Araluen Falls (sometimes known as Araluen Cascades) was our excuse to break up the long drive between Rockhampton and Airlie Beach along the central coast of Queensland. This was supposed to be an intermediate waterfall on the longer hike to the Wheel of Fire Falls, but a trail closure ensured that the Araluen Cascade was all that we were going to see during our visit in May 2008. Nonetheless, this waterfall was an attractive 10-15m cascade where Finch-Hatton Creek spilled into a carved rock pool before continuing further downstream as it meandered its way out of the Eungella National Park and towards Cattle Creek further south.
Given the pretty remote nature of this reserve, Julie and I were quite surprised to see the walking track to be as busy as it was. The park literature said the walking track to the Araluen Falls was 2.8km return taking about 1-1.5 hours. Julie and I spent about an hour and 10 minutes on this track so we were pretty much going at a pace that was expected. The Wheel of Fire Falls was supposed to be 4.2km return taking about 1.5-2 hours. However, the trail was closed just beyond the trail junction where the continuation trail branched off from the Araluen Cascades trail.
When Julie and I walked to the Araluen Falls, it was fairly humid and warm as there seemed to even be the threat of thunderstorms. Even though the rainforest provided ample shade throughout the easy-to-follow track, it didn't seem to provide much in the way of relief from the heat and humidity we were experiencing. Also noteworthy along the track were some pretty big granite boulders, which definitely seemed a bit out-of-place in such a lush rainforest-type environment. The rainforest setting itself contrasted the hectares upon hectares of sugar plantations we noticed as we were driving between Mackay and Eungella.
With the amount of time we had to spend on the track to reach Araluen Falls, Julie and I were noticing the unusual birdsongs that echoed through the peaceful rainforest. We recalled one of the birdsongs sounds like a flute while another one sounded like a bird was shooting lasers. We didn't know which birds were doing that nor did we see any of them amongst the dense cover of the forest, but it definitely added to the ambience. Speaking of wildlife, it was said that the rare and endangered platypus could be found in Eungella National Park, but we didn't see any during our visit.
The most straightforward way to reach Araluen Falls would be to start from Mackay, take the Bruce Hwy (A1) towards the Peak Downs Hwy (Hwy 70), then drive Hwy 70 west following the Mackay-Eungella Rd (it leaves Hwy 70 just past the township of Alexandra) all the way to the township of Eungella. On the west side of the township (some 80km west of Mackay), the Mackay-Eungella Rd junctions with Gorge Rd on the right. Take Gorge Rd, which enters the Finch-Hatton Gorge and ultimately Eungella National Park. Once inside the park, most of this section of road was unpaved with a few shallow creek fords, I recalled. These crossings could be an issue if the water was running high.
The way we went to the Finch-Hatton Gorge wasn't the most direct way as the GPS took us on what it thought was the shortest (but not necessarily most sensible) route. We ended up taking some obscure route on Homebush Rd after exiting the Bruce Hwy (Hwy 1), but we really should've kept going to Mackay, then exit at Hwy 70 (Mackay-Eungella Rd) and follow the directions as above.
Alternatively, if we were to head south from Proserpine, the park-recommended route would be to follow the Bruce Hwy south to the Marian-Hampden Rd (about 98km south of Proserpine). Then take that road towards the town of Marian before continuing west on the Mackay-Eungella Rd. Then, follow the directions to Eungella and then Finch-Hatton Gorge as described above.
Not to confuse you, but on our way north along the Bruce Hwy, we actually followed the GPS, which told us to take Homebush Rd then Elton Rd then the Mt Ossa Rd to the Langdon-Lumburra Rd before reaching the Garrett Owens Creek Rd, which ultimately linked us to the Mackay-Eungella Rd not far east of Eungella itself. We wouldn't recommend going this way, especially since there was no signage indicating Eungella National Park along any of this route until we got onto the Mackay-Eungella Rd.
One more thing to note. There was a place at the Pinnacle Hotel in the township of Pinnacle along the Mackay-Eungella Rd that served some real delicious meat pies. It really hit the spot and was a well-deserved lunch after our hike.
Finally, to give you a sense of geographical context, Mackay was 126km (90 minutes drive) south of Proserpine, 336km (over 3.5 hours drive) north of Rockhampton, 389km (4.5 hours drive) south of Townsville, and 952km (11 hours drive) north of Brisbane.
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