Back when I was a teenager my Grandparents would regale me with tales of a hair-raising walk they did at Binna Burra back in the 1970’s – the Ships Stern. I always wanted to do it one day but at 21 km long I knew I would have to find someone to come along who was happy to spend a whole day walking. So about 20 years after I first decided I wanted to do this walk I asked my good friend Running man, (although now that we have done a couple of walks together I may have to change his name to Hiking man) to tackle it with me. I read up on the walk and it seemed the old walk my Grandparents did has changed somewhat and there would be no squeezing along rocky ledges with fear of falling to our deaths.
I met Running man bright and early for the drive up to Lamington National Park. The further we drove up into the mountains the more I felt the working week get left behind. When we pulled up at the car park to begin the walk, the car said it was a lovely 18 deg C outside. Whoo hoo, I thought, as I pulled on my jumper for the first time in over 6 months, what a novelty to have some cool weather after a stinker of a summer! We finished adjusting our packs, walked a little way back along the roadside towards the Binna Burra accommodation area and began our walk.
First up was a lovely section of track where we saw some wallabies grazing for their breakfast, followed by an interesting rock overhang. Our first lookout of the day came along not long after this. The scenic Koolanbilba Lookout was a lovely spot to watch the clouds sitting low in the valley clear away, revealing the unusual land forms of egg and turtle rocks.
The sun was rising steadily as we continued along the track. The jumper didn’t get to stay on very long! Our next views into the valley below and towards neighboring Springbrook plateau were provided at the Yangahla Lookout, a nice little rocky outcrop.
After a short distance we reached a sign pointing towards Lower Ballanjui Falls. Seeing as it was only going to add another 1.2 km to the walk we took the short detour. The walk to and from the falls passes through some beautiful riparian vegetation and some magnificent trees.
The two tiered falls provided a nice place to stop and have some morning tea. Just to prove that we were still in proximity to the Gold Coast, Running Mans phone rang. It’s his mum who hasn’t been well, so obviously like a good son he answered the call. They chatted briefly while I ate. I only caught bits and pieces of the conversation. I heard him tell her “We are at Lower Ballanjui Falls having morning tea” when he got off the phone he told me “When I told mum where I was she said there is another lovely walk up here to do though its much longer, the Ships Stern Walk” to which he replied, funny you should say that, as that is the one we are doing! So seeing as my grandparents who are in their late 80’s and Running mans parents who are in their late 70’s had already tread these here hills, we decided it was time to push on and see what all the fuss was about with this Ships Stern walk.
The track spends some time meandering along the shaded creeks before heading back up onto the edge of the escarpment. Here the track begins to become a bit overgrown with long grass, and I am thinking this is going to be great snake country. Almost as soon as I think the thought I hear a sharp “hissssss” I look in front of me where I am about to put my foot down and where Running man has only just passed seconds before, when I see a funny looking shiny stick partly bent up at one end. Oh, that’s not a stick! “Snake!” I call out. “Where?” comes Running Mans reply. “There, you just walked over him”. With his head up and hissing in protest at having his nap interrupted, the black on top and yellow on the belly snake, slides off the track quickly and up a small tree fern where he tries very unsuccessfully to hang onto a frond. This lasts for a few seconds before he does a very ungraceful belly flop off the frond onto the ground.
From this point on the track gets more overgrown with long grass.We grab our selves some big sticks and make frequent banging and stomping noises to wake up and scare off any more would be friends of the legless variety.
Next we take the short but steep and rocky detour up to Charraboomba Rock. It has become quite warm now and this rock is pretty exposed. The view is partially obscured by vegetation so getting a good photo here isn’t possible. further along the track though we are afforded the amazing views below over a very scenic and heavily vegetated section of the park.
Approximately halfway into the walk we reach Kooloobano Point, giving us nice views down into the Numbinbah valley.
The track continues to wind around the escarpment that is the Ships Stern. Fabulous views down the valley towards Mount Warning and Springbrook are had at the Gorooburra Lookout.
We stop for lunch and a Coopers where the track diverts around towards the eastern lookouts, which doesn’t actually offer any official lookout points, just lots of breaks in the vegetation where you can see views through the trees.
The track then heads uphill again and through some lovely forest dominated by tree ferns, before joining the other major track in the park, the Border Track.
As the sun drops down onto the other side of the ridge, darkness quickly descends upon the rainforest that we now find ourselves in. The last photo I manage to get before my cameras low light capabilities are exceeded, are of a pretty little cascade beside the track.
So the verdict? The Ships Stern is a great walk providing a diverse range of vegetation and lookouts. Because it is longer, we also saw less people which is also very nice! It was a perfect day weather-wise and we had clear views from all of the lookout points. I would be wary of doing this walk in summer as the heat on the edges of the escarpment could be a bit tiring. I drank most of the 3 litres of water I took and we took about 8 hours to walk the track with our side detours out to Lower Ballanjui and Charraboomba Rocks and food and drink stops. Running man and I both agree this is an excellent long day walk and one we will definitely walk again one day.
*for those of you who don’t live on the Gold Coast and are interested in doing some of the great walks up at Binna Burra the park offers both camping and accommodation options.
At a Glance
Ships Stern Walk 21 kms Class 4 walk. Add 1.2 km return for Lower Ballanjui Falls http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/lamington/about.html#Ships_Stern_circuit
Binna Burra Lamington National Park 1 1/2 hours (105kms) from Brisbane camping and accommodation options available