With our big first multi week outback adventure now under our belt we were set for many more adventures exploring this beautiful country we are lucky enough to call home.
The trusty Rodeo was packed, we had several weeks off from our ‘day jobs’ and with a visit to family in Bundaberg, Queensland on the agenda, of course we had to make a proper trip out of it. It was decided to head inland for the northbound trip taking in some of the best outback NSW and Queensland has to offer. It would also be on this trip we completed much of our field work for our ‘5 Great Forest Drives near Bundaberg, Queensland’ book.
From our base in the Blue Mountains of NSW we journeyed west then north taking a loop via the country town of Mendooran on the Castlereagh River. There is a top free camping area by the river here but on this occasion it was only a cuppa stop as we still had many miles to go.
After having a night in a motel at the intriguing town of Lightning Ridge following a long first day on the road we were heading for the ‘real outback’ and into Culgoa National Park on the NSW/Queensland border. Pouring over maps we decided to access the park via Queensland’s Culgoa Floodplain National Park which adjoins its northern boundary. The wide open spaces and quintessential outback feel dominate here and it is a feeling we have become accustomed to and long for at times. It is good for the soul they say and we would have to tend to agree. The only camping area in the park is the Culgoa River Campground and is well established with shady sites among the coolabah woodlands.
After a classic outback starry night we headed back into Queensland and Culgoa Floodplain National Park to check out the historic Redbank Hut, a reminder the park was once a working station.
Working our way out of the national park we soon were back on the main roads and motoring north. Once at the metropolis of St George a quick diversion was in order to view the Jack Thompson Weir on the Balonne River.
Picking up a few supplies in St George we motored a little further north and pulled up for the night at the Kapunda Fishing Park, camping right on the bank of the Balonne River and were treated to a stunning sunset. This trip was turning out to be a memorable one for all the right reasons.
Next morning we were back on the road early and came upon a delightful picnic spot not far off the main road in the forest for a nice, peaceful cuppa. We were just sitting back with cuppa in hand when a couple low flying RAAF jets almost caused us to have an underwear change.
Moving on we weaved our way further north to the famed birdwatching spot of Lake Murphy Conservation Park. After spending a wonderful night here in the well set up camping area we can certainly agree it lives up to its name. We were again treated to an amazing sunset, Queensland just keeps on getting better and better.
It was hard to tear ourselves away from this magical spot but we had to keep moving so onward we continued taking in the awe inspiring views of Isla Gorge before continuing onto Auburn River National Park for the night.
Perched high above the Auburn River it is a short walk down to the river and its scenic boulder strewn gorge.
Heading for our family visit in Bundaberg we also stopped off to take in the views of Mount Walsh just outside of Biggenden.
Whilst visiting family at Bundaberg we used this as our base to complete our field work for our upcoming book ‘5 Great Forest Drives near Bundaberg, Queensland’.
After spending some time with family and completing our field work it was all too soon to start heading south and home but not before a few more adventures along the way. We had decided a diversion through the Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park was in order. After visiting Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach we headed south picking up the Cooloola Way. What an interesting drive this turned out to be with deep washaways and a severely deteriorated road. After negotiating what seamed like many kilometres of badly damaged roadway we came upon a sign stating “Rough Road Ahead”. We later heard a couple 4wd travelers behind us over the uhf radio stating “wait till you see this sign up ahead, you are not going to believe this”. It echoed our thoughts. Funnily enough the road improved somewhat from this point onwards.
Heading into our campsite for the night at Harrys Hut in Great Sandy National Park there was only one other camper setup down here. Looking good so far we thought. It was then that we also noticed a tow truck loading a vehicle onto its tilt tray. Soon after the truck departed with one vehicle on and another being towed behind. We were then approached by a lady, her two teenage children and a friend asking if by any chance we would be able to transport her out to a nearby town so they could organise getting back home to Brisbane the next day. One of the vehicles that was being towed was theirs and the RACV Tow Truck that had towed their vehicle was unable to transport any passengers out leaving effectively leaving them stranded. They had even climbed a nearby hill to gain mobile phone reception and tried a taxi but due to the rough nature of the access track the taxi was unwilling to come. Now ordinarily this would have an easy task, just empty our luggage off the back seat. But as we had been visiting family and were inevitably taking more stuff home than what we came with, this time a number of cement animal garden ornaments. Not sure what they thought of us out camping in the wilds with all our garden ornaments. After assisting us set up the tent and empty the back seat we did our good deed for the trip and Chris gave the lady and three teenagers a lift out to a nearby pub (about an hour away) for which they were very grateful. Meanwhile Sandra was back at camp surrounded by all her cement animals for company, it would have been an interesting sight for anyone passing by our camp.
Moving on from the coast we decided to head inland and pointed the Rodeo for the Conondale Ranges via the quaint village of Maleny. Hidden in the ranges just out of Maleny is a gem of an area now incorporated in the Conondale National Park formerly the Kennilworth State Forest. Several shady camping areas hidden amongst lush rainforest contrasting with tall eucalypt forest can found here and it is a beautiful area to pitch the tent for a night or two. As with all national parks in Queensland advance bookings for campsites are required and luckily there is a pay phone at the Booloumba Creek No1 campground in the national park as there is no mobile phone reception here. To our surprise we almost had the place to ourselves which was teeming with wildlife and is located by a bubbling brook known as Booloumba Creek.That night we were treated to a thunderstorm rolling through and it was a surreal experience listening to the approaching thunder in the distance then again as it moved off east towards the coast. You could track it from west to east just by listening.
Following a restful night we continued our journey further south with more diversions along the way. First it was a visit to Jimna State Forest and the impressive historic Jimna Fire Tower followed by a cuppa at the nearby Peachtrees Camping Area in Jimna State Forest.
before our second last camp of the trip in the Goomburra Section of Main Range National Park not far off the Cunningham Highway. This turned out to be another top camping spot and would make a great base to explore some of the parks excellent walking tracks.
From here it was back across the border and down the New England Highway to our final camp of the trip in the wonderful Peel Valley near Tamworth on the shores of Chaffey Dam. This is a great spot, one which we have since camped at several times. It even has coin operated hot showers, sheer bliss.
On our journey back to home base in the Blue Mountains we had one more stop at a place we had passed by numerous times but never had time to stop and explore. Burning Mountain Nature Reserve is just off the New England Highway between Scone and Murrurundi and is a fascinating spot to visit. A two kilometre walking track from the picnic area leads to a viewing platform of Australia’s only naturally burning coal seam. Definitely worth a look if you have the time.
This trip certainly covered some ground and was a contrast ranging from the desert like parks of the outback to the lush rainforests of the ranges and a coastal escape. It reinforces how diverse our country is. We hope everyone can find some travel inspiration in some if not all of the areas we covered in this trip. Our book ‘5 Great Forest Drives near Bundaberg, Queensland’ is also available as a free downloadable ebook from this website so feel free to check it out. It may be a bit dated (was published in 2009) but should still be of some benefit if you are planning a trip to this beautiful region.
Happy and safe travels
Chris & Sandra