Killarney Glen – A Heart-Shaped Adventure

Killarney Glen
Killarney Glen’s heart-shaped pool

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.

Killarney Glen
Our team contemplating the crossroads

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.

Killarney Glen
Leaping over rocks into the heart
Killarney Glen
Inside the heart

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.

Killarney Glen
The top section of Back Creek, which you must cross to view the heart-shaped pool

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.

Killarney Glen
Celebrating in the heart

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.

Killarney Glen

Killarney Glen
Wading in for a closer look

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.

Killarney Glen
Our ‘quieter’ section behind the heart

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.

Killarney Glen

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.

Killarney Glen
One of the many secluded sections further downstream

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!

29 thoughts on “Killarney Glen – A Heart-Shaped Adventure”

  1. Thanks for the info, tips & pictures. Just wondering if you know it’s dog friendly? Hard to find a fresh water hole that’s dog friendly.

    1. Hi Esther,

      I reckon it’s dog friendly, as the banks mellow right out further down the creek. The creek floor is a little rocky but I’d say check it out.

      1. Hi Andy, when it comes to the environment I can assure you that our dogs are clean and we scoop our poop!!! It’s just a shame that people cannot respect the land and I’m saddened to see so much litter around.
        Joan

    2. You’ve seen the number of people who visit Killarney Glen. What if each of them was to take a dog? And every dog does its business up & down the creek. Really? Suggest you find somewhere more appropriate to take your dog. There are designated beaches for dogs. Please don’t treat this precious place like a ‘dump’!

      1. Could say the same about people, where do you get off judging responsible dog owners who like having them with them and pick up? People leave rubbish everywhere and trash places so pull your head in before you go trashing dog owners, mine go with me everywhere and we clean up and make sure they are on leash so we control where they go.

    3. Further to that Esther, I know there are quite a few national parks where you can take a dog with a leash in QLD (as you probably know). Not sure about Killarney Glen though. Perhaps check with the QLD Government on that one.

      1. Andy, the Commonwealth Government, not the State, now owns Killarney Glen. It was taken by compulsory acquisition from the family that cared for it for 3 generations. Army is now the ‘tenant’ and therefore responsible for managing the land. As you’ve seen, it’s way out of its depth at Killarney Glen! No proper parking or toilet facilities for the hundreds of people who have recently discovered the beauty of the Glen. Please help look after it for coming generations.

        1. JLK,

          Yep, I’ve already acknowledged in this post that the Commonwealth now owns Killarney Glen and not the state.

          I suggested contacting the QLD Government as they manage many natural areas (22 national parks) in QLD where you can bring dogs on a leash – where owners clean up after them – and they may know more about the sensitivity of this particular environment than the Defence Department (at a guess).

          “Please help look after it for coming generations”.

          I enjoyed a nice day out here with my family and left it just as I found it, as I have in many natural places around Australia, thanks.

          1. That’s great Andy, thanks. You obviously do care about the places you visit. There were dozens of people and a couple of dogs at Killarney Glen today.. Picked up tissues & other rubbish on my way out. Hope others who visit Killarney Glen will also respect it and leave it as they found it.. Cheers.

        2. Elizabeth Lee

          I’m an old friend of the family who regularly visited Killarney Glen back in the late 80s/early 90s when Paddy still lived on the property. Last Thursday I visited my beloved Killarney Glen after 23 years. I’m saddened to say that there was little evidence of respect for the land by those seeking thrills and photo opportunities of bravado. A tragic accident waiting to happen. The vandalised state of Paddy’s hut shattered me. It was very hard turning my back and walking away not knowing when I will get to see KG again. If only the Army would take the time to maintain the area and the local council restrict car parking thereby restricting visitor numbers then the beauty and history of the place will be protected for future generations

          1. Have you seen Killarney Glen since Army & Qld Fire Services conducted a ‘hazard reduction burn’? The fire ‘got out of control’ burning half the forest to a crisp. Chainsaws were then used to drop timber all over the walking track to the creek. But still the backpackers come. It’s time Killarney Glen was handed over to National Parks.

    4. Just go to a dog wash like everyone else, it’s a swimming hole for people, if everyone brings a dog it becomes a giant dog bath.

  2. Hi Andy great post! Is there anyway to know when the area is closed due to for army training? I am planning on going anytime between the 28th Feb and 1 March (Sunday – Tuesday) and am worried it may be closed on Mon/Tue, thanks!

  3. Thank you for the inf.
    I would like to know if I can go the fall by a normal car, I mean not 4wd car.

    If you know please let me know.

  4. Does anyone knows if it still open to tge public as a close friend visited the place last January and he was told by the man that look after the park, it would be close to tge public soon for a while.

  5. Hi Andy, I found this and it is just the the right time for me to visit, as I am now on the Gold Coast, but not sure it is open to the public again? I might have to investigate that. Thanks for this great post! 🙂

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  8. Hi Andy,

    We are planning on visiting Killarney Glen 2mrw. Are you able to confirm for me if there is some kind of signage as I’m more than likely to drive straight past it other wise. And is it still open to the public?

    Thanks
    Alisha 😊

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