McDowall, a residential suburb, is immediately east of the Bunyaville State Forest Park and 11 km north-west of central Brisbane. It was named after an early farmer in the adjoining suburb of Everton Park.
The first sign of urban development in McDowall was a grid of streets north-west of the intersection of Hamilton and Trouts Roads (1960s-80s). That was absorbed by the Chermside Hills public reserve. Real urbanisation began south of Hamilton Road, and McDowall grew from a population of about 2500 in 1980 to 6500 in 2001.
McDowall primary school opened in 1975 and ten years later a drive-in shopping centre, Flockton Plaza, was opened on the suburb's southern boundary. Like a similar, but later, centre at the corner of Beckett and Hamilton Roads, Flockton Plaza has a supermarket and other specialty stores and services. Northside Christian College, also in Flockton Road, opened in 1985, along with its Assembly of God Church. Its enrolment in 2004 exceeded 1250. Next door is the North West Private Hospital (1984).
Cabbage Tree Creek flows north-easterly through McDowall, adjoined for most of its course by linear reserves and the large Chermside Hills Reserve.
McDowall's census populations have been: