By Phil Jones and Alayne Russell
We recently spent several days in Blackall, Queensland a lovely and lively town on theLandsborough Highway which stretches roughly between Roma in the south and Longreach in thenorth.
The highway carries large amounts of traffic holiday makers, Grey Nomad retirees seekingthe warmer sun, mining equipment on the move, and of course the nation's food and other suppliesthat 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 settlersfollowing on from Major Mitchell; then keeping busy for many decades with wool on the hoof. It isnow 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 wintermonths, maybe another couple of hundred grey nomad daily visitors. Blackall also containsAustralia'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 tostay 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 fourfooty fields, and has no facilities beyond rubbish bins.
Across the road in a picnic area are a smalltoilet block and a Campervan Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) sponsored dump point forcassette toilets. People without showers in their campers / caravans can walk 150 metres to eitherthe local information centre or some public showers in Short Street and have a hot shower for agold-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
Here's a view of some of my fellow travellers parked haphazardly but when there's plenty ofspace, who cares? and with lots of space between rigs.
Chatting with this group of smiling and happy travellers, I discovered that they come from westernVictoria and travel north each year for the three months of the southern winter.
They told me quiteemphatically that they much prefer the open freedom camping lifestyle as they are not locked intoa rigid park site. They prefer to arrange the three caravans so that all doors open towards eachother and then the internal area becomes their 'social' base where they can fire up the 'choofer' usingbits of timber collected through the day.
Yes they do use caravan parks when there is noalternative, 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 ingetting into a caravan park.
While in Blackall we visited the Wool scour a living museum with much of its steam-drivenequipment 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 tololl around in and let the warm waters flow over our tired bodies.
We also visited the Seniorsshopfront to use the book exchange. It happened also to be Thursday pension day, so it was full ofbright and chatty 'oldies' enjoying a roast for lunch.
We bought stuff in the hardware shop and had asmall welding job done on the vehicle; got an LPG gas refill, did a weekly food shop in thesupermarket, hit the chemist and a gift shop and also the newsagent, the post office and one of thetake 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.
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 entryfees coming in all up at about $360 over the half-a-week that we were there.
Our typical dailyspend is about $80 - $90 per day of our travels.
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 andmoved down the road to Tambo where we have been told that there's a nice and quiet place on thebanks of a local creek. If Tambo could not supply our needs, then our next stop was Springsurewhich 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 toeight months each year on-the-road. Being in a self-contained vehicle he prefers the wide-openspaces to the squashed-in world of caravan parks with sites set out for the small-sized caravans of50 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 workpart-time while on the road in order to supplement his travels. Phil can be contacted if desired at
Wool scour Blackall is a living museum.
A wool bale press, Blackall Queensland.
Steam engine drives wool scour machinery.
Wool scour fingers remove burrs and twigs.
Hot-water artesian baths eastern end of Blackall Queensland.
Welcome to campers in Blackall