If you’re keen for a day-trip adventure right on Brisbane’s door step, head to D’Aguilar National Park. This beautiful location, about 45 minutes north-west of Brisbane via Petrie or Samford, is well worth the trip.
This feature was originally published in 4x4 Australia's September 2012 issue
Made up of approximately 36,000 ha of open eucalypt and pine forest woodlands, freshwater creeks and rainforests, D’Aguilar National Park even has magnificent lookouts over Wivenhoe and Somerset dams – plus on a clear day you can see Brisbane city from Kluvers Lookout.
There are kilometres of well maintained off-road trails and 20km of walking track so spending one action-packed day here is not a big ask.
I hadn’t been to D’Aguilar NP for a while – and there were a few tracks I wasn’t familiar with – so I took along a copy of the Dirty Weekends in South East Queensland for guidance.
On the day we travelled to D’Aguilar we left Brisbane around 8.30am, fuelled up and headed through Petrie along Dayboro Road through Dayboro, over Lacey’s Creek onto the gravel and through two small creek-crossings into the forest.
I had spent a lot of time in the area riding dirt-bikes over the years and the terrain had been quite challenging, however, since Queenland’s devastating floods of January 2011 the tracks had been groomed so well the route was easy-going; most softroaders could tackle this trip.
For the majority of the beginning of the tracks, driving is mostly all up-hill stuff, with magnificent winding tracks overlooking the range and forests.
One of the first lookouts you’ll discover is Kluvers. It is a bit overgrown but if you are tall enough to see over the trees you can see out to Moreton Bay and, if the day is clear, Brisbane city to the right.
There are several great spots to stop for a break, such as Diana’s Bath waterhole (access only by a 2km walk on private land from the Diana’s Bath car park), the Mt Mee sawmill and some delightful creeks. There are graded walking tracks throughout the park’s north and if you have enough energy for hiking it is a great way to experience the area’s fantastic variety of flora and fauna.
Somerset Lookout, about half-way through the Dirty Weekends trip, is a definite must-see. Park at the big boulders and head 20m down the path to the man-made viewing point – then savour the spectacular view of Somerset and Wivenhoe dams.
The Gantry, a short drive past Somerset Lookout, is a great place for lunch. It has a spacious grass area for picnics, as well as bathrooms and a large carpark.
The 1km Piccabeen walk – a great walk and easy enough for everyone – is one of many walks here. It begins opposite The Gantry and leads visitors along a boardwalk and track through piccabeen palms. Signs provide information about forest types and the region’s timber-industry history.
About 2km past the Gantry is the Mill rainforest walk, a beautiful 1.4km circuit which takes you through rainforest and a creek.
We left The Gantry about 2pm and headed along Peggs and Sellins roads, then Mt Mee Road to Dayboro. The drive to Dayboro from The Gantry is via sealed bitumen roads with magnificent views of the rolling hills and picturesque range.
Dayboro is a great spot to fuel up, have a beer at the pub, and grab a pie from the local baker. The area is popular with off-road and road motorcyclists and there are always a heap around the town centre, so drive carefully.
Our early-afternoon departure gave us enough time to look around Dayboro, grab a bite to eat and head back to Brisbane to wash the vehicles and still enjoy the tail-end of the weekend.
D’Aguilar NP is an easy-to-moderate day-trip depending on weather conditions. If there has been consistent recent rain, give this trip a miss as a few creek-crossings will be impassable. Some steep bits require the use of low-range, but if you have the right maps, or a copy of Dirty Weekends in South East Queensland, you can avoid these if you choose to.
If you make a full day of it and head past The Gantry, visit the swimming spots, such as Rocky’s Hole and Broadwater Hole. Rocky’s Hole can be a little dry if there has been no rain. There are nine camping spots along a grassy strip on a creek bank at the Archer Camping Area.
There have been some track closures for safety reasons in the region since the January 2011 floods, according to the Department of Environment and Resource Management. As of the DERM’s June 26, 2012 update, the Audax loop, parts of Lawnton Road and England Creek Road (fire trails) had been closed, and part of the Maiala day-use area had also been closed for reconstruction.
RETURN OF THE D-MAX
We’ve clocked more than 25,000km of on- and off-road driving and some towing in our long-term Isuzu D-Max. At time of writing it had been through a 30,000km service and we’ve had no problems in 12 months, so I reckon it’s about time to deliver my verdict: the D-Max is a great off-roader.
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel is a little noisy, but has a robust under-stressed feel. Fuel consumption has been outstanding: it has averaged more than 700km per 76-litre tank.
Ride was initially a little stiff, but a Fulcrum suspension fix solved this. The guys at Fulcrum recommended RAW shocks, EFS rear leaf springs and Super Pro polyurethane bushes. There were some problems with the set-up as vibrations were evident through the chassis and body when accelerating.
Diagnosis? The lift had taken the prop-shaft angle out of its tolerance level. Fulcrum’s staff had the car fixed and back on the road in under a few hours. Since then we have driven more than 10,000km and there has been no more vibration strife.
A trip to Coffs Harbour hinterland for the 4X4 Australia advertisers’ weekend really pushed the D-Max with some challenging tracks. The hardy Isuzu went everywhere that weekend, keeping up with 100 Series LandCruisers, a new Ranger, Amarok, Triton and a Patrol or two. The D-Max was that weekend’s quiet achiever.
We’ve put more than 18,000km on a set of Mickey Thompson Baja STZ 265/65 R17s, running on ATX teflon-coated wheels. These tyres have been great all-rounders, tackling sand, mud, rock, water crossings, corrugations and bitumen with ease.
The Bajas’ tread pattern is not overly aggressive so they have been a quiet on-road tyre and very grippy in the wet. The multi-angled and -serrated tread blocks look good and improve the tyres’ self-cleaning ability. Even though the tyres pick up rocks like a kid at the beach, thankfully the damage these rocks can do is negated by the tread-block angle that stops them from ‘drilling’ into the tyre.
After 18,000km the tyres show little to no sign of wear; the sidewalls remain smooth and there are no cuts in the tread.
The ATX wheels have copped a hiding on rocky trips that have left other vehicles’ wheels looking worse for wear, but the ATX Wheels have not suffered a scratch.
We hope to put these tyres on another long-term vehicle, so we can evaluate them again in another 20,000km.
We have had an electronic rust-prevention system on the D-Max for a year. In that time the Isuzu has been exposed to salt water at least twice every month on beach drives. After a thorough inspection of common areas where rusting occurs I’ve seen no sign of rusting or oxidisation, but long-term testing is required.
40km north-west of Brisbane.
D’Aguilar National Park has two formal campgrounds in Mount Mee section (Neurum Creek and Archer), eight remote bush camp sites in south D’Aguilar section (formally Brisbane Forest Park). Camping permits are required and fees – at time of writing $5.30 per person per night or $21.30 per family per night – do apply.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
All year round and especially the warmer months if you fancy a swim.
You can reach the park by travelling the route we did – through Dayboro or via Mount Nebo Road (tourist route number 8) from The Gap – or via Samford along Samford Road (tourist route number 9).
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