Entering Queensland from Northern Territory was via the Barcly Highway with the first town being Camooweal, about 12km inside the border. Whilst here I stayed at the Camooweal Billabong on the western outskirts of town. It is a huge area, where “back in the day” cattle were watered prior to heading south to markets. I was advised that the best spots were about 1km further in near the waterhole but I actually chose to camp in the first section as it was closer for walking into town. There was very little road noise at night.
Although not much to the town itself I enjoyed a few days here and visited the Drovers Camp which is one of the best Museums I have been to. They do tours at 9.30am, 11.30am and 1.30am where you are given a walk through the life of a drover as it was prior to the 1960’s when droving started to die out following the introduction of roadtrains and the opening up of proper roads. The tour lasted 1 1/2 hours and then spent another couple of hours looking and reading. I have been doing a lot of reading books of late associated with droving and cattle stations so visiting the Drovers Camp was a real highlight for me as Camooweal is the epicentre of cattle as they all passed through here on the way to market. Entry to the Museum was $10 which includes the guided tour. Great value.
Next it was east to Mt Isa (see Bucket List #11), Corella Dam (see Bucket List #12) and on to Cloncurry. Cloncurry had a great feel to it with big wide streets, very clean and neat and tidy. Just prior to entering the town from the western side is the turnoff to Chinaman Dam. A great little oasis which also acts as the water supply for the town. No camping here but a great spot to while away some time. Just prior to reaching back to the highway is a turn off to the lookout which gives a great panorama over the town and surroundings.
In Cloncurry I visited the John Flynn Place Museum and also the Visitors Centre and Museum They have a deal whereby you pay $18 for both (normally $12 each). It covers 2 days entry. I spent a full day between the two, mainly at the John Flynn Place which in addition to some great reading boards, it also had a number of informative videos. As the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, it was a fantastic display and a must do.
After an overnight in Cloncurry I turned right down the Landsborough Highway to McKinley and the Walkabout Creek Hotel (see Bucket List #13). After having a 10.30am beer at the Walkabout Creek Hotel I thought I may as well do a pub crawl so stopped at the Blue Heeler Hotel at Kynuna for a lunchtime beer. Another nostalgic pub, The Blue Heeler played hosts reportedly to he last drinks for both the shearers and squatters from Waltzing Matilda fame. The Billabong referred to in the song is situated about 25km south of the town. Kynuna has a population of 20 people and consists of just the Pub, Roadhouse/Caravan Park and a Police Station.
The Blue Heeler was a great little pub with great atmosphere so a one lunchtime beer turned into a 3 night stay
After leaving Kynuna I visited the billabong south of town. I am so glad I did this. The dirt road the 8km in had just been graded so was an easy drive into the Combo Conservation Park. The walk trail is about 2.6km in length with story boards along the way until you get to the billabong of Waltzing Matilda fame. I didn’t hear any ghosts and I was glad about that as I was the only person there and so who would believe me if I did?
Back north to Julia Creek. Now this is a town that embraces tourism and goes out of their way to make you feel welcome. They have an RV Park on the outskirts of town where I stayed 4 nights. On Monday night at 5.30pm the Shire’s community bus picked about 25 of us up and took us to the shire owned caravan park where the School P&C put on a home cooked meal of shepherds pie and vegies followed by dessert. There were probably about 90 people there and a great shire initiative. Each Monday a different local not-for-profit group provides the meal. The Shire representative who drove the bus MC’d the evening and told us how valuable grey nomads were to their community. Even the School Principal was there to help serve the meals Some of the school children then entertained us with songs and magic tricks and jokes. It was a great community night. Well done Julia Creek Shire.
The Julia Creek Visitors Centre is one of the best I have encountered also. They have individual little buildings that tell the Julia Creek story through a number of short videos and story boards. These small inland towns are really doing it tough so every dollar spent in town is appreciated. I had a good long chat to the Shire CEO at the pub one night and the progressive attitude of the townspeople and the support of the shire is to be applauded.
Next it was Richmond which was very similar to Julia Creek with its wide, clean streets and also a free RV Camp right in town. It had a 3 night limit so I chose to book straight into the Shire run Lakeview Caravan Park for 7 nights. This was the best caravan park I have stayed at so far. No bells and whistles. All drive through sites on bitumen. Shady trees, very clean amenities, friendly managers and overlooking a man made Lake Fred Tritton surrounded by parklands. Powered site for what worked out to be $22 a night. They don’t have their own swimming pool but there is a public pool directly opposite the park.
Like Julia Creek, Richmond was very welcoming with friendly locals. Here I went to my first Campdraft which I thoroughly enjoyed and also did a tour out to Homestead Station which abuts the Gregory National Park. $95 for a 7am to 5pm door to door tour was a fantastic day out. Run by Ross and Linda who have worked the Cattle Station for 33 years, their passion and knowledge was welcomed as we learnt about the grasses, trees, cattle, ranges and life on a station that is cut off from town in the wet season.
I had a couple of nights out at the Federal Hotel (one to celebrate my 60th birthday) and enjoyed the historical walk around town. Kronosaurus Korner is the Visitors Centre and incorporates the Dinosaur Fossil Museum with a great café and alfresco area. You can also head just out of town and try your luck at fossicking for dinosaur fossils. I totally enjoyed my week in Richmond.
The next town is Hughenden where I had a good look around prior to heading about 60km north to Porcupine Gorge. There is a good campsite at the gorge but there is no phone reception and as my footy team was playing that evening, internet reception was a need, not a want so I went on to the next town, Prarie. I stayed here for a couple of nights at the rear of the pub. Very friendly hosts and a stopping point for a lot of travellers. The pub is run by a local family and it was a lot of fun over the couple of days.
Charters Towers can best be described as the toen where time stood still. The really long main street has probably not altered much in 100 years. There are a few modern buildings but mostly it is how i imagine it was 100 years ago. Charters Towers is the main town west of Townsville so is a hub for the district and an education centre. Between Charters Towers and Townsville there was a lot of dust that had blown up from the drought affected areas to the south. It was like driving through smoke for a lot of the way.
I had some more trouble with Rhonda so camped in the industrial area of Townsville outside a mechanical workshop for a couple of days while they sorted the problem out. After that was fixed i checked into a Caravan Park. I quite liked Townsville though as it is so big I wouldn’t want to live there but it is a very scenic place and it was great to finally hit the ocean on the East Coast for the first time in many years. I did a lot of walking while here in and out of Townsville and along the Strand foreshore. This is a magnificent parkland that stretches from the CBD to Kissing Point. I stood under a sign here but nothing happened! The Strand is a credit to the city with its walkway, fitness equipent along the way, playgrounds, food and drink outlets and finally to the Barracks at the northern end. It also has a patrolled swimming beach and a rock pool for swimming when stingers are active. The view across to Magnetic Island is an added attraction.
I visited the Museum however I dont recommend doing this when there is a school excursion on. Makes it hard to concentrate on reading or any visual displays with the constant chatter of thousands of children. Good to see them enjoying the learning experience though. It was still worth the $15 entry fee.
I was also pleased to be able to catch up with a fellow Grey Nomad that i had previously “met” on an online forum. Doug is a seasoned traveller who is fulltime on the road and it was good to be able to put a face to a name. We had lunch at a local RSL Club and it was good to share experiences with him. Doug writes a monthly blog so it was good to pick his brains on a couple of issues.
From Townsville I flew back to Perth to attend my son’s wedding and catch up with other family and friends.