One of the stages on our recent trip to north-west Queensland saw us travelling from Lawn Hill Gorge to Cobbold Gorge. It’s too big a trip to do in one day, so we needed to do an overnighter. We had been to Karumba on a previous trip, so had decided that we would probably just stay overnight in Normanton and take in a drink or two at the iconic purple pub. On our last night at Adels Grove, one of our travelling companions pulled out his WikiCamps and had a look.
“What about this place?” he said.
Why the heck not?
Leichhardt Lagoon is located twenty-four kilometres east of Normanton on the road to Croydon. It is what I would describe as a gem in the dust. For $8 per person (children under 10 free and kids 10-14 half price) you get an unpowered site and access to a clean amenities block and hot showers. Ours was a drive through site which mean that we didn’t have to unhook the van, and for us that’s a bonus on these long trips where you have driven for hours and face another day of the same in the morning. Generators are allowed and it’s dog friendly. Apparently you can get Telstra mobile coverage if you have some sort of a cable, but you don’t come to places like this expecting to have it and I can’t attest to its reliability.
The camp has a really quirky feel about it, from its colourful murals on the ablutions block to its hand painted, poorly punctuated signage, right down to the disclaimer you sign as you check in. The paperwork is basically saying that if you are dumb enough to go swimming in the lagoon and get eaten by a croc, you have been warned and it’s not their fault. It’s not like there aren’t enough reminders:
But this place is all about relaxing and this is a great place to do it, offering one of the best champagne and cheese sunset viewing spots anywhere, over a picturesque lagoon chock full of birdlife…and crocodiles. Truly gorgeous.
The adjoining homestead offers a five-dollar dinner on a Saturday night. Numbers are limited, however, so you need to book. Unfortunately for us we arrived too late in the day and missed out, but from our vantage point near the lake, we could hear the festivities and guests who were lucky enough to dine reported having a wonderful time filling their bellies with casserole and curried sausages and bread and butter pudding.
If your holiday plans involve fishing in the Gulf, Leichhardt Lagoon would be a wonderful base. It’s only a fifteen-minute drive into Normanton and the Karumba fishing charters are only another fifty minutes or so beyond that. Talking to our fellow sunset viewers, there were plenty of people who came to the lagoon planning to stay only a night or two and who ended up staying for a week!
Some of the reviewers on Wikicamps and Trip Advisor have complained about the dust. I imagine that the campsites can get a bit dusty in the dry, but if you’re worried about dust, you really shouldn’t consider travelling anywhere west of the Great Dividing Range. Precious water is not going to be used to manicure lawns for fusspots. Dust is just part of the package. There are also some that complain that eight dollars is a bit steep. According to the App there is the Normanton Free Camp, so maybe that it a better option for those people. I can say I have stayed at plenty of campgrounds where I have paid way more than eight dollars and have been offered far less for my money.
Having now discovered this little gem, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back there again. It’s the type of place where people pin damper recipes to the notice boards and strangers become friends beside a waterhole under a setting sun, sharing their travel stories and comparing itineraries.
Yes, I will go back there some day. The next time I will make sure I’m there early enough to book in for the Saturday dinner. And take in that drink at the Purple Pub.
Kath, Mark and Connor – The Caravan