Day 4: Girraween to Oxley Wild Rivers NP

Distance: 256K
Weather: Sunny, mid 20s

On the way out of Girraween we did one last short walk to Dr Roberts Waterhole. The very first walking track in Girraween was to this waterhole. Apart from it being a lovely spot to swim (no we didn’t) it’s the home of the superb lyrebird which is the reason Dr Roberts lobbied the government of the day to create a National Park here, protecting their habitat and that of the wombat. Thank goodness for caring, far-sighted people such as him.

We were soon on the New England Highway headed to Armidale from where we turned off to Dangars Gorge. We stopped at Tenterfield to reprovision. It was another very pleasant drive through lovely countryside in pleasant weather. At the turnoff to Dangars Gorge is a very impressive monument built in the 1930s by a local whose son was killed in WW1

At Dangars Gorge our friends Trish and Bryan were already set up. We were soon settled with sundowners in hand and a pleasant evening catching up ahead.


A very interesting memorial which is well worth stopping to view.

Days 2 & 3: Castle Rock Camping area, Girraween National Park

Distance travelled: 0 (by vehicle that is)
Weather: Beautiful – blue skies, fluffy clouds, pleasant temperature, a light breeze

Bushwalking and relaxing are our goals here. Girraween National Park is fair and square in the granite belt, speaking of ancient volcanic activity. Today the park is covered in enormous granite boulders and granite flows. It has several creeks that flow through the park and a pretty good average rainfall of 800+mm annually which supports a reasonably lush sclerophyll bush. Because of its elevation it’s significantly cooler than the plains with average maximum in summer of about 30C. We were lucky with the weather during our stay as you can see.

Girraween is an Australian Aboriginal word meaning ‘place of flowers’ and despite a bad bushfire in the park only 3 months ago there are pretty wildflowers and new growth on the trees everywhere.

On our first day here we decided to do the ‘moderately difficult’ walks of The Sphinx, Turtle Rock and Castle Rock – which will be about 8 – 9K with the climb to the summit of Castle Rock being graded as ‘difficult’. There was lots of ups and not nearly enough downs and millions of granite steps. They took us past gigantic granite rocks strewn around like marbles, lots of interesting bushes, many of which are flowering with the prettiest little intricate flowers, bird life which was mostly heard rather than seen and lots of delightful Cunninghams skinks. The Sphinx was pretty impressive, and so was Turtle Rock for its sheer size, but you needed a better imagination than I have to make out a turtle shape. Castle Rock was pretty incredible for many reasons, one of which was the effort it takes to climb it. However the views are outstanding and well worth the difficult scrambling and fear-inducing slope down to infinity to see.



Steve, with The Sphinx behind him


Granite, just as far as the eye can see.

Second day here (Happy Birthday Nick) we had a late leisurely start before completing the walks to the Granite Arch, the Bald Rock Creek circuit and Wyberba circuit. These are easy walks on predominantly flat routes. Bald Rock Creek is unique in that it winds its way around granite rocks and across a granite bed – there are small waterfalls and little rapids. It’s flowing very well at the moment. The Wyberba Circuit took us further downstream where the creek was fairly wide and had a beautiful swimming hole – tempting, but not hot enough for me to swim. The creeks of Girraween feed the Murray-Darling rivers.


Bald Rock Creek – beaustiful, babbling and cool


Do I see movement? Don’t look up now Steve!


Regrowth everywhere after the fires only 3 months ago.

Sitting at our campsite this afternoon within minutes we had spotted magpies, currawongs, kookaburras, fairy wrens, crimson rosellas and heard the songs of others we couldn’t identify. There’s a mob of kangaroos that feed on the short grass in the camping area and a couple of hares that are probably too small to make a good stew!

I’m sure as our travels continue we’ll stay in many National Parks. We are indeed blessed with a fantastic network of Parks. The walks are clearly marked and well maintained – taking in the full range of difficulty to cater for the predominantly sedentary to the keen bushwalker. They have excellent camping facilities with this one having free hot showers, flush toilets (both very clean), large grassy areas for games, picnic tables and BBQs (these are wood BBQs and it is BYO wood). All this for the princely sum of $5.20 per person per night (in Qld, anyway).


Our personal slice of heaven.

Day 1: Home to Girraween National Park

Distance: 288.7K
Weather: 26C when we left home; 18C on arrival. Mostly cloudy – one short rain shower.
Refuelled in Warwick. Odometer: 1914K; $1.299/L.
Campsite fees: $11.20 per night

This is to be the first ‘real’ adventure in Priscilla – the last one being merely bring her home. We’ve planned to be away about a month, getting home in time for the arrival of our son, his wife and their new baby from Berlin. Our plans are loose – a few days bushwalking at Girraween, then on to meet friends at Oxley Wild Rivers for more bushwalking, a day back at Priscilla’s birthplace, a long weekend in Canberra with our son and his fiancĂ© and home. We delayed our departure date to attend the funeral of a family member – the first of ‘our’ generation to die. A timely reminder of why we’re out there and doing this.

The last week has been filled with lists of equipment to be bought or found to stock Priscilla and we think we’ve got all we need – time will tell. In the boot we’ve got the usual tools and 4wd recovery gear as well as our inflatable kayak, two fold-up bikes, our backpacks for bushwalking and the Cobb oven. We’re anticipating lots of fun.

We were in no rush to leave, getting away at 11.45am. Our route took us via Esk, Gatton, Clifton, Warwick, Stanthorpe, Ballandean to Castle Rock camping area in Girraween National Park where we’re booked for the next 3 nights.

The whole drive was very enjoyable with the road from Esk to Gatton, and from Clifton being standouts for the beauty and diversity of the countryside. The vineyards around Ballandean were tempting us, but no time today and we decided this area alone could amuse us for a couple of weeks – something to plan for the future. We stopped at Warwick for fuel and fresh groceries.

Once at Castle Rock camp grounds it didn’t take us long to choose a spot – 5 other campers here, so plenty of room. Went for a walk to the ranger’s hut (closed) and to check out the beginning of the walks we’ve planned. Back home for sundowners, a delicious dinner and now snuggled up in bed writing this. Chilly outside: 15 as I write, but a pleasant 19 inside.

leaving home

And we’re off!

Day 7: Boonah to Home

Weather: it hasn’t changed!
Distance: 180K
Total Distance for this trip: 1275K

We got away after brekkie and headed for home.

I must say I was incredibly excited when we finally drove her in through our gate … a very long-awaited occasion.

Now the fun really begins: outfitting her for long-term travel, and planning our next trip. Stay tuned!


Click on the link above and choose to open in your video player.

Day 6: Old Bonalbo to Boonah

Weather: still hot
Distance: 190K

Despite the campsite being fairly close to the road I don’t think a single vehicle passed us last night. We slept very soundly.

Today three momentous events occurred. Firstly the odometer clicked over the first 1000K, secondly we crossed into Queensland and thirdly we decided on her name.

As we left Sydney and introduced our beautiful girl to our friends on Facebook I opened up the discussion to name her. With lots of really good suggestions from friends near and far (and some pretty bad ones – you know who you are!) a name was finally chosen: please meet Priscilla.
This name has lots of significance. It was my grandmother’s name, and she was a very feisty woman! Also from the movie Priscilla Queen of the Desert, who like our Priscilla was a pretty classy act and had gender identity issues, and of course she’ll be spending quite a while in the desert all being well, and is an Aussie.
Priscilla – just perfect!

We’re spending the night in Boonah with our friends in crime Trish and Bryan. You’ll see from earlier blogs we’ve travelled with them before and will do so again. On the way to Boonah we passed through beautiful rolling countryside before dropping in to see my Aunty Daree in Warwick, who said all the right things about how lovely Priscilla is.

We managed to ‘wet the baby’s’ head again that evening with Trish and Bryan.


Just one example of the beautiful countryside we travelled through.

To view the photos from this trip CLICK HERE.

Day 5: Lowanna to Old Bonalbo

Weather: hot – very hot!
Distance: 262K
Refuelled Grafton: odometer: 796 ; litres: 107.5 ; $/L: $1.389

Got away mid-morning after another quiet sleep with only birdsong to disturb us. We’re getting the hang of slow mornings – this is unusual for us.

Janelle suggested a route down the range via Glenreagh and on to Grafton which she said was very pretty. And she was so right. The trip from their place to Glenreagh was through rain forest and tall trees covered in staghorns and climbers – absolutely stunning.

leaving Robindell

One of the prettiest drives you could do.

We stopped at Grafton for lunch, at Corcoran Park – a lovely spot on the Clarence River. As we arrived there was a man launching a trailer sailer. Well blow me down if it wasn’t Simon Carter. I’ve been following the YouTube blog of his sailing adventures for a while now, most recently his single-handed sail from Brisbane to the Whitsundays and back. We said hello and had a cuppa and a chat under the tree for a while. He’s going to be sailing the Clarence over the next few weeks and is going to make a vlog of it – great, that’s a sail that’s on our to-do list too.

Onward to Old Bonalbo. We’d had our driving adventure for the day and decided to take the road ‘more travelled’ and went via Casino. We were briefly tempted to take a drive into the RV park, it being one of the first places we stayed at in 2007 in Helon, our previous motorhome.

Old Bonalbo is 11K up the road from Bonalbo, which is a very pleasant country town with a well-stocked Foodworks and a helpful man behind the counter from whom we bought frozen yoghurt iceblocks … really appreciated this weather. Old Bonalbo with a population of around 200 has a small general store/post office, but we drove straight through to Pioneer’s Park on the banks of Duck Creek. This park is another freebie that is cared for by the council and provides the traveller with a pleasant overnight site, grassy area to camp, a couple of shelter sheds and picnic tables and spotlessly clean toilets. Beef cattle is the main industry around here, with timber plantations being established. The district was once logged for red cedar.
We were the only ones camped here.

Another of the Jabiru’s features we love is being able to sleep with the two back doors and the sliding side door wide open, allowing the breeze to flow straight through – they’re both flyscreened. It kept us cool this evening.

Old Bonalbo

Thanks Old Bonalbo – we enjoyed your hospitality.

Day 4: Coopernook to Robbindell, Lowanna

Weather: sunny and hot!
Distance: 257K

We looked forward to today’s destination as it’s the first time we’ve used a Youcamp site. We got away from Coopernook without any problems and headed to Kempsey where we had morning tea and popped into the shopping centre for a few items. We didn’t like the look or feel of Kempsey. Headed to Coffs Harbour for a lovely lunch at the harbour. The park was busy with families and young people enjoying the beach. Coffs is a much nicer town.

We then turned westward towards the Great Dividing Range and up we climbed – it was a good pull with lots of hairpin bends – into 4WD again when the bitumen ran out, though it would be possible to do it in a tough 2WD. The countryside became thick rainforest with lots of bird life. Over the range we didn’t descend too far into the valley before turning off towards Lowanna where we found our host’s home. And the temperature had dropped about 4 heavenly degrees. A huge plus for the Jabiru has been its navigation system – took us directly to this place which is well and truly out of the way.

Kevin and Janelle own the property and Kevin directed us through a couple of gates and over paddocks down to the banks of Mole Creek. After deciding which direction to park the van (not an easy decision!) we explored the creek and relaxed until it was time for sundowners when Janelle, Kevin and their young son joined us. Janelle was born here – her grandfather was a bullocky and bought the property to graze his team, and her father was a gold miner. George’s Gold Mine is just up the road and marked on all the maps. Kevin enjoys panning for gold and offered to take us out fossicking – there’s gold in them thar hills! Next time!
Kevin was employed at the local sawmill until it closed down – logging has been the industry of this district for a long time.
There’s also, apparently, platypus in the creek though needless to say I didn’t see any.

Robbindell campsite

Beside Mole Creek at Robbindell


Day 3: Heatons Lookout to Coopernook

Weather: stinking hot – mid 30’s
Distance: 234K

It rained in the early hours of the morning. I woke worrying about what the rain would do to the road conditions on the way back down the mountain – and also because the window was leaking and I was getting wet!

After breakfast, as we were preparing to leave, the Forestry Ranger arrived. We had a good chat to him about the district and here in particular and he reassured us our vehicle would have no problems negotiating the wet, slippery conditions on the way down – and we didn’t. While we were chatting a man popped out from the rainforest just behind where we were camped. This lookout forms a part of the Great North Walk, which is a 250K walking trail that stretches from central Sydney to downtown Newcastle. We’d walked 50 or so metres down it earlier, and I got a leech for my efforts. This chap said he does the walk from the bottom of the mountain every week, finishing at the coffee shop. That’s a good way to keep fit – we’re pretty high up here. Meeting and talking to people on our travels is one of our goals – everyone has a story and they are all so interesting.

Anyway before setting off we read the Mercedes manual and discovered some non-intuitive steps to take to put the vehicle into ‘low lock’ 4WD. Our first real test of this vehicle on roads that need 4WD and she came through with flying colours.

On the way to Coopernook we saw the turnoff for Karuah – we’ve started our own tradition with this little town now and HAVE to stop to buy fresh oysters from Cole Bros every time.

Coopernook was bypassed by the highway in 2006 and is a very pleasant, well-tended, small country town of about 350 people. The primary school was opened in 1875 so it has a pretty long history. The pub at Coopernook offers free camping to self-contained RV’s, and a lovely spot it is too – a large, grassy area within about 50 metres of the Lansdowne River. Fishing must be good in the river by the look of the Achievements Board on the wall of the pub.

We really appreciated this spot today because it was so hot – had a few cool drinks and lunch in the air conditioned pub. There was one other RV parked here – two women who now live permanently on the road and seem to be enjoying the lifestyle.

hotel coopernook

We’re camped on the grass behind the pub, right where that rainbow ends.

Day 2: Umina Beach to Heatons Lookout

Weather: hot on the coastal plain, lovely in the mountains
Distance: 98K
Refuelled Umina Beach: Odometer: 131K; Litres: 65.82; $/L: $1.369

We left Umina Beach early-ish and stopped at the local Coles to buy groceries. Hmmm we are pretty long, and the normal parks are a bit short for us – something to remember.

The Jabiru has to be registered in Queensland and we were therefore duty bound to drive her home expeditiously. However, that didn’t stop me planning an interesting trip back.

Heatons State Forest is not far off Highway 1 and offers a free camp at the lookout. Most of the drive was highway driving where we learned all about the cruise control and the sound system and the warning messages and other fancy things modern vehicles do these days. It was a relief to leave the highway and trundle along quiet country roads with no other traffic.

Heatons Road

A road less travelled – get used to it baby!

It wasn’t long though before the road started to climb, and climb some more, and the blacktop disappeared and ruts and rocks appeared …. quick lesson on how to put her into 4WD followed. That was unexpected! Note to self – study road conditions of planned itineraries.

campsite heatons

Arrived safely and setup for the stay.

Anyway we arrived unscathed and the view was worth it: 180 degrees across the national park, farming land, Lake Macquarie to the ocean. We camped right on the cliff edge (inside the protective railing!). Delightful.

The afternoon was spent peacefully reading car manuals and going for a short walk further up the road. An early and peaceful night anticipated.

heatons lookout

Lunchtime at Heatons Lookout.

Day 1: Mt Kuring Gai to Umina Beach

Weather: drizzling on and off; pleasant temperature
Distance: 54K

We timed our arrival at Trakka for just after opening – too excited to delay longer. Wow our campervan is BEAUTIFUL – big, looks tough, but oh so gorgeous – just my unbiased opinion!

Martin at Trakka did the handover. These are complicated machines! You can see more details of our Jabiru in the ‘Our Gear’ page (when Steve does the write up).

the handover

She’s OURS!

About 1pm we were ready to leave. I drove her out with Steve chief navigator. Driving her is so easy, and comfortable. Loved it!
Our first night is just down the road at Umina Beach. Due to it being school holidays the caravan park was packed – hoards of pre-adolescent children riding bikes and scooters everywhere. With the benefit of reversing cameras parking was easy, and all children are still alive!
That’s it!! Set-up complete!

Though difficult to do we left the Jabiru to go for a long, brisk walk on the beach. This bay is quite beautiful with a lovely beach, great for swimming and in the strong winds we were having, the kite surfers were fantastic to watch. Despite those strong winds the campsite is quite well protected. This would be a lovely place to camp outside school holidays (for those without children!).

Back ‘home’ now for our first meal and a restful night in our new baby.