If you own a 4WD and live in Brisbane, one of the closest places to get some dirt under your tyres would have to be the D’Aguilar Ranges and Mount Mee – to the north-north-west of the city. Located less than 50 kays from the centre of Brisbane, you’ll find the little country town of Dayboro. If you’re starting your day early, you’ll find delicious treats at the bakery and a coffee from a local cafe before you head towards the Crown Hotel and take a right.
It’s not long before you leave the bitumen behind, as Lacey’s Creek Road starts to wind its way through local grazing lands and across a small creek that lends its name to not only the road but the location as well. We were fortunate to travel through not long after some summer rains so the tyres got a little wash as we crossed the shallow waters. There are a number of crystal clear streams up in the mountains, and it always pays to stop and explore around the next corner. You may just get lucky enough to find a secret little swimming hole.
Even though there had been some rain about, the eucalypt forest and track conditions were very dry. However, it’s always a good idea to check with the Rangers before setting out if there has been recent rain. A number of the tracks in the D’Aguilar National Park are gated, and will be closed after wet weather to minimise damage.
Climbing towards the highest point of the range on the drive, the vistas to your west across the valley are quite stunning. Every now and then the tall eucalypts part just a little – providing you with a picture perfect window to view the lush valleys and rolling peaks of the D’Aguilar Ranges. Speaking of views, a great place to stop and break the drive, stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat is Kluvers Lookout on the eastern side of the range. On a clear day this lookout offers up superb views across to Redcliffe, Deception Bay and Moreton Island off in the distance. It’s times like these that you wish you’d remembered your binoculars.
Continuing north along Jacky Creek Road, you start your descent towards Byron Creek – where the dry eucalypt forest starts to give way to more densely vegetated pockets of subtropical rainforest. Fresh mountain streams punctuate the landscape, as the track follows Byron Creek before crossing it via a concrete causeway.
Leaving the cool and lush environment behind, it’s time to start climbing again – tackling ‘A Break’. By far the steepest and most rutted section of the track, there’s a reason why there are gates at the bottom and top of this section! A bit of ground clearance doesn’t go astray up this track.
Neither does low-range gearing. You can just let your vehicle idle up, minimising track damage.
As you climb, the dry forest takes over once more with some good old grass trees now starting to make an appearance. I love these plants, and seeing them always takes me back to my childhood as I remember chasing my sister around with the ‘spear’ while camping at Four Mile.
Well that’s enough reminiscing, because it’s getting close to lunch time. Luckily, at the end of ‘A Break’, it’s not far until you reach the Gantry Day Use Area. From 1933 until 1981, the Gantry was an active sawmill producing timber for the Brisbane region. Nowadays, the Gantry is the perfect place for a picnic… with wide grassy areas and plenty of shade. There’s also picnic tables and shelters, BBQs, toilets and water. The Gantry is also the starting point for two bush walks within the park.
Next up is the scenic loop along the Western Escarpment Forest Drive. This 13km loop will have you traversing through more eucalypt forest, with the jewel being Somerset Lookout.
Offering stunning views over both Lakes Somerset and Wivenhoe, the viewing platform is only a short walk from the parking area. Make sure you’ve got your camera handy, as the panoramic views over the mountains and valleys and across to Esk and Toogoolawah are worthy of an Instagram post.
Speaking of Instagram, don’t put your camera away if you plan to stop in at Rocky Hole. Honestly, is there anything better than stripping down to your boardies and cooling off in a freshwater swimming hole? Well, the answer is ‘No’! This picturesque swimming hole with a gorgeous little waterfall is the place to be on a hot summer day. Pick your time (not a weekend) and you might just be lucky enough to snag it to yourself.
If you’re planning on making this more than just a day trip, there are two great little campsites within the National Park. Both Neurum Creek and Archer camping areas are located on Neurum Creek and are suitable for vehicle-based camping only.
Both sites offer septic toilets, water (must be boiled before drinking) and fire pits (bring your own wood). For those with camper trailers or caravans, the privately-owned Neurum Creek Bush Retreat just outside the park will be more accommodating to your needs.
The dirt is just about over and done with by the time you pass Neurum Creek Bush Retreat, so it’s time to head west via the D’Aguilar Highway – stopping for a cold beer at Kilcoy. A bush drive that starts and ends at a pub? My kind of day out!