Despite being only 250km southwest of Brisbane, Sundown National Park is characterised by remoteness. A lack of development, basic camping areas and dramatic terrain create this feeling, which is intensified by the challenging nature of the tracks that course through the park.
Driving in Sundown is consistently rocky, with the granite peaks in various parts of the park creating steep climbs and descents to contend with along the track. As a result, low-range and high clearance is essential, but with this undulating terrain comes spectacular views of the park’s forested ranges and contrasting colours.
Upon entering the park on its eastern side, the first big attraction is Red Rock Gorge, which is also the first of Sundown’s three camping grounds. A 200m walk from the camping area, the Red Rock Gorge lookout offers a perfect vantage point to take in this stunning sight, with the gorge itself dominated by a great band of granite that snakes through a steep-sided wall of traprock.
The two other campgrounds along Sundown Road are on the Severn River, which winds through the park and is responsible for the formation of river flats, gorges and waterholes. The campgrounds are only a few kilometres apart, with the drive from Red Rock Gorge to Reedy Waterhole and Burrows Waterhole a 4WD test of steep descents where low-range is necessary. Driving towards Burrows Waterhole is a junction, with the right-hand side leading to the campground and the left headed to Rats Castle, a towering landform that offers panoramic views of the Severn River twisting through the valley below.
The Rats Castle track is for serious four-wheel drivers only, with the state of the track taking Sundown’s rugged reputation to a whole new level. Unforgivingly rough and rocky, the Rats Castle loop can cause havoc on tyres and will test an array of any four-wheel driver’s skills.
To explore Sundown properly, an overnight stay is the minimum. Take the time to enjoy this remote haven, and you will be rewarded with a rare kind of solitude that draws explorers back time and time again.
LOCATION: 250km southwest of Brisbane
BEST TIME OF YEAR: Avoid summer months, as they are hot and humid. Come prepared for heavy frosts in winter months.
CAMPING: Red Rock Gorge (campsites, camping fees, 4WD only, pit toilets); Burrows Waterhole (campsites, camping fees, 4WD only, pit to/strong); Reedy Waterhole (bush camping, camping fees, 4WD only)