A Hinterland Alternative

Sunday, Jan 13, 2013 at 14:34

Kevin S - Life Member (QLD)

It’s New Year in South East Queensland and the coast is booked solid. With a week end, New Years Eve and then New Years Day, and nothing much on at home, the temptation to turn the wheels on the caravan is too great, so where can we go?

Why not the South Burnett? We have never seen Lake Barambah (the Bjelke-Petersen Dam) or visited the area’s wineries. So, on my smart phone Campin’ Australia app I entered Murgon and discovered the Barambah Bush Caravan Park. A phone call received a friendly reception. Powered sites available but there may be a bit of noise on New Year’s Eve from the mostly over 60 year old guests. Not to worry. We fit into that category so we will join in.

The run on the Bruce Highway started out well but about 5 km short of the Daguilar Highway turn the Sunshine Coast bound traffic started to slow. For the last 3 km or so to the turn the speed was down to from stop to 20 kph. The Daguilar Highway, when we reached it, was busy with traffic in both directions. At Woodford the town was crowded with participants from the Woodfordia Folk Festival, in town to top up supplies. At the northern end of the main street a reception committee in the form of a booze bus and radars was busy welcoming the visitors to town.

Nine kilometres past the Brisbane River crossing is the small town of Moore. It is a good morning tea stop and we often use it for that purpose, but this time we turned right and travelled the 7 km to Linville. Linville was a rail town but the railway has long gone. The sleepers and rails have also long gone but the permanent way where they once guided trains has been turned into the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. The trail is for cycles, horses and walkers but facilities at Linville are available to all.

Part of the rail yards is now a free camping area with space for large caravans. A toilet block is quite close and just across the street is the hotel and the general store. The rail yards and station have been restored and there is a good display of old rolling stock. The Brisbane River runs past the back of the town. Linville was a worthwhile diversion from the main highway.

Road works, for repairs required after substantial landslides during last year’s heavy rain and floods, were in recess for the holidays, but two lanes were open on the Balfour Range. We proceeded through Blackbutt and Yarraman and stopped for lunch at the Peanut Wagon at the entrance to Nanango.

The caravan park appeared on our left about 6 km short of Murgon on the Murgon Barambah Road. For those who like to drive on some gravel the caravan park is at the top end of the Murgon Kilcoy Road. But more about that later!

The park is on a hillside with roadways radiating around the excellent amenities block but with only one site between reads. So most sites are drive through with some long enough to remain hooked up. We were soon set up and started our stay the same way that we spent a fair bit of it – sitting under the awning, reading.

Murgon is a fairly central point for touring the South Burnett area. In their turn we visited the Bjelke-Petersen Dam, some wineries at Moffatdale, and the towns of Goomeri and Wondai.

The dam contains plenty of water and was well patronised with its camping park well occupied and day visitors, many under gazebos, on the shores of the lake. What a convenient invention is the folding gazebo!

Anyone who has done most of their winery visiting in the major production centres will find regional wine areas a bit under whelming, but the vineyards are well established and produce a range of wines and liquors. Most wineries have restaurants or bistros operating in conjunction with wine tasting. This arrangement did detract a bit from the ambiance of the tasting, but at Moffatdale Ridge we found a tradition cellar door of Tuscan design staffed by its operating family. They were most enthusiastic about their product and gave us their undivided attention.

Several people told us that the Old Dairy & Heritage Museum at Murgon was a “must see” and that advise was repeated by the lady in the Information Centre on New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately they had omitted to tell the info centre that they were closed that day. But a short drive along the Bunya Highway to Wondai brought us to the South Burnett Region Timber Industry Museum, which was open. This museum is very well set up with a large diorama depicting timber getting by bullock cart that, for quality, rivals those at the War Memorial in Canberra. As the son of a onetime timber getter, I found it fascinating.

On our visit to Goomeri we had intended to visit Boonara Homestead, built by David Jones of department store fame in 1862, but there was no answer when we phoned. It is one of the problems of areas like this that tourist-industry participants want time off around holiday times and so reduce the amenity of the area for visitors. It can’t be helped, I suppose, but it does help to entrench the “off” season. The south Burnett area is busy during the cooler months as tourists from the south make their annual pilgrimage to warmer climes.

So we had Devonshire tea (pumpkin scones, of course) at the Pumpkin Pie Coffee Shop in Goomeri’s main street. The town was busy in preparation for the New Year’s Eve night rodeo that was to be held that night.

At the top of the caravan park are two permanent roof structures, one of which contains large “picnic table” built from sawn logs. Adjacent is an open fire place within a ring of seats. The fire is lit daily during the cooler weather.

During New Year’s Eve the park owners got busy. A gas barbeque was set up and tables prepared. We were advised that intending participants in New Year festivities should arrive from 7.30 pm onwards and bring their own steak etc, drinks and a salad to share. A stock of local wine had been obtained by the owners and donated to help lubricate the party. Later in the night a large Pavlova appeared.

The time went surprisingly quickly and in no time we were firing streamer cartridges and wishing each other New Year greetings. As if that was not enough, at 9.30 the next morning we all fronted up again for a complimentary breakfast of sausages, bacon, eggs and baked beans with toast. These New Year celebrations are an annual event. It appeared that some guests had been there on previous occasions.

With one night to go, and after a suitable period of post breakfast recuperation, and with no likely need for lunch, we decided to check out the top end of the Murgon Kilcoy Road. The link between the Murgon Barambah Road and the Burnett Highway is good sealed road as is the first 15 km or so of the Murgon Kilcoy Road. It winds through hilly and attractive farm land. We followed the road for a fair way after reaching the gravel. It is a good quality road and reasonably well maintained.

Just before the gravel started we saw a sign to the historic saw mill at Elgin Vale. I had seen the mill marked on maps so when we reached the turn on our way back to the caravan park we decided to take a detour. The road is sealed but narrow, through hilly country.

The steam powered saw mill was first built in 1908 and rebuilt in 1944. During the 1940s it is thought to have been one of the largest mills in Queensland. The town of Elgin Vale, of which only a couple of houses remain, was established in 1927 to provide accommodation for mill workers.

The mill used to be open for inspection, with a caretaker, but is now surrounded with orange plastic lattice tape to discourage entry, but a fair amount san be seen from outside the barrier.

We completed our tour over sealed and gravel roads that lead over an area of creeks and ridges not unlike a small version d the Channel Country and ultimately returned to the Murgon Kilcoy Road. Interestingly, we saw a sign pointing back to Linville, confirming that the road north from Linville passes right through to South Burnett. A most pleasant and informative afternoon!

Our track home the following day was via Kingaroy, for variety. The police were again at the northern end of the main street of Woodford, making their contribution to a safe trip home for revellers from the Folk Festival, which had finished the previous night and no doubt also making a contribution to Queensland’s depleted coffers.
It is important to always maintain a sense of proportion

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