty hard to beat.
Crisscrossing farmland, fields and forest, it’s an excellent way to explore this region’s unique Hinterland. Time to swap your bathers for boots.
But it’s not all walking – you can explore by foot, horse or mountain bike. Don’t worry if you’re not a dedicated hiker, either. The eight trails – many of which started as animal stock routes – range from the easy one-hour-return stroll to a five-day trek.
The walks are all well marked with interpretive signage including ecology facts and fascinating history. It’s a great way to get to know Noosa as you’ve never seen her before. History buffs, outdoorsy types, birdwatchers or city slickers looking to reconnect with nature will all find something. Or perhaps you’ve mastered Noosa National Park and you’re looking for your next challenge. Leave your wallet at home too; the trails are a great option if you’re about experiences low on cost, high in fun.
Meander through national parks, state forests, working dairy farms, sweet smelling groves of macadamia nut farms and along quiet country lanes. Ah, the serenity.
The Noosa Trail Network also links the hinterland villages of Kin Kin, Pomona, Cooran and Cooroy. There’s an array of local cafes, country-style pubs and antiques, crafts and markets plus chic new craft beer bars.
If you’re keen to base yourself in this beautiful part of the world to explore for a few days, there’s accommodation aplenty. Some of Queensland’s best farm stays are nestled in the midst of the trail, too.
Only five minutes from Pomona, Noosa Avalon Farm Cottages consists of five quaint, self-contained 1920s cottages. Surrounded by duck-filled lakes, rolling hills and mountain vistas, it’s purpose-built for family-fun weekends and romantic getaways.
There’s myriad ways you could tackle the Noosa Trail Network so choosing which route to take involves some insider knowledge. Cut to the chase with these four suggested routes ranging from easy peasy to serious hiker level.
Easy does it
Kookaburra Park to Mary River Cod Park, Lake Macdonald (a section of trail 4) – 1km each way
This is an easy one-hour return walk along Collwood Road. It provides a stunning example of Noosa’s rainforest with views over Lake MacDonald to boot.
Interesting fact: Mary River Cod Park is named after one of Australia’s most endangered freshwater fish – the Mary River Cod.
The nearby Noosa Botanic Gardens are definitely worth a look. The well-kept gardens feature sculptures, a fern house and over 100 species of birds. There’s even a Greek-inspired amphitheatre boasting regular opera performances.
On your drive home, drop into the township of Cooroy. Grab a bite at local’s secret Dhom’s Kitchen, which does Thai takeaway to rival big city eateries. Recaffienate at Fox and Hound Espresso or nab a Paris-perfect pastry from Circa’s in-house bakery.
You’ll find Kookaburra Park at Corner Lake McDonald Drive and Collwood Road.
Mary River Cod Park, Lake Macdonald to Middle Lookout, Cooran (a section of trail 4 and trail 2) – 10km each way
Up for more? From Mary River Cod Park continue through Forest Acres residential estate. Then head into Ringtail State Forest and up to Twin Hill Views Lookout, Pomona.
After enjoying the views, follow Trail 2 to Middle Lookout where there’s a campground. Return on foot or get collected from the Camphor Road car park.
From here by car, you’ve got the townships of Pomona and Cooran to choose from. They’re both close by and famous for upcycled/vintage-inspired shops and cafes.
Try The Vintage Junction in Cooran (2 King Street) or Spilledbeans in Pomona (enter through clothing store Rusty Hinge, 12 Memorial Avenue). In Cooran, stop in at Bonsai Brewhouse (28 King Street – open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays) for a local craft brew in the cool beer garden.
The one and only
Cooran Tablelands to Kin Kin via Woondum Forest Reserve (trail 3) – 22km each way
If you’ve only got time for one walk, then trail number three is where it’s at. It’s also the local ranger’s fave which is a thumb’s up from us!
Park at James McKane Memorial Lookout (also known as Tablelands Lookout, 526 Tablelands Road, Cooran) and walk a leisurely 17km downhill to Kin Kin via Woondum National Park and Johnstons Lookout.
A wide variety of ecosystems is what makes this section of the Noosa Trail Network so special. Enjoy everything from panoramic hinterland and coastal vistas to tall open eucalypt forest, rainforest and farmland.
Stay overnight at Kin Kin, a jewel of a township with cute-as-a-button cafes and the not-to-be-missed Country Life Hotel (69 Main Street). Parmy, anyone?
There’s loads of other accommodation options, from powered campsites to country retreats and B&Bs. Rosecliffe Boutique Farm Stay is just a stone’s throw from the start of this part of Noosa Trail Network – James McKane Memorial Lookout – off Tablelands Road.
Don’t forget to check out the Kin Kin Creations market on the first Sunday of each month from 8am to 12pm. Held at the Kin Kin Oval, the market features home-made and homegrown produce, food and drinks, secondhand goods and artisan crafts.
Return to Cooran by uphill walk the next day or organise a return lift from Kin Kin.
- You’ll need to be fairly fit to complete this trail and will need to leave early in the morning. Woondum National Park is only open during daylight hours with no overnight camping.
- Access to James McKane Memorial Lookout includes a gravel road and requires a 4WD after periods of heavy rain.
- For an extra challenge, start from the township of Cooran rather than the lookout.
On second thoughts…
The Kin Kin Countryside Loop (trail 1) – 14km circuit
If you’d like to stay a while longer in Kin Kin, take in the Countryside Loop, a four-hour walk through mango farms and rolling green hills. Start at Kin Kin sports grounds, conveniently located opposite the general store. Stock up and pack a picnic that celebrates the amazing local produce.
Have a leisurely lunch at either Sheppersons Park or Gradys Park (depending on which loop direction you’ve chosen). Then wave to the friendly dairy cows and goats as you go.
Note: Before attempting any of these trails, obtain a copy of the Noosa Trail Network brochure from a Sunshine Coast Visitor Information Centre.
Trails are not suitable in wet weather. There are some complete or partial trail closures which may affect your hike. Be sure to always check the Noosa Council website for updates and information.
- Trail 5: Until further notice bush camping is no longer permitted at the Cooran Active Riders Grounds.
- Trail 2: The Camphor Road car park is temporarily closed. The nearest alternative parking is the Cooran Active Riders Grounds.
- Sections of Trail 4 and 8 will be closed at various times from July 2019 while plantation timber is being harvested. Signs will be displayed onsite. Further updates will be provided.
- Trail 7: Will be closed for up to 12 months from July 2019 while plantation timber is being harvested. Signs will be displayed on site.