Boonah is a town south west of Brisbane that is well worth a visit as a day trip or as a base to explore some of the Scenic Rim region.
About 80 km from Brisbane and 50 km from Ipswich, Boonah was essentially a service township for the rich farming district of the Fassifern Valley. As with many other small towns Boonah was a backwater for many years, but a combination of better communications, tree change migration and the natural beauty of the area has meant that Boonah lives anew as a vibrant and prosperous centre.
You will need transport. Drive west from Brisbane on the Ipswich Motorway, turning into the Cunningham Highway and then take the turn to Boonah at Yamanto. If coming from the Gold Coast, you will need to drive through Nerang (on the Pacific Motorway), Canungra and Beaudesert. Each trip will take about an hour.
Boonah is a useful base for visitors wishing to visit some of the features of the Scenic Rim. The Scenic Rim is the large ring of rugged and mountainous country which circles from west of Brisbane to Currumbin on the Gold Coast. Boonah provides a central and convenient jump off for many of the most spectacular parts of the rim, such as Mt Castle, Cunningham's Gap, Spicer's Gap, the Main Range, Wilson's Peak, The Head, Mt Clunie, Mt Ballow, Mt Barney and the very nearby Mt French.
- Mt French
Normally this small mountain would not deserve note, but it has historical importance and is a mecca for rock climbers. Drive south from the centre of town and turn right at the Dugandan Hotel where Mt French National Park is well signposted. The road meanders along to the top of the mountain where the National Park idealogues have limited the number of car parks so good luck. At the top there are picnic facilities. Walk to the top of the cliffs. Here in the very early days of the convict settlement of Moreton Bay stood Captain Logan who surveyed the valley below and pronounced it an excellent area for cultivation. You can see he was right. In the late 1960s, an up-and-coming Brisbane rockclimber Rick White (now deceased) discovered the beautiful cliffs found below the look out points, and since then this has been the premier technical climbing area of the South East.
- Cunninghams Gap
Take the Boonah-Fassifern Rd west to meet the Cunningham Highway and turn left to the south. You will see the Main Range in front with the obvious saddle. There is a great story about the intrepid Kew botanist Cunningham riding with a party to the new Moreton Bay settlement from the Hunter, arriving just south of gap, but unsure of his longitude. Also worried about the fitness of his party, he turned back for the long journey south through New England to the Hunter. Now journeying by sea to the Moreton Bay settlement, he immediately saw the gap from Brisbane and explored south to confirm how near he had been. Ascend the Gap via the highway, and turn right into the parking bay at the top. This is no peaceful place because of the endless heavy traffic. The graded track system goes north to Mt Cordeux and Bare Rock on the other side for a 2- to 3-hour return, and a possible scramble to the top of the mountain. Check out the gold mine half way up! Can only be explained by gold fever. On the south side of the highway is the equally rewarding walk to the summit of Mt Mitchell, the top of which boasts an arete worth the experience.
- Spicers Gap
Take the Boonah Fassifern Rd west to meet the Cunningham highway (as previous trip) and turn left past the truck stop town of Aratula to the marked road to Spicers Gap and Governors Chair. The road terminates at Governors Chair, after passing a National Park camping area. The views are rewarding, and there are walks for the adventurous. If you are equipped with a compass and map (Sunmap in Brisbane), you can follow the ridge north to the summit of Mt Mitchell for a day return walk. Take the road at first as it follows the ridge, then either opt for the ridge at a convenient location or look for a foot pad that leaves the road to meet the escarpment. Prepare to bush bash at places. There is an inspiring scramble to the arete on the summit of Mt Mitchell, which is not exposed and easily reversed.
You can also head south to climb Mt Spicer. A foot pad leads to the northern ascent ridge, but only the experienced and confident should apply, as the terrain is very steep and the route difficult, and harder to reverse. Spicer's Peak can also be climbed from the western forested ridge. The range to the south of Spicers Peak is known as the Main Range and the 3-day hike is one of the best in the area, challenging, rough, varied and beautiful. It's no backpackers weekend, only well led and prepared parties should attempt it.
- The Head
From Boonah, drive south towards Rathdowney, turning right towards Carney's Creek and then right again towards signs that may say, The Head, Killarney or Queen Mary's Falls. The narrow road switchbacks to the top of the range and a rough lookout over Teviot Falls seen to the right. This is the summit of the Great Dividing Range, waters flowing to the west form the "Head" of the Condamine River flow finally to the sea in South Australia. Park here and head south over the fence and over pasture to the top of the ridge where a foot pad is found for the ascent of Wilsons Peak. When the summit cliffs are encountered, contour right and look for a break in the cliffs. Wilsons peak is the junction of the Great Dividing Range and the MacPherson Range which heads east to meet the ocean at Currumbin. It also forms the state border. The border fence is a combination stock and rabbit fence, rabbits not being permitted north.
From Teviot Falls lookout continue on. Some few km after, the road divides. Those in 4 wheel drives can fork right and follow the road through the Condamine Gorge. The river will be forded many times on this unmade road but the drive through to the town of Killarney is quite rewarding. Alternatively the turn to the left is a sealed road which also goes to Killarney via Queen Mary Falls, worth a look. At Spring Creek is a cafe restaurant which enjoys views over the ranges including Mt Superbus, the highest peak in the area at 1375 m. Killarney is on the southern Darling Downs, the huge fertile plateau of beautiful country to the west of Brisbane.
- Mt Barney
Drive south from Boonah towards Rathdowney and look for the signs to Mt Barney on the right. This road also leads to the Bigriggen Camping Area which is useful as a base. Mt Barney is a focal point for bushwalkers with many varied tracks and routes of varying difficulty up this great rocky mountain. For those interested in a simple walk, opt for the track to the Lower Portals. There are nice camp sites here and at the right time of the year some excellent swimming holes. The more ernest hiker/climber should obtain concise details of the routes on Mt Barney. It will not disappoint.
There are a collection of good places to eat in Boonah town. All are within easy walking distance of one another (with the exception of the Dugandan Hotel), and cater to different styles.
At one end of town is Flavour's Cafe, doing decent pub-style food. Despite the higher cost, it does more or less a full plate of food for a meal. Up the road is Glen's Diner, your standard fast food diner of the town. Try the fish and chips, especially good for those on a smaller budget but still wanting a good feed with flavour. Opposite Glen's Diner is the Commercial Pub, a place with excellent restaurant meals for a price. A meal here will often fill you for well into the night if you decide to consume the entire plate's worth.
Further into town you will find Harry's Cafe, an excellent stop-off point if you are after a good coffee with decent meals for a very reasonable price. Out of town but worth the trip is the Dugandan Hotel. Commonly known as the "Duge" ("g" as in ground"), the Dugandan Hotel has been acquired by the owner of a major winery. Specialising in good quality pub food, the Duge does excellent business with those desiring a strong meal after a day's climb at Mount French or en route through Boonah township.
In addition to these business, there is an excellent bakery in Sugarloaf Bakery in the centre of the High Street, and nearby grocery shops.
High Street is the main shopping and commercial district in Boonah.
- The Story Tree, 74 High St, ☏ . Quirky lounge with second-hand books, freshly ground Fair Trade organic coffee, Read and Play Area for kids.
- Harry's Café, 24 High St, ☏ . Open 7 days a week serving the Merlo coffee blend. Great quality food using local seasonal produce. Gluten-free dishes available.
There are two pubs in the centre of town, the Commercial and the Australian, and the former definitely has available accommodation. The pub stay experience is maybe not for everyone, but it's economical, friendly (not always, but the Commercial is OK) and unique.