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GoSeeAustralia tours 3800km Geelong - Cairns and finds Outback Australia within reach of most budgets

January 19, 2007
GoSeeAustralia tours 3800km Geelong - Cairns and finds Outback Australia within reach of most budgets

If you are one of the thousands of Australians who don't have a caravan, motorhome, campervan, camper or 4WD. If you on a limited budget and struggle with high fuel prices but you want to see the real Outback of Australia. Well you can. GoSeeAustralia tackled the challenge and drove about 3,800km from Geelong to Cairns in eight days.

We now know that a 3.8 litre 1995 Statesman valued at less than $10,000 makes a great escape for anyone who wantsto go Around The Block.

It is all possible using a conventional vehicle, driving economically and staying in quality caravan park cabin accommodation where self catering, providing your own bed linen and Caravan Park Chain membershipproduces real savings.

Fuel costs are not high, GoSeeAustralia's statistics from the trip, which are attached to this feature, show fuel cost has gone up 6 per cent per year since 2002. Cabin costs are not high. If a non-ensuite cabin is the chosen accommodation the cost is further reduced. Travelling without a caravan allows for exceptional fuel consumption. We drove normally. We went where we wanted to.

An older vehicle properly maintained can do the same or better than some newer models for this trip Geelong to Cairns, there was no caravan in tow, we had an opportunity to take the car to Cairns and fly home. GoSeeAustralia paid the going rates throughout the trip.

So come along for the ride and GoSeeAustralia will take you on one of the Great Drives of Australia:

We stayed in comfortable and affordable cabin accommodation in caravan parks. We did not have the carrying capacity to fly home with our own bedding as well as the luggage required for a 17 day holiday.

Cabins provide self-catering facilities, have en-suite and in most cases, can provide all bedding. We self-catered for breakfast with toast, cereals and pack a thermos for use during the day.

Lunch was generally sandwiches or dry biscuits with cheese, meat loaf and fruit. The costs in the diary which we compiled for this feature show that throughout this trip meals costs are for the evening meal only, whether it was self-catered or eaten out.

We travelled with a small soft Esky with an ice brick, which was refrozen each night in the cabin refrigerator. We travelled at off peak times.

The 3,800 odd km trip was planned over eight days to allow for day traveling of about five hours not too much for most traveling couples and this accommodates necessary fuel stops.

The vehicle, a 1995 Holden Statesman Limited Edition Greg Norman International Series features 3.8 litre V6 motor, cruise control, air conditioning, sun roof and all the other comforts of a long wheel base luxury vehicle. It was purchased in November with a full service history since new and is valued at less than $10,000.

Records from previous trips allows us to note fuel and cabin accommodation costs and compared them with those of increased fuel consumption towing a caravan and paying powered site fees.

The 1995 3.8 V6 Holden Statesman GoSeeAustralia drove to Cairns
The 1995 3.8 V6 Holden Statesman GoSeeAustralia drove to Cairns

Generally meal costs for two people should be similar in both circumstances. It is a great benefit to travel with Caravan Park Club membership cards. We are members of Top Tourist Parks of Australia, Family Parks of Australia New Zealand and Big4 Holiday Parks to maximize the savings available. These can be up to a further $8 per night.

The first day began a little later than planned and ended up better than planned. The friendliness and welcoming reception from parks visited along the way was very encouraging. We knew caravan parksare the preferred option for many travelers because of their security, the friendly atmosphere and the opportunity to meet with and talk to people along the way.

Our first visit was to Janine and Ken of McLeans Beach Caravan Park in Deniliquin they are long time customers of GoSeeAustralia. It was pleasing to see Ken back on his feet after a serious motorcycle accident which resulted in a broken arm and leg.

Janine reported that the Cod season had just opened in the Edwards River which is one of the main drawcards for this caravan park and catches were very good. The water level in the river was a little below the norm, however the authorities had guaranteed that the current river water levels would be maintained until at least the end of the holiday season.

Our belated overnight stay was with Chris and Sue Craig at Big4 Hay Plains Holiday Park. They made up our bed with all linen at our request. Their friendly reception even included a meal voucher from local hotels, clubs and restaurants enabling us to choose a suitable venue and still receive a drink on the house for being a Big4 club member. A discount voucher was also included for our first fuel refill next in the morning.

$6 meals for two cost less than two icecreams
$6 meals for two cost less than two icecreams

The trip through to Hillston joined The Kidman Way with a sign recognizing this fact after we turned off the Cobb Highway and passed through Goolgowi. The Kidman Way is the main route from Jerilderie NSW to the Queensland border at Barringun.

Our first stop was at Hillston on the banks of the Lachlan River for a cuppa and sandwiches for lunch at a pleasant road side stop featuring a hand painted map of the region by Mrs Beryl Robertson of Hillston. This was a four year project of Hillston Resident Ratepayers Association and was completed in April 2006.

It was funded by Carrathool Shire and Community Grants Scheme funds raised by members of the Rate Payers Association through the Christmas decorations initiative and money donated by Roses IGA.

The community charity wheel and other local businesses providing significant assistance with the construction and erection of the map. There is also a concrete plaque in this area commemorating the demographic centre of Australia in the year 2000.

The Kidman Way
The Kidman Way

The accompanying notes say that 100 years after federation in the year 2000, this spot was the demographic center of Australia with equal numbers of persons living north and south, east and west of the spot where we were standing. This project was initiated by local resident Mrs Jean Busch.

Upon reaching Cobar, our first stop was to visit the Great Cobar Heritage Centre to view the extensive historical displays for the areas gold and copper mining projects. The Heritage Centre also displays an Ironstone Xylophone, which was invented by Bob Harris, an elder of the Aboriginal community from this district. The principal of this Xylophone is an adaption to the European style, but the use of small slabs of ironstone as musical instruments is a local activity.

Cobar now has a population of around 6,200 who are mainly employed in the mining industry. Accommodation is at a premium and GoSeeAustralia recommends that anyone traveling, pre-book their accommodation. Cobar is growing and when the Cobar Shire Council recently opened a new subdivision of 64 blocks of land it sold out in four days.

Demographic Centre Year 2000 Hillston project initiated by Jean Busch
Demographic Centre Year 2000 Hillston project initiated by Jean Busch

Our guide, John Martin, Manager Tourism and Public Relations Great Cobar Heritage Centre took us for a guided tour around town, the Great Cobar Heritage Centre and the mine viewing areas.

We drove on to Bourke travelling easy on good bitumen roads crossing many cattle grids, passing numerous wild goats, bush and red mountains.

For lunch, we settled on a coffee and specialty of the day at a local Bakery a Steak and Beer pie. We recommend that they be taken separately rather than together!

We have visited Bourke before so we booked straight into Kidman Camp. Last time we visited, they were building flash new timber cabins and they were. We were not disappointed.

Ironstone Xylophone invented by Bob Harris, an elder of the Cobar district Aboriginal community
Ironstone Xylophone invented by Bob Harris, an elder of the Cobar district Aboriginal community

The cabins even feature rocking chairs on the front verandah where you can sit have a chardy and marvel at the earthy sand colors and undergrowth leading all the way down to the Darling River.

The temperature was around 32 degrees. We inspected the Old Bridge over the Darling River. The river was about a meter below what the locals say is normal.

The Bourke cemetery has a lovely plaque and memorial stone for Professor Fred Hollows the benevolent Australian internationally famed eye surgeon with the gift of restoring sight in the Third World with his trachoma surgery.

The Fred Hollows Foundation was launched in Sydney in September 1992 five months before Hollows died. Its vision is a world in which nobody is needlessly blind. It works with blindness prevention organisations in Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

Flash Ensuite Cabins Kidman Camp Bourke
Flash Ensuite Cabins Kidman Camp Bourke

The Foundation is also working to improve Indigenous health in Australia.

There are a lot of other places of interest in Bourke including tours and galleries and a visit to the Bourke Visitor Information Centre where Manager, Stuart Johnson and his staff can provide all the information you can ever need.

Back to Kidman Camp where we had a cool dip in the pool before we cooked a great barbecue dinner. We took a quiet walk around the lush green gardens of the camping area and powered sites. We found Kidman Camp facilities extend to communal vegetable garden in season.

Next day, the trip to Charlieville took us to the end of the Kidman Way at Barringun NSW where we joined the Matilda Highway on the Queensland border.

Barringun Hotel is NSWs last hotel on the highway which follows the Warrego River. It was also the Cobb Co depot in the 1800s where the Bourke coach met the Cunnamulla coach to allow the mail and passengers to transfer coaches. The Tattersalls Hotel is now only frequented by Tourists. Its publican, 82 year old, Mrs Mary Crawley has operated the Hotel for 30 years after moving to Bourke in 1948.

They are in their 7th year of drought. There is no stock on properties, no water, no crops as they entered the hottest part of their year. The only savior now for many towns like this in a similar situation is either rain, rain and more rain, or travelers calling in for a yarn and spending some money.

Prof. Fred Hollows Memorial Bourke Cemetery
Prof. Fred Hollows Memorial Bourke Cemetery

The same applies when staying overnight. We use a caravan park for the security it provides, the jobs they create and to support the local communities travellers are all they have right now.

The trip to Cunamulla and lunch in the main street rotunda allowed for a good look around town. Then on to Charlieville for the night where we had pre-booked with Wendy at Bailey Bar Caravan Park, a member of the Top Tourist Parks of Australia chain.

The temperature all afternoon was 36 degrees, and then all of a sudden, just 80 kms west of Charlieville, a summer thunderstorm struck.

The temperature dropped to 21 degrees in 10 minutes as the rain pelted down. Travelling speeds reduced from 110 kms to 30 kms, the roads flooded as the flat surrounding ground turned into lakes as far as the eye could see. Then, within 30 minutes it was all gone, the roads dry and temperature increased to 30 degrees.

Rocky Creek War Memorial Free Camping Kennedy Highway. OK if there is no caravan park in the area
Rocky Creek War Memorial Free Camping Kennedy Highway. OK if there is no caravan park in the area

We arrived at Bailey Bar 30 minutes late and were greeted by Wendy and shown to our comfortable cabin. We decided to self-cater and purchased some potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, rissoles and gravy.

For $6 we enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal. Ironically, the two ice creams purchased in the park kiosk, also cost $6.

Charlieville was blessed with several thunderstorms during the night. The storms deposited some 7 mm of steady rain. You could feel and smell the grass growing with joy. The town uses bore water, easily detected by the smell. It can be hard water for washing in, it makes the soap feel like it cannot be washed off. It is so warm there is no need to look for the hot water tap when showering.

Before leaving Charlieville we remembered to check the vehicle tyre pressures as we felt they were running a bit hard especially in 36 degree heat. With cold tyres, we called on Charlieville Tyrepower for a free tyre pressure check. They found we were running 34 pounds in the front and 36 pounds in the rear.

Thunderstorm Temp drops 21 deg in 10 mins near Charlieville Qld
Thunderstorm Temp drops 21 deg in 10 mins near Charlieville Qld

Far too high unless we were towing a heavy caravan, so the pressures were reduced to 32 pounds all round which made for more comfortable traveling and even stopped a niggling little rattle in the dash somewhere.

The journey was mostly on the long wide Warrego Highway which follows the main railway line linking inland Queensland to Brisbane. We stopped for a cuppa at Morven and had a look at their quaint little museum. Admissions is $2 per person. Good value.

Wyandra with a population of 70 really gave it their best shot. Their town, almost a ghost town had tourist signs out for coffee, lunches, pub, craft and information signs. Free camping was available at the old sports ground. Thats OK too, when there is no caravan park within the area, but free camping spots, located close to existing caravan parks can be detrimental to the local communities.

On to Roma for sandwiches for lunch and some supermarket shopping before continuing on to Injune where we took the time to inspect their caravan park after hearing about their great special offer on the grapevine.

Comfortable cabin Bailey Bar CP Charlieville
Comfortable cabin Bailey Bar CP Charlieville

In two hours time, we would reach our destination for the night Carnarvon National Park, Central Queensland. We had pre-booked our accommodation for a takka tent at Takarakka Bush Resort which we expected to be the highlight of the trip.

After leaving the Developmental Road from Roma to Rolleston for Carnarvon Gorge travellers see the Rewan Air disaster site and memorial erected to those killed in a C47B Dakota aircraft which crashed en-route from Darwin to Brisbane during an electrical storm on the night of 16th November 1943. Killed were five US Army Corp, seven RAAF Personnel and seven Australian Army Personnel.

After 20 kms, the road becomes gravel for the remaining 20 kms. We are in remote central Queensland, to our benefit, the area received 4 mm of rain the previous evening, keeping the dust down. The temperature was 28 degrees. Its a good gravel road, but travellers must adjust their driving habits to handle the potholes, rocks and corrugations.

Brahmin cattle graze unfenced. Wildlife roams. There are concrete causeways which may flood in wet weather. It can be narrow, but roads like these can be easily negotiated if towing a caravan or just using a normal conventional vehicle by driving sensibly.

Inside a Takka Tent Takarakka Bush Resort Carnarvon Qld
Inside a Takka Tent Takarakka Bush Resort Carnarvon Qld

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Bill and Vicki at reception. They had also provided us with their bedding pack and catering pack (at additional cost) which consisted of fry pan, two plates, bowls, bread and butter plates, knives, forks and spoons, glasses, plastic tumblers and coffee mugs, tongs, sharp knife, egg slide and carrying dish.

Their camp kitchen is located centrally in the resort and provides undercover tables benches, barbecues, hotplates, wash up facilities, toaster, kettles and urn for constant hot water.

Takarakka Bush Resort generates its own power. They have a well stocked kiosk with frozen meat and some grocery lines. The tap water is suitable for drinking

We were fully set up for our night in the Takka Tent The tents are built on a wooden platform, fully insect proofed and have zip up window covers. The whole tent is covered by an extensive external fly. They contain a double and single bed or family cabins with bunks as well, table, refrigerator and bench. Chairs feature on the front verandah.

We unpacked, made up the bed and had a look around. We climbed the Takarakka lookout to view the sunset, visit the platypus viewing hole, then took our catering pack over to the camp kitchen area to cook our steak and chips on the barbecue and to mingle with the other guests for the evening over drinks.

The kookaburra and native birds ensure we rise early to explore the Gorge in the cool early hours of the day. We took the Carnarvon Gorge walk to Wards Canyon and return via the Moss Gardens a total of around 11 kms.

One of  too many creek crossings on Carnarvon Gorge walking tracks
One of too many creek crossings on Carnarvon Gorge walking tracks

Wards Canyon is a canyon lost in time. Like a time capsule, the canyon preserves the wet cool environment that long ago sustained rainforest across much of Queensland. Here grows one of the worlds largest ferns, the King Fern. This is the only place in Central Queensland where these ancient plants survive.

The permanent water of Wards Canyon is essential for the King Ferns survival. The fronds of this fern have no woody tissue; water is their only means of support. Water fills the fronds exerting pressure outwards and keeping them rigid and up to five meters in length. There are only 13 living King Ferns in Ward's Canyon.

Some of the birds and fauna that can be seen in the Carnarvon Gorge walks include echidna, bandicoots, koala, gliders, brush tail possum, Whiptail wallaby, Euros and swamp wallaby, apostle birds, red backed fairy wrens, rainbow, little and scaley breasted lorikeets, Wee Bills white and brown scrub wrens, blue cheeked honey eaters, numerous skinks, lizards, goanna, dragons and snakes.

It is pleasing to note that since GoSeeAustralia's last visit to Takarakka Bush Resort, there are new amenities, improved camp kitchen facilities, signage and camping facilities. Given that the Resort has just finished their extended peak season, the condition of the powered and camping sites are pretty good.

One of the worlds largest - the King Fern Wards Canyon Central Queensland
One of the worlds largest - the King Fern Wards Canyon Central Queensland

Keep in mind that Takarraka is isolated and in drought conditions it is all very acceptable. The National Parks Visitor Information Centre staff has improved the walking tracks, interpretive signage and safety railings. Guided walks and naturalist talks are generally provided daily around the campfire area at 5.00 pm

The word Takarakka means a place of peace and tranquility. It is.

There is no mobile phone service, no TV, no radio and no fuel. It is isolated and is up to our expectations so much so that we stayed an extra day and embarked on an 800 kms trip the following day to keep on schedule.

This was an easy day actually, with the road passing through Springsure the nearest service town with schools, banks, butcher and supermarkets. A nice looking town flanked by the Minerva Hills and local attraction Virgin Rocks about half way to Emerald.

From here to Charters Towers 472 kms, the wide long straight sections of road with very little traffic made for some fast cruising with average speeds of 100 kms plus.

Wards Canyon Carnarvon Gorge
Wards Canyon Carnarvon Gorge

Our stay was at Charters Towers Top Tourist Park where hosts Steve Maxine invited us to a family barbecue hosted by their son, Chef Phil.

The following day took us to Ayr to visit a caravan park which was closed for lunch or for some other reason.

The Big4 owner was not at all happy with us ringing his bell for assistance, so we went on to Townsville.

We had the same problem here with some parks being closed for periods during the day, so we rang through and booked accommodation at Cardwell - 109 kms north of Townsville.

Then we found Big4 Townsville Woodlands Holiday Village where Harvey and Janice happily took the time to show us around their beautifully maintained park with new en-suite units, a motorhome dump point and fantastic new pool resort area.

On to Cardwell, we stayed at the beautiful Kookaburra Holiday Park (Family Parks of Australia Chain) the accommodation here was the best yet and also the first park in a week to provide internet access for customers.

Internet access was our biggest problem during the whole trip. Not one park provided wireless access for customers.

Charters Towers Top Tourist Park asked  us to a family barbecue
Charters Towers Top Tourist Park asked us to a family barbecue

On our last traveling day, it rained and was foggy all the way from Cardwell to Cairns so it was difficult to see Cyclone Larrys damage to the Innisfail area along the way.

We checked in at our accommodation in Trinity Beach for the next week after an easy 3,800 kms trip over eight days. Cairns is a great city, close to Port Douglas and access to the Cape.

Nearby is Karunda rainforest, the chair lift and scenic railway, the markets and even the fascinating tour of Skybury Australian.

We visited the Athertons Tablelands and the picturesque Big4 Atherton Woodlands Tourist Park where Quentin Patrice took the time to show us their parks wonderful facilities. Also close by, is Lake Tinaroo Holiday Park, a member of the Top Tourist Parks of Australia chain.

Situated on one of the great 'Barra' fishing lakes of Queensland Lake Tinaroo. Here, host Peter offers visitors every facility they could wish for as well as the possibility of the excitement of catching a big Barra!

Editor's Note: Also see -

New Villas at beautifully maintained Big4 Townsville Woodlands
New Villas at beautifully maintained Big4 Townsville Woodlands

Vehicle Log December 2006
Town Kms Litres


C/litre L/100k Cabin Cost Meals Weather
Geelong Start
Hay 523 44.7 54.45 121.9 8.5 Non E/S $55 $29 wind 17-24
Cobar 477 Room $95 $24 wind 24-30
Bourke 197 56.6 69.50 122.9 8.4 Villa $88 $33 calm 25-35
Charlieville 488 42.6 50.60 118.9 8.7 Cabin $60 $6 wind 36-21
Injune 377 33.7 41.75 123.9 8.9 $25 0/cast 30
C/gorge 167 tentx2 nts $160 $12 0/cast 28
Clermont 248 38.2 43.15 112.9 9.2 $40 groceries
Ctowers 739 65.1 76.12 116.9 8.8 E/S Cab $59 bbq 26-33
Cairns 574 54.3 60.80 111.9 9.5 E/s cab $63 $49 rain
Totals 3790 335.1 $396 8.8 $580 $218
Avg 473.8 $49.55 $1.18 $72 $27
Vehicle Log 2002 for comparison
Town Kms Litres $ C/litre L/100k
Stawell Start
Bendigo 192 44.5 40.90 91.9 23.2
Cowra 277 52.3 48.50 92.8 18.9
Albury 220 37.0 32.85 88.9 16.8
Wyalong 271 50.9 48.77 95.9 18.8
Narromine 239 46.6 44.00 94.5 19.5
Bourke 328 59.7 57.00 95.5 18.2
Brewarrina 137 29.3 29.00 98.9 21.4
Walgett 156 29.5 28.30 95.9 18.9
StGeorge 340 59.4 57.00 95.9 17.5
Injune 291 53.4 49.50 92.7 18.3
Rolleston 277 56.2 50.00 88.9 20.3
Emerald 167 33.3 26.90 80.9 19.9
Barcaldine 321 54.0 49.60 91.9 16.8
Longreach 117 22.2 20.00 89.9 19.0
Blackall 221 36.0 33.65 93.5 16.3
Charlieville 332 54.0 48.55 89.9 16.3
Quilpie 214 40.9 37.00 90.5 19.1
Cunnamulla 302 61.0 58.50 95.9 20.2
Bourke 258 53.2 50.50 94.9 20.6
Cobar 169 31.8 30.20 94.9 18.8
Hillston 255 53.2 52.10 98.0 20.8
Swan Hill 366 68.3 62.80 91.9 18.7
Donald 170 31.9 30.00 93.9 18.8
total 5620 1059 $985.62

The Camp Kitchen is part of  Big4 Atherton Woodlands wonderful facilities
The Camp Kitchen is part of Big4 Atherton Woodlands wonderful facilities

Cobar Great Heritage Centre displays and ironstone xylophone
Cobar Great Heritage Centre displays and ironstone xylophone

Benevolent eye surgeon Fred Hollows Grave Bourke Cemetry
Benevolent eye surgeon Fred Hollows Grave Bourke Cemetry

Barron River falls Karunda near Cairns
Barron River falls Karunda near Cairns

Lake Tinaroo TTP Chain. Great Barra fishing
Lake Tinaroo TTP Chain. Great Barra fishing

Original Bridge Darling River Bourke NSW
Original Bridge Darling River Bourke NSW

Bedtime luxury cabins at Bourke
Bedtime luxury cabins at Bourke

Rewan memorial wreckage of C47B Dakota which crashed in 1943
Rewan memorial wreckage of C47B Dakota which crashed in 1943

Road covered in water after a storm near Charlieville
Road covered in water after a storm near Charlieville

Skybury  Australian Coffee Centre Mareeba Qld
Skybury Australian Coffee Centre Mareeba Qld