Exploring a few national parks in the Gladstone area of Queensland was a fun way to spend a couple of weeks in spring. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we were limited to Queensland national parks and decided to visit a few that we hadn’t been to before. The area is only about five hours driving from our home in Brisbane, and so we could comfortably drive there in a day, include short rest and sightseeing stops, and be well and truly set up before dusk.
Deepwater National Park
We enjoy ocean swimming all year round and Agnes Waters Beach is the most northerly surf beach in Queensland. Initially, we headed to Deepwater National Park, approximately 10km south of Agnes Water and the Town of 1770, and 130km south of Gladstone.
The Wreck Rocks camping area is accessible from the south by a gravel road through farmland, and from the north by a 13km 4WD sand track. We drove via the sand track in order to buy some fishing bait in Agnes Water, and though we had no difficulties with the track, we did tow out a bogged all-terrain vehicle.
The bushland surrounding the track has a cool subtropical feel about it, with a predominance of native weeping cabbage tree palms and shady woodlands. A visit to Flat Rock on our way through was very worthwhile as it is an unusual area of very flat rock running a few hundred metres next to the beach.
Middle Rocks campground is just off the 4WD route and, like Wreck Rocks, is nestled amongst the trees, providing shady campsites behind the beach. Wreck Rocks campground has one composting toilet and an outdoor shower, and there are a few taps providing bore water. Middle Rocks campground has no facilities. The campsites are quite large and are separated from each other by native vegetation.
Each campsite at Wreck Rocks has a table and firepit, so bring your own wood and enjoy a nightly fire. Lace monitors and scrub turkeys are frequent visitors to the campsites and can swiftly demolish any unattended food or bags of rubbish. Keeping your rubbish in your vehicle to dispose of after leaving the park is an easy way to avoid marauders.
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The beaches are wide with dark yellow sand and they slope quite markedly into the ocean, making walking at high tide a trifle challenging. They are long and deserted and very appealing to those who enjoy long walks alone. Swim close to the edge as the currents can be quite unpredictable. Loggerhead, flatback, green and leatherback turtles all nest on the park’s beaches.
Daily delights for us while camping at Deepwater were sitting on the dunes quietly watching the sunrise over the ocean while having a cuppa or enjoying a glass of wine as the evening sky gradually changed colour.
Eurimbula National Park
We spent a few restful days at Eurimbula National Park which is accessible via a 4WD sandy road north of Agnes Water. The bushland surrounding the track is generally quite dense with many varieties of tall trees including paperbarks, several types of eucalypts, weeping cabbage palms and huge hoop pines.
Climbing up to the lookout on our way to the beach camping area gave us an expansive view of the national park and we had the added bonus of seeing the pretty kurrajong bushes in full flower up at the lookout.
If you’re a dingy owner, you can launch it in the Eurimbula Creek next to the camping area and try your luck at fishing. We enjoyed swimming and walking on the beach and it’s an easy and pleasant walk south to the northern side of the harbour of 1770. Curlews nest in the low dunes and walkers are requested to stay close to the water.
Seeking broader horizons, one day we drove into Agnes Water and 1770. The short walk through a paperbark forest near Agnes Water and the coastal walk from Chinaman’s Beach to Red Rocks were very enjoyable and picturesque.
Kroombit Tops is directly west from Agnes Water (as the crow flies) but the drive from the coast to Kroombit Tops National Park took us nearly four hours. After driving north on the Bruce Highway to Calliope, we then drove south on a mostly gravel 2WD road which passed through farmland with many creek crossings after rain. As it climbed up into the hills, the road narrowed and became windy in parts.
Kroombit Tops is a high plateau with exposed sandstone cliffs and deep gullies of hard volcanic rock. Temperatures are cooler than in the surrounding lowlands and winter nights can be rather chilly. Even in September we found the nights quite cool and enjoyed having a warm fire every evening. Throughout the national park grow many varieties of thick forests and more open woodlands and there are even some small patches of subtropical rainforest.
There are three campsites at Kroombit Tops. Griffith camping area is the main one and is the most appealing. Razorback and The Wall camping areas are much smaller and less grassy and are only accessible by 4WD. No facilities are provided at any of the camping areas, but we noticed that a (not yet usuable) water tank had been recently installed and we wondered if a toilet was going to be built.
The huge camping area spreads over a few acres and the tall trees and abundant bird life add to the peaceful serenity. We enjoyed the calls of the different birds waking us in the mornings. There are no marked campsites but large fireplaces are dotted around the area. The creek bed was completely dry at the time of our visit and we guessed that was usually the case.
For keen and experienced 4WDers there are a few choices. We drove the 20kms (allow over 2 hours for the whole trip) to the historical crash site of the WW2 liberator bomber. We knew nothing about the crash before we ventured there but we found the whole experience very interesting. The crash happened in 1945 and was eventually discovered by a ranger in 1994. Although some pieces have been stolen, most of the parts have been left exactly where they were when discovered. The crash site is quite extensive with hundreds of aeroplane parts strewn throughout the bush. The walking track takes you amongst the scattered pieces and information boards have been placed around the area.
For those who enjoy bushwalking, the Escarpment Track is the only long walk. It is 13km (5 hours) one way. We walked about a quarter of it and found it pleasant enough but quite hot. However, the views of the Boyne Valley and surrounding lowlands were stunning. A little way past the main lookout, on the drive towards Monto, a 300m walk through rainforest is worth stopping for. That road soon turns into 4WD only. We chose that route to take us down to Cania Gorge. It was rough in places and later became a track through farms (gates to open and close) but we enjoyed the drive immensely.
Cania Gorge has some great walks, small caves to explore and lovely views. Walking in spring, we were lucky enough to witness two red-bellied black snakes fighting. We stood and watched for about 15 minutes and they were still at it when we moved off. Apparently, during the mating season, males fight in a ritualised manner without biting each other. The bird life in Cania Gorge is abundant and varied and we found that our supplies had to be well hidden from the currawongs.
Check your CamperMate app for more things to do and places to camp in Central Queensland.
Auburn River National Park
We wanted to visit one more national park on our way home to Brisbane. Auburn River National Park is much further south of the Gladstone area, near Gayndah. It is a very worthwhile detour if you’re heading south. Having never heard of the place until searching the area for national parks, we were pleasantly surprised to find such a lovely gorge and river. Although the area is in drought there was water in the river, and we were able to have a cooling dip after walking down the short but steep track from the camping area.
After heavy rain, the gorge must look spectacular with the water rushing through. The 1.6km walk along the top of the gorge is also worthwhile and finishes at a high viewing point where another section of the gorge and river can be seen. Large bottle trees flourish in the area and stand out from the surrounding vegetation.
Even though it was a long weekend at the time of our visit, the camping area was exceptionally peaceful, as there are only five sites, all large and well separated from each other. The road into the picnic area is separate from the camping area, so campers aren’t disturbed by day visitors. Bring your own wood and enjoy a fire in the evenings.