Lake Eyre and then where? (Part 5 National park Gems West of the Great Divide)

Friday, Jan 20, 2012 at 02:12

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

A few years ago we were told of a lovely undeveloped beach town just north of Maryborough Qld. It has always been on our books to call in and have a look-see. So from Isla Gorge we head via some interesting towns - Theodore (and its Bakery), Cracow - with the pub owned by Ted Brophy of tent Boxing fame and gold mine, Eidsvold, Mundubbera, Biggenden, Maryborough (shopping) and then to Woodgate. With its long and lovely beach, set between the sea and the Burrum Coast NP - it is a great spot for a few days or more. Just south across the river is the lovely seaside (largely undeveloped) town of Burrum Heads. We enjoyed them both (except for the ever present wind) for just on a week.

Time to turn south and towards home via the Bunya Mountains NP. A very steep drive up to the Burton's Well camp ground and a very cold night. Great walks all through and a lovely drive across the ridge-line to a long steep descent (definitely low gear) heading towards Dalby. Plenty of bird-life with Crimson Rosellas, King Parrots, Satin Bower birds, Fire-tail Finches and Wrens. Access for Caravans and heavy trailers is limited to Dandabah Campground. It's an interesting landscape with the largest remaining stand of the beautiful Bunya Pine in the world.

South of Dalby via Cecil Plains, Millmerran and Inglewood villages is another interesting drive through the southern Darling Downs. This area is largely devoted to Cotton growing, we passed a Cotton Gin with many bales of cotton, huge dams - I swear one of the dams had a wall over 1/2 klm in length - and the irrigation spray booms extended for hundreds of meters. Not far south of Dalby you cross the Condamine River where the remaining water-holes accommodated hundreds of Plumed Whistling Ducks.
The small border town of Texas was our objective where we set up camp at the (free camp) common on the banks of Dumaresque River. To avoid the Campervan crowd it is best to drive over the river and camp on the southern bank. Except for the rain next morning it was a lovely spot for a couple night's stay. We walked the two klms into town in the rain (the locals thought we were strange -getting drenched from the spray of the passing transports) and had lunch at a small cafe - not flash but good food. Texas was the last of the cheaper fuel so we filled up at $1.40/l.

We were thinking of stopping for a couple of nights at Inverell to fossick for Sapphires but the creeks were running too high and as we stepped out for lunch the wind all but but froze us. That night we ended up in the small railway town of Quirindi, right in the coal belt of NSW.
From here to Willow Tree and off the busy highway across the 'short cut' (as we call it, in reality it is a slow, twisty lovely drive across the top of the Hunter Valley) to Merriwa. This allows you to access the Goulbourn River NP along one of those delightful roads, up and over the low farmland hills (with their green wheat and golden canola crops), and then through the park on a well maintained dirt road.

We only stopped for a short walk as to our dismay, the gorge camping area had to be accessed from a different direction and entrance. The walk was one of those delightful wanders, through wildflowers, light bush, colorful sandstone outcrops and great views over the park. Definitely we will return to this area in the future. You leave the park crossing the Goulburn River at O'Brien's Crossing, a perfect spot for lunch (good campsites as well).

A couple of years ago we stopped at Dunn's Swamp set on the western side of the large Wollemi NP. It's a great drive through the sandstone towers covered in typical Australian bush to the small township of Rylstone and then about 20 klm to the camping area. A word of warning though that weekends and holidays are a definite no - no, it's a well known gem in this neck of the woods. During the week there were only a couple of other campers in the well laid out camp ground. The scenery along the dammed water way (created in the 1930's) is just stunning with walks to the dam wall and the Long Wall (about 5klm circuit) as well as one up and through the dramatic 'Pagodas' -sandstone features. It is possible to launch a small boat or canoe and to fish. Bird life is prolific, Brenda spotted a lyre bird in the campground and we both came across a pair of Spotted Quail Thrushes as well as numerous Rock Warblers endemic to this sandstone belt. Photos best describe this gem of a place, it remains one of our favourite areas.

A few more photos to emphasise the beauty of the place.

We exited this delightful area and headed first to Bathurst (a great drive) and then south along the road towards Crookwell. This area of NSW really requires time to explore the great drives and historic areas/townships. We were attracted to the Abercrombie Caves with it's steep narrow two klm entrance. Both of us commented on how we wouldn't like to meet another vehicle coming out, just as we were about to leave, a car and caravan drove down into the park, we were lucky to miss the experience by a couple of minutes. As we talked to the couple the driver was equally relieved. If you are into caves (I keep saying no more) then this is well worth a look, a self guided tour is easy and pleasant. In the 1880's the gold mining population of the area built a stage just inside the cave entrance and used it for a meeting place, dancing and entertainment. The stage is still there. It is an attractive place deep within the river valley with a pleasant NP camping facility. We decided to move on about 12 klms to a little town called Tuena. Here you were invited to stay for free (power $5.00) in a camping ground with small shelters and cooking/heating stoves ingeniously made from 44 gallon drums - very effective. This is a very historic area and including the nearby town of Trunkey Creek was well known for gold in the 1880's.Tuena has a store and a pub and boy was the pub with its huge open fire a welcome spot - that night the temperature went below zero.

As I have said, this area of NSW is well worth visiting, we will certainly continue to include it as part of our coming and going on future trips. Two more days and after 7000 klms in 6 weeks we arrived back home in Central Victoria. It had been one of those trips with no deadlines to meet and most times no real certainty of where we would be in the next few days. Plenty of nostalga from past trips but lots of new places as well. Another trip to cherish.

We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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