We were keen to see more of the Diamantina Shire with Birdsville, Bedourie and Betoota the little towns forming the triangle bordering the Northern Territory and South Australia in Queensland’s far southwest corner; each sharing stories and artwork of the Dreamtime of the Wangkamadla, Mithika and Wangkangurru people.
The Diamantina is a land of extremes with searing hot days and freezing nights, floods and droughts and wide open desert. Covering 95,000 square kilometres, this shire is twice the size of Denmark and is the dry, stony desert the forms part of the immense drainage basin for Lake Eyre in South Australia.
At the end of the famous Birdsville Track and deep in the heart of this wild and isolated country is we came to the frontier town of Birdsville.
Birdsville is situated between the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert, the vast gibber plains of Sturt’s Stony Desert to the south, and rich Channel Country to the north… and you can’t visit Birdsville without having a drink and taking a photo of the weathered sandstone walls at the local watering hole, the Birdsville Hotel, which has welcomed travellers since 1884.
This little town was once a notorious place where cattle drovers moved their stock but it is now a thriving modern community that captures the very essence of Australia’s outback!
Parched baked earth crackled underfoot at the racecourse (a track that only bursts into life for the Birdsville Races once a year), where we sat and sipped a cuppa and watched while the occupants of 4WDs were drawn to the pub – adventurers either returning from or travelling along a track we had not yet attempted… the Simpson Desert crossing!
While the adventurous travellers wet their appetite in the pub a meeting place of another kind sat surrounded by stone seats in Burt Street – aptly named the ‘The Meeting Place’ it is a mosaic sand sculpture depicting the Rainbow Serpent with the Diamantina and Georgina rivers and sand hills in between.
Out of town Waddi Waddi trees stood tall, trees thought to be up to 1000-years old and prized by Aborigines for weapons and digging sticks.
Heading north the road from Birdsville to Bedourie, known as ‘The Bilby Way’, stretches for 186-kilometres.
It’s namesake is the rare and endangered Bilby otherwise known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot, which is about the size of a rabbit, with a long pointed nose, silky blue grey fur, a black and white crested tail and long, almost transparent ears.
There wasn’t much along this lonely stretch of road apart from a very interesting ‘loo with a view’, an old homestead and desert that stretched for kilometres in every direction.
When travelling the open road or pulling into town, despite the desire to see the country or what a town has to offer, the most sought after sign we usually have our eyes peeled for is the nearest ‘loo’… and on this long route we found just what we were after… a very lonely ‘loo’ with a panorama that stretched to the horizon in every direction across the Channel country’s treeless plains… ‘a loo with a view’ !
There wasn’t much left of the old homestead that sat on a hill overlooking a creek. Carcoory was an old cattle property that was developed in the 1870s and abandoned in the droughts of the early 1900s. It now stands deserted in the desolate landscape.
In the heart of Channel Country, Bedourie grew from a watering stop for drovers in the 1880s and is now the administrative centre of the shire with around 140 residents and a watering stop of a different kind… and apart from the hotel there’s an artesian spa to soak weary bodies and an aquatic centre to cool off in!
Bedourie means ‘dust storm’ in the local language and a ‘dust’ sculpture swirls across 4- tall timber poles in Herbert St, evoking the rolling dust storms and whirly winds by which the Dreamtime spirits travel.
The day was heating up as we drove across Cyrill’s Sandhill, Cuppa Creek and Durrie Jumpup towards the ghost town of Betoota.
Betoota is 172-kilometres east of Birdsville and Australia’s smallest town.
The Queensland Government set up a customs post in Betoota in 1885 to collect tolls for stock as they travelled to South Australia, an initiative that continued until 1901. It was also a horse changing station for Cobb & Co.
In its heyday, this town had 3-hotels, a store, post office and a police station but now it’s a derelict ghost town with the last hotel closing in 1997 and the last permanent resident leaving in 1997. Sigmund (Ziggy) Remienko, died in 2004.
We walked the perimeter of the now deserted pub finding only ‘Ziggy’s headstone’ behind the hotel. On further investigation a door opened into the hotel and behind the bar we were surprised to find a wall lined with empty green bottles.
The towns only facilities today are a race track and an airstrip… however, there is a ‘Betoota Race Club’ run by the residents of the nearby cattle stations who raise funds each year for the annual ‘Betoota Race’. This happens twice a year when Betoota explodes into life for the ‘Horse and Motorbike Gymkhana’ and the ‘Betoota Races’.
Nearby Brown’s Creek provided a tranquil camping ground to pull in for the night but we continued on passing the ‘Dreamtime Serpent’ that cut a dramatic path across a hill just east of Betoota. Visible from a distance the serpent was constructed of locally sourced gravel, stones and gibbers and depicts the serpent creating pathways connecting the river systems in Channel Country.
20-kilometres from Betoota, on the Birdsville Developmental Road, we came to ‘Deon’s Lookout’ erected in the memory of one of Birdsville’s sons who was killed in a helicopter crash nearby.
The panoramic views from this lookout were tranquil and the picnic area was a great place to break our journey. We even thought of pitching our rooftop tent here, but it was blowing so hard we decide to keep moving and find a more protected area.
Our next stop was J.C. Ruins. There was not a lot remaining of the old hotel except for a few bits of concrete, some roofing iron and a couple of wooden pegs.
The name came about after John Costello carved his initials in a Bauhinia tree while out ‘looking at country’. Those who came after him would use that blazed tree as a marker, and eventually a pub was built on the spot to cater for the ever-increasing trade. The story goes that the manager of Canterbury station got a little weary of pulling his stockmen out of the pub so he bought it and ripped the roof off. The weather did the rest, and today there is little left but mounds of clay and a few rotting timbers.
With daylight hours fading we finally arrived at the crossroads of the Birdsville and Diamantina Developmental Road where we pulled into a lonely roadside stop. The wind was gusting across the flat fibber desert and although not an ideal spot to set up camp it would have to do for the night. When Dorothea Mackellar spoke about our ‘wide brown land’, she was so right – Australia is bloody huge and certainly a country of extremes!
We were surround by gibber desert, a few hardy bushes and shrubs and kilometre after kilometre of flat barren landscape that stretched for as far as the eye could see – a landscape older than time itself.
It was difficult to imagine this parched land ever flooding but this entire area is part of a variety of channels that flow to Lake Eyre during the wet season up north.
Fed by the monsoonal rains of northern Queensland, the water can take months to reach Lake Eyre provided there is enough rainfall to overcome the many creeks and waterholes along its 1,300-kilometre journey.
No stars shone through the grey blanket that engulfed us that night but after a rather restless night we woke around 6 am to an amazing sunrise and a soft pink glow through a few wispy clouds in the eastern sky.
Our next stop was Windorah. This was the Barcoo Shire, estimated to be around the size of our home state Tassie, with 3 towns that formed this Shire; Stonehenge, Jundah and Windorah.
Windorah was a quintessentially ‘Outback Queensland’ town with a service station, cafe, hotel/motel, minimart and a Visitor Information Centre complete with the Whitula Museum. Its name is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘place of big fish’.
There was great camping along the Cooper with lots of birdlife and we were lucky enough to see a local drover bring a team of horses down to the river for a frolic in what little water there was.
There is a little bit of truth in the old saying ‘red sky in the morning, shepherds warning’.
The few wispy clouds from early morning had now turned to large grey thunder clouds that continued to follow us as we continued east.
As we left the tiny town of Windorah we pulled over to check out ‘Windorah Ergon Energy’s Solar Energy Farm’ where huge mirrored reflectors created a surreal sight and a perfect photo opportunity. Located just across the road from the airport, this farm provides the township (and most outlying properties) with electricity.
The ever changing landscape and open plains of this country were amazing and only a few kilometres from Windorah the scenery changed to a more dramatic landscape of the deepest red sand dunes. Only a few kilometres further on again, the open country gave way to a tree-lined waterway as we crossed a bridge over the iconic Cooper Creek.
Steeped in folklore and Australia’s rich explorer’s history, Cooper Creek is one of those ‘must see’ outback destinations that will not disappoint. The Dig Tree here epitomises Bourke & Wills, as does the Cooper Creek, and the iconic waterway symbolises the Channel Country of western Queensland.
It is most famous as the river where Australian explorers Burke and Wills died in 1861 while returning from their successful expedition from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Very little was known of the outback then and it is hard to imagine how these early explorers traipsed across this barren land with only the support of their horses and camels. Add to that limited provisions, lack of water and covering only a short distance in a day, it must have been a daunting prospect for those who ventured into the never never!
Originally known as Cooper’s Creek, today it is simply Cooper Creek and reference to it by the former name is quickly corrected by those living in the area.
The Cooper and its tributaries is Australia’s second longest waterway after the Murray-Darling and starts its journey as the Thompson River west of the Great Dividing Range south west of Townsville. It is joined by the Barcoo near Barcaldine and its catchment area spans outback Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and NSW, and is made up series of waterways that flow into Lake Eyre.
We stopped on the banks to boil the trangia for a cuppa and check out the ‘Dig Tree’.
This section of Copper Creek had a bit of water, more so than the lower reaches at the Queensland – South Australian border and as such made for a great place to camp had it not been for the flies.
Waving good-bye to the irritating little insects we continued on our way.
The road crossed more gibber country with twisted trees some living some dead, the only growth for kilometres. Water lay by the road in various spots after a recent downpour but the sun now shone through the clouds.
Quilpie was the next town situated on the banks of the Bullo River. It takes its name from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘Curlew’.
Originally established as a rail centre for the area’s large sheep and cattle properties, today it is better known as an opal town with the world’s largest concentration of ‘Boulder Opal’ found in the surrounding area.
We visited the St Finn Barr’s Catholic Church with its unique altar, font and lectern all made from opal and a visit to the site where Amy Johnson’s unexpected landing took place was well worth a visit too!
The old Powerhouse Museum and the Mini Museum at the airport are dedicated to the old Woolscour and Amy Johnson.
The tiny town of Cheepie was next on our radar!
With a population of 1 Cheepie was once a Cobb & Co change station and for a short time, from 1914, was the railhead from Charleville. The old railway station is still there.
A few drops of rain began to fall as we continued on, just enough to settle the dust , but soon puddles of water lined the roadside. There was some incredible lightening activity ahead of us and it wasn’t long before we were caught in a heavy downpour so we decided to move on to Charleville and find a caravan park for the night.
Charleville is the largest town in the south west of the ‘Outback Region’ and is the heart of mulga country on the banks of the Warrego River.
If you haven’t heard the classic Slim Dusty song ‘Charleville’ you’d better download it… and turn it up when driving into this outback town.
Charleville is at the centre of a rich sheep and cattle district and was named after a town in Ireland where the Government surveyor of the day, Mr WA Tully once lived.
In early 1888 rail transport reached Charleville and provided a direct link with the state capital, Brisbane. It now marks the terminus of the Westlander rail service from Brisbane that operates a passenger services twice a week.
By the late 1890s the town had its own brewery, 10-hotels and 500 registered bullock teams.
Cobb & Co recognised the value of Charleville’s location on a major stock route and opened a coach-building factory in 1893, then based their largest Australian coach-making factory here in 1890.
Charleville is also a very aviation-minded town with Amy Johnson stopping here in an early air race and Qantas scheduling its first commercial flight from Charleville to Cloncurry, via Longreach and Winton in 1922.
There is also the Royal Flying Doctor Base with it’s Visitor Centre providing an incredible insight into the iconic outback service, which still services the people of the outback today.
There is so much to see and do in Charleville and as this was our second visit we only visited the ‘Bilby Experience’ this time as we had missed it last time we passed through.
At the ‘Bilby Experience’ it was interesting to learn about this endangered marsupial, the challenges they are facing and the fight to save them. ‘Save the Bilby Fund’ offers unique experiences to meet these little creatures, learn about their life history and their adaptation to life in the arid outback and is a worthy cause that donates all the visitor proceeds towards ensuring the conservation of these adorable animals… and we couldn’t leave without purchasing a soft toy for our 4 grandchildren from which proceeds are also donated to the fund!
If you are wanting to explore more afield a visit to the grand old ‘Hotel Corones’ – the biggest outback pub in Australia with its resident ghost is well worth it, as is a visit to the ‘Cosmos Centre and Observatory’ where you can view the Milky Way Galaxy through powerful Meade telescopes that provided a spectacular night-time experience without city light pollution.
The 2 Vortex Guns on display in the Graham Andrews Parklands are worth a look too. In 1902 when Queensland was in the grip of a terrible drought, the desperation to produce rain was about to take a unique turn. 6 vertical Vortex Guns were built and placed strategically throughout Charleville then charged with gunpowder in the hope the blast would change the atmospheric pressure and produce rain.
Imagine a community where people say ‘good day’ and really mean it, ‘how are you?’ and really listen and ‘come and stay’ even when they have never met you. Well this was Charleville for us!
We met a lovely lady in the main street who was waiting to have her windscreen repaired after breaking it on a drive back from Toowoomba, and after chatting for quite a while she was quite insistent we come and stay on their property… an offer we would love to have taken up had it not been for the fact Nungil Station was 127-kilometres north west of Charleville and in the opposite direction to which we were travelling.
After 2 wonderful nights at the Charleville Cobb & Co Caravan Park we hit the road again.
Mitchell was next on our map. Situated on the banks on the Maranoa River this town relies heavily on agriculture, cattle, sheep, cypress pine milling and tourism and was named after Sir Thomas Mitchell who camped on, and named the Maranoa River on June 3, 1846 during an expedition to find an overland route from Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria. A memorial stands at the campsite, which is located around 40-kilometres north of Mitchell.
High on my list of ‘must stop’ places was the Great Artesian Spa. If you are travelling through Mitchell enjoy some time at the natural hot spring from the artesian basin. There are 2 large pools – 1 naturally heated from the Great Artesian Basin and designed to revitalize both body and mind, the other is for those who prefer a cooler experience. For those after a bit more exercise try a trek along the Yumbas indigenous ‘bush tukka trail’.
This part of the country was also bushranger country so a visit to Patrick and James Kenniff’s hideouts and monuments at Arrest Creek, 7-kilometres south of Mitchell is well worth the trip.
The one thing we noticed about this part of the country were the towns with unusual names and trying to pronounce them certainly kept us entertained!
One such town was the whistle stop town of Muckadilla, or ‘Mucka’ as the locals call it.
Muckadilla is predominantly a grain producing area with its own grain depot, a small primary school, a hotel come campground, a fuel stop, a great museum and a population of around 58 residents.
In 1889, the Queensland Government put down a test bore at Muckadilla. The supply was comparatively small but it was discovered that the water contained healing powers and tourists flocked to the town looking for a cure, hence it then became home to the famous Muckadilla Baths. Now the bore provides the towns water supply.
Travelling on, Roma is home to the southern hemisphere’s largest sale yards where, on a Tuesday or Thursday each week, you can witness the sale of anything up to 12,000 head of cattle in a single day. We just missed one but I am sure it would be an experience to be there.
Roma was an interesting town with some lovely Queenslander homes lining the main street and besides being a rural town there are also gas and oil fields – in fact it is home to the ‘The Big Rig Centre’ and the ‘Oil Patch’ with some very impressive rigs, one being the first diesel powered rig ever used in Australia.
The heritage-listed Heroes’ Avenue was very impressive with more than 100 bottle trees planted as a memorial to local soldiers who lost their lives in World War 1.
Nearby Mount Abundance Homestead is also worth a visit and was built in 1860 as the site of the region’s first settlement with an important link to early explorers Sir Thomas Mitchell and Ludwig Leichhardt.
After an hour at Toyota to try and sort out a small issue with Harry Hilux we headed on again. Harry’s right blinker had failed to work since leaving Charleville and we were desperate to have it sorted before reaching the bigger cities.
Finally, leaving Roma we continued on passing through Pickanjinnie (another name hard to pronounce), where we stopped to check out a monument to an Aboriginal legend!
A further 8-kilometres along the highway was Wallumbilla and although there wasn’t a big distance between these small towns, there was certainly a lot of history.
Wallumbilla was a bit bigger than we expected with a population around 320 residents and well known for its freshly baked scones with jam and cream at Wallumbilla’s Calico Cottage and Visitor Information Centre… as well as interesting interpretative displays, historic memorabilia and many old photographs of the early days.
Further along the highway was another little town that featured prominently in the history of the Cobb & Co Coach Service with the last horse drawn coach in Australia running from Yuleba to Surat in 1924.
Yuleba was settled in 1865 and was originally located on Yuleba Creek, 11-kilometres south east of its current location but in 1879, the town was moved to the railway crossing, officially known as Baltinglass.
In 1901, Baltinglass was renamed to Yuleba and whilst the original location of the township took the official name ‘Old Yuleba’, residents lived at both sites until a flood in 1910 convinced them to move to the new location.
Just east of the village of Yuleba we turned south off the highway onto Forestry Road then followed Mongool Road through to the overnight rest area.
We had expected to stay in a Caravan Park that night in Miles but thanks to our ‘CamperMate App’ we were now heading to a free camp at Judds Lagoon.
This lagoon and surrounding wetlands is naturally formed from the overflow of the Yuleba Creek and was full of beautiful waterlilies and an abundance of bird life.
It was a great park with relatively clean pit toilets and a couple of picnic tables and was a lovely shady, grassy, free campground that attracted quite a few campers.
Leaving Yuleba the next morning we continued east along the Warrego Highway. This highway is hardly deserving of its name ‘highway’ as it was quite a bumpy 2-lane road badly in need of repair. It was a busy highway though, with lots of cars and road trains.
We stopped at Miles for lunch – a pleasant little town and the talking point amongst many of the people we had spoken to along this highway.
Originally named Dogwood Crossing it was established on a track blazed by the explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt in 1884.
The historical village had more than 20 historic buildings, including a corner store, hospital, cafe, bank, post office and bakery all creating a wonderful picture of what the main street of this town once looked like.
We then headed for the small town of Chinchilla where we are hoping to take advantage of another free camp at Chinchilla Weir.
Continuing on our journey took us past fields that even though had seen some rain over the past couple of weeks were still begging for more.
As we neared Chinchilla the scenery began to change from dry arid land to green grass and foliage.
Chinchilla was a surprise as it was quite a big town.
It was established in 1877 when the railway from Toowoomba across the Darling downs was being built. The town grew around agriculture producing beef, pork and wool and now has the reputation as the ‘Watermelon Capital’ of Australia with a ‘Chinchilla Melon Festival’ held every 2-years. Chinchilla produces 25% of Australia’s melons.
Named from the Aboriginal word jinchilla, meaning a termite resistant Cypress Pine, Chinchilla was a peaceful and pretty town with a beautiful tree-lined main street just off the highway.
The Chinchilla Historical Museum provided an insight into local history with some very interesting items on display including with a copy of the first ever Qantas ticket issued, a replica steam sawmill and various engines to name a few.
We took advantage of a car wash here and gave Harry a much-needed wash then stocked up on some groceries before heading to Chinchilla Weir.
Built in 1973 Chinchilla Weir was 9-kilometres south of the town on the Condamine River.
This concrete-faced earth fill structure is known for the unique curved design of its wall and it is the only storage for the Chinchilla Weir Water Supply Scheme.
The campground was nestled next to the weir and lake in a pleasant bush setting and was a beautiful place to set up the rooftop tent with ample space for lots of campers.
There was a boat ramp nearby, safe swimming and fishing, flushing toilets, bbqs and a few built in fire places… and we were pleasantly surprised to discover that camping at Chinchilla Weir was free as was the use of power – however we found that most of the caravans and motor homes already there were clustered around the limited number of power poles so, like most of these free camps, it pays to get there early.
We arrived in the late afternoon and found a nice little spot on a level piece of ground to pitch our rooftop tent and put up our awning and enclosure. By then the big black clouds had started rolling in from the west so we made sure we parked on solid ground and faced the roadway for a quick exit if need be. Cloudbanks had followed ominously behind us over the last couple of hours and proved to be benign travel companions but it wasn’t long before a few scattered raindrops turned into heavy rain that lasted well into the following day.
After a couple nights at Chinchilla Weir we hit the road again with our journey taking us through more little towns and hamlets.
Throughout our travels we often came across the unexpected and not far from Chinchilla we stopped at a small hall in a little town called Boonarga. This hall was built 1936 to celebrate the Cactoblastis Caterpillar.
Now you might ask what is a ‘Cactoblastis Caterpillar’?
Well after a search on the internet I finally found out that it all started around the mid 1800’s when Governor Phillip introduced cochineal-infested prickly pear cactus to Australia for dye for his men’s uniforms hence this rather popular plant soon found it’s way to the Chinchilla area.
In no time at all it had taken over land the size of the United Kingdom and become quite a pest in most of rural Australia… and it seemed that nothing could eradicate it.
Then came a man by the name of Alan Dodd who introduced the Cactoblastis Caterpillar. He had sourced this insect from South Africa and it was apparently not considered a threat to any other plants in Australia.
He originally introduced 3000 eggs into Australia, which by 1925 had increased to 100,000. They were released at Chinchilla first then around the country and by 1932 the prickly pear was considered destroyed by the cactoblastis… but we still noticed quite a few around the area!
In celebration Cactoblastis Hall was built and dedicated to this insect!
Next we pulled into the little country town of Warra where the historical Warra Hotel was well worth a look. Established in 1906 it was a grand rambling structure and a fine example of the architecture, commonly known as ‘Queenslander’ and of course the publican, who has been in the hotel for as long as anyone could remember, was happy to share a yarn on life in Warra and what to see and do.
There was a great campground tucked away from the highway behind the ‘Richard Best Heritage Park’ but we opted to keep moving and only stopped for a cuppa.
The ‘Richard Best Heritage Park’ is home to the restored Warra Railway Station with the old Police lockup and the Haystack State School building. This park is next to Cooranga Creek and in 1844 was the campsite of the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt and his party on their way north.
As our journey continued east we passed endless paddocks of cotton and wheat with large silos standing tall along the side of the highway. Our next stop was Dalby.
Formerly known as the ‘Dub of the Downs’, Dalby was quite a bit bigger than the towns we had driven through of late and quite a lively town nestled in the heart of the Darling Downs region. Dalby is the hub of Australia’s richest grain and cotton growing area.
Our first point of call was the Thomas Jack Park where the Visitor Information Centre is located then to Toyota to have our blinker checked again – but still no one could help us with our little problem.
Just a bit over 30-kilometres out of town we came to Bowenville Reserve, a beautiful free campground on Oakey Creek near the small rural town of Bowenville… and our next overnight stop.
We had been told about this area and how nice it was and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The reserve was large with a large number of campsites, very clean amenities, shaded picnic tables and tidy and well looked after grounds… and a geocache!
The creek was lined with trees and there was easy access to the water where lots of people were fishing, however, the rainclouds were quickly gathering overhead and threatening to turn the grounds to a muddy mire.
The weather forecast wasn’t good for the next couple of days with damaging winds, heavy rainfall, large hailstones and flash flooding predicted, so we found a nice piece of flat ground beside a covered picnic table and set up camp. We covered our car with every towel we could find and spread the rooftop tent cover over the front then sat back and waited for the worst to happen… and it didn’t let up for most of the night and well into the next day.
We stayed 2 nights traipsing through mud, puddles and heavy downpours to the amenities block and on our last morning the dawn broke to a beautiful sunrise and many happy birds singing to welcome a fresh new day.
Leaving Bowenville we continued east through the Darling Downs to the beautiful town of Oakey and finally up the hill to Toowoomba, otherwise known as the Garden City.
Oakey was another agricultural town surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and black-soil plains. It is also the base for the aviation division of the Australian Army.
We had visited Toowoomba on a previous trip but we were still surprised at what a big city it seemed. It is actually Australia’s second largest inland city.
We followed heavy traffic right through the middle of town along the old main highway. It had been a long time since we had been in a town this size and we were a bit worried because our blinker still wasn’t working so we headed straight for the nearest caravan park, Toowoomba Motor Village Caravan Park, a very pleasant park with nice trees and good facilities.
Toowoomba is a beautiful city and they don’t call it the garden city for nothing. There were so many parks to explore with Queens Park, The Japanese Gardens, Laurel Bank Park, Lake Annand Park and my favourite the beautiful Picnic Point Parklands sitting high on the crest of the Great Dividing Range with 160-acres of parklands and an amazing lookout with panoramic views over Main Range and Lockyer Valley.
The Japanese Gardens were situated quite close to the caravan park and a beautiful, tranquil park where we could ride our bikes along the paths exploring the streams and mini-forests of this traditionally designed Japanese oasis.
To the north we rode all the way to the Queens Park Gardens. Beautiful trees filled this park and the botanical garden in the corner was home to some amazing species. A free map indicated 20 of the biggest trees (all tagged), making it fun to learn their names as we explored. My favourites: the bottle trees, great mauri, hooped pines and the bunya.
From Toowoomba we pressed south along the New England Highway towards Warwick stopping at Peston Peak Winery, a lovely winery perched high in the hills of regional Queensland.
It was such lovely farming countryside as we continued on through the Darling Downs.
Further on we stopped for a cuppa at Emu Creek. This was the original ‘selection’ of Albert Davis where a replica home had been built.
Albert Davis was the father of Arthur Davis, better known as Steele Rudd, the writer of ‘On Our Selection’ of which a movie was made starring Leo Kern, Joan Sutherland and Geoffrey Rush. He was also the writer of ‘Dad and Dave’.
Not far away was the little town of Nobby, and the ‘Sister Elizabeth Kenny Memorial Hall’.
Sister Kenny was something of a heroine in this area, being the first person to treat the first case of polio, all but curing a little girl.
She began touring the country setting up clinics, even travelling as far afield as the United States to show her treatment to doctors there. She stayed 11 years in America and opened up many clinics but her heart was always at Nobby and she returned just 1-year before she died. She is now buried in the local Cemetery and a movie ‘Sister Kenny’ was made of her life.
Then came the town of Warwick, a town of rather grand old sandstone buildings and castle-like churches and lots of midweek hustle and bustle.
Warwick is known for its roses and rodeo with its famous Rose and Rodeo Festival held annually on the last weekend in October where the best rodeo riders compete for their share in the glory.
Warwick can trace its roots back to a professional buck-jumping contest of 1857 and it’s famous son, Jackie Howe, still holds the blade shearing world record set in 1892 for 321 sheep shorn in a day.
A further 12-kilometres out of Warwick we visited Washpool Camping Reserve at the southern end of the Leslie Dam where we had camped on our previous trip.
It had changed quite a bit since our last visit with the campground now a self-registration system run by the local council with a number of powered sites and non‐powered sites.
At Leslie Dam wall larger than life sculptures in memory of Patrick Leslie and his wife Catherine (Kate) are erected, which were named after the pioneering settlers. The sculpture of Kate Leslie was unveiled on the 21st October 2001 as part of the Centenary of Federation Celebrations and is a tribute to pioneering women.
Patrick Leslie (25 September 1815 – 12 August 1881) was a Scottish Settler in Australia who bought an allotment at the first land sale in Warwick in 1848. Leslie and his two brothers (Walter and George) were the first to settle on the Darling Downs after being asked by the New South Wales government in 1847 to select a site for a town on Canning Downs station. It was to be known as Canningtown and the local Aborigines knew the area as Gooragooby, but the name Warwick was eventually chosen.
Continuing a bit out of town we pulled into a friends farm, which was to be our camp for the night, but instead of sleeping in our rooftop tent we reluctantly spent the night in a real bed for the first time since leaving home 9-months earlier. Welcome to our blog Bob and Pam – we spent a lovely evening in good company overlooking paddocks of horses and cows and grape vines!
The repairs to the Hilux’s blinker turned out to be a non-event even here at Warwick. We had stopped at Toyota dealers in Roma, Dalby and Warwick to have it fixed but the service people still couldn’t find the problem… so reluctantly we continued on – a bit worried about driving in traffic on the Gold Coast.
Beaudesert was our next destination to stay with friends we had met at Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria earlier in the year. Welcome to our blog Dee and Aaron.
Following the Cunningham Highway we travelled along the ‘Scenic Rim’ to the small village of Aratula, at the foot of Cunningham’s Gap… and ‘SCENIC’ it certainly was, another of the best of ‘Mother Nature’s’ creations!
Beautiful natural areas including the Moogerah Peaks National Park and Main Rain National Park surround Aratula.
The Scenic Rim stretches from Beechmont in the East to Moogerah in the west, and Peak Crossing in the north all the way down to Mounty Lindsay. The larger areas in the region include Mount Tamborine, Canungra, Beaudesert, Boonah and Rathdowney, however there are many smaller villages along the way.
There are hundreds of kilometres of walking tracks within the 6-National Parks in the Scenic Rim, making this a bush-walkers paradise. From the ancient Gondwana Rainforests in Lamington, to the easy walks in Tamborine, or the inland rocky mountains of Mount Barney, Main Range and Moogerah Peaks parks, to last-but-not-least the quieter Glen Rock State Forest.
At Kalbar only a pub, a couple of shops – those small-town shops you remember as a kid, a few houses and farms make up this tiny hamlet although it did have some fabulous old buildings. In the heart of the Scenic Rim Kalbar is just off the Cunningham Highway and sits in the shadows of Mount French and the Great Dividing Range.
Leaving Kalbar we drove past Wyaralong Dam and Boonah, a buzzing country town with a main street full of local produce and artwork and not 30 minute later on we arrived at the quaint township of Beaudesert.
We have travelled to the very ‘Tip of Australia’, to the western outback, deep into the heart of the red centre of Australia and we were now only kilometres from the beautiful, coastlines we had travelled earlier in the year.
Sadly, our road trip is coming to an end.
After a few days in Kirra Caravan Park at Coolangatta we continue our journey south to Sydney where we will meet up with family and travel home to Tassie.
Travelling Australia by road is a pretty big undertaking, but the rewards are always worth the effort… so grab some wheels and set out into the unknown.
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