Legendary fish, aquatic adrenaline and waterfront vistas—Danbulla offers all this and more!
Issued: 13 Sep 2018

Does the smell of sunscreen and insect spray evoke childhood memories of dangling a fishing line with Dad, bucket-washing the dishes with Mum and building a camp fire with your siblings?

Photo credit: Karl Seelig © Tourism and Events Queensland

Does the smell of sunscreen and insect spray evoke childhood memories of dangling a fishing line with Dad, bucket-washing the dishes with Mum and building a camp fire with your siblings?

If fond memories such as these seem lost in your present-day pursuits of building a career and life for yourself, why not get away for the weekend with your mates or a special friend and rekindle them? And, if you think a 100-point plan and three months’ notice is essential, you’re seriously missing out!

Be warned: just dropping the phrase, ‘Yeah, we are taking the boat out for a spin,’ can turn a quiet weekend’s camping into a round-up of the whole gang. Well, the more the merrier! Card games around a camp fire will be much more interesting with some additional challengers!

So rekindle your ‘bromance’ with your boat or SUP (stand-up paddleboard), dust off the camping gear kicking around your mate’s shed (or your folks' garage) and head up to Danbulla National Park and State Forest, less than 2 hours from Cairns. From water-skiing or paddling across Lake Tinaroo, to landing a record-breaking barra, then dossing down under the stars, you’re sure to find something to suit all takers. Here’s our must-do guide to Danbulla.

Blue kayak sits on the grassy bank of the lake that reflects the blue sky and fringing pine forest,
Downfall Creek camping area | Maxime Coquard © Queensland Government

Upgrade to a lake view site…*psst it’s a free upgrade

You’ll love the free upgrade to a lake view site, which, unlike a hotel, won’t cost you a cent. With half a dozen camping areas to choose from, finding your perfect site will be like choosing your favourite rod and reel from all the rest—there’s as many options as your tackle box has hooks!

  • At Downfall Creek camping area, enjoy the wonder as the world wakes up with golden sunrises reflected across the lake. The sunsets aren’t too bad either.
  • If you are wanting a solitary sanctum, venture to Curri Curri camping area—this one is only accessible by boat or kayak. You have to bring everything you need with you—perfect for the ‘Bear Grylls’ types but remember national park rules mean you can’t consume the wildlife!

All camping areas (except Curri Curri) have flushing toilets, taps, shower cubicles (BYO shower), and some have fire rings (BYO clean-milled firewood and kindling). To ensure you can enjoy a camp fire, BYO portable fire pit in case there isn’t a fire ring available where you are camped. Curri Curri has no facilities. If you can’t start your day without your ‘magic beans’ (chocolate-coloured liquid gold), don’t stress. You can use a generator for the coffee maker at Downfall and Fong-On Bay (but check restrictions on use)!

View over the lake towards densely-forested hill slope on the far shore with grassy clearing for camp sites near the water's edge.
Downfall Creek camping area | Colyn Huber © Tourism and Events Queensland

Water play

Do you love the rush of the wind and the pure adrenaline of cutting across the lake’s surface on a water ski or kneeboard or even a big fat ski-doughnut? Oooh, yeah! With lots of wide open runs to enjoy, you’ll be returning to camp with muscles aching, smiles beaming and hopefully not too many friction burns!

Perhaps your kind of water play is to unwind and connect with nature on a kayak or SUP as you cruise around the lake’s edge? Or simply cool off at the water’s edge? Whatever floats your boat.

We know what you’re thinking, ‘I’ll be like an outback road-train if I bring all that gear.’ Not to worry, you can rent your vessel of choice locally—everything from jet skis to kayaks.

Water skier and ski boat create splashes of white on the bright blue surface of the lake with scenic backdrop of forest and hills.
Lake Tinaroo | Karl Seelig © Tourism and Events Queensland

Your personal barra challenge

For the keen fishers in your group, the ultimate challenge is to land a legendary ‘barra’ (barramundi), and Rex Hunt couldn’t recommend a better spot. Lake Tinaroo is well known amongst fisherman for its monster barra, and holds the world record for the largest freshwater barra ever caught—the local store has the photos to prove it!

Throw in a line at sunrise or sunset—prime barra-catching time! As the first and last of the sun’s rays hit the lake’s surface the bait fish go mad and so do the barra. Make sure you pick up your permit and read up on the restrictions before heading to the lake.

Tree-top treadly trails for experienced mountain bikers

Swap the gas guzzler for pedal power. Strap the GoPro to your helmet and ride up the exhilarating 43km Mount Edith and Kauri Creek road circuit on a mountain bike.

During this day-long ride you’ll cruise beneath ever-changing forests and along lush valleys as you ascend 450m into the rugged Lamb Range.

A few tips:

  • Stop for a breather at one of the many streams.
  • Be careful—it is a shared trail so look out for 4WDs cruising the roads.
  • Only tackle this one if you are a fit and experienced mountain biker.
  • Couldn’t fit the bike on the roof? No worries—local hire companies can drop bikes to you.

For the less experienced but keen bikers, head to the nearby Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park to hone your skills.

Views over rugged forest-clad peaks and valleys in deep greens and blues, with cloudy blue skies above.
Views from Mount Edith and Kauri Creek roads | © Queensland Government

Things that go ‘bump’ in the night!

Australian wildlife just loves the ‘nightlife’. Gather your torches (make sure you cover the beams with red cellophane to protect nocturnal animals’ eyes) and discover ‘what goes bump in the night’. See red-legged pademelons appear from the gloom, feeding on leaves and grasses. These cute but noisy critters thump their hind feet in warning and settle their disputes with harsh, rasping sounds.

As darkness falls, look up into the trees for a glimpse of a sugar glider soaring from tree to tree or a lesser sooty owl perched high on a branch, silently searching the forest floor for its next meal. If you don’t see it, you’ll definitely hear it. The call sounds like a ‘dropping bomb’ and is often the first sign the owl is sharing your night.

If there are ‘foodies’ among you then they’ll appreciate the northern bettong—a tiny endangered kangaroo-like critter with very expensive tastes. Look for these possum-sized ‘hoppies’ along roadsides in the eucalypt forest as they search the forest floor for truffles. When driving on roads in Danbulla National Park and State Forest, remember you are sharing the area with these animals so keep a watchful eye out. The northern bettong population cannot afford to become roadkill statistics.

Close-up of a sugar glider with large dark eyes and distinctive dark stripes on its head, sitting on a branch amongst eucalypt blossoms, against a dark background.
Sugar glider | © John Augusteyn

Take a walk in the wild

Ditch the thongs and don the hikers. Immerse yourselves in the sights, sounds and smells of the Wet Tropics while exploring these sites by foot.

  • Work out at nature’s boot camp on the 3hr (8.2km return) Jungaljungal walk and explore the World Heritage-listed rainforest along the banks of Kauri Creek. Be prepared to get your feet wet on a couple of crossings before the track turns steep and windy—perfect for getting the blood pumping.
  • Snap a selfie at the 500 year old Cathedral Fig tree towering nearly 50m above you. Named for the stately cathedral-like formation of its roots, this photo-worthy tree has a crown as big as two Olympic swimming pools.
  • Channel your inner archaeologists at Mobo Creek Crater! The craters formation is a mystery and has perplexed scientists for many years. Read the sign and see what you think. Who in the group has the best theory?
Looking up the immense and intricate root system of a strangler fig towards the wide spreading branches that form a green canopy over the surrounding forest.
Cathedral Fig Tree | Mike Prociv © Queensland Government

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This is only a small sample of what Danbulla National Park and State Forest has to offer. So check out these camping areas and start planning now. Remember to check Park alerts before you set out.