Geological Logging of a Proposed 305-km Recreational Geotrail in SE Queensland

D’Arcy, Bill1, Winter, George1

1Member (Retired), Geological Society of Australia

The 161-km Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) and the 88-km Kilkivan-Kingaroy Rail Trail (KKRT) were established along disused branch lines of the railway network of SE Queensland; linking them together is the 55-km Yarraman-Kingaroy Link Trail (YKLT).  We logged the geology along this 305-km recreational trail on behalf of the Geological Society of Australia (GSA) – Qld Division. Tectonic terrains encountered include a Late Paleozoic accretionary complex formed during westward subduction of the proto-Pacific under the eastern margin of the Australian proto-continent, and Carboniferous to Triassic volcanic and plutonic rocks of an associated volcanic arc; these are elements of the New England Fold Belt, and form a basement to the Esk Basin, a half-graben overfilled with Triassic volcanics and volcaniclastic sediments. The above-mentioned units in turn are partially overlapped from the south by Mesozoic elements of the terrestrial Clarence-Moreton Basin, which overlies the Ipswich Basin, host to formerly-important coal measures around Ipswich (but not exposed on the trail route). Extensive Paleogene (probably Oligocene) terrestrial basalt flows are crossed along some northern segments of the route. Cenozoic units are mostly alluvium deposited in the modern river network, and minor swamp and lake sediments.

GSA member Warwick Willmott has condensed our detail logs of the BVRT and KKRT to concise brochures compatible with the Rocks and Landscape Notes series, which can be downloaded without charge from the GSA website. We have begun work on compiling the geological features along the YKLT (logged in mid-2020), for inclusion in this series of brochures. The brochures were written for readers with little or no formal geological education, and describe outcrop-scale features exposed along the route, as well as the regional-scale geological factors that influence the landscape, including the evolution of the fluvial drainage network to its current configuration. We also describe a few localities that are close to the trail, and have significant geological interest. Copies of the BVRT and KKRT brochures were delivered in July 2020 to Municipal Visitors’ Information Centres, and cafes popular with trail-users along the route.


Both presenters are retired graduates of University of NSW.  Bill has a background in academia, gold and base metals exploration, and open pit gold mining.  George has a background in metallic minerals exploration, metallogenic mapping and civil engineering materials.

Larapinta Trail, Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park, central Australia – a potential geotrail

Weisheit, Anett1

1 Northern Territory Geological Survey, Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Alice Springs, Australia

The Larapinta Trail extends from Alice Springs Telegraph Station in the east along the West MacDonnell Ranges to the summit of Mount Sonder / Rwetyepme 230km to the west. This renowned hiking trail is divided into 12 sections (graded moderate to very hard); each section takes one or two days to walk. The Larapinta Trail is managed by the Northern Territory Government Parks and Wildlife, who provide detailed access and hiking information, and maps. General information about flora, fauna, landscape, geology, and culture is also available through various published guidebooks and trail maps.

The rocks comprising the spectacular scenery along the trail are well exposed and easily accessible. They include orthogneisses, metasedimentary rocks, and igneous rocks of two Palaeoproterozoic basement provinces (Aileron and Warumpi), and sedimentary rocks of the Neoproterozoic–Devonian Amadeus Basin. Cenozoic consolidated and non-consolidated sediments occur as colluvial and alluvial regolith. Rock types and textures exposed along the trail are therefore varied with occurrences of interesting minerals (eg garnet, staurolite) and fossils (stromatolite). There are also excellent exposures of rock relationships such as intrusive and tectonic contacts, unconformities, bedding and layering, and alteration and brecciation zones. Additionally, many of the rocks preserve evidence for ductile and brittle deformation; for instance, mylonitic shear zones, faulting, fracturing, and centimetre- to 100 metre-scale folding.

This variability of lithologies and rock structures profoundly influenced the morphology of the West MacDonnell Ranges. Deep valleys formed by shear zones, alternating ridges and valleys of sedimentary layers 10s of km long, and rolling hills of granitic rocks are some of the characteristic geomorphological features that can be seen along the trail. The rocks and their associated landscape developed over ca 1.8 billion years, including episodes of metamorphism and magmatism, terrestrial and marine sedimentation, mountain building, and erosion. They also span the time of emergence and development of early life, and preserve impact structures and palaeosurfaces.

Central Australia’s unique geology and climate support a multitude of fauna and flora, of which some can be seen along the trail. Climate in particular, but also flora, fire, and termites have in turn affected the exposed rocks leading to distinctive weathering and regolith.

The West MacDonnell Ranges are home to the Arrente People, whose ancestors lived in this country for at least 35 000 years. Some evidence of this cultural heritage, as well as remains of early European settlement can be visited along the trail, and there are excellent museums and heritage sites in Alice Springs.

A geological trail guide available in a convenient format — a small printed book, booklets, or digital data — would greatly enhance the hiker’s experience of the West MacDonnell Ranges. It would provide many benefits of geotrails outlined by the Australian Geoscience Council Inc, and others. These include, but are not limited to, ease of access along an established tourism track, provision of visitor engagement, learning and enjoyment, and promotion of conservation.


Anett studied geology at the University of Tuebingen, Germany, and worked as a mapping geologist with the Northern Territory Geological Survey in Alice Springs since 2014. She worked on a geological guide for the Larapinta Trail in her spare time.

Building the Darwin City Geotrail. Reflections, experiences and lessons

Asendorf, Mark1

1Marmel Enterprises, Darwin, Australia

The Darwin City Geotrail evolved over a period of 4 years shortly after the authors return to his hometown, Darwin.   A 16-year journey and experiences through Alice Springs, Roxby Downs, and Adelaide and through multiple industries has influenced the formation of the Geotrail with many familiar places seen through a new lens, and appreciation of things previously hidden in ignorance.

Darwin city hosts some interesting geological features, with some stories are literally written in stone.  However, there is more to the history and evolution of Darwin than the landscape. The Darwin City Geotrail is about telling some of those stories.

The journey into Geoheritage and Geotourism can be enriching and rewarding and Darwin has an interesting story to tell, extending back over 1.8 billion years.  It is a story that many non-geoscientists are not aware of, yet it captures their attention and interest when stated.

The Darwin City Geotrail (DCG) was launched in August 2020, within the resourcing and time constraints of its author.  Several ambitious components were descoped from the launch due to these constraints but remain firmly on the enhancements pipeline.

The DCG has already triggered a few alternative responses – positive, neutral, and negative.  Some were anticipated but many others have launched new endeavours and rethinking of some aspects of the Geotrail.

Discussion will include the technical aspects on the Darwin City Geotrail, the issues and concerns encountered, and next steps in enhancing the Geotrail for future users.


Mark Asendorf is a Spatial Information Professional with experience in the Public and Private Sectors.  Mark is the Chair of the Geotourism Standing Committee within the GSA and manages the Geoscience Business Systems of the NT Geological Survey. He’s into Rocks, Maps, Databases and teaching others about our incredible world.

Geotales and geotrails – collaborative geotourism initiatives and implications for new visitor experiences in regional NSW

Fleming, Guy1; Boyd, Ron2

1 Geological Survey of New South Wales, Department of Regional NSW, Maitland, Australia, 2 University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia

Geotrails provide an excellent opportunity to create new, place-based visitor experiences in regional locations that are self-guided, have low environmental or infrastructure impact, and are ideally suited to the social-distancing requirements of our post-COVID world. Several new geotrails have been successfully developed by the Geological Survey of New South Wales (GSNSW) in highly collaborative partnerships with the University of Newcastle, other local stakeholders and site custodians, with a longer-term aim of creating a network of geotrails across the state.

Geotourism is defined as tourism that focuses on an area’s geology and landscape as the basis of fostering sustainable tourism development. Geotrails provide this geotourism experience through visitor engagement, learning and enjoyment using an earth science approach. GSNSW’s geotrails are delivered in the form of free, self-guided apps for mobile devices, brochures, web content and signage (if supported by site custodians). Additional high-quality digital content such as spoken word audio, video, virtual and augmented reality imagery and podcasts can provide even richer content to support the geotrail.

Geotrails also provide an opportunity to incorporate complementary information, such as Aboriginal or European heritage, mining heritage and ecological features that have a relationship to the geology and landscape at a place. Integration of complementary information also adds greatly to visitor engagement and buy-in from local stakeholders or site custodians and can act as an enabler at relatively under-developed sites.

Best-practice geotrails are constructed around existing tourist routes that provide a logical and safe journey, incorporate local biodiversity and culture, meet the needs of visitors and local stakeholders, and allow for co-design and collaboration with local community and stakeholders during production.  Recently completed GSNSW geotrails at Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Warrumbungle National Park illustrate a best-practice approach for successful design and development based on practical experience.


Guy Fleming is a manager geoscientist at the Geological Survey of NSW. Guy has been playing a leading role in the design and production of geotrails at Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Warrumbungle National Park, with two geotrails in development along the Darling River and Mutawintji National Park in western NSW

Augmenting the Geotourism Experience through New Digital Technologies

Robinson, Angus M1, James, Pat2 and Ng, Young3

1 Australian Geoscience Council, Carlton South, Australia 2 University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia 3 Danxiashan UNESCO Global Geopark, Shaoguan City, China

In developing a National Geotourism Strategy for Australia, the Australian Geoscience Council Inc has recognised that state-based geotourism maps can be supplemented by publications, as well as consideration of new digital technologies (e.g. smartphones, 3D visualisation, augmented reality and virtual reality) and  GIS technologies as a cost effective means of accessing and better communicating geological content. This approach is encapsulated in the first strategic goal of the Strategy i.e. ‘to deliver and interpret for the traveller, quality natural heritage content, highlighting geology and landscape’.

Several groups have formed in Australia to trial these technologies with a view of realising some commercial opportunities with geotourism in mind.

In South Australia (SA,) the local Division of the Geological Society of SA has developed Field Guides for many areas of outstanding geological significance e.g. including Hallett Cove, the Flinders Ranges, and Victor Harbor amongst the set of 10 guides produced so far which are available online

The Geological Survey of SA is likewise producing interactive, online Google Earth-based, Discovery Trails as  virtual geotours  while at the University of SA,  the Project LIVE (Learning though Immersive Virtual Environments) ( initiative is highlighting some significant  outback areas with interactive virtual geotours, including drone and field video recording, 360 degree GigaPan panoramas and a range of other interpretive materials.

The current pursuit in SA for World Heritage status for the northern Flinders Ranges is also encouraging many strands of geotourism activity and development. These ranges approximately 500km north of Adelaide provide a window into deepest past geological time and abound with significant natural, cultural, historic and scenic values. As well as this, they provide geological and chronological records of one of the world’s greatest ancient super-basins, evidence of the earliest global glaciations, and widespread debris from Australia’s mightiest, extra-terrestrial Acraman meteor impact, and not least evidence of the evolution of the Ediacaran, earliest and  multicellular complex life on Earth. It is also very fortunate that the many (so far more than 50) geosites located within this region are already documented and illustrated within the sophisticated compendium of State registered Geoheritage sites (formerly geological monuments) published by the SA Division of the GSA.

Current and planned real, augmented and virtual reality geotourism developments within the Flinders Ranges, include underground and above ground geotrails and mine tours at Blinman, new Ediacara interpretation centres and trails at Nilpena, aerial overflights of Wilpena, Brachina Gorge and Arkaroola landscapes and the sensational Jeff Morgan Panorama gallery at Hawker. Virtual and augmented technologies are thus being applied to create unique visitor experiences and world class interpretation in this unique Australian geotourism region.

 Danxiashan UNESCO Global Geopark of China has been working closely with DJI Technology, the world’s largest manufacturer of aerial photography systems, in applying drones to locate, identify, map and monitor geohazards, bush fire, illegal land use, forest clearance and vegetation growth in the geopark. It is cost and time effective particularly in the preliminary survey of a large area.

These technologies will impact on future geotourism product development.


Professor Pat James has an extensive background in geological education, outreach and geotourism.

Immersive virtual reality in geotourism

Raimondo, A/Prof. Tom1

1UniSA STEM, University Of South Australia, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide, Australia

Project LIVE (Learning through Immersive Virtual Environments) is a cross-disciplinary initiative at the University of South Australia to embed immersive virtual and mixed reality experiences across the entire teaching program of UniSA STEM. This is achieved using techniques such as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (drone) surveying, 3D photogrammetry, gigapixel photography, terrestrial laser scanning (LiDAR), 360-degree panoramic photos and videos, and location-based mobile learning apps. The Project LIVE team has recently developed a flexible template for the efficient production of high-quality virtual tours, where users can easily substitute images, videos, 3D models and narrative components such as voiceovers and text descriptions to adapt the experience to new field locations. Our platform opens up significant opportunities for the creation of a suite of engaging, authentic and impactful VR geotourism experiences. This presentation will demonstrate a proof of concept using the Hallett Cove Geological Heritage Site in Adelaide, South Australia. Entitled Beyond the Ice, the virtual tour incorporates several complementary elements including an immersive VR experience, web-based geotour, mobile learning game and 360 street view walking trail, all of which are freely available at: Further examples from other major geosites across Australia will be shown, concluding with a discussion of the future geotourism opportunities to be explored.


Tom Raimondo is Associate Professor of Geology and Geochemistry and Professorial Lead for STEM at the University of South Australia. He is also the Director of Project LIVE (Learning through Immersive Virtual Environments).

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.