When we found out the Toolona Creek Circuit is supposedly the best day walk in Lamington National Park in Gold Coast Hinterland, we knew we had to see what the fuss is about. While the 17.4km walking track isn’t for the faint hearted, it’s a Gold Coast walk we knew we would need to plan while spending a couple of days in the area.
So, for my birthday this year, I really wanted to do the Toolona Circuit and dragged Stevo on the walk with me. We made sure we left enough time to complete this Lamington National Park walk within a day and started it at 9am.
Here’s everything we learnt after finishing one of the best walks in Gold Coast to help prepare you if you’re thinking of doing it too (hint, you should totally do it!).
Table of Contents
1. Where Is The Toolona Creek Circuit?
The Toolona Creek Circuit is located at Lamington National Park in Gold Coast Hinterland. It’s a very windy up the mountain which takes around 1h30m to drive to from Surfers Paradise. As a popular day trip from Brisbane, Lamington National Park is a spectacular national park which we’ve fallen head over heals for after we completed the Box Forest Circuit a few weeks back.
There are two entrances to Lamington National Park, one at Binna Burra and the other at Green Mountains which is where O’Reillys Mountain Retreat is located. You’ll need to drive to the Green Mountains section to do the Toolona Circuit.
We can now see why people rave about this being one of the best walks in Lamington National Park!
The walk takes you in three sections so you’ll go from beautiful rainforest to jaw-dropping views out to NSW and into an Antarctic Beech Tree Forest. This will break up the walk and make it not feel as long
You’ll see about 10 different waterfalls along the walk
See epic views out to Byron Bay
You’ll be mesmerised by the 2,500 – 3,000 year old Antarctic Beech Trees
3. How To Find The Start Of The Track
When we first came to Lamington National Park a few weeks ago, we were trying to find the entrance for the walks. If you’re looking to do the Toolona Circuit, Border Track, Box Forest Circuit track, Albert River Circuit, West Canungra Creek Circuit, or simply want to go and see Elabana Falls, these all start from the same entrance which is opposite the reception for O’Reillys Mountain Retreat.
There’s a small entrance which opens up to an information board which includes a map and a little write up about each hike. From there, you’ll see the famous pillars with the Lamington National Park sign above it.
You can park up at the large car park a couple of hundred of metres away from the starting point and pop into the cafe and shop to pick up anything you might need for your walk.
4. Which Way Should You Go?
When preparing for a long circuit hike, you want to make sure you go the correct way. National Parks suggests going clockwise and they are right. This means you’ll wind down into the rainforest, before climbing up out of it, then walking along the ridge line and then spend the last few hours walking down hill back to the starting point.
If you’re looking to do a slightly more challenging hike, then go the anti clockwise direction so you can walk up hill at the start and on the way back!
5. How Long Does The Toolona Creek Circuit Take To Walk?
We timed the entire walk so we could share how long it personally took us and what you should expect.
Firstly, we’ve done the first hour before when we hiked the Box Forest Circuit so we didn’t stop for photos or videos and literally just made a beeline right down to Picnic Creek and Elabana Falls. We didn’t detour to Elabana Falls this time which would only be a few minutes extra onto the hike as we saw it last time.
We then spent about an hour hiking along the Toolona Creek passing by stunning waterfalls and a couple of creek crossings before coming to an incredible waterfall.
Half an hour later and we made it to the famous Chalahn Falls which is really beautiful in person.
After a 20 minute break after walking for 2h40m we then came to Toolona Falls, before reaching the Border Track 4hrs in. When we got to the Border Track we still had another 7.6km to go! 20 minutes later we came to the Toolona Creek Circuit before spending the final two hours walking past the Antarctic Beech Tree Forest and back to the car.
All in all, it took us 6h30m to complete the track. It was really muddy and we stopped three times for a total of 50 minutes or so.
Here’s our timings
4hr walk from start down through rainforest waterfalls and up to the Border Track
2h30m from Border Track through Antarctic Beech Forest and back to the car
And here’s a proper breakdown of the entire hike
0-55m: carpark – Picnic Creek
55m-1h05: Picnic Creek – Elabana Falls turn off
1h05m – 2hr: Elabana Falls – the most beautiful waterfall on the whole track called Gwongurai Falls
2hr-2h30m: Stunning Waterfall – Chalahan Falls
2h30-3h15 (includes a 20 minute lunch stop): Chalahan Falls to Toolona Falls
3h15-4hr: Toolona Falls – Border Track
4hr-4h20m: Border Track – Toolona Creek Lookout
4h20-6h30m: Walk through the Antarctic Beech Forest and back to the car park
6. What’s The Hike Actually Like?
The Toolona Creek Circuit hike is obviously a long walk but it is known by many as the best walk in Australia, or the best walk they have ever done. We were a bit sceptical about these statements but keen to see it for ourselves. Here is a breakdown of things to look out for.
7. Lookout For Leeches
The day we went it was a mixture of sunshine and overcast. It must have been raining a fair bit recently because it was a bit muddy and I totally wouldn’t suggest doing this walk without hiking boots. We made sure we wore long pants because I had head many people get eaten alive on this walk by leeches.
To be honest, I spent the first couple of hours hiking in the rainforest constantly feeling paranoid about having leeches on me because the track is narrow. Steve had a tiny one on him when we stopped for lunch, but that was it.
8. Waterfalls To Look Out For
You could spend the whole day jumping in and out of the many waterfalls on this track. At the begining of the walk, you’ll come to the most famous waterfall in Lamington National Park which is called Elabana Falls. You’ll need to jump over a couple of boulders to see it properly but it sure is stunning. Near to Elabana Falls is the beautiful Box Log Falls which we just loved too.
When you continue on the Toolona Creek Circuit, you’ll see loads of stunningly beautiful wild swimming spots, that you’ll just need to decide which one to dedicate time to swimming at.
We just fell in love with Gwongurai Waterfall which was about 2 hours into the hike. It is absolutely jaw dropping that it felt like it could have been a movie set because it was that beautiful. This is where we spent most of our time just starting at this absolute stunner!
Chalahn Falls is also worth spending some time at, which is a stunning waterfall you may have seen a fair bit on Instagram already.
Funnily enough, we weren’t particularly wowed by the Toolona Falls but that may have been because by the time we made it there, we had seen so many already!
9. Climbing Out Of The Rainforest
After we saw Toolona Creek Falls, we spent a good 45 minutes climbing up the switchbacks which felt like it went on and on. It dragged so when we made it up to the Border Track, we were so pleased to be finally be out of the wet rainforest and ready to walk along a wider flat path.
10. Views From The Border Track
We kina assumed we would be able to see views out to NSW from the Border Track but to be honest, all we could see were small glimpses as it was disguised by the trees. It was only when we got to Toolona Creek Lookout that we could see out to Murwillimbah and Byron Bay!
11. Toolona Creek Lookout
The Toolona Creek Lookout isn’t exactly the kinda lookout you might be envisioning. We thought it might be like the Best Ever Lookout but it’s actually just a small section where the trees have been cut back.
I’m mentioning this because we came across a group of school kids and they were all surprised as the teacher had planned a lunch stop here which would be hard as they would have taken up the whole track if they stopped here.
12. Where To Stop For Lunch
Talking about lunch stops, if you’re looking for stop somewhere for lunch, I would recommend doing this down in the rainforest before you get up to the Border Track. We stopped at the top of Toolona Falls which worked well. On the way back through the Antarctic Forest, there’s literally nowhere to stop on this track to sit for a while if you wanted to.
13. The Antarctic Beech Trees
After we stopped at the Toolona Lookout, we then spent two hours walking down hill back to the car park. The sun started to come out and the light was absolutely stunning as it lit up the trees on this part of the Toolona Creek walk. It was absolutely beautiful and the trees were just mind-blowing.
We’ve seen the Antarctic Beech trees before when we went to Barrington Tops in NSW and on the Crystal Showers Falls walk in Dorrigo National Park in NSW as well. But, this time round, there was something that just felt absolutely amazing about the trees here, even if they are believed to be 2500-3000 years old!
The final hour or so just dragged though and felt like it went on and on and on. We felt the same last time when we did the Box Forest Trail too!
One thing to mention is to be careful with the path, especially when you’re down in the rainforest in the waterfalls section. Some of the waterfalls venture off the track and I have read that some people have got lost before. Just make sure you’re always looking out for the most worn on path. We made sure we looked out for the path that climbed up the rainforest as you’ll be heading up and out of it.
Don’t Take Short Cuts!
Don’t take short cuts on the switch backs! I’ve read that some people ended up doing the Box Forest Circuit as well as the Toolona Creek Circuit, simply because they took the short cuts and missed the turn to the Toolona Creek path. Last time we visited, we met a couple who took the shortcuts and couldn’t find Elabana Falls because they missed the sign for it.
Bring More Water
Bring more water than you think you’ll need! There’s no facitilies on the track so bring everything with you. This means if you need to pee, you’ll have to go in the bush.
Wear Hiking Boots
There will be creek crossings to cross although they aren’t large, I would always wear waterproof hiking boots. Ladies, if you need some inspiration, I wear SCARPA hiking boots which have taken me to Everest Base Camp. The trick is to buy half a size bigger than you usually wear and invest in decent hiking socks (trust me, I learnt the hard way).
Listen To The Birds
Listen out for the birds and wildlife inside the park. It truely makes you feel so connected to nature here, you’ll be feeling totally alive by the end of the walk.
Get back in time to have a cup of tea at O’Reillys Cafe before it closes at 4pm. The views from the cafe are absolutely incredible and must be one of my favourite views to date.
If you have time, swing by the Treetop Walk on the way out of the Border Track before you head to the car park and enjoy being up high!
And if you’ve planned it well, book yourself into the Lost World Spa at O’Reillys and enjoy the infinity pool. It’s on our list to experience hopefully one day soon!
15. Toolona Creek Circuit vs Box Forest Trail
I’m not gonna lie, but before we reached the drop dead stunning Gwongurai Waterfall, I was debating about whether we had made the right decision to do this hike. Maybe I preferred the Box Forest Trail because we went on a beautiful day, or maybe it was because it was our first time at Lamington National Park and I was very excited about it. Or maybe this time, I was just worried about getting eaten alive on the Toolona Creek Circuit by leeches.
But, once we made it to Gwongurai Waterfall, it just got better and better! By the end of this Gold Coast walk I realised that it is indeed one of the best walks in Australia. I really loved this hike because it offers so much for a 6h30m walk. Not only do you get to see so many incredible waterfalls and swimming spots, I loved how the track changes into a jaw-dropping forest that you need to see it for yourself.
Although Box Forest Circuit is shorter which took us 4h30m, it is a beautiful walk which takes you along the river and beautiful waterfalls too. Either way, both walks are fantastic! You can check out our Box Forest Circuit guide if you’re thinking about doing it too.
Watch our video on the Box Forest Circuit below!
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