I’d heard a rumour about a natural heart-shaped pool in Queensland’s Gold Coast hinterland, with a waterfall and swimming holes the colour of jade. Upon arrival, I wasn’t disappointed, however I was taken back by the number of people who’d had the same idea. Numerous cars lined the entrance, bikini-clad ladies patrolled the car park and trekkers pulsed to and from Killarney Glen, our destination and evidently a magnet for shit-loads of Saturday summer pleasure seekers, just like us.
After managing to find a car space, my friend and I embarked on our heart-shaped adventure with our kids. A short way in, we arrived at a fork in the road – one route was a walking track and the other a car track. Following a few returning trekkers, we took the car track, which, as we later found, is a little steeper. After a reasonably steep jaunt downhill for about 15-20 minutes, we arrived at rock pool mayhem.
There were people leaping into the heart of Killarney Glen (the only direct way in), people lazing at the bottom in blow-up lounges and people standing at the top, just staring. After crossing the top section of Back Creek, I took some shots of the love pool before we continued further downstream, where the rhythm of life was a little quieter, more gentle.
A bit of history
Killarney Glen is the name of the property that’s been owned by the Fitzgerald family since the late 1800s. Since the early 1900s the place has been used for recreation, with Killarney Falls and six other falls on Back Creek marking tourist maps before the renown Binna Burra area was established. Not long afterwards, Pat Fitzgerald bought Killarney Glen from his uncle’s estate, growing bananas there from 1958 to 1962.
In 1971, at the end of the Vietnam War, the Commonwealth acquired Killarney Glen and the Defence Department used the area as a buffer zone for the Canungra Land Warfare Centre. Over the next 26 years the Fitzgerald family fought and won a battle to keep the land open to the public. While today the Defence Department still uses the land, as it’s closed several times a month for Defence Force training, Killarney Glen is open for public recreation.
Exploring the arteries
Heading downstream, we waded into Back Creek’s gentler artery, exploring the pools and cliffs without taking the plunge. The water is shallow in places and a few eels and fish (which are harmless) lurk about, one of which nibbled my toe from an unseen crevice. While my five-year-old, Olin, was snacking comfortably upon a rock, I watched my friend swim past a cave, climb a cliff and jump in. I decided to do the same.
As we’d picked the weekend during high summertime and the school holidays to arrive, the place became more crowded. Our quieter section saw new climbers and jumpers, and one guy with evidently more will than wit, who couldn’t swim, decided he would take the plunge. Shortly afterwards, a group of about half a dozen swimmers helped him to shore, while several onlookers (myself included) sat dumbfounded. Killarney Glen, it seems, can be dangerously beguiling.
Returning to the glen’s heart, I wandered about taking photos, watching people get the blood pumping with a daring leap, while others navigated the winding jade creek as sunlight flickered across its surface.
The walk back up was a little steep and the place can get crowded, however Killarney Glen is possibly my favourite swimming hole around for miles, and I’ve been to a few.
A few fast facts (and a tip)
- Killarney Glen lies about 45 minutes drive from the Gold Coast and just over an hour’s drive from Brisbane.
- While you must leap about three metres into the heart-shaped pool to enter it directly, you can swim to it via the creek downstream, which you can enter by walking.
- Further downstream from the heart-shaped pool are plenty of secluded spots just waiting to be explored (pictured above).
- Go there during the week, outside of school holidays.
Warning: Jumping and climbing at Killarney Glen is dangerous. Do so at your own risk!