Girraween, The Most Beautiful National Park You’ve Never Heard Of

After saying goodbye to Brisbane we decided that we’d head inland rather than continuing the typical van life direction of south down the coast. We’d already seen so much of that part of Australia and we wanted to do something different. Initially we’d planned to revisit Condamine River Road but upon arrival we found that the road had been shut due to flooding and we were forced to rethink our route. I suggested that we head to Queen Mary Falls, have some lunch and then go for a hike. Queen Mary Falls is quite a well known waterfall in the Darling Downs region, it plunges 40m straight off a cliff and in the right light produces rainbows (which we were lucky enough to see). The most popular circuit hike is 2km of ramps down to the base of the falls and then stairs back up to the main car park. It was a great way to stretch the legs. After getting back in the van and heading down the road a little bit we stumbled upon a second waterfall with a less majestic name, Daggs Falls.

We reached Girraween National Park in the late afternoon and set up camp at the surprisingly busy Bald Rock Creek campground. Girraween’s name means ‘place of flowers’ which it certainly lived up to the next morning when Matt and I decided to tackle the hardest hike in the park and climb the pyramid. Before things turned hectic (which I will get to) the track climbed gently through eucalypt forest where we spotted wildflowers of every possible colour nestled amongst the granite boulders. Before long the plants disappeared and we faced the ridiculous prospect of the pyramid. Imagine the steepest ramp you’ve ever seen, make it a bit steeper so you almost can’t walk up it, and that will give you a pretty good understanding of what the hike is like. Climbing the front face wasn’t even the worst part, to reach the summit we had to go to the left and skirt around the side, I kid you not this rock is sloping down towards a huge drop and you’re trying to walk on it half sideways while praying you don’t slip. I was shitting myself. We reached the top unscathed and were rewarded with an absolutely spectacular view over the park. The way back down was entertaining, I worked out fairly quickly that if I leant back and trusted my hiking boots I could shuffle down no worried but there were a surprising number of people that had climbed in sneakers that were trying to scoot down on their bums and tearing their pants to shreds on the granite in the process. On the way back to camp we incorporated The Arch and a section of the Bald Creek Circuit.

Matt has been jonesing to try out the new tyres and therefore after a bit of a rest we drove out to Sundown National Park where he had a bit of a muck around on the 4WDing tracks and firmly established that we had made a great decision increasing the size. I had to agree with him when I had a go in the van, it felt much more solid on off camber surfaces and was handing the rocky tracks like a champion. Sundown National Park wasn’t very interesting to be honest, the highlight was the lookout over Red Rock Gorge where we had lunch. We went back to Girraween via a local chocolate shop and set up for our final night there at the nicer Castle Rock Camping Area.

Campsite Reviews

Bald Rock Creek – Don’t get me wrong this was a nice campsite but I think it would be really challenging to park in if you had anything bigger than our van as a lot of the sites were really sloped. The environment was cool though as it was set amongst these huge granite boulders. $6.75pp/pn – 7/10.

Castle Rock – Definitely our favourite of the two campsites, this spot had large flat grassy sites and an abundance of birdlife. It was also much closer to the trail heads which made everything more convenient. $6.75pp/pn – 8/10.

Brisvegas

When we left Brisbane in 2019 I felt a sense of loss, I was very excited to go back to Tasmania because that is where I know I belong but we’d had a fantastic 4 years and made so many friends. As we drove away I made a pledge to visit a couple of times a year to keep contact and maybe do some racing. 3 months later there was a global pandemic which threw that plan out the window so when we entered the city it was just shy of 2 years since we’d seen our mates. Brisbane welcomed us with pouring rain which made the going quite slow as we crept along the highway with the other afternoon traffic. We reached our friends David and Teneale’s beautiful house in the late afternoon and had just enough time to unpack our things before we got back in the van and drove out to Grandchester for my early birthday dinner at my favourite restaurant Homage. Dinner was outstanding (as always), we had three courses and enjoyed every bite.

We woke up the next morning and spent the entire day doing nothing, the weather was average and the house made us feel like we were on some kind of holiday in France. When you live in a van you begin to develop a huge appreciation of basic things in your old life that you just took for granted, things like sitting on a couch, having a shower, and not having to walk outside to go to the toilet. That night we made pizzas and David cooked them in their wood fired pizza oven, honestly they were the best pizzas I’ve ever had. On Saturday morning I got a lift into Mount Gravatt to meet up with my allied health workmates from my old job at Tricare. We had a coffee and pastries for breakfast, caught up on the past 2 years, and I grilled them a bit about a career in allied health as I think my passion in nursing might be gone. Jess surprised me by bringing me back my wedding dress which I’d lent her just before we left. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it but it’s nice to have it again. That night (Saturday) we met up with some of our cycling friends and had dinner and drinks at the Breakfast Creek Hotel, things got a bit rowdy and Matt and I both had a large number of beverages but it was a great night.

On Sunday I woke up feeling fantastic which was very surprising given the amount of drinking the night before so I was fresh as a button to go to brunch with my friends Punam and Cherie. It turned into a long brunch because we had so much to catch up on but it was just lovely and I felt like we just took up with our friendship where we left off. I ended up getting a lift into Toowong with Cherie because I was meeting Matt and his uncle for lunch just around the corner from her house at the Regatta which also meant I got to catch up with her partner Calan. Lunch was delicious and it was nice to chat with Matt’s uncle and find out everything he’d been doing since 2019 (a lot), the weather was just beautiful and we both felt very content sitting in the sun outside our favourite pub.

Matt and I had another lazy day on Monday but in the evening we went out for Vietnamese with our good friend Sarah and her beautiful little bulldog Mia. Tuesday was my 32nd birthday and I woke up to cards from Matt, my parents and brother, and my sister, and a box of chocolates from David and Teneale, needless to say I had chocolate for breakfast! Matt and I then took the van to Ipswich and dropped it at the Delica Garage for our long awaited install of the long range fuel tank, we also somewhat impulsively decided to get new wheels and bigger tyres as the little ones had been annoying us since we lifted the van a couple of years ago. We caught the train back into town and went to the Lego Exhibition in the museum. For lunch we went to Lune and had an amazing croissant. That afternoon we got back on the train and went back to Ipswich where we picked up the now much more hard core looking van, on the way home Matt surprised me with my birthday cake which we took back to the house and put in the fridge for dessert later. Following a quick rest we got back in the van and drove back to the Regatta for my second birthday dinner at The Boatshed. Things went momentarily downhill when after wondering where our friends Chantelle and Ash were I realised that I’d sent them to entirely the wrong restaurant on the other side of town. I felt so bad but they drove back 45 minutes into town and we did end up getting to have dinner together along with Andrew and Geraldine. It was such a great birthday and I’m so glad I got to have it in Brisbane!.

Wednesday was our second last day in Brissy, we had coffee on Mount Gravatt with David in the morning, did some trip planning, and I then left and caught up with my friend Huddy. We spent the day together, eating chocolate, catching the River Cat, and finished up at his house where we hung out with his huskies, picked up some groceries, and then Huddy made me and his wife a delicious dinner. On our way out of Brisbane we had one last catch up with my friend Cheryl in Macca’s as she was heading to work. Matt had arranged to stay the night parked out the front of his mates house in-between Brisbane and the Gold Coast but we had a bit of time to kill so we went and watched the new bond film before driving down. Huge thank you to all our friends that took the time to catch up with us, and to David and Teneale for hosting us for nearly a week, it was so appreciated and we had an amazing time.

Moreton Island

After leaving Queensland we made our way down towards Brisbane stopping in the Dayboro Showgrounds for the night before driving to the Port of Brisbane and getting on the ferry to Moreton Island. I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about the prospect of going over there, mainly because I really wanted to see people in Brisbane but also because the weather forecast was gross but Matt was really keen to visit so off we went. Once we’d disembarked the ferry into the soft beach sand we drove up to the far north end of the island on the western side. We didn’t manage to get the whole way up as our progress was stopped by a raging tidal river blocking the beach, we turned around and made our way back to our campsite for the night. I spotted a dugong swimming just off the shore which was very exciting.


The next morning we woke up to rain so we took our sweet time getting ready. Once the showers had cleared we drove up to the Cape Moreton Lighthouse, the first lighthouse lit in Queensland in 1857. It was quite a striking building comprised of sandstone and decorated with red stripes. We completed the hike around the cliffs and popped into the Parks visitor information centre to learn more about the wildlife around the island. There were some stunning views of the ocean and we saw a number of turtles in the swell. We drove back to camp and tried snorkelling off the shore, unfortunately the currents were very strong and the visibility not very good so all we really managed to do was get wet and see some sea grass. It rained again but that made the most beautiful sunset which we watched while we ate dinner.

Unfortunately our third day on the island was also marred by rain, wind, and generally unpleasant conditions. We tried snorkelling again but there wasn’t much of an improvement from the previous day, we even went down to try and look at the wrecks but it was just way too choppy to even think about getting out to them. Instead we opted for a day of exploring the eastern beach and looking at the old ruins of the defence batteries that were constructed during World War II. The weather was looking a little bit better in the afternoon and we decided to hike to the top of the island up Mount Tempest. It was a nice walk but because of the soft loose sand we both ended up doing it bare foot. In the evening we walked along the beach making friends with a cute little crab and picking up rubbish along the way. I can’t believe the amount of trash there was both in the campsites and along the beach, no good.

Our final day was by far the best with the sun coming out for long enough that we both managed to dry out and enjoy the beach and the beautiful blue water. Would I recommend Moreton Island? Yes, it was an interesting place and an almost perfect hybrid of Fraser Island and Stradbroke Island. I think with the right weather conditions it would be a wonderful place to visit with beautiful beaches, snorkelling, and wildlife. We were truely unlucky with the weather for the first time on this trip and just weren’t able to make the most of our time there but hopefully we will make it back one day.

Campsite Reviews

Western Beach – We were very lucky to get the spot that we did, some people pulled out of a flat, sheltered camp, right on the beach as we were driving past. I’d imagine it gets a bit crowded during holidays. $6.75pp/pn – 8/10.

Perpetual Bundaberg

We didn’t plan on staying in Bundaberg for nearly a week, I like to think that no one would plan to be there for a week, but when you travel the way we do only thinking a couple of days ahead sometimes your schedule gets a bit whacky. We arrived in town on Saturday afternoon which gave us the opportunity to have a quick look around, book in our tour at the Bundaberg Rum distillery, Lady Musgrave Island Cruise, tour of Mon Repos, and then fill up our water tank in a park with some fairly illegal van manoeuvring (there is almost no free potable water in town). We spent Saturday night at the local Scout Camp and got up reasonably early to drive out to the turtle sanctuary. Unfortunately our timing for turtles wasn’t fantastic, we were a couple of weeks too early to do the evening tour to see the turtles laying their eggs but we were also too late to be allowed onto the beach after hours as the mothers had just started coming in but the Mon Repos centre made up for it. At the entry were greeted by a ranger who took us into their theatre and conducted a talk about the turtles of Australia, there was an entertaining projected display across the grounds and walls and we got to watch a turtle lay its eggs and then the babies hatch out and swim into the sea. After the lecture we were set loose in the education centre which was just brilliant. Our favourite part was seeing how we compared to the size of each of the turtle species, some of them were absolutely massive. On our way back into town we stoped at a strawberry farm and had a delicious berry ice cream and then a little further down the road we pulled into a farm gate store and bought a heap of fresh produce. That afternoon we visited a tropical wine and cider distillery and had some of the strangest cider flavours I’ve ever tried including kiwi and ginger. They were nice but we weren’t inspired enough to take any down to our campsite at Kinkuna Beach.

I woke up the next day full of excitement because we booked in to visit Bundaberg Brewed Drinks and Bundaberg Rum. I absolutely adore Bundaberg ginger beer so I was beyond happy to discover there was a great little museum and tasting room specifically for their range of fizzy drinks. Entry was $15 per head and included a 6 pack to take home. After tasting every flavour Matt decided his favourite was the sarsaparilla and I was tossing up between blood orange and Christmas ginger beer. It turned out that the Christmas ginger beer was the drink of the month (unsurprising for December) and was on sale, of course I couldn’t resist buying a case. We had a bit of time to kill before going to our rum tour so we drove to the local art gallery and had a wander through the exhibitions. The curator was a very friendly bloke and heading to Tasmania for an arty holiday so we had a chat about the best places to see. We reached the Big Bundy Bottle just before lunch time and occupied ourselves in the museum learning about the history of the factory and it’s tendency to burn down. I really liked how the entire venture was created as a solution to the waste molasses being produced by local sugar refineries and the amazing wall display of rum bottles. The tour ended up being just as interesting as the museum and we were both amazed at the 7 billion dollars of rum being stored on the site. Our guide informed us that 95% of that product was sold in Australia and 50% of that was Queensland. That’s a lot of rum! To finish off we were offered two free drinks, I had a dark and stormy and banoffee rum liquor with cream which is the first time I’ve had dark rum, I loved it. We walked out of the gift shop with 3 bottles. In the afternoon we went down to the botanical gardens and took quite a few bird photos, turns out with a few rums on board I can still take a decent shot.

On Tuesday morning we were meant to go on our tour of Lady Musgrave Island and had planned to leave Bundaberg on Wednesday; however, it was not to be as a nasty swell had brewed up and the tour was cancelled until at least Thursday. The company were really good and offered us a full refund but we were both happy to keep hanging around so we rebooked for later in the week. We’d almost exhausted things to do in Bundy so we decided to head further afield to the historic town of Childers, which turned out to be a lovely spot. Having nearly run out of clothes we found a laundromat and headed down the street to a brilliant little cafe that did a great flat white. Once our things were washed and dried we walked up and down the historic main street, stumbling upon a historic pharmacy about half way down. If you are even remotely interested in health, history, or medicine, it is well worth going out of your way to visit this amazing museum which has one of the largest displays of historic pharmacological items in Australia. Entry was $5 and included a guided tour where we learnt all about the owners, how the shop developed, and of course the insane 1800s medicines, morphine, heroin, and chloroform cough syrup anyone? Before we headed back to camp in Kinkuna we popped into the local swimming pool to do some laps and have a much needed shower.

Wednesday was a bit of a write off because we were twiddling our thumbs and waiting for our reef tour but we did visit the macadamia nut factory where one of Matt’s friends had helped them to design and implement a machine that half cut the shell of the nut enabling people to open them with a little metal tool rather than having to smash them with a mallet.

Our Lady Musgrave Island tour day broke sunny and clear with a slight wind and a bit of visible chop on the ocean. We made our way down to the marina where we were greeted by our crew. Matt and I went all out when we booked and upgraded to the VIP experience for an extra $85 per head which included access to the fancy top deck, merch, wetsuit hire, and multiple meals. It turned out to be amazing value simply because the rest of our tour was made up of a huge noisy school group who spent most of the journey being sea sick while we luxuriated upstairs with our coffee machine and one other guest. We reached the pontoon in the breathtaking coral cove and jumped onto a glass bottom boat which wizzed us over to the island where we went on a guided walk and learnt about the animals that live there. We’d arrived just in time to see the black noddy chicks sitting in their nests made from sticky leaves and poop. On our way back to the pontoon we watched some turtles having an orgy…ahhh nature. Lunch was a delicious buffet of salads, cold meats, prawns, and for an unknown reason miso soup. Matt and I asked if it was ok if we ate our lunch in the underwater viewing area which the crew said would be fine. It was surreal eating surrounded by fish in the blue light. Feeling very satisfied and full we got kitted up in our snorkelling gear and jumped into the lagoon. We’ve been snorkelling before in Vanuatu and further north in Queensland but it had nothing on this. The colours of the coral and fish, the variety of wildlife, being approached by huge green sea turtles, it was like nothing we’ve ever done before. Matt and I stayed out for the entire allocated time and explored the furthest out of all the other guests, towards the end we spent 15+ minutes hanging out with this one turtle that just wanted to swim around us, absolutely magical. Our ride back was some how choppier than the way out which was highly entertaining. We had a cheese board and drinks for afternoon tea and of course half of it went flying but we were too happy to care.

That evening our second failed attempt to leave Bundaberg came to pass when we noticed on social media a lot of our cycling friends from Brisbane were posting about how they were coming up to Bundaberg. I contacted a couple of them and it turned out there was a cycling carnival the next day. We ended up catching up with our friend Red Dog for pizza for dinner and then the next day popped over to the Bundaberg track and spent the afternoon and evening watching our friends go around in circles really quickly. A few of them were together for an Italian pursuit and I kid you not they pulled off the most outstanding race, it was just beautiful to watch. On Saturday morning, exactly a week after we had arrived we were finally let go by the City of Rum and could make our way to Brisbane.

Campsite Reviews

Wyper Park Scout Camp – Great cheap spot close to town. The amenities are pretty basic and a bit run down but it really reminded me of camping when I was a Girl Guide so that was lovely. $10pn – 7/10.

Kinkuna Beach – Situated in the Burrum Coast National Park this stunning beach side campground was the perfect place to stay for a few nights. No ammenities but it was worth it to walk down the beach each morning and enjoy the birds. $6.85pp/pn – 8/10.

More Queensland Delights

On Friday morning as we packed up camp to leave Stanage Bay I decided to have a peek at the forecast and see what the weekend had in store for us. It turned out to be very lucky that I did as there were some pretty horrible storms lined up, I still can’t believe that even after living in Queensland for 4 years Matt and I forgot about the storm season. I got on the phone to Emma and asked if we could stay for another weekend, which she and Tom confirmed was fine. It worked out very well because it was also Tom’s Birthday so we’d all be able to celebrate together. Rather than head directly back to Yeppoon the way that we’d come we decided to go a little bit off course and visit a local crocodile farm. Koorana turned out to be a fascinating place to visit, we learnt about crocodile farming and the products that are made, but also about the way that the farm operates under the Australian Government’s strategic conservation program working to remove problematic and dangerous animals from the wild. Some of the crocodiles they had were absolutely enormous and even with the high fences between us they put me on edge. If I wasn’t concerned about crocodiles in waterways before we got there I sure as hell was when we left, although that didn’t stop me from holding one of their very cute baby crocs.

Back in Yeppoon we had a fabulous weekend hanging out on the beach, having birthday pizza and drinks, watching the track cycling world championships and doing some yard work. Unfortunately the weather outlook was much better by Tuesday and we’d run out of excuses to stay so we packed up and drove south with a plan to head towards Bundaberg. On our way down to our campsite for the night we stopped in Rockhampton to fill the van up with transmission fluid and then again in Gladstone to buy a new air compressor. No word of a lie it took an hour to pump the tyres up from 8psi to 40psi after we’d done Big Sandy and there was no way we were doing that again, what a waste of time. There was one more bit of drama before we got to Eurimbula in the form of a truck fire on the side of the road. Luckily we’d missed most of the traffic chaos but still slowed down to a creep under the direction of the SES as we drove past the gutted remains of the truck that had be laden with watermelons, of all things.

The next morning I woke up and walked along the beach while Matt made breakfast, I was stoked to see a group of dolphins playing in the calm water of the bay. We took our time packing up as we were just driving down the road to 1770 to spend the morning on the beach and the afternoon in the park next to it so Matt could get some work done. On our way out of town to the national park to camp we found the most amazing gelato store and grabbed a cone each, it would be rude not to! The next day we went on a morning hike up to an uninspiring lookout, drove back into town, returned to the beach, had another surf, met a great guy who also had a white Delica, ate yet another ice cream and then drove back into the national park to camp. On Friday we decided to mix things up a bit with a slightly different morning routine, while eating breakfast we watched a goanna and a brush turkey have a fight and then on the way out of the campground we were driving behind a little Suzuki that was clearly struggling in the soft sand. Unsurprisingly it got bogged so we jumped out to help the occupants, one of which was trying to get to a job interview. Despite being a 4WD no one in the car had any idea what they were doing, the tyre pressure was really high, and Matt had to teach them how to use the deflator. Unfortunately despite the lower air pressure in their tyres, the use of our recovery tracks, and a lot of digging in hot sand (entirely completed by Matt and I) we still couldn’t get them out. By this point we’d amassed quite an audience of other people that were waiting for the track to be cleared so that they could drive past. Matt went over to a likely group of lads and asked if they’d be able to tow the Suzuki out because our Delica hasn’t got any recovery points, it turned out that all of the people watching had thought that it was our car that was bogged and they were all very entertained that it wasn’t, one bloke asked Matt “why isn’t that bloke *gestures at guy that was driving the car* digging himself out?”. The guys did agree to help us tow out the 4WD which lead me to my proudest moment of the trip, I got to use my skills acquired at the 4WDing course we did in February and taught a guy how to use a snatch strap to recover a car. It was great.

Finally with the Suzuki turned around and heading back to the much harder but longer gravel road out of the national park we were all able to get on our way and enjoy our day. Matt and I decided that since we’d had a very lazy couple of ice cream days that we’d do the most popular hike in the area known as The Red Rock Trail. The track followed the edge of the coast up and then along several beautiful beaches. Walking on sand made the going quite challenging but on the way back we stripped into our undies and swam in the sea before drying off under the shade of palm trees. Back in the town and having worked up quite an appetite we grabbed some fish and chips for lunch, while we were waiting the owner came out and gave us some calamari for free which was so good! Because the fish and chip shop was in a little retail area we went and bought Matt another hat, for those of you counting at home this is his 3rd hat purchase for the trip. Hat number 1 flew off into an old railway tank, hat number 2 is still going strong but doesn’t have a wide brim for our resident ginger, hat number 3 has somehow disintegrated into thousands of straw pieces that are now all through the bed. Here’s hoping hat 4 will do the trick!

On Saturday morning we packed up our things to leave 1770/Agnes Waters and continue south to Bundaberg, on the way out we popped into the paperbark forest and walked through the trees. It was a lovely way to end a fantastic few days in a beautiful place.

Campsite Reviews

Eurimbula Creek – We were pleasantly surprised by this campsite as I thought we’d be eaten by mozzies due to the location near the mangroves. The sunset was beautiful, and there were plenty of spacious campsites in a bush setting. $6.75pp/pn – 7/10.

Middle Rock – We loved this campsite, it had great tables, fire rings, and heaps of birds and goannas. We rated it higher than Wreck Rock even though that is the spot that is reviewed as the best campground in Deepwater National Park. There is a great Little Rock pool if you walk down to the beach and head right until you reach the rocks. $6.75pp/pn – 8/10.

Wreck Rock – Unfortunately there weren’t many spots available when we pulled into stay here so we didn’t have a table or any other amenities near us. It was quite nice but not as good as Middle. $6.75pp/pn – 7/10.

Catch Up Time

Hey everyone,

Sorry that it has been a bit quiet on here recently. Matt has being doing a lot more work on the road, I mean like every night so I haven’t had any capacity to update the blog on his laptop and try as I might I can’t type it on my phone. Good news is that he bought me my own laptop for uni work which means I can also use it for the blog. I’ll do my best to catch up over the next few months, in the meantime here are some bird photos. PS: I really appreciate all the views and support I’ve been getting on here, in the first month of 2022 I’ve had almost as many hits as in the whole of 2021 which is pretty exciting.

Friends and the Coast

As we made our way through Rockhamton and towards Byfield National Park I reflected on our time in Australia’s interior. The past few months exploring the outback have been amazing, we’ve met brilliant people, seen incredible things, and felt like we were truly immersed in the interior of this massive country. I’ve loved the red dirt, the dry heat, and the wildlife, which was unexpectedly abundant, but it was blissful to see the coast again after such a long time and smell the salty tang of the ocean. It feels like we have started another leg of our trip, The East Coast.



Our first stop on our new journey is a little-known national park that sits slightly north of Yepoon called Byfield. I’d organised two nights in a coastal campground Called Five Rocks which I booked not realizing that a notoriously difficult 4WDing obstacle stood in our way, Big Sandy, a massive dune with sand the texture of talcum powder. I knew we were in trouble when we reached the bottom of the climb and immediately dug into the sand despite our deflated tyres. Matt pulled over and let some more air out so we were sitting at 15psi and went again. This time we maybe got halfway up before getting stuck again. We got out the recovery boards and had a go at leapfrogging our way up, I’d put down the boards, Matt would drive over them and another 2m up the hill, I’d dig the boards out, put them back under the wheels and we’d go again. We tried this about 5 times before deciding it was ridiculous, reversing down the hill and going again. The third attempt was much better and we managed to get the whole way up, it turned out the trick was instead of going up the left “up” side we needed to go up the right “down” side. After Big Sandy the rest of the drive to camp was a breeze. We spent the afternoon walking down to the beach and chatting with our fellow campers making note of the advice that the locals deflate their tyres to 8psi to get up the dune.



The next morning we took the van out on the trails and explored the national park, I was much too nervous to get into the ocean due to the slight risk of crocodiles so was very happy when we found a clear creek running into the sea reminiscent of Eli Creek on Fraser Island. Matt didn’t want to swim but was happy to walk up the creek and then watch me lie in the shallow water and wash off the sand and sweat from yesterday. We got back in the van and drove up the beach to a lagoon surrounded by mangroves and watched the seabirds fishing. On the way back towards the camp we walked to another huge orangey/red dune and climbed up for a beautiful view over the ocean. After another restful night, we made our way back to town with a few stops along the way. Our first was a lookout at Stockyard Point which is a small beach shack town in the national park, Matt made a few work calls and checked in with our friends in Yepoon to let them know we were on our way. Next, we drove back to Big Sandy, let our tyres down and I drove us to the bottom without any issues. Matt wasn’t happy about how we’d done it the first time and what a mess we’d made out of it so he decided to climb it again using the trick of even lower tyre pressure. He absolutely flew up! We couldn’t believe the difference between 15 and 8psi. There looked like a bit of weather was rolling in but Matt was keen to have a swim so instead of turning left and driving back to Yepoon we hung a right and popped into Stoney Creek for a dip, unfortunately, a storm rolled in which cut the swimming short but it was a beautiful place.



We rocked up at Tom and Emma’s house in Yepoon by mid-afternoon where we were greeted by Emma’s sister, her partner, and Emma’s mum and dad. It was so lovely to see them all and catch up with everything that had been going in their lives as well as play with their beautiful one-year-old daughter Aria. After pizza for dinner and a hot shower, we went to bed happy and clean. On Saturday morning we decided to all head to the beach for a coffee to have some fun on Emma and Tom’s stand-up paddleboard and kayak. I was very excited to have a go on the SUP because I’ve wanted to try it for ages but never had the opportunity. We had a fantastic morning splashing and paddling around and I was pleased to discover that paddleboarding isn’t too challenging and that the water in Yepoon is deliciously warm. In the evening Tom, Matt, and I went out to the Railway Hotel for dinner and then had drinks at the surf club. We got home at 11.30pm and while I went to bed Matt and Tom stayed up talking and drinking, Tom informs me Matt made an “espresso martini” for them which was a shot of coffee spirit and a shot of vodka and nothing else…hmm.

I was well-rested and excited on Sunday morning, unlike Matt who was reasonably seedy because we’d all booked on to the ferry to go snorkeling on Wop-pa (Great Keppel Island). Neither of us had been to a reef since we had a family holiday in Vanuatu in 2013. The ferry took about 45 minutes and we then walked for another 20 minutes to reach the beach where we spent 4 hours exploring the reef and lying in the sun. We saw 2 turtles which was the first time Matt and I had swum with a turtle in the wild, it was just magic. I think we spent around 2 hours in the water and were all exhausted by the end of the day, but it was absolutely brilliant and it was even better to spend it with friends.



We left Yepoon on Tuesday morning with the plan to pop up north for a few days to Stanage Bay and then head back south dropping back into see our friends the next weekend. On our way out of town, we stopped in at the local surf shop so I could buy a rash vest as despite the stringent sunscreen applications I’d managed to get sunburnt both times we’d been swimming. I ended up walking out with a surf suit which is a hybrid between a wetsuit and swimmers and should hopefully be good for both. The drive out to Stanage was surprisingly long because the road off the highway was nothing short of disgraceful, and we have been on some bad roads in the NT. It was corrugated, pothole-riddled and to make matters worse a thunderstorm had just been through and dumped a ludicrous amount of water over the road. It was late afternoon by the time we found somewhere to camp. In the evening atop our cliff we watched two storms travel either side of us filling the sky with lightning.



The following morning we woke up late and enjoyed relaxing before taking a leisurely drive around the town to check out the main sites. There wasn’t that much to see or do, no hikes, no real touristy things but there were beautiful beaches and some fun little 4WDing tracks. It was a good place to sit around and enjoy views and would be amazing if you had a boat, which sadly we do not. The day was not completely without drama however, as we made our way down a track to our campsite for the night we managed to get our 2nd flat tyre for the trip. Fortunately, we noticed it when we pulled in for the night and the side was nice and level so the change wasn’t too difficult. Unfortunately, we also noticed that the tyres are on the way out so we will have to get a new set in Brisbane.


Our last day in Stanage Bay turned into one of the very rare days where we do nothing, I don’t think we’ve had one since we got stuck in Arkaroola. I alternated between lying in my hammock next to the beach and walking along the beach enjoying all the sea critters. It doesn’t get much more relaxing than that.

Campsite Reviews

Five Rocks Camping Area – Secluded sites in the bush a short walk down to the beach (190 steps). Drop toilets, cold showers, and frogs that sounded like car alarms. It was blissfully peaceful during the week, there were maybe 3 other people there while we were camped. $$6.15pp/pn – 8/10.

Stanage Bay Road Camping – The set up at Stanage Bay is quite unusual. All the sites are free and there are heaps of them but they are all hidden along random 4WD tracks off the right hand side of the main road as you drive in. We spent the first night camped up on a hill with cliffs on each side and the second two nights in a little covered area directly next to the beach. None of the sites had toilets but they were beautiful. $Free – 8/10.

Rodeos, Sapphires, Gorges, Coal

Our evening in Mitchell was very pleasant, we caught up with one of the couples that were staying in the caravan site in Charleville. We bonded over our bizarre tour and shared a platter of cheese and biscuits while watching the sunset over the river. The next morning, we packed up and drove into Roma for a short visit to pick up some more socks because I have lost so many pairs it is getting ridiculous, and both of us invested in a pair of goggles as we have decided to try and do some exercise in the local pools that we are visiting. From Roma we turned north for the first time in a long while and started to make our way towards Carnarvon National Park. Not much further along the road, we stumbled upon an event that I’ve wanted to go to for years, a rodeo! I was stoked that the timing had finally worked out because it feels like every town we’ve been to we’ve either missed the rodeo by a few days or we have arrived a week too early. We paid our $15 entry each and settled down to watch under a shade tent at the end of the arena. Matt and I were clearly really out of place as everyone else was wearing their rodeo outfit of cowboy boots, jeans with a comically large belt buckle, a plaid button-up shirt, and an Akubra. No word of a lie Matt and I were the only people dressed differently in the entire event. We soon struck up a conversation with the families sitting around us and I peppered them with questions about the events and the rules of each one. To pay them back for their kindness I took out my wildlife lens and captured photos of their kids competing to send to them.

Eventually, we reached a point where we either had to commit to staying in Injune for the night or leave to get to Carnarvon. Matt had had enough of steer wrestling so I begrudgingly let him lead me back to the car. It was a great afternoon. By the time we reached the caravan park in Carnarvon, it was nearly dark but luck was on our side and we managed to nab the last poky unpowered site at the only accommodation place that was still open for the offseason. I was less than impressed at the $45pn we had to fork out for the tiny bit of dirt we parked the van on.

The next morning dawned clear and warm which was a bit of an issue as Matt and I had decided to complete the longest hike of our trip into the Gorge. The main gorge hiking trail is 19.4km one way finishing up at a campsite for those completing the walk over two days, because we are unable to do overnight hikes, we decided to terminate our journey at the Cathedral Cave making our hike 18.2km return from the visitor’s center. Our first stop was the beautiful Moss Garden, we were lucky to have seen it when there was a bit of water around with the lush dripping wall of ferns and the small waterfall making a lovely cool place to have a rest. We continued onwards to the Amphitheatre, which was my favourite place on the hike, after climbing up a staircase that might as well have been a ladder, we squeezed through a gap in the towering limestone cliffs which opened into an amazing room stretching up to the gumtrees far above. While we were sitting and eating a snack a little native mouse started running around our feet and trying to get into our backpack. Another kilometer down the track we reached Wards Canyon, it was similar to the Moss Garden but with more water and King Ferns. Our final two stops were both spectacular examples of indigenous cave art. I couldn’t believe the colours of the stencils and free hard drawings standing out stark against the white stone, it was just beautiful. We returned to the car park in the early afternoon and decided to walk down to the local waterhole where we ate our lunch and had a swim before heading back to the campground for a relaxing afternoon.

Because we hadn’t had enough of walking after our solid 18km the day before we picked another hike for our final day in the park. In retrospect picking a hike that we 6km long and had a 3 hour walking time wasn’t a great idea but hey hindsight is 20-20. It started off civilized enough but we were soon climbing/clamoring up ladders and rocks on the side of the cliff to reach the top of the gorge. The view from Boolimba Bluff was well worth the effort as it rewarded us with views down into the gorge where we had walked yesterday and then across the mountains on the other side. Needless to say, we were both completely buggered when we got back to the van. The afternoon was spent driving to Emerald and setting up camp under the railway bridge next to the botanical gardens. We didn’t end up having a very good sleep thanks to the road trains and actual training rumbling next to us and over us all night. Oh well.



In the morning we drove to The Gemfields to do some more fossicking. After reading a lot of information online I decided that we would be better of buying wash from one of the mining companies in the town of Rubyvale rather than digging for our own gems due to the limited time that we had. My research lead us to Armfest Mine where we met the owner and purchased our first bag of wash. He showed us how to get the sapphires out of the dirt and we managed to pick up a few good ones. We ended up buying 4 bags, 2 standard, and 2 premium, and left with over 30 sapphires that were cutting quality. Not a bad way to spend the morning. The rest of the day was taken up by putting some big miles in and heading towards the coast. We spent the night behind the pub in the coal mining town of Bluff.



Campsite Reviews

Takarakka Bush Resort – Urg where to start with this one. Ridiculously overpriced at $45 per night for an unpowered patch of dirt but to add insult to injury the park wasn’t even very nice. The showers weren’t very clean, there was no soap in the toilets, it smelt vaguely of sewerage and the camp kitchen was overcrowded. We were even more annoyed that it was our only option anywhere near the national park. $45pn – 3/10.

Botanic Gardens Emerald – You can’t really complain too much about a free camp but this one wasn’t great. There was a lot of road noise and a train went over us in the middle of the night. The botanical gardens were nice. $Free – 5/10.

Bluff Pub – Cute little pub in a coal mining town with cold beer and good food. Matt and I got the only spot in the shade which was good for us as it was a very hot night. $5pp/pn – 7/10.

Outback Queensland

Thanks to the night of cycling viewing we woke up a little bit later than planned and therefore had to get ready at speed and drive to the QANTAS Founders Museum which we were both really looking forward to. We’d decided that if we were going to do it we might as well do it properly so we booked entry to the museum, a guided walk of the airpark, and the 747 wing walk, when in Rome look at as many planes as humanly possible. We started off with the museum which was an absolutely fascinating exploration of the history of the airline. The large room was filled with information boards and artifacts that allowed visitors to walk through the creation of the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services as well as learn about the founding members, the aircraft they purchased, the issues they had with receiving government funding, and I discovered it was founded on my birthday. I’d thought that I would be bored (not being a huge fan of planes) but it was so interesting, honestly, the story was incredible and if you’re not familiar with it I’d strongly recommend either buying one of the many books written on the subject or read about it on google.

Once we had finished in the museum we had enough time for a scone and a coffee in the cafe before we were called to go into the airpark. If you only do one thing in Longreach do this! Our guide took us outside and we walked through a number of planes, they were all different from a frankly terrifying machine that carried 70 people but needed a navigator who would look at the stars through a little window in the roof near the cockpit to ensure the plane was traveling in the right direction, to the amazing 747, to a fully customised private jet complete with gold plated seatbelt buckles and a bedroom with a queen bed.

Our final activity, directly following the airpark was the wing walk, the only place in the world where you can step onto the wing of a 747. We went on the tour with one other guy and the same guide that had taken us around the other planes. Rather than going straight to the wing we were taken into the cockpit and spent 20 minutes learning about the different knobs and dials as well as the roles of the staff that would have worked there. We followed the guide back down the stairs into the main part of the plane, put on some very gratuitous safety harnesses, and then walked out and onto the wing. It was a cool experience, my favourite part was when the guide got us to all jump at the same time so we could see the flex of the wing tip.


We left Longreach in the afternoon with a plan to stop in Barcaldine for the night. We were going to drive flat out to the campsite but on the way through a little town called Ilfracombe we saw a sign for a bottle and gun display. Obviously, we were both very intrigued by this bizarre combination of items so we stopped and went into a room that was completely full of bottles, and another room that was floor to ceiling covered in guns with a Nazi flag hanging on the wall. Our last stop for the day was The Tree of Knowledge, the remnants of the original ghost gum where the 1891 Shearer’s Strike occured which ultimately turned into the Australian Labor Party. In 2006 the tree mysteriously died by poisoning but was resurrected as part of a 5 million dollar sculptural art piece that opened in 2009. Matt and I were both really impressed with how the tree had been reborn, under the glass at your feet you can view the root system while overhead hundreds of wooden planks gently shift in the breeze and clank together like the biggest wooden windchime that has ever existed.

The next morning we drove into the town of Blackall and had a look around the main street. We’ve become very slack of late with our pre arrival research so we had no idea what there was to do or where we’d be staying so naturally, our first stop was the combined information center/library. The woman behind the desk was lovely and soon we had a pass to camp next to the river, a town map, and advice to see the main attraction, The Blackall Woolscour. I called the woolscour and booked in for the 1.30pm tour, while we waited we had a coffee, some delicious food from the bakery, found the second black stump of the trip and wandered around the very pleasant little town. I know absolutely nothing about sheep farming or wool so I was quite surprised at the size and complexity of the scour when we rolled into the car park. Our tour started with a video that explained the wool boom and the phrase “Australia rides on the sheep’s back”. When that ended we were introduced to our tour guide who was in the middle of a cup of tea and not at all keen to take us, in the end, he begrudgingly got up and took us on one of the most amusing tours we’ve done. The woolscour was surprisingly interesting, both historically and mechanically but honestly the tour guide absolutely made the place for us. He was probably 75 years old and just about as ocker as you could get, his sense of humor was hilarious and we had a great time. At the end of the tour it was getting pretty warm so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in the public pool.

Our plan for Wednesday was to cruise down the road to Tambo and spend the night at their free camp but we’d woken up early and found ourselves parking up at 9am. We popped in to see the wonderful teddies and then went down to the visitor center where we picked up a free booklet that took us on a historical walk around the town. By the time we’d finished exploring we had only killed another 2.5 hours and we really didn’t feel like sitting around on our bums until night so we decided to keep on going with a new plan to stop in Augathella for the night. Well, we reached the meat ant capital of Australia and were both so uninspired we opted to keep on heading south to Charleville. We ended up finding a brilliant little caravan park on the outside of town called the Charleville Bush Caravan Park where we met the owners Graham and Deb. It was a very welcoming place and we were soon sitting at the communal fire pit, enjoying fresh damper while Graham told us all about Lake Eyre.

The next day Graham encouraged us to join him on his 2 hour tour of the town and at $15pp it was hard to say no. The tour was a bit hit and miss for me but not in a way that left us feeling disappointed we needed something to do to fill in the day and it certainly did that but the format was bizarre. We looked at things like the kindergarten, and power poles while Graham handed out photos from the last major flooding event and explained that the old people in the town were now scared of rain. He also kept stopping at houses that were for sale and asking us to guess how much they cost before telling us and then explaining all the good things about each property…Matt and I were wondering if he might have got a commission from the real estate agents if he managed to sell one. We then went to the town weir and had a 15-minute explanation on how that functioned, the tour was very strange. During the afternoon we popped into town to look at the botanical garden and some of the historic buildings that were missed while we learned you could buy a 2 bedroom house with a nice garden for $200,000. I kept an anxious eye on the weather as we’d booked in for an astronomy tour and the clouds looked like they’d be hanging around for the rest of the day. Fortunately, they dispersed just in time and we were able to take our seats at the Cosmos Centre and enjoy the million-star views. Matt and I both agreed that the highlight was looking through the telescope at Jupiter and Saturn to see the moons/colours and rings respectively, it was beautiful.

We were a bit slow to get going the next day as our slightly late night caused us both to sleep in but we had a bit of time to kill before the WWII Secret Base museum opened. Located at the airport in an old hanger the museum explained how the Australian and American forces collaborated in Charleville during world war two and hid secret technology from the enemy side. It is currently undergoing a rebuild so the first section was much more modern than the second but it is due for completion at the end of this year so hopefully if you decided to go there it will be finished by the time you arrive. Our final activity was to visit the bilby centre which my mum had recommended that we go and see months ago. It’s directly next to the visitor information section in the train station so it was very easy to find. The tour started with a presentation about bilbies, a question session, and then we were let into the bilby house where we saw a bilby family bouncing around. They were so cute!

We left Charleville and rather than continuing to travel south we turned east stopping for the night beside a beautiful river near the small town of Mitchell.

Campsite Reviews

Lloyd Jones Weir – Just outside the town this small but peaceful campground has clean toilets, picnic tables, and an excess of turtles. We were very amused by the pretend grave for “people that steal toilet paper”. There is a couple of long-term campers set up here but they were friendly and considerate. $5pn – 6/10.

Barcoo River Camping Area – Thanks to Blackall for setting up this lovely little camp. Public toilets a short walk away and free showers in the amenities block in the main street of the town. $10pn – 7/10.

Charleville Bush Caravan Park – The perfect caravan park, awesome hosts, free information talks and damper in the evening, communal fire pit, good washing machine, great showers and toilets, and really nice fellow campers. $25pn – 9/10.

Fishermans Rest – There are two campsites in Mitchell and this is by far the better one. It’s quieter, more secluded and the river is absolutely beautiful, bring your bug spray though they were thick. $Free – 7/10.

Australian Dinosaur Trail

Rather than leaving at our usual 9am departure time from Julia Creek we decided to hang around until mid morning so that we could go to the visitor centre and see the fat-tailed dunnart be fed. Entry was $5 and it was well worth it to see the adorable little marsupial munch into some mealworms as well as learn some more about the dunnarts of Australia.

We hit the road and headed to our first stop on the Dinosaur trail at Richmond, Kronosaurus Korner. Because we’d made quite good time getting into Queensland we were actually a day ahead of ourselves and booked into visit the museum the next day so we occupied ourselves exploring the very pleasant town. I don’t know if it was the isolation of the Northern Territory or not but our appreciation of small towns has increased exponentially and Richmond was particularly nice with long wide streets lined with bougainvillea. The main highlight of the town for us was a large man-made lake right next door to the caravan park we were staying at. It was very warm again so we paddled around in the water until it was late enough to walk into town and have dinner in the pub. That night we had the worst sleep we have had on the road so far, it was oppressively hot and we had the most inconsiderate family park next to us. Not only did they pull up ridiculously close considering the amount of space available but their children were an absolute nightmare. When they weren’t getting into our campsite and going through our stuff, they were screaming and running around until well after midnight. At 1am after getting completely fed up of having the little turds shining torches directly into our van Matt yelled at them to shut up.

Despite the lack of sleep we woke up determined to enjoy the dinosaurs and walked into town to the museum. Matt jumped into the mouth of the kronosaurus for a cheeky photo and we had a second coffee in the cafe to ensure we were properly awake and ready to take everything in. Richmond is a hot spot for marine fossils so the museum was filled with the bones of huge carnivorus ocean reptiles down to perfectly preserved shells. It wasn’t a huge display with two main rooms but there were that many things crammed in we managed to spend over an hour wandering around and then watching the short documentary in the attached theater. Afterwards we strolled back to the caravan park and had a walk around the lake so I could take some bird photos before we had yet another dip, cooked dinner, and turned in early for what turned out to be a wonderful noise free sleep sans horrible kids.

The next morning I woke up early and went down to the lake to watch the sun rise, the water was so still and the only sounds were of the birds flying from their roosts and out to the bush for breakfast. We made our way to Winton through the disturbingly flat and dry farmlands reaching the town in time to grab some rolls from the bakery and make lunch in a park next to the local pool. We walked up and down the main street enjoying the art deco architecture and looking in a couple of opal shops that were more than a bit of a rip off ($10 for a piece of potch what a joke). We decided not to fork out $32pp for the Waltzing Matilda Centre but did go in to use the amazing toilets and visit an exhibition at the gallery attached to the museum. I really liked the art despite it’s weirdness, it was a series of portraits of boss drovers by Robert MacPherson  who drew them while taking on the persona of a year 4 student of St Joseph’s Convent, Nambour, Queensland named Robert Pene. They were drawn on kids sketch book paper, signed like a child, and then had “great work” and “you’re a star” stamps put all over each piece. There was also an interactive area where you were able to make your own poem using language from Banjo Paterson’s poetry which Matt and I enjoyed. That night we camped at a local waterhole and were kept company by a bunch of friendly cattle and emus.

The drive to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum took about 20 minutes from our camp and even though we left quite early by the time we reached the Jump Up (a sort of mountain think above the flat farmlands) it was already pushing 35 degrees. I was feeling very glad that I’d booked one of the first available tours at 9am. Our first stop was the dinosaur laboratory where we saw the volunteers preparing numerous bones found on digs throughout the local area. We also met Kim, a fellow delica owner who contacted me through instagram and asked us to make sure we said hello. He was working on the sacrum of a sauropod dinosaur and explained what he was doing inbetween chatting about our vans, great guy! Our next tour was in the main museum area and was more like a lecture in that we sat in a theatre area and were shown a documentary about the area and how the fossils were found. After the video one of the guides explained each of the fossils that were particularly special such as Matilda (Diamantinasaurus ) and Australias most complete carnivorous dinosaur (my favourite) Banjo (Australovenator wintonensis). The final tour was of the dinosaur foot prints housed within a specially designed shed at the top of the museum site. We learnt how the slab of prints were moved from their original location when they were deemed at risk of deterioration and how they were put back together. After the talk we were set free to wander the area and enjoy the dinosuar sculptures.