About ecotourism on parks

Photo credit: © Tourism and Events Queensland

Queensland’s parks and forests underpin the state’s thriving nature-based tourism industry. They attract millions of international and domestic visitors per year and contribute billions of dollars to the Queensland economy.

A report by The University of Queensland outlines the significant economic value that national parks provide to the Queensland economy through tourism and recreational use. The university research showed that in 2018, expenditure generated by visitors to Queensland’s national parks was estimated at up to $2.64 billion, which contributed $1.98 billion to Gross State Product and helped support 17,241 jobs in total.

More than 400 licensed tourism operators provide opportunities, through their products and services, for visitors to experience the outstanding natural and cultural heritage values of Queensland parks and forests. Queensland’s protected areas also support a wide variety of businesses that rely on our natural landscapes.

With outstanding natural attractions like K’gari (Fraser Island), the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland is an internationally celebrated ecotourism destination - delivering world-class interpretation and experiences that support the conservation of our special natural places and help foster an understanding of our unique First Nations and shared cultural heritage. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) aims to ensure park tourism is best practice, meets contemporary consumer demands and continues to be ecologically sustainable.

The Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NC Act) provides for development of low-impact, purpose-built ecotourism infrastructure on national parks that is ecologically sustainable, is in the public interest and, to the greatest possible extent, preserves the land’s natural and cultural condition.

The NC Act is supported by the Implementation Framework for Ecotourism Facilities in National Parks (PDF, 1.2MB) and the Best Practice Ecotourism Development Guidelines (PDF, 1.1MB) which underpin a rigorous assessment process. Ecotourism operations on protected areas aim to have a positive impact on the area they operate within.

The Queensland Government is committed to providing best-practice, meaningful ecotourism experiences within and adjacent to national parks and other protected areas. This is demonstrated by the following ecotourism experiences.

Scenic Rim Trail, Main Range National Park

The Scenic Rim Trail is a 47 kilometre, multi-day walking trail through World Heritage-listed Main Range National Park, extending from the privately owned Thornton View Nature Refuge (on the northern edge of Main Range National Park) to Cunninghams Gap.

Visitors can access the Scenic Rim Trail as independent walkers or by joining a commercially guided walking tour. Commercial operations along the trail are owned and operated by Spicers Retreats, Hotels and Lodges Pty Ltd (Spicers) and include two luxury eco-camps within the national park. As part of the project, Spicers built three new bush camps (each with a toilet) to ensure independent walkers could access and experience this spectacular part of Queensland.

As part of their ongoing operation of the Scenic Rim Trail, Spicers regularly undertakes track maintenance to improve visitor experience in addition to ecological and water quality monitoring, pest management and rehabilitation works. The endangered Hastings River Mouse (Pseudomys oralis), endangered Fleay’s Barred Frog (Mixophyes fleayi) and the vulnerable Mountain Frog (Philoria kundagungan), along with the critically endangered Jagara Hairy Crayfish (Euastacus jagara) are all species that are monitored by Spicers.

Spicers also provide ongoing annual lease payments that goes directly into the management of the park.

Read more about walking and camping options for independent visitors.

Read more about the Spicers Scenic Rim Trail commercial ecotourism experience.

Read more about Monitoring Threatened Species on the Scenic Rim Trail - Spicers Retreats.

O’Reilly’s Campground, Lamington National Park

Following an extensive revitalisation project, visitors to the former Green Mountains campground in Lamington National Park can now enjoy updated facilities and a wide range of eco-accommodation options.

Operated by O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, the campground offers unpowered camp sites, bushwalker camp sites, campervan sites and family-sized safari tents, two of which are accessible for people with a disability. New facilities have also been added including a large communal camp kitchen, amenities block, meeting room and firepit, all of which provide access for people with a disability. These upgrades now allow more people of varying abilities to experience the magnificent Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

O’Reilly’s Rainforest retreat aims to positively impact Lamington National Park by conducting water quality and vegetation monitoring, maintaining facilities and contributing annual lease payments that go directly into the management of the national park, improving natural values and visitor experience.

Read more about Lamington National Park.

Read more about and book your O’Reilly’s Campground accommodation.

Mamu Tropical Skywalk, Wooroonooran National Park

Since 2008, visitors to Wooroonooran National Park have been able to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the surrounding rainforest while learning about its mysteries from the elevated walkways, cantilever and observation tower of what was then called the Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway.

In 2014 a commercial operator commenced managing the attraction which is just 15 minutes out of Innisfail and part of the spectacular Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

Mamu Tropical Skywalk aims to have a positive impact on the area it is situated in by making a significant contribution to the promotion of the cultural values of Wooroonooran National Park.

Read more about and book your admission to Mamu Tropical Skywalk.

Walkabout Creek Adventures, Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre

On the banks of Enoggera Reservoir, Walkabout Creek Adventures gives visitors the chance to immerse themselves in this special area of south-east Queensland, only 12 kilometres from Brisbane’s city centre.

Offering stand-up paddle board and kayak hire (single and double), it is the perfect way to get active outdoors and explore areas of Enoggera Reservoir only accessible by water. Keep your eyes peeled for the resident white-bellied sea-eagle, lungfish and freshwater turtles!

Read more about Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre.

Read more about Walkabout Creek Adventures.

Thorsborne Trail

The Thorsborne Trail is an existing 32 kilometre, Class 5 trail along the eastern coast of Hinchinbrook Island, 8 kilometres off the Queensland coast at Cardwell.

Home to the world’s largest number of mangrove species with significant environmental and natural attraction, the Thorsborne trail offers walkers a challenging trek through often cloud covered mountain, fragile heath vegetation, lush rainforest and tall eucalypt forests.

Access to the Thorsborne Trail is either by private vessel, launched from Cardwell or Lucinda (Dungeness), or by the commercial ferries which transport people to both ends of the trail. Services may vary according to weather, tidal conditions and time of year.

The Queensland Government is continuing to engage with the Traditional Owners regarding the development of low-impact, ecologically sustainable ecotourism opportunities along the Thorsborne Trail.

Read more about the Thorsborne Trail and Hinchinbrook Island National Park.

Ngaro track (Whitsunday Island)

Whitsunday Island is the largest of the Whitsunday group of islands. Famed for its natural beauty, the island supports a population of unadorned rock-wallabies, and from May to September the Whitsundays are an important calving ground for migrating humpback whales.

The island’s Whitehaven Beach is world-renowned for its pure white silica sand and crystal-clear water and surrounding reefs contain a dazzling variety of corals. The islands and surrounding waters are protected by the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The Queensland Government committed $2.78 million to establish a multi-day walk across the island from Whitehaven Beach to Tongue Point.

The department is continuing to engage with the Traditional Owners regarding the development of low-impact, ecologically sustainable ecotourism opportunities along the Ngaro Walking Track.

Read more about the Ngaro track and Whitsunday Islands National Park.