After a week of watching the year rehashed on television, the earth repelling against us, terrorist attacks and the gaffs of politicians it was pleasant to sit back and recall the places that we visited this year. Thankfully nutters and pollies haven’t heard of most of these places. Nature sadly threw heartbreak on some of them though. New South Wales and Queensland have suffered through horrendous drought, which we witnessed firsthand. Lowmead and the 1770 region were stricken by bushfires and so too was Finch Hatton and the Pioneer Valley.
Experiences – Without a doubt our best experience of the year and in fact in all our caravanning adventures was going on a sugar cane burn at Burdekin Cane Farm in Queensland.
When it comes to memorable moments, shucking oysters and watching the sun sink over the Great Australian Bight from the clifftop at Locks Well in SA with a couple of mates and a kestrel for company is rather unique.
Pubs – The best outback feel pub stay to my mind was the Toompine Pub, the pub without a town, where a steer led us from our van to the pub door. We could have done with a little bovine assistance finding the van again after dinner. How could we not appreciate the hospitality of the publican at Mirrool who asked us not to pea on the floor as he hates sweeping them up. The lamb cutlets and the peas were delicious. We didn’t stay at the Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton as it is a city pub but eating steak while watching bull riding certainly was a first.
Caravan Parks – We returned to Rollingstone Beach Front Resort and once more it was hard to leave, it remains our favourite. The new park Streaky Bay Islands must have the best bathrooms in Australia. Port Campbell Holiday Park we just fell in love with, Moama Waters is new and impressive and no doubt we’ll return as it is, well, close to home. And speaking of home, Judy at Warrego Riverside in Cunnamulla made us feel so much at home that we made cumquat brandy from her bountiful produce, which we’ve been enjoying over Christmas.
Clubs – Over the years we’ve stayed at bowling clubs, footy clubs, gun clubs and heaven knows what other clubs. This year the surprise was the Griffith Boat Club, a beautiful quiet spot away from the city with loads of birdlife.
Showgrounds – The stand out for us was at Finch Hatton. It were busy with a Jayco muster and yet we still had a site to ourselves which was big enough for four vans.
Farm Stays – Burdekin Cane Farm of course, even without the extravaganza of watching a cane burn, Greg’s hospitality and the beauty of the location in a grove of mango trees beside a lagoon was second to none.
And then we come to Freedom Camps – Those places that are sometimes free, sometimes a donation, usually without power and always cheaper than caravan parks. I’d have to put Bramston Beach at the top of this list though it is hard to classify. It is a camp ground but on the beachfront it is unpowered. Then there’s that wonderful expanse of lawns on the banks of the Murray at Moorook in South Australia. Locks Well was stunning but I’d guess being so exposed that we were very lucky weatherwise. Dando’s Campground in the Otway Ranges was a perfect bush camp. Ayson’s Reserve at Elmore never fails to please. Wooroonook Lakes near Charlton has more birdlife than I’ve ever seen in one place and Fort O’Hare campground at Dartmoor was awash with the smell of eucalyptus after a refreshing summer storm. This list could go on and on and bore you to snorts but I’ll only mention one more and that is the campground at the tiny community of Flaggy Rock in Queensland where we spent more on chutney, pickles and jam than we did on accommodation. And still we’re happily munching through Mrs Pigeon’s delicious berry jam.
A Happy New Year to all and to the adventurers out there, may there be something amazing over that next hill and travel safe!