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Queensland Ecotourism Trails Program

Queensland is an internationally celebrated ecotourism destination, delivering world-class interpretation and experiences that support the conservation of our special natural places and unique Indigenous and cultural heritage.

The Nature Conservation Act 1992 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, 535K) and the Best Practice Ecotourism Development Guidelines (PDF, 753K) which underpin a rigorous assessment process. 

The Queensland Government recognises the need to attract more nature-based visitors. This is reflected in the Queensland Ecotourism Plan 2016-2020, where one of the five strategic directions is stimulating investment in new and refurbished ecotourism opportunities.

A project team from the Department of Environment and Science (DES), Department of Innovation and Tourism Industry Development (DITID), and Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ) 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 significant 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 and be divided into six sections, with optional links and trails that provide access to accommodation, towns or special features.

The Trail’s route is proposed to be mountain biking only between Palm Cove and Wangetti and dual use (mountain biking and walking) between Wangetti and Port Douglas. Due to the Trail’s unique accessibility, visitors will have the ability to drop-in and off, allowing them to complete individual sections rather than the entire 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 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 luxury accommodation offerings in the form of premium glamping or lodges.

For further information visit the Wangetti Trail web page.

Thorsborne Trail

Photo: Queensland Government

Photo: Queensland Government

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, 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.

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 Thorsborne Trail. Closing in November 2018, this opportunity also called for Expressions of Interest for the Cooloola Great Walk and Whitsunday Island Trails.

The Queensland Government is seeking to partner with the private sector, local governments and Traditional Owners, to present and profile our national parks through unique and innovative ecotourism projects to deliver world-class eco-accommodation, infrastructure and nature-based experiences in, and adjacent, to Queensland’s protected area estate.

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

Cooloola Great Walk

Photo: Sue Gregory

Photo: Sue Gregory

The Cooloola Great Walk traverses 102 kilometres through the Cooloola Recreation Area of Great Sandy National Park, linking Noosa North Shore with Rainbow Beach. As this is a Grade 4 walking track, it is recommended for experienced walkers: the track has limited directional signs, and is long, rough and very steep in places.

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 four evenly-spaced 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. The project is moving to the Detailed Proposal phase which will include community engagement. There will be opportunities for local residents, business owners and community groups to share ideas on the trail.

Read more about updates on Cooloola Great Walk community engagement activity

Read more about the Cooloola Great Walk.

Whitsunday Island Trail

Photo: Queensland Government

Photo: Queensland Government

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.

Whitsunday Island Trail features six public campsites and eight walking tracks.

The State Government committed: $2.78 million to establish a new multi-day walk across the island from Whitehaven Beach to Tongue Point; and $5 million as an election commitment to establish unique, premium eco-tourism facilities and experiences (including eco-accommodation options) on the island.

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 (soon to be constructed) Whitsunday Island Trail. Closing in November 2018, this opportunity also called for expressions of interest for the Cooloola Great Walk and Thorsborne Trail.

The Queensland Government is seeking to partner with the private sector, local governments and Traditional Owners to present and profile our national parks through unique and innovative ecotourism projects to deliver world-class eco-accommodation, infrastructure and nature-based experiences in, and adjacent, to Queensland’s protected area estate.

Read more about Whitsunday Islands National Park.

Last updated
19 June 2019