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Wednesday, 26 Jun 2013

Blackall succeeds with caravan parks and council independent-camping co-existence

Welcome to campers in Blackall.
Welcome to campers in Blackall.

By Phil Jones and Alayne Russell

We recently spent several days in Blackall, Queensland – a lovely and lively town on the Landsborough Highway which stretches roughly between Roma in the south and Longreach in the north.

The highway carries large amounts of traffic – holiday makers, Grey Nomad retirees seeking the warmer sun, mining equipment on the move, and of course the nation's food and other supplies that are carried by truck all over this country.

Blackall is an old town: it's been on the map for 150 or so years, starting with the first settlers following on from Major Mitchell; then keeping busy for many decades with wool on the hoof. It is now one of the many outback communities looking into the new economic boom of coal mining – both below and above ground.

Blackall today has maybe 1500 local residents and in the winter months, maybe another couple of hundred grey nomad daily visitors. Blackall also contains Australia's last remaining steam-driven machinery wool scour – effectively a living museum.

We were there recently and stayed for three or four days. We elected to stay down by the creek in the council-run “free camping” area for self-contained vehicles – with a $5 per night fee per vehicle. The area is a flattish, flood affected area about the size of three or four footy fields, and has no facilities beyond rubbish bins.

Across the road in a picnic area are a small toilet block and a Campervan Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) sponsored dump point for cassette toilets. People without showers in their campers / caravans can walk 150 metres to either the local information centre or some public showers in Short Street and have a hot shower for a gold-coin donation. All very civilised.

Each evening there I did a bit of a walk-around to gasbag with fellow travellers and take a few  photos of the area.
Camping with plenty of space Blackall Queensland
Camping with plenty of space Blackall Queensland

Here's a view of some of my fellow travellers – parked haphazardly but when there's plenty of space, who cares? – and with lots of space between rigs.

Chatting with this group of smiling and happy travellers, I discovered that they come from western Victoria and travel north each year for the three months of the southern winter.

They told me quite emphatically that they much prefer the open “freedom camping” lifestyle as they are not locked into a rigid park site. They prefer to arrange the three caravans so that all doors open towards each other and then the internal area becomes their 'social' base where they can fire up the 'choofer' using bits of timber collected through the day.

Yes they do use caravan parks when there is no alternative, but in the main, they come to towns that offer alternate camping accommodation options.

They also travel with a small dog and they mentioned that it does sometimes cause difficulties in getting into a caravan park.

While in Blackall we visited the Wool scour – a living museum with much of its steam-driven equipment still functioning with loving care from a team of volunteers.

We visited the hot-water artesian baths at the eastern end of town. The 'spa' was very pleasant to loll around in and let the warm waters flow over our tired bodies.

We also visited the Seniors shopfront to use the book exchange. It happened also to be Thursday pension day, so it was full of bright and chatty 'oldies' enjoying a roast for lunch.

We bought stuff in the hardware shop and had a small welding job done on the vehicle; got an LPG gas refill, did a weekly food shop in the supermarket, hit the chemist and a gift shop and also the newsagent, the post office and one of the take away shops – all-in-all lots of shops had a visit from us during the days we were there.
Social  base camp with the Choofer  fired up Blackall Queensland.
Social base camp with the Choofer fired up Blackall Queensland.

Our expenses while we were in Blackall were:- $100 - Fuel; $ 15 - Accommodation; $ 86  Supermarket; $120 - Local shops and chemist; $ 5 - Takeaway food; and $ 38 - tourism entry fees … coming in all up at about $360 over the half-a-week that we were there.

Our typical daily spend is about $80 - $90 per day of our travels.

Conclusion -

Q: if Blackall had not offered us non-caravan park accommodation, what would we have done?

A: we'd have got the small welding job done; we'd have done some of our essential shopping and moved down the road to Tambo where we have been told that there's a nice and quiet place on the banks of a local creek. If Tambo could not supply our needs, then our next stop was Springsure which also offers overnight camping alternatives to bland and crowded caravan parks.

About the author:

Phil Jones travels the eastern states of Australia in a self-contained motorhome, and spends six to eight months each year on-the-road. Being in a self-contained vehicle he prefers the wide-open spaces to the squashed-in world of caravan parks with sites set out for the small-sized caravans of 50 years ago.

Phil is quite open in declaring that caravan parks are “accommodation of last resort”.

He is one of many retirees who find that their superannuation is inadequate and he needs to work part-time while on the road in order to supplement his travels. Phil can be contacted if desired at


For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia and Go See New Zealand Directory
Wool scour Blackall is a living museum.
Wool scour Blackall is a living museum.
A wool bale press, Blackall Queensland.
A wool bale press, Blackall Queensland.
Steam engine drives wool scour machinery.
Steam engine drives wool scour machinery.
Wool scour fingers remove burrs and twigs.
Wool scour fingers remove burrs and twigs.
Hot-water artesian baths eastern end of Blackall Queensland.
Hot-water artesian baths eastern end of Blackall Queensland.
Welcome to campers in Blackall
Welcome to campers in Blackall

Phil Jones Travelling School of Photography

Travelling School of Photography and Hinterland Motorhome Tours.

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