I often hear of great places that others explore and think, ‘one day I should do that’. So with a little time up my sleeve I decided to head towards the outskirts of the Scenic Rim in southeast Queensland to traverse the Condamine Gorge and explore the region, where I discovered the gem that is Cullendore Station.
A good two hours drive southwest of Brisbane landed me at the quaint village of Killarney. With a population of around 800, it’s a friendly town where you can grab basic supplies before exploring further afield. My plan was to experience the Condamine Gorge area, check out the local waterfalls that include Daggs, Queen Mary and Browns Falls, before continuing on to the Condamine River drive, a loop of around 45km. The falls are impressive as they drop over the escarpments, forever changing the shape of the valley below.
The Cambanoora Gorge, commonly known as the Condamine Gorge run, is part of the Bicentennial Trail, and was once used to move supplies to the early settlers within the gorge. Cut through in the mid 1800s, it was also used to move timber to nearby Killarney to be loaded on the railway. Now it’s a popular 4WD trail that crosses the Condamine River 14 times.
Starting only a short distance from Killarney, the gorge drive is relatively easy in most high clearance 4WDs and can take as little as an hour to drive. But if there has been any recent rainfall, the water levels will rise and make things a little bit more challenging.
By taking your time, characteristics of the landscape will become apparent: how the river crossings are all different, the signs of the fury in this area when big floods come through and leave debris in the trees, the steepness of the gorge walls looking down on you, and just the sheer beauty as you pass through. It’s almost prehistoric through here, with gnarly twisted trees shaped by the floods, huge granite boulders, and sheets of basalt rock that have stood the test of time.
In summer there are lots of different swimming holes beside the track, so be wary of any people swimming nearby – dust and water-wash may be a problem for swimmers as you pass by. An interesting fact here is the water from the Condamine River eventually flows into the Darling River system which is the largest water catchment in Australia.
Both sides of the river are private property, so camping isn’t possible without prior permission. But while talking to the locals at Killarney, I was pointed towards a newly-opened cattle station that allows camping – Cullendore High Country.
An easy 30-minute drive southwest into New South Wales, along the Mount Lindesay Road, soon led me onto Cullendore Creek Road and towards the station. Cullendore is in the heart of granite country where unique boulders sit quietly weathering away.
This is a secluded station where you travel nearly 3km from the front gate just to reach the office, and further still to the many campgrounds around the property. To welcome you when you arrive, Stuart, Wendy and their son Matt go all out in typical country style to show you around, help in any way and answer any questions. Matt does a great job supplying firewood if you need some and will even deliver it to your campsite. A property map with named tracks and an information sheet is provided when you book and gives you all the relevant information.
Cullendore is a 4000 acre working cattle station, yet the owners have set aside nearly half for outdoor activities including camping, mountain bike riding, canoeing and bushwalking, as well as nearly 20km of 4WD tracks. Now, don’t come here expecting twin diff locked kind of tracks, as this isn’t a 4WD park. The trails here are only to explore this expansive property. That said, on some tracks you’ll need to engage 4WD so you don’t do any damage, whether it be heading down to the Maryland River for a swim or to the lookout for the most stunning views into the distance.
The owners have spent the past three years getting this property up and running with pristine campsites in several locations including flushing toilets and hot showers. And with the popularity of this hidden gem, they are soon opening more secluded camps with facilities.
It’s not until you chat to the owners about the uniqueness of Cullendore that you’ll realise what lies within. Stuart and Wendy have owned this property for 16 years and are very much keeping to an eco theme. Stuart is always up for a chat and is full of interesting facts about the property and welcomes any advice and feedback.
The River track is the longest on the property (although there is a plan for a full day loop) and should not be missed.
Heading from the campground, it follows the western boundary along the ridgeline past old loading ramps and dams before turning towards the bottom of the property where the views across the valleys are simply stunning. Down at the Maryland River, the water is crystal clear as it filters through the granite sand. This river flows into the Clarence River system, which is the second largest catchment in New South Wales.
The property is also home to groves of native Waratah trees where you’ll find the Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo, the largest population of the rare Spotted Quoll (although I spotted none in my time there), platypus in the river, a massive amount of birdlife, wild pigs roaming the flats and of course the owners’ Angus cattle.
If this isn’t enough for you, part of the property adjoins Maryland National Park, giving you a further 2300 hectares of walking and mountain bike trails.
Spending several days in the great southeast is never enough, and we will be back.
Where to stay on the way
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