One of the most iconic features of the Sunshine Coast landscape is the Glass House Mountains. And one of the best views of these striking volcanic remnants can be seen from the aptly named Glass House Mountains Lookout.
The main viewing terrace is located right next to the car park and offers sweeping views from Mount Beerwah down to the coast and south towards Caboolture and the D’Aguilar Range. The interpretive signs line up perfectly with the mountains themselves to show what each mountain is called. There is an explanation about how the Glass House Mountains were formed and information about the area’s history and ecology.
The car park is quite large, but you could still have some trouble finding a park on weekends. The majority of visitors don’t stay long, just long enough to see the view and snap a few selfies, so you might be lucky and snag a park. If not, you can always park on the side of the road and walk that little bit further. Weekdays are much less busy, but there is still usually a steady stream of people coming and going.
The old fire tower
Logging was one of the first industries in this area and many of the towns in the Sunshine Coast hinterland started off as timber towns. The Glass House Mountains Lookout is located within the Beerburrum State Forest, which is still well known for its extensive plantations of pine trees. Because this site has such broad views over forestry land, the State Forestry Department has maintained a fire tower here since the 1930’s. The current structure has been modified so that visitors can use it as a lookout.
The windows of the fire tower have been removed to allow visitors to see the spectacular views of the Mountains. At the bottom of the windows you can still see the numbering scale that foresters used to accurately pinpoint fires. The numbers correspond to the degrees on a compass, with North at 0°, East at 90° and South at 180°. Before the days of satellite photos and geographic information systems, this method allowed the lookout to quickly and accurately direct fire crews to fires.
As you follow the walking paths around the lookout, you’ll find a series of wonderful mosaic images embedded into the path. Most depict views of the Glass House Mountains and there is also one that shows a carpet python.
The walking trail
The walking trail can be accessed from two places. It doesn’t really make much difference which direction you walk the trail as both are similar in terms of steepness.
Look for the path and the sign that says “Lookout Circuit 800m” just to the right of the main viewing terrace. When we were there the sign was half obscured by a huge Lomandra plant, but it’s still fairly easy to find.
The other entrance is located just behind the picnic shelter at the back of the clearing. It’s also marked with a “Lookout Circuit 800m” sign.
The 800m long trail winds its way down the side of a fairly steep hill, but the trail itself has a fairly gentle slope most of the way. Queensland National Parks has graded it as a level 3 track, which means that anyone with a basic level of fitness should be able to walk it without difficulty. The track is also in very good condition with a good stable surface. I’ve seen many families with young kids quite happily walking this trail.
Grade 3 track: Suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Some bushwalking experience required. Tracks may have short steep sections, a rough surface and many steps.Queensland National Parks
There is a slightly steeper section with steps at each end of the trail. These sections are relatively short and the overall walk is still quite easy for anyone who has basic fitness and mobility. The lowest point is mid-way between the two entrance points, so whichever end you use start at, you’ll be walking downhill and then back uphill.
The vegetation along the trail is fairly typical of the dry Eucalypt forests of the area. The dominant trees are iron bark and tallowwood, but you will also see scribbly gum, lophostemon and casuarinas. The ground cover is predominantly bracken fern and grass. Grass trees, banksia and native rosella can also be spotted along the way.
The picnic area is a lovely spot for a barbecue. A grassy area opens up behind the old fire tower, making a great place for the kids to run around or look for natural treasures. The forest surrounds the clearing on three sides, so the outlook is green and peaceful and there is shade at various times of the day.
The shelter has two large picnic tables with bench seats and there are three more picnic tables along the edge of the clearing. Just make sure to look under the table before you sit down because one of the locals may have stopped by to look for a feed. There are also four electric barbecues available at no cost.
There is good wheelchair accessibility to many parts of the site, with a dedicated parking space and even, gently sloped concrete paths around the lookout terrace and up to the picnic shelter. The fire tower itself can only be accessed via the stairs, but there are excellent views from the lookout platform and even from around the base of the tower. Some of the picnic tables are reached by a short set of steps, but the main picnic shelter with its two large tables is easily accessible. The walking trail is not wheelchair accessible.
How to get there
The only way to get up to the Glass House Mountains Lookout is by car. There’s no public transport that will take you there. If you don’t have your own car you could book on one of the day tours from Brisbane or the coast that stops at the Lookout.
From the Sunshine Coast:
If you are driving from the Sunshine Coast, take the Steve Irwin Way exit from the Bruce Highway and follow that until you reach the turn off for the township of Glass House Mountains. You’ll see the Glass House Mountains Tourist Information Centre on your left hand side. This is a great source of information about the local area.
Follow the road around past the Tourist Information Centre and over the railway bridge, veer left into Coonowrin Road and follow the road right to the end. Turn left into Old Gympie Road and keep following it until you see the sign for the Glass House Mountains Lookout then turn right and follow the road the rest of the way to the Lookout
If you’re driving up from Brisbane, take the Steve Irwin Way exit from the Bruce Highway and follow that until you reach the turn off for the township of Beerburrum. Drive through town and take the right hand turn into Beerburrum-Woodford Road.
The speed limit along most of this road is 100km/hr, but the road surface can be poor at times so be on the lookout for pot holes. There are also a lot of forestry roads coming off this road, which means weekend warriors in 4WDs and on dirt bikes can come flying out onto the road without warning. Just be aware and keep a lookout for them to avoid accidents.
Turn right into Old Gympie Road and keep following it until you see the sign for the Glass House Mountains Lookout then turn left and follow the road the rest of the way to the Lookout