This rugged 4WD destination may feel like it's in the middle of nowhere, but you'd be surprised at how close to civilisation Sundown National Park actually is.
About Sundown National Park
The rugged Sundown National Park is a relatively small area of just over 11,000ha, located on a huge granite belt stretching for several hundred kilometres. The park’s jagged ridges and gorges have formed over millions of years from erosion, intense heat and pressure from past volcanic activity.
The vegetation that covers the park ranges from tough old eucalypt forests to groves of cypress pine, yet occasionally you may spot the odd orchid, wattle tree or even a bottlebrush to give some colour to this harsh environment. Over 150 species of birds reside in the national park, making it a bird-watching hotspot.
Sundown National Park is a place where you need to be totally self-sufficient, confident of your 4WD and camping skills and be aware that it is a very remote location. If you need a last-minute restock, head to Glenlyon Dam Tourist Park, where the small general store is stocked with fuel, ice and snacks. Sometimes such remote places are closer to the big smoke than you think.
Things to do in Sundown National Park
Once you’ve made it into Sundown National Park, there’s a plethora of ways to enjoy the rugged natural surrounds. Bushwalking is the best way to explore the park, and there are numerous walking tracks that venture deep into the faraway pockets of the park. Conveniently, each track has been numbered and classified in accordance with degrees of difficulty, so be sure to only undertake walks that match your walking experience and fitness levels.
Throughout the park there are also unmaintained 4WD tracks that will definitely let you enhance your driving skills and lead to interesting side trails like Rats Castle or the Hell Hole. These are trails where you need good ground clearance, aggressive tyres and plenty of time to explore; allow around an hour to travel 5km on these unmaintained trails. As well as being rough, the trails are narrow, and at times they are only one car width wide, so be vigilant. While many of the unmaintained tracks loop back onto the mail trail, it is always important to remember these tracks can be very rocky and unforgiving, and should only be attempted by experienced 4WDers.
Ballandean Station was settled in 1840, when pioneers travelled the tablelands looking for a better life. This is a private, working station, so you’ll need to stay on the main road and adhere to any signs that are in place. One interesting place to stop lies just 2km past the main house, where a large granite monument sits beside the road, engraved with the names of the early pioneers in homage to their hard work and life.
Red Rock Falls
Also on your way into Sundown National Park, head into Red Rock Falls, where a short 200m walk will give you breathtaking views of Red Rock Gorge. These extremely eroded rock walls are the result of intensive weathering. Interestingly, the hills above the gorge were pasture land and clear 100 years ago, to cater for the fine wool that the station produced, and there was mining activity deep below for various types of minerals.
What’s amazing here is that on both sides of the road the drop-offs are hundreds of feet to the valley below. Old diggings can be seen throughout this area and all the way down to the Severn River. From 1880, mineral deposits such as tin, copper, gold and ore were dug here, with up to 100 men working at any one time, but financially these mines never paid off due to the harsh conditions.
Getting to Sundown National Park
Sundown National Park is located 250km south-west of Brisbane, near Stanthorpe.
Entry is via Ballandean Station from the east, which is only accessible by 4WD. On the western side, the Broadwater camping area is accessible by conventional car and is a great base if you want to explore Sundown by foot.
The station road leads you 5km towards Sundown, where you enter via a compound gate. This gate needs to be kept shut, as it defines the shared boundary of Ballandean Station and Sundown National Park. Grab a park leaflet from the information shelter at the gate, to learn of any warnings and read more about the area.
When to visit Sundown National Park
Situated close to the Queensland/New South Wales border, Sundown National Park has a much cooler southern climate compared to the rest of hot and humid Queensland. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to visit Sundown National Park all year round – it’s not unusual for daytime temperatures to exceed 40°C during summer.
The ideal time to visit the park is actually from April to September, when cold, frosty mornings give way to sunny, clear days. These are also the best conditions for bushwalking and camping and in the park, provided you have the correct gear and provisions.