02/5/17

Belyando Crossing Roadhouse Campground, north of Clermont, Queensland – A Review by The Caravan

Belyando Crossing is the only fuel stop between Charters Towers and Clermont.  It also has a small caravan and campground, so for we mad travellers who had left Cobbold Gorge and were en-route to Mount Morgan, it was a sensible choice for an overnighter.

For that purpose, Belyando Crossing is great.  Having read some of the reviews on WikiCamps and Trip Advisor I was expecting a something akin to a refugee camp run by someone with the people skills of Basil Fawlty.  Please ignore the naysayers. I couldn’t figure out how to turn the lights on in the shower block, but everything else was perfectly acceptable.

For most people, Belyando Crossing is only going to be an overnight stop on the way to someone else.  There’s not much around to keep you there for longer.  There are powered caravan sites, but we opted for the fifteen-dollar unpowered option.  There was heaps of space and trees for shade.  The grass was a bit sparse, but that’s the climate for you, and we could even have a camp fire.  There is deposit for the key to the ablutions block, but you get that back on check out so no problems there.

belyando crossing

belyando crossing roadhouse

Many reviewers have also begrudged the policy of charging two dollars to use the toilets unless you make a purchase.  Sometimes it is so easy to forget to walk in other people’s shoes.  Belyando Roadhouse is in the middle of nowhere.  Here someone is trying to eke out a living. The toilets still have to be cleaned and wages need to be paid.  I get it.  If everybody who went through Belyando filled up on petrol and did nothing else, then this establishment would probably close.  No-one ever got rich from owning a petrol station in the middle of nowhere.

If you don’t want to pay for camping there are a couple of free camps along the road, including one on water a bit further north of the crossing where there were about 300 campers in in full view of the road and what seemed to be one tiny dunny block.

Give me a quiet spot behind a road house any day.

Kath, Mark and Connor – The Caravan

10/24/16

Leichhardt Lagoon, Normanton-Croydon Road, Queensland – A Review by the Caravan

This place is the reason I have now downloaded the WikiCamps App.Purple Pub in Normanton

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.

leichhardt-lagoon-152

Leichhardt Lagoon at SunsetThe lagoon is even more spectacular in the mornings, when the magpie geese take ownership of the water and the sun brings out the colours of an outback waterhole.

Leichhardt LagoonLeichhardt LagoonLeichhhardt Lagoon in the morning

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.

Soap dish at  Leichhardt Lagoon

Toast to Leichhardt Lagoon

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

09/18/16

Blue Heeler Hotel, Kynuna Qld – A review by The Caravan

Blue Heeler Hotel - Kynuna QLDIf you were to look up “middle of nowhere” in the dictionary, it is likely you would find a picture of the Blue Heeler Hotel.  This pub, with its trademark neon sign is the most prominent landmark in the dot of a township that is Kynuna.  If you pass by without stopping and blinked as you did so, you would most likely miss the rest of the town:  the caravan park, the police station (really?) and a very worn out old house (that’s for sale if you are looking for an investment property).

You could power on to Cloncurry or Mount Isa and not stop here, but for this leg of The Tent, The Trailer, The Caravan odyssey, we decided to stay overnight.  The cold beer was welcomed after the trek from Blackall and did something to dampen the disappointment of the closed bakery in Barcaldine, the closed general store in Ilfracombe and the patch of asphalt in Winton which was once the Banjo Paterson Centre.  Powered sites behind the pub are only $15 per night, a definite appeal, and the money you save there can definitely be reinvested into cold ale and good company.

James Blundell said in his song that the Blue Heeler has been sitting for “a hundred years on the Diamantina”.  I can’t begin to verify that statistic, but the pub is old and a little ramshackle, and therein lies its charm. This is the type of place where people with names like Norm and Thel can bring their Waylon Jennings Tribute Show and attract something of an audience (assuming twenty constitutes an audience). Don’t be coming here expecting any of your fancy schmancy boutique beers, and although you might be able to snag a glass of sav blanc, anything as exotic as a pino grigio and you will be in trouble. But cold beer it does have, and a welcoming verandah where you can sit in tranquillity until the next road train thunders through town, or go out the back and sit under the incongruously placed Coolum Surf Life Saving Club boat suspended from the ceiling.

The Blue Heeler Hotel, Kynuna QLD

You might also be treated by a visit from a family of brolgas.  These birds are large and majestic, and I wouldn’t say that they are aggressive, but they are certainly assertive. Last time we visited they swooped in on the pillow Connor dropped on the ground while we were setting up and attempted to make off with it.  This time we were visited by one who was not going to give up until Connor was relieved of his toast.  Now I am not advocating feeding the native animals, but when a bird stands taller than you, sometimes it’s you or them.  Regardless, the Blue Heeler provides a great opportunity to get up close to these creatures, whether you ask for it or not.

But if for no other reason, stay at the Blue Heeler for the sunrise.  Poke your camera over the back fence, or stand out on the road and take a pic of the sun spectacularly rising over…nothing.  It is awesome, and if the clouds and the road trains play friendly, you will be able to capture a fantastic shot of the vastness emptiness that is outback Australia.

If anyone from the Blue Heeler ends up reading this review, I do offer these two pieces of advice.  Firstly, get ALL of the neon bulbs on the sign in working order. When you are an icon of outback Australia, be 100% iconic, a bit more like the picture in the signs on the way into town.  Secondly, get your stock of merchandise replenished.  My original Blue Heeler polo shirt gave up the ghost a few years back after twenty plus years of proud wear.  When I tried to buy a new one on my last visit, you were out of t-shirts altogether and had limited sizes in the polo shirts.  Fast forward five years and your t-shirts are still out of stock and you can’t buy a polo above a medium.  Lost opportunity.

Kath, Mark and Connor – The Trailer

08/30/15

Cobb and Co Nine Mile – A Review by the Caravan

If you build it, they will come…

Ok. So I have borrowed from the Kevin Costner film where his character put all his money into building a baseball diamond in his cornfield so that his long dead father could come and play. If you remember, at the end of the film there is a long shot of miles of headlights headed for the field to watch the games.

I’m starting to think this catchphrase definitely applies to campgrounds. These days, with social media amplifying the tried and true method of word-of-mouth, it truly seems that if you build one, they will come.

Cobb and Co Nine Mile Camping, Gympie

Such is undoubtedly the case with Cobb and Co Nine Mile, just south of Gympie and less than one hour from the beautiful Sunshine Coast. We spent our first weekend at Cobb and Co a couple of years ago. Back then, you could pretty much have the run of the place. These days, even the quieter weekends seem to be a bit busier, but there is so much space, that it never gets claustrophobic. Back then, we were the ones spreading the word about this wonderful place, but these days I am hard up finding a camping friend who has never been there. Its popularity will no doubt continue to grow. Not long ago it was featured on Channel 7’s “The Great South-East”. That means those city slickers from Brisvegas now know about this great camping spot within two hours of the state capital.

If you have kids and dogs, they will love it here. The kids will find plenty of space to kick a ball, ride their bikes (including on the track that has been built for that very purpose), zipping along on the flying fox, patting the baby farm animals or swimming or paddling on the lagoon. You could always try chucking a yabby pot in as well, but I reckon our boy caught the only breeding male two years ago. Give it a crack just don’t count on a feed!

Cobb and Co Nine Mile Camping, Gympie

Cobb and Co Nine Mile is great for groups. If you have friends that don’t camp (apparently there are still people out there like that), they can even join you and “glamp” in one of the permanent tents scattered around the campgrounds. It really doesn’t get much better than that. There is a modern ablutions block servicing the whole of the camp, and numerous drop toilets around the grounds, so it’s never too far to walk. Now the very words “drop toilet” are enough to strike fear into the hearts of even some seasoned campers (believe me, I’ve used some incredibly dodgy ones….Welford National Park……shudder….springs to mind!) but if it’s possible to love a drop toilet, I love the ones here. It’s amazing how solar powered lighting, deodoriser and a heart-shaped vanity mirror can bring a touch of luxury to the most basic of amenities.

brooloo-cobb and co-charlie moreland 101

The Mothar Mountain Rock Pools are a five minute drive away, and it’s a fifteen minute drive (if that) into Gympie if you need to stock up (or you discover that your gas cooker hose needs replacing after you nearly singe your eyebrows off!). The Sunshine Coast beaches are within easy reach if you want to head off on a day trip, or head north and Rainbow Beach is pretty close as well.

I think what really makes Cobb and Co Nine Mile is that it is family run. That means the owners know what appeals to families and they have built a place that welcomes and caters to them. Well done to Sean and Katherine. They built it, and now they come. They have truly created a field of dreams.

To book Cobb and Co go to  –www.cobb-and-co-nine-mile-camping-grounds.com

Kath, Mark and Connor – The Caravan

04/21/15

CATERPILLARS ARE WELCOME, BUT NOT THE FERAL GRUBS – The Caravan

I didn’t get a chance to get away for long this Easter, so I have had to live vicariously through the Facebook posts of others.  I love going through the posts and reading reviews and discovering new places that I would love to visit in future.  I also love reading about people’s experiences and reviews of places I have been to and seeing what they think.

One of our favourite campgrounds is Island Reach at Imbil.  It’s a little bit of a thrill that when you click on the independent review on the Island Reach website, it takes you to the review that my sister wrote Island Reach Camping Review – by The Tent.  It seems that lots of fun was had by many over Easter, and that’s exactly the way that it should be. Island Reach is a fantastic spot and deserving of the accolades.

I guess that’s why I was a little perplexed when Triff told me of a comment she had seen in one of the camping Facebook groups a few weeks ago from a disgruntled visitor to Island Reach. The basis of the author’s complaint was that Continue reading

09/21/14

Up the Guts – The Run for Home by The Caravan

OK.  It’s time to bite the bullet and accept that, since we’ve been home for three weeks, out trip has come to an end.

I think back and realise that this has been a common theme for me.  In 1999 we did an eight week world tour.  I kept a journal religiously…until those last couple of days in Hawaii which, to this day, remain as a couple of dot points on a serviette housed in the back of the trip book.  Our cruise was only seven days.  Day seven was a chore to write. I always thought the last day of our NZ trip written up on the flight on the way home. I mostly remember that flight for the Marlborough Savignon Blanc.

So it was the best of intentions that I would wind up the Up the Guts tour with its final blog as soon as we got home. Yet here I am, three weeks later. When your trip is good, be it a weekend, a month or longer, you feel somewhat empty when you get home.

However:  I do feel that the run for home is deserving of its own blog, and since Dave Reynolds has crashed out of the Eastern Creek race on lap one, I now find myself with some time on my hands.

Having had a fantastic night at Daly Waters (see previous blog), we headed for our next overnight stop at Barkly Homestead.  It was a chance for us to say our farewells to the ant hill Continue reading

09/1/14

Hello Feasting, My Old Friend: The Sounds of Silence Dinner, Uluru – A Review by The Caravan

Dined in July, 2014

From the minute we had started planning our Up the Guts trip and I had heard of the Sounds of Silence Dinner, I decided it was going to be a must-do. There is something about sitting out in the middle of nowhere, feasting on a native inspired menu that was just too alluring to resist.

It brought back memories to 1998.  My brother-in-law got married on the beach at Stradbroke Island at dawn.  There was just something special about getting all dressed up and then wearing bare feet with the sand between your toes and then later, still dressed in your finery, jumping on the local bus to the reception venue at the Little Ships Club. This time it was all about sitting at linen dressed tables, sipping wine from glassware, eating from China plates and doing it under the canopy of stars with the red dirt of central Australia beneath your feet.

The Sounds of Silence Restaurant is in the Northern Territory Restaurant Hall of Fame.  Now to be honest, I’m not sure Continue reading

08/13/14

Up the Guts, Day 28, Daly Waters Pub, NT (Reprise) – The Caravan

In a previous post I mentioned the fantastic lunch stop we had at the Daly Waters pub on our way to Katherine.  We loved the experience so much that we decided to go back there again.  There were a couple of other reasons for this.  Firstly, Douglas Springs marked our turn around point.  Every stop from this point on meant that we were a little closer to home. Secondly, Daly Waters was a comfortable driving distance from Douglas Springs to allow Happy Hour time.

Finally, and perhaps more importantly, we had cottoned on to the Beef and Barra barbecue the pub offers every night.  This would not be the first stop on this trip governed by the taste buds of one or other of us.

This time we thought we would take in the sights of Daly Waters. Judging by the town map, this would not Continue reading

08/10/14

Up the Guts, Days 26 to 27, Douglas Springs, NT – The Caravan

After leaving Kakadu, we headed for a place called Douglas Hot Springs, north of Katherine.  None of us had ever heard of it, so it was a bit of an unknown.  I think Glenn and Enza were hoping it might be a pace like the Mataranka Springs they had first visited almost twenty years ago – a little less developed and fewer people.  However; the close proximity to Darwin (and the show holiday weekend) were beginning to make us a little sceptical.

Our first stop was for fuel in the township of Pine Creek. To be honest, I don’t think John Jarrett has done anything for the reputation of outback places with names ending in “creek”, and Bradley John Murdoch didn’t help by putting the previously blogged Barrow Creek on the map.  So I wasn’t expecting too much. While parts of Pine Creek lived up to expectations, there is a great little stop for lunch called the Pine Creek Railway Resort.  Now I do admit that the term ‘resort’ does get bandied about a bit too freely sometimes (our much loved Sunny Coast camping spot, Island Reach Resort is definitely one of those) and the resort pool is less than half the size of the one we have in our backyard at home.  But enter into the mix a great little railway themed (décor, not the food!) café-come-bar, serving tasty burgers and light meals for lunch. In a town where the options are limited (even Ah Toy’s food store was closed on a Saturday afternoon; a double disappointment for Connor who read it as ATTENTION ALL YOU KIDS WHO HAVE BEEN CRAMPED UP IN A CAR! HERE BE TOYS!), you leave there feeling as though you chose the place, not that it was really the only option.

From Pine Creek it’s another 100 kilometres or so to Douglas Springs, the last seven or so of which are on dirt road. We arrived at the Springs to realise our worst fears. Continue reading

08/8/14

Up the Guts, Kakadu National Park (Part two), NT – The Caravan

Part two –

Our third day in Kakadu was devoted to another two of the “big ticket” features, Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls.

The turn-off to Jim Jim is about ten kilometres north of Cooinda before you start the dirt part. The enthusiastic ranger at Boowila described the first fifty kilometres as a “dirt highway”. He really mustn’t get out of the park too often and has forgotten his point of comparison. Then it’s nearly sixty kilometres of dirt road of varying degrees of corrugation, the final ten kilometres or so of which is four wheel drive only.   It’s not the steepest four wheel drive track I have ever been on, but it’s winding over rocks and washouts and through a couple of little water crossings.  The thing that makes it even slower is meeting oncoming traffic and having to have the stand-off about who will get off the track.

At the entrance to the Jim Jim Falls walk is one of the ubiquitous signs about crocodile safety.  Whilst Jim Jim is generally to be considered one of the falls in Kakadu where you can swim, the park makes no guarantee that any of the popular waterways will be free of salties; in fact the Information Book says that the ONLY safe place to swim in Kakadu is in the pool at Jabiru.  (To be fair, the two pools at Cooinda are absent of the critters as well).

Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu, NTIt is a 900 metre walk to the base of the falls, or it would be if you could travel in a straight line.  Unfortunately this is impossible as most of it is a scramble over boulders, attempting to find a foothold.  My mind went back to Monica’s son in the store in Jabiru, “I do Jim Jim in bare feet all the time.” Just as I was thinking what a pile of baloney that was, I was passed on the track by a loved-up couple clad only in bare feet and swim wear.  It was going to be a pleasure seeing one or other of them writhing in pain with a broken Continue reading