Queensland Ecotourism Trails Program

A project team from the Department of Environment and Science (DES) and the Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport (DTIS) will deliver the Queensland Ecotourism Trails program – ecotourism experiences at iconic Queensland destinations, including within or adjacent to national parks, as identified by the Government. As part of this program, Queensland Government is exploring the following ecotourism opportunities (with additional opportunities expected):

    The primary objective of the Queensland Ecotourism Trails program is to collaborate with Traditional Owners and regional communities to deliver new tourism opportunities for Queensland, founded on social, environmental and economic outcomes. These opportunities will showcase the state’s natural assets and cultural heritage and enhance connection to country, for now and for future generations.

    Program benefits

    Ecotourism plays a vital role in regional communities, generating economic and social benefits, creating resilience through sustainable employment options, and boosting pride in the local community. Visitor and market interest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures presents an important opportunity for employment and business development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

    Whilst it is early days, some of the key benefits expected of the Queensland Ecotourism Trails program include:

    • business models that ensure a financial contribution to enhance presentation and maintenance of the State’s national parks
    • the development of a more sustainable ecotourism industry in Queensland, especially in the regions
    • increased regional economic jobs and tourism opportunities, including for Traditional Owners
    • increased attractiveness and liveability in the regions
    • more diverse offering of tourism products, attractions and services in Queensland.

    Read more about the Queensland Ecotourism Trails program.

    Wangetti Trail

    Offering walkers and mountain-bike riders a wilderness bushland and ocean experience, showcasing the beauty of the Wet Tropics, and Great Barrier Reef World Heritage areas, the Wangetti Trail will be one of Australia’s leading adventure based ecotourism experiences, attracting visitors on an international scale.

    Ninety-four kilometres in length, the proposed route will link Palm Cove with Port Douglas, taking in Macalister Range and Mowbray National Parks.

    The Trail’s route is proposed to be a dual use mountain biking and hiking trail. This accessibility will increase the potential users on the track at any one time and overall visitation numbers to the region.

    It is proposed to establish five eco-accommodation nodes along the trail from Wangetti to Port Douglas, allowing visitors to stay en-route for the entire experience by offering a choice of camping facilities, along with low-impact ecotourism accommodation offerings such as glamping or low-impact cabins.

    For further information visit the Wangetti Trail web page.

    Photo: Queensland Government

    Photo: Queensland Government

    Thorsborne Trail

    The Thorsborne Trail is an existing 32 kilometre, Class 5 trail along the eastern coast of Hinchinbrook Island, 8km 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.

    Photo: Sue Gregory

    Photo: Sue Gregory

    Cooloola Great Walk

    The Cooloola Great Walk traverses 102 kilometres through the Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park, linking Noosa North Shore with Rainbow Beach. It is a Grade 4 walking track recommended for experienced walkers due to its limited directional signs, length, remoteness and occasionally rough and very steep terrain.

    While discovering ancient sand hills, perched lakes, hidden rainforests, coastal woodlands and heathlands, walkers can expect to be surrounded by nature’s chorus day and night. Masses of wildflowers in spring and stunning mirror-image surface reflections on the dark waters of the upper Noosa River make the Cooloola Great Walk an exceptional long-distance walking experience.

    The Cooloola Great Walk takes most walkers five days and four nights to complete in its entirety, however there are also short walks available in the area. There are currently four public campsites along the route which require nightly permits to occupy.

    As part of the Queensland Government’s plan to promote ecotourism, expressions of interest were called for suitably qualified individuals and businesses to partner with the state to design, install and operate low-impact eco-accommodation facilities, including complementary ecotourism services along the existing Cooloola Great Walk.

    On 25 February 2020, the Queensland Government announced that CABN, an Australian company specialising in eco-friendly, off-grid, nature-based accommodation, were the preferred tenderer to deliver new ecotourism infrastructure along the Cooloola Great Walk.

    CABN plans to construct five new walker eco-accommodation camps along the Cooloola Great Walk, which will provide cabin accommodation for self-guided walkers and commercial guided tours. The development will be ecologically sustainable, in line with best practice ecotourism guidelines, and will not interfere with ongoing public use of the Cooloola Great Walk. CABN is working with the Queensland Government to finalise designs and to seek necessary environmental and development approvals. Construction of the eco-camps is currently expected to commence in early 2022, for completion in late 2022/early 2023.

    Read more about the Cooloola Great Walk.

    Project referral under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

    On 14 May 2021, the Cooloola Great Walk project was referred to the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) for environmental impact assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). As part of the EPBC Act assessment process, DAWE invited public comment on the proposal from 1 to 16 June 2021. During this time, the Queensland Government undertook extensive community consultation across the Rainbow Beach and Noosa regions to notify the public and key stakeholders of the EPBC Act process, and to share information with the community on the proposal and detailed environmental assessment processes undertaken to date.

    On 30 June 2021, the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment determined that the project is not a ‘controlled action’ under the EPBC Act, meaning the project does not require further Commonwealth Assessment.

    From here, the project will progress to finalise site designs, consider feedback from the recent community consultation, conduct baseline ecological surveys (to inform ongoing environmental monitoring), seek local government approval, complete agreements with the Kabi Kabi People and seek a final State approval under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

    Photo: Queensland Government

    Photo: Queensland Government

    Ngaro Walking 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 State Government committed: $2.78 million to establish a new 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 Whitsunday Islands National Park.

    Paluma to Wallaman Falls Trail

    The Queensland Government is supporting the future of the region through sustainable growth, protecting the environment and delivering new ecotourism experiences for visitors.

    The Paluma to Wallaman Falls Trail is a proposed 125km walking and mountain biking trail in the Paluma Range National Park and Wallaman Falls region. The land on which the proposed Trail stretches has a unique cultural heritage and spectacular natural attractions such as Wallaman Falls, Australia’s tallest single drop waterfall, and will complement the region’s diverse portfolio of natural attractions including beaches, rainforest, islands and the Great Barrier Reef.

    The Trail is being co-designed with the Traditional Owners to ensure it is developed as a genuine cultural product, which will offer visitors a unique opportunity to experience a deep cultural immersion through learning the Dreamtime history of the region while walking trails that have existed for thousands of years.

    For further information visit the Paluma to Wallaman Falls Trail web page.