Blackdown Tableland National Park is about halfway between Emerald and Rockhampton, too far from our base in Townsville for a casual visit but well worth a few days if it ties in with other reasons for travelling. That’s what happened in early December: a family member was driving to Canberra for Christmas and I went along for the first part of the trip.
We had a couple of nights in Eungella (like last year but with thunderstorms), a drive down through Nebo and Dingo, and three nights at Blackdown before I turned for home via Emerald, Clermont and Charters Towers. (The two routes, incidentally, are almost identical in both time and distance, a bit under 9 hours for 760 km.)
A narrow bitumen road winds up the escarpment to the park entrance and Horseshoe Lookout, continuing as gravel to Munall camping ground and on to Gudda Gumoo lookout and gorge.
Cocoa Creek is one of many mangrove-lined creeks which run into the southern part of Cleveland Bay, and in fact it is the nearest of them to Cape Cleveland. National Parks maintain a gravel road from the Cape Cleveland (AIMS) road to a string of no-facilities camping grounds along the creek almost to its mouth. Having seen a little of that area with Native Plants Qld recently, I returned for more.
Nitmiluk National Park is 25 km out of Katherine, along (up) the river all the way. The resort and campground is a commercial operation on the edge of the park, as at Mataranka but run by the local Jawoyn people; well run, too.
Mataranka, where the Roper Highway meets the Stuart, was the biggest place we had seen since Mt Isa nearly two weeks earlier so we saw it as a major town. It is in fact an important supply hub but it only has about 350 inhabitants. Then again, Katherine, at 6500, is the fourth-largest settlement in the NT, so it’s all relative to a very small population base.
As a tourism centre it is famous for its hot springs, where artesian water bubbles to the surface through cracks in the underlying rock. Settlers called them ‘bitter’ springs because of the mineral content but any water is vital in this dry landscape.
We camped at Bitter Springs caravan park, just outside the town. The park was pleasantly low-key, with plenty of tall trees and a river running along one side of it, and the hot springs were within very easy walking distance.
White Mountains National Park, one of our favourite places, is so big that we have only seen a small fraction of it. When Native Plants Queensland’s Townsville branch proposed a visit to its relatively inaccessible Warang section, we signed up immediately.
The Warang section of the park is in the far northwest and access to it is by a road signposted “Spring Hill” and “White Mountains” which leaves the highway about 10 km west of Torrens Creek. 52 km of gravel, well maintained but very soft and sandy in places, takes you to Warang hut and camping ground. It goes through private property, crosses Bullock Creek, then follows the park boundary. There’s a Lookout about 12 km west of the hut, along a fairly good 4WD track, but that’s where the infrastructure ends.