This small (26,000-hectare) national park packs in plenty for a weekend away from Brisbane.
It’s a four-hour drive north of the capital, reached via a turnoff signposted Goodwood Road, near the town of Childers on the Bruce Highway. The park’s distance and location (hopefully) means you can visit without feeling cheek-to-jowl crowded, allowing you to fully enjoy the park’s many highlights.
And there are many of these – fishing is hugely popular here, owing to the fact you can fish from the beach, the Burrum River’s banks or from a boat on said river. Other popular activities include paddling (kayaking or canoeing the river, or sea kayaking offshore in Hervey Bay), bushwalking, bicycle riding and camping.
The park is comprised of four sections – Woodgate, Buxton, Burrum River and Kinkuna – with the town of Woodgate acting as a hub for visitors. Each of these sections offers visitors a different experience, belying the perceived ‘small’ stature of the park and explaining why it’s a must-visit.
Before entering Woodgate, access Heidkes Road on the right and you will come to Hoppy Larks day-use area, which has some picnic tables and is wheelchair-accessible and right on the Gregory River – there’s even a fishing platform to test your skills.
Continue along Heidkes Road and the track gets narrower, rougher and sandier, and you will have to negotiate a couple of creek crossings. There are also a number of fishing spots along the riverbank here, and it’s also a great chance to search for mudcrabs in the mangrove-lined banks.
The terrain is magic, changing from dense bush to swamps, mangroves and then opening up to views of the confluence of the Burrum and Gregory rivers, with this large body of water dotted with the Gregory Islands. This track leads to Walkers Point fishing hamlet, before looping back north and around to the entrance to the 4x4-only Burrum Point campground, located next to Woodgate Beach.
This campground includes showers, water and toilets, but you can’t have fires or generators here.
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The nearby Melaleuca Track is a nice 12km loop walk, so it’s ideal for keeping those young folk busy/entertained during the day or during non-beach weather. There is also a short Birdhide Walk, which, as the name suggests, leads to a birdwatching location between Walkers Point and Burrum Point campground. At low tide visitors will also get the chance to witness the march of the soldier crabs.
Woodgate Beach is ideal for not only 4x4 driving but also for swimming, owing to its sheltered orientation – perfect for those with young children or those who are less confident in the ocean.
For those keen on some true beach camping, the park’s Kinkuna Section, to the north of Woodgate, is ideal. This section is 4x4-only access (some tracks can be closed in wet weather) with Woppis Road Beach the entrance to the southern part of this section. From here you can follow Beach Road through swampy terrain to the signposted Kinkuna camping zone on the beach.
For day visitors, Theodolite Creek Track provides access to the same-named day-use area and is a great place to set off for a waterborne exploration of the waterways in your boat/canoe/kayak. You can also swim here or try and snare an elusive ‘muddie’ (mud crab) for dinner.
The Buxton section of the park in the southwest has no facilities at this time, but it is very popular with both birdwatchers and photographers, owing to the proliferation of birdlife in this part of the park.
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Burrum River Section offers access to the Burrum River for canoes/kayaks and boats, plus the small village of Burrum Heads has supplies and facilities. To access this section you have to loop back out of the park and come in from farther south, via the township of Howard, off the Bruce Highway.
Another highlight of this park are wildlife encounters. Green turtles (and loggerheads) nest on Woodgate Beach from November to February, with the eggs hatching at the end of November through to March – an amazing sight. As is the whale migration, with these marine giants spotted off the coast here from August until the end of October.
Punching above its weight, you say? Burrum Coast National Park most certainly does.