Free Camp Friday – Calliope River, QLD

IMG_5411.JPG

IMG_5456.JPG

IMG_5464.JPG

IMG_5452.JPG

Calliope is situated just north of Gladstone in Queensland. Calliope River Rest Area is a free camping area provided by Gladstone Regional Council.

The camping area is separated into a north and south area, divided by the river. The south area is accessible from the Old Bruce Highway, however it was due to be closed on 3/11/14 I believe in case of flooding. It flooded quite severely through there last year, and you can still see debris in many of the trees.

The north area is accessible from the highway; there is a day use area at the top near the historical village and store, with the camping area further down the road.

We camped on the north side. The vans mostly line the road at the top, but there is lots of grass and shade down the hill. We found a nice little hideyhole and were largely on our own and undisturbed, other than a pretty big brown snake who decided to come through our camp one day.

In terms of amenities, there is a toilet block on either side and a
composting toilet as well on the north side (although this is closed about six months out of the year). There is only non-potable water, so bring your own drinking water, and there are no fires at this site.

The Historical Village opens daily and you can tour it for a small fee. We didn’t actually do the tour because, well because my family are philistines, but we did get a glimpse into the past when we visited the monthly markets held in the village.

I love a good market, but I’ve learned not to get too excited too far in advance. Case in point: Seisia. One jewellery stall, one pongy stuff stall, the woman from the butcher selling dot painting pillow cases and one of the tour companies. But the Calliope River market was ace. A bit of fruit and veg (more pumpkins than I have ever seen before in my life), heaps of clothing, plants, and beautiful homemade goodies that would make great gifts (I believe the next one is December 7 so if you’re around you could sort out a heap of your pressies in one hit). The markets are held monthly and adult entry is by a gold coin donation.

As for the fishing – well, there were plenty of lines out there but I don’t know how well anyone did. We heard talk of Barra and Mangrove Jack but we didn’t see any. The boys did catch a couple of bream, but that was about as well as we did. And a heap of catfish, which were a bit of fun to catch. Heaps of birds around, we took an injured lorikeet into Gladstone for treatment and were surrounded by very friendly kookaburras.

WikiCamps gives the coordinates for the north area as 23° 57′ 41″ S 151° 9′ 8″ E and the time period is 48 hours.

Free Camp Friday – Tell Us Where To Go!

IMG_5411.JPG

It’s becoming clear that we have NFI where we are headed in the near future. So we’re asking for your help!

We are pit stopping near Rockhampton this weekend to shop, shower, do washing and all that exciting stuff.

Then we head towards Gladstone for a couple of days at Calliope.

From there, we’ll spend a couple of weeks at Agnes Water/1770 before stopping in Hervey Bay for a couple of days to show Mackenzie where she was born.

In the words of that seminal classic “Dude, Where’s My Car?”

And then……

We don’t know where to go!

We probably should start heading inland from Hervey Bay, but then we miss the Sunny Coast. Which will probably be busy (and exxy) by then anyway.

Most likely we will start heading towards Toowoomba and then meet up with the New England Highway. Or maybe the Newell. We want to take the kids to Forbes to show the kids where Nan grew up and Matt spent his holidays, but we’re a mighty long way away from there yet.

So – tell us where to go. Know any great spots we should visit? Obviously we’re interested in cheaper options, and we love to support van parks who don’t charge us exorbitantly for the kids. Dog and camper trailer friendly are our only other requirements.

It’s travelling Choose Your Own Adventure style!

Free Camp Friday – Carmila Beach, QLD

IMG_6453IMG_6457

It’s a bit wild and woolly here today, and we’ve seen our first rainfall since driving through Tully about 6 or 7 weeks ago. We were actually a bit worried about getting the tent wet again, as we’ve found that it can be a bit leaky after a prolonged dry period and seems to need that bit of reseasoning every now and then. Luckily, we escaped the 3am downpour with no rain coming inside the tent.
Carmila is one of those Queensland beaches where when the tide goes out, it really goes out. About a kilometre and a half. I think we were the only people here who weren’t eating fish for dinner last night as the soft plastics weren’t really cutting it. Luckily, there’s a petrol station up the road where you can buy bait, so we’ll see how that goes today.
There’s no drinking water here at the camp, but again just up the road (about 5km or so) there’s a water point where you can fill up. We stopped in here in July and it was chockers, but it’s emptied out a bit now and this time we managed to snag a spot on the beach front. We’ve had some pretty spectacular views of the lunar eclipse the other night, and another beautiful moon last night. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, it’s free (72 hour stay) and it’s possibly my favourite camp so far.
Carmila Beach is approximately 100km south of Mackay. Suitable for all sorts of campers, however there is some pretty soft sand here, so heavier vehicles/2WD are probably best off up the top of the site. There are couple of toilets here, but they’re a bit of a hike from the further away camp spots so BYO – there’s a dump point here too.

Free Camp Friday – The Bend, Coen

Cape York is home to some pretty pricey camping, but there’s a heap of free and budget options as well. One of those free camps is The Bend at Coen, 3km north of town.

The Bend is one of those rare free camps that is suitable for tents, trailers and vans. We stopped there on the way north and it was pretty busy, but by the time we came back down a few weeks it was practically deserted – in fact when we pulled in there was no one else there!

We did have a dip in the water, but like all waterways in Far North Queensland it pays to be on croc watch.

There’s no drinking water so BYO, and the pit toilet known as Windyloo Is possibly the stinkiest I’ve encountered – it will make your eyes water! We used creek water for our doing the dishes and having a wash.

Coen has a couple of fuel points and general stores that are not too expensive but only have limited lines. The pub is reasonably colourful – it’s called the SExchange – but also has a lot of historical information and photos from Coen’s past.

There’s behind the pub or at Charlie’s Mine, which we’ve since heard from other campers is a bit of an experience. But if your budget needs a day or two of not spending money (as ours frequently does!) The Bend is your best bet.

IMG_5286.JPG

IMG_5284.JPG

IMG_5285.JPG

IMG_5283.JPG

IMG_5287.JPG

Cleanliness is next to….absolutely losing your marbles

If being clean all the time is something that ranks highly on your list of personal attributes, this is probably not the lifestyle for you. It had been sometime since was last had an actual running water shower; we’ve got our solar shower bag and there’s always the good old wash out of a bucket, but actual running water with variable temperature – not so much.

I actually don’t really notice all that much until I have to go somewhere that other people are not covered in a layer of dirt and smelling like fire. Like the supermarket. Or one of our four (so far) hospital runs. We look enough like the Griswalds as it is, so yesterday en route to the supermarket we stopped in at Home Hill Comfort Stop for a wash.

If you’ve never been to Home Hill, it’s a great little stop. The 48 hour free camp itself is just parking bays on the road, so not really a spot for tents or people with a thousand kids. But if it’s just two of you in a van, it’s fine.

Across the road though is the comfort stop with 5 minute hot showers, toilets, BBQs in the camp kitchen and a coin op laundry next door.

Harper had fallen asleep in the car on the way to town, so we agreed the boys would go first while Mackenzie and I stayed with her, and then we’d go when they came back. And what followed was a fantastic example of the difference between having a shower when you’re a dad, and when you’re a mum.

Matt came back from his shower beaming. That shower was the best thing that had ever happened to him. He didn’t know what to do with all the hot water. I was going to love it. He’d never felt so clean.

I was getting pretty excited about the shower at this point.

And then Harper woke up. And suddenly my two person shower with Kenz was a two person plus a toddler shower, which quite frankly is a far less appealing thought.

Have you ever seen a greasy pig chase? That’s a bit what having a shower with a toddler is like. She’d fallen over twice before I even turned the water on. I wouldn’t recommend trying to shave your armpits with a baby on your hip unless you actually are a contortionist. In the end, I gave up and hoped for the best.

I was still a bit dirty, and not particularly relaxed, but I was cleaner. Which at this point is really all I can hope for. Until next time – which will be dad’s turn to take the toddler.

I did however manage to snap before and after photos of my feet.

IMG_5148.JPG

Free Camp Friday – Babinda, QLD

IMG_4948.JPG
Babinda is located around 50km south of Cairns, and provides not one but two free camping areas. The 48 hour camp at The Boulders isn’t dog-friendly so that was out for us, however the 72 hour camp at the Rotary Park was a great place to stop for a few days.

The grassed area was pretty swampy when we arrived, but there’s plenty of space. It was pretty busy, but people tend to clear out by about 10 so if you get in before lunch you’re pretty right.

Facilities at the park include toilets, cold showers, drinking water, an RV dump point and hot showers for a fee ($2 for 4 minutes). A short walk into town gives you a bakery (who sometimes bring excess stock down to the park at night), laundromat, SPAR, couple of pubs and other assorted stores. Plus a great op shop – perfect for replacing the mysteriously vanished cutlery (is that just me?)

Regardless of which free camp you stop at (I’d suggest both if you’re not travelling with pets) a trip to The Boulders is a must do.

The Legend of the Boulders

Easy walks to the lookouts with absolutely spectacular views. We also took a dip in the swimming hole – it was bloody freezing when we were there – but incredibly calming and serene.

Babinda is definitely on our “must go back” list.

IMG_4952.JPG

IMG_4951-0.JPG

IMG_4950-0.JPG

Free Camp Friday – Bushy Parker Park and Toomulla Beach

20140905-103425.jpg

Fuel and camping fees are two things that can really blow your budget on a trip like this. Now that we’ve done Cape York, we’re travelling at a much slower pace – not more than about 400km a week including shopping, sightseeing and general running about – and taking advantage of as many free camps as we can find.

Free camping is loosely defined as any camping outside a caravan park. It’s not always completely free of charge but if there is a fee it is generally a small donation towards the maintenance and facilities.

North of Townsville, there’s a stretch of 4 free camps all within about 40 or so kilometres of each other. Saunders Beach and Bluewater are both 24 hour stays and at this point of our adventure we’re not mad keen on doing the overnighters unless we absolutely have to. We didn’t stop in either of these this time but they’re definitely worth a look for a quick pit stop.

We did stay at both the 48 hour camps in this area. Bushy Parker Park is just over the train line at Rollingstone. It’s a beautiful spot, very shady with a crystal clear creek full of turtles. Male and female toilets, drinking water, a BBQ and play equipment for the kids, the park holds 30 sites.

Next stop was Toomulla, a whole 12km down the road! A bit smaller than Bushy Parker Park but similar facilities – BBQ, playground, drinking water and toilets. There is a boat ramp at Toomulla and a resident croc who hangs out there – we didn’t see him unfortunately. There’s also a lot of mangroves, so take your insect repellant. One thing you can always bank on in Queensland is where there’s mangroves, there’s midges.

Both parks are beautiful, clean and well maintained, although you may occasionally need to crack into your own stash of dunny roll! The Ranger comes around twice a week to take down registration plates and move on anyone who is taking the Mickey. We try to make sure we go into the town to spend some money while we’re in free camps, whether that’s as big as doing groceries or as small as a couple of schooners at the pub.

We’ve stayed at a stack of great free camps so far (and a couple of not so great ones too) and will share our best finds with you every Friday.

Do you free camp? Got any best kept secrets you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!