About Driving Australia

I'm retired, in my sixties, born in Ireland, lived in England for five years before coming to Australia, married with two daughters and two grandchildren.

Mary River Weekend

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Just had a three-night stay at Mary River Wilderness Retreat courtesy of daughter’s Christmas present. She and grandson joined us for the Friday and Saturday nights but then had to return home for work and school, leaving us to our own devices for the Sunday night.

The Retreat is about 120 km from our house in Darwin. It took us an hour and thirty-five minutes to get there, a bit longer than normal due to a huge thunderstorm that reduced visibility and speed to a minimum.

Activities were severely curtailed because of the weather and the presence of crocs. It’s the Wet Season, so all of the walks and points of interest were inaccessible because: they were under water; the resident saltwater crocodile was on the move; and, a decent-sized freshwater croc had been spotted close by. We still managed to enjoy ourselves though.

At night we played board games and watched movies on a DVD player hooked up to a TV screen we brought with us – there was no TV in the room – and on the last night the clouds cleared for long enough to allow us to sit on the verandah under the stars and even make a wish on a shooting one.

In the daytime we went for a 100 km-plus drive around nearby locations, all of which were inaccessible due to flooding. The pool was a welcome relief from the heat when there was a break in the storms and no lightening. Otherwise we just walked around the grounds and enjoyed the wildlife.

While we self-catered on Friday, we dined at the Gecko Restaurant on the other two nights. The food was delicious, reasonably priced and beautifully presented, the service was excellent, the staff  friendly and informative and we appreciated the complimentary glass of wine with each main meal. The menu included vegetarian options and the children’s menu included dessert.

Alternatively, there was a camp kitchen equipped with microwave, toaster, jug, cooking rings, bbq, washing-up gear including a sink with a plug, but no utensils, crockery, cutlery or pans.
We enjoyed seeing the wallabies, kangaroos and kingfishers. The massive thunderstorm we drove through on the way down was an experience! We loved the variety of birds we saw at Fogg Dam on the way home. All in all it was a great weekend!

About this site

 

My daughter set up this site so I could write about the road trips my husband and I were going to do in our retirement. For one reason or another we haven’t done a lot of trips so I haven’t written anything for more than a year.

Rather than let the site go to waste, I’m going to use it to post photos of birds in my garden, the Darwin foreshore and surrounds; the orchids and other things I grow or grow by themselves; and anything else I think people might be interested in.

I also hope to use this site to help me get into the habit of writing, although I have no idea what I’ll write about yet.

About me

I’m Joyce, retired, in my sixties, born in Ireland, lived in England for five years before coming to Australia, married with two daughters and two grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darwin to Sydney Roadtrip – Day 8

Gunnedah – Sydney

This was the last day of our roadtrip, so since we had the luxury of a kitchen, we started the day with a big fryup for breakfast: bacon, fried egg, baked beans and toast.

While he was packing the truck, Brian saw the owner who told him that the resident Koala, which had gone missing, had been spotted that morning and he was going to keep an eye out for it on his rounds, but he hadn’t spotted it by the time we were ready to leave.

Gunnedah is a koala-friendly town and it is often possible to spot them, but we didn’t. We went to the lookout where there were some great views but no koalas.

We fuelled up at Woolies – 46 L @ $1.329 per litre $61 less 4 cpl discount $58.29. Odometer reading 62802.

10.45 Left Gunnedah.

11.50 Arrived at Willow Tree and turned onto the New England Highway.

12.25 Took the Burning Mountain turnoff. Had lunch in the carpark. The walk was too long to do.

13.05 Drove through Scone, into the Upper Hunter wine-growing region.

13.35 Muswellbrook

14.05 Singleton

15.25 Went through Cessnock on the B82 and kept going straight along Freeman’s Drive instead of turning right onto the M1 to Cooranbong.

16.00 Left Cooranbong and drove towards Morrisett where we took the turnoff for the M1 to Sydney. We missed the exit for Hornsby because it was the same exit as the one for the Pacific Highway South but we took the next one and eventually made our way back to Mona Vale Road and arrived at our destination, Belrose, in time for dinner.

View from Gunnedah

Darwin to Sydney Roadtrip – Day 7

St George – Gunnedah

10.25 Left St George

11.15 Drove through Thalon.

11.40 Fuelled up at Mungindi border town on the Barwon River: 59 L @ $1.319 per litre – $77.82

11.55 Crossed the QLD / NSW border into New England.

12.40 Passed through Garah; 13.00 Ashley; to Moree where we stopped and ate lunch. at 13.10. The weather was cold although the sun was shining.

13.40 Left Moree and drove on through Gurley at 14.05.

14.59 Narrabri and the Kalmilaroi Highway where we took the Kaputar Road turnoff.

15.15 Reached the base of Mt Kaputar and engaged four-wheel drive for the 20 km dirt and bitumen track to the summit. We were greeted at the top by a large grey kangaroo which was still there when we returned from climbing the stairs to the lookout – nice view but a bit dull at that time of the afternoon. The rest of his family came to check us out. A female with a joey in her pouch and a juvenile in tow came right up to the vehicle. Cyclists were using the track for racing and we passed a few on the way back down.

Roo Mt Kaputar
Roo family

16.40 Got to the base and disengaged the four-wheel drive.

18.00 Arrived at Gunnedah and checked into a cabin at the Top Tourist Park – $89 – too cold to camp.

Had a choice of three major supermarkets to shop for dinner: Aldi, Coles and Woolies, where we got some pork with native spices and had that with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans for dinner.

Amenities
The cabin we stayed in was clean, warm and spacious and adequately equipped for our needs.

Wildflowers
We started catching glimpses of wildflowers after we left Blackall yesterday: small patches of purple clumps, paler smaller purples forming roadside carpets in places, yellow sprays, thicker yellow bunches and prickly pear – not an infestation, just individual stands – and bottle-shaped trees like the boab trees in Western Australia.

Small purpleClose-up

Today, as well as the purples, yellows and prickly pear, we saw yellow daisies, wild cotton and canola that had escaped from the fields, sunflowers around Moree, a little white flower and lots of yellow wattle.

Small white
Yellow daisy

Yellow wattle

Darwin to Sydney Roadtrip – Day 6

Blackall – St George

Condensation had saturated the tent overnight. Brian tried spreading it out to dry while I made breakfast in the camp kitchen. Not enough bread to make lunch so we’ll get something along the way.

10.00 Left Blackall.

11.05 Drove through Tambo, oldest town in the Central West and says it’s the site of the first Qantas crash.

12.20 Fuelled up at Augathella BP: 55.01 L @ $1.399 per litre – $76.96 – odometer 61834. Got a couple of pies from the cafe there and took them to Meat Ant Park to have for lunch. The park has a giant meat ant sculpture, shaded picnic tables and a modern shaded playground. Toilets are nearby. After lunch we drove around the town taking photos of the murals on some of the shops and the toilet block.

Mural Augathella

Mural - front

Smiley mural

13.20 Left Augathella. Passed the Matilda Highway turnoff just outside town.
14.10 Passed the Charleville turnoff, then five minutes later the Morven Warego Highway.
14.45 Passed through Mungallala.

There had been a lot of kangaroos darting across the road all afternoon but Brian always spotted them in time and slowed down. But, after we’d slowed to let two cross, we were just getting up speed again when one of them decided to turn back and it went under us. It took off into the bush and there was no damage to the ute so we continued on our way.

15.10 At Mitchell we took a right turn for St George.
17.20 Turned left onto the Balone Highway 5 km before St George.
17.30 Checked into St George Caravan Park – $22.

We had our choice of campsites and picked a spot down by the back fence near the river.

Went into town to shop, then had dinner at the Boomerang Cafe: Barra and Chips $12.00 and a Works Burger $10 which came with chips and was enormous. We had to get a doggy bag for the chips. Great food, great service and value for money.

I don’t know what the temperature was but I was freezing by the time we got back to the campsite and I had to get out the cold weather gear. Tried to write my blog but my iPad Mini doesn’t like me wearing gloves and it was too cold to take them off for long, but I did get my diary up to date for today: how we’d  noticed a change in the cattle we were passing – Santa Gertrudis I think instead of Brahmans; the different animals we’d seen – horses, goats, kangaroos, a possible dingo and Brian saw a blue-tongued lizard but I missed it.

All rugged up

Amenities
The camp kitchen is in the laundry. It has a jug, toaster, sandwich press and a microwave without a turntable – don’t know how that works.
The amenities block looks very new. It’s clean and the water is hot but the design is crazy. Two of the three showers are just cubicles with a hook on the back of the door, so you have to leave most of your belongings outside. Secure though, you have to enter a code on a keypad to get into the block.

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Darwin to Sydney Roadtrip – Day 5

Winton – Blackall

A rainstorm during the night had turned the grounds into a quagmire, making it tricky getting to and from the amenities block.

Couldn’t make toast for breakfast without a camp kitchen so made cheese and Vegemite sandwiches instead. Made lunch as well.

10.20 Left and drove 12 km on the Landsborough Highway to the right-hand turnoff for the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum. Saw a flock of brolgas on the way. Did two tours there: the Collection Room which is unique in that it is open to the public rather than being under lock and key in the backroom of a museum; and the Laboratory, commonly known as ‘The shed’, where volunteers painstakingly clean the dinosaur bones using pneumatic scribes that look and sound like dentist drills. It’s an experience not to be missed! Fee $30 each concession. Ate lunch there before leaving.
Dinosaur

11.10 Left there.

15.10 Fuelled up at Longreach BP: 68.02 L @ $1.399 per litre – $95.16. Odometer reading 61388 km.

Thought we should take the lasagne out for dinner tonight, only to realise we’d left it in the freezer at home! Had to settle for pea and ham soup.

13.25 Left Longreach.

13.45 Drove through Illfracombe which had a display of old farm machinery along the side of the highway.

16.15 Passed an entrance to Tara Station.

16.30 Went through Barcaldine.

There was a detour 25 km out of Blackall which made us slow down to 60 kph.

17.45 Checked into Blackall Caravan Park – $27 – Our Pete Murray CD was drowned out by their live entertainer belting out Neil Diamond. We had arrived during Happy Hour. Happier than usual this evening due to two lots of rain having fallen in 24 hours after a four-year drought! Made for a pretty muddy campsite. Three-course roast dinner was available at the camp kitchen, but we set up camp and went there when they’d finished and heated up our soup. The young couple managing the park joined us and offered us free Anzac biscuits and to start a fire in the pit for us which we gratefully accepted. It gave me the chance to download some photos and work on this blog.

Blackall sunset

We also reflected on the day’s drive:

A lot of roadkill today; saw two flocks of green budgerigars in flight and a huge flock of ibis on the ground;  buffeted by roadtrains from Longreach to Barcaldine but OK once we turned south for Blackall; a lot of kangaroos crossing the road.

Amenities

What I loved about this park was that they provided bath mats for use in the showers: you use them then pop them in the basket for washing. So considerate – if all parks did this I wouldn’t have to cart one with me all the time.

The amenities block was clean with warm artesian water.

The camp kitchen provided a jug, toaster and microwave.

Free WiFi is provided throughout the park.

Darwin to Sydney Roadtrip – Day 4

Mount Isa – Winton

Took the Madras curry and rice we’d cooked and frozen at home out of the Engel and put it into the cooler to defrost and keep the cooler contents cold at the same time.

10.05 Left Argylla Big 4/Discovery Caravan Village and fuelled up at Woolies: 55 L @ $1.399 per litre, less 10c discount $71.45; odometer reading 60 682 km – 1720 km since Darwin.

10.20 Drove to the lookout. The view was amazing with the enormity of the mining structure emphasised by the comparatively small size of the vehicles working on it. If you zoom in on the photo below, on the right-hand side you can see a triple-bogey road train that looks like a Matchbox toy.

Mount Isa Mine

10.45 Left the lookout.

11.40 Passed the turnoff for Mary Kathleen, once a thriving uranium mine.

12.10 Arrived at Cloncurry where we fuelled up at Woolies: 14.01 L @ $1.485 per litre $20.24 less 4 cpl discount $20.24; odometer reading 60806 – nice number, reads the same both ways, a palindrome.

12.20 We left Cloncurry and 10 minutes later turned right onto the Landsborough Highway.

13.30 Arrived at McKinley. Stopped to eat lunch at a very nice park with shaded tables and a modern childrens playground, plaques describing various historic buildings in the town, toilets, and a library/information centre said to be the smallest library in Australia and famous for being the office for Walkabout Tours in the Crocodile Dundee movies. The Walkabout Hotel is just around the corner too, so it’s an interesting town to take a break at.

McKinley park

14.10 Left McKinley and drove for three-quarters of an hour to Kyuna where we stopped briefly to take photos of the Blue Heeler Pub.

Blue Heeler Hotel
15.10 We turned off and drove 8 km to the carpark of the Combo Waterhole, the billabong Banjo Patterson wrote about in the song  Waltzing Matilda, then walked the rest of the way. We disturbed a few big grey kangaroos along the way. It was a bit hot and we were glad we wore our hats. There was some water in the billabong but as someone we passed on the track remarked, the jolly swagman would have had trouble drowning in it.

Waltzing Matilda billabong

16.15 Left Combo Waterhole.

17.10 Passed the Richmond T/O.

17.45 Passed the Boulia T/O 8 km before Winton.

17.50 Checked into the Matilda Caravan Park at Winton – $25

Amenities

No camp kitchen, just a bbq, table and sink.

One-course roast meals were on offer at $15 per person.

It became very windy and the lack of windproof shelter made reheating our dinner on our gas cooker a bit of a challenge, but it was worth the effort.

There were two amenities blocks which were clean and the water from the artesian basin was hot but smellled a bit.

An animal enclosure at the entrance held an alpaca, sheep and chickens and opposite that was a pool.

Darwin to Sydney Roadtrip – Day 3

Tennant Creek – Mount Isa

9.35 Left Outback Caravan Park. Stopped at United to get ice – crushed $4 a bag.

11.45 Passed the Barkly Homestead – Mt Isa 460 km away – Carpentaria Highway, Booroloola T/O

13.00 Lunch stop at Soudan Bore rest area. More zebra finches.

13.25 Back on the road

14.00 Passed Avon Downs rest area and police station.

14.35 Paul Kelly sung us across the NT/QLD border – 10 km to Camooweal.

NT/QLD border

14.40 Camooweal: icecream and fuel stop – 30.04 L @ $1.669 per litre $50.14

30-minute time difference – turn all time-keeping devices forward 30 minutes.

15.30 Left Camooweal
17.20 Arrived at Mount Isa and checked into Argylla Caravan Village – $30.60.

Shopped at Woolies for dinner.

Cooked lamb chops, mashed potatoes and green beans in the camp kitchen.

Downloaded photos from my camera to my iPad Mini.

Amenities

Huge camp kitchen: full-sized electric stove, 2 microwaves, 2 grills, toaster, jug, fridge freezer.

Argylla camp kitchen

Main shower block was at the other end of the park. At our end was a demountable comprising three combined shower and toilet units, which was fine untill three people were showering at the same time and someone needed to use the toilet!
Tip

You can give yourself more lunch-stop options by making your own sandwiches. I do it in the morning when I’m making toast for breakfast and have most of the ingredients and equipment out already.

I reuse either the plastic bag from the deli meat or the empty bread bag to wrap the sandwiches, then when we’ve eaten them, use the same bag in the car for fruit peel/skins.

The two fruits we find easiest to eat on the road are mandarins, preferably seedless, and bananas, with me, the passenger, peeling the fruit and feeding segments to the driver.

Darwin to Sydney Roadtrip – Day 2

Larrimah to Tennant Creek

Didn’t get much sleep between the flock of guinea fowl roosting in a nearby tree and the roadtrains – just as I’d be drifting off, one would roar past and when I did finally get to sleep one made me think a plane was landing on the tent and woke me up with a fright.

I made breakfast in the camp kitchen and checked out the aviaries of native birds while I was there. The squirrel gliders,so active last night, were asleep in their cage.

9.15 We left Larrimah.
10.15 Passed the Daly Waters turnoff (T/O).
10.20 Daly Waters Hi Way Inn, Borroloola and Carpentaria Highway T/O
10.40 Went through Top Springs and the Buchanan Highway T/O.
10.45 Checked out Dunmarra – diesel $1.73 a litre; neat, shady campsites.
11.40 Stopped at Elliott for lunch – 2 hotdogs with the lot @ $8.50 – and fuel: 20 L @ $1.70 – $38.56.
12.25 Left Elliott and 2 minutes later passed the Barkly Stock Route T/O and a sign ‘NO FUEL 500 km’.
13.15 Passed Renner Springs: 17 m pool, cabins and a caravan park.
13.50 Banka Banka Station also has a park and a WWII site.
14.10 Attack Creek is a rest stop with toilets, water and a barbecue.
14.34 The John Flynn Memorial; Threeways Roadhouse and Barkly Homestead T/O
14.40 We turned off for Kunjarra or the Pebbles, did the short walk and saw a flock of zebra finches. Not as impressive as the Devil’s Marbles but not so many flies either!
Kunjarra - The Pebbles
15.10 Left there and drove to the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station, just across the highway, a beautiful historic site.
15.55 Got to Tennant Creek, went to Foodstore, then fuelled up at United: 65 L @ $1.51 less 6 cents a litre AANT discount – $98.48; Odometer reading: 59983 km – 1021 km from start.
16.30 Checked into the Outback Caravan Park $30; big camp kitchen with microwave, toaster, jug, 2-ring cooker, barbecue and 2 fridge freezers; 2 showers and 3 toilets male and female, clean with hot water.
Set up camp then cooked dinner in the camp kitchen – burritos, using the new frying pan – worked beautifully. Enjoyed sitting out under the Southern Cross afterwards recalling what we’d seen on the road today:
roadtrains that let you know when it’s safe to pass by flashing their right indicator; wedge-tailed eagles we disturbed eating carrion on the side of the road; walkers pushing carts but we couldn’t see what for.
The wind got up during the night and it felt as if we were going to get blown off the back of the ute.

The cellar, Tennant Creek Telegraph Station

Darwin to Sydney Roadtrip

We are travelling from Darwin to Sydney via the Stuart, Barkly, Landsborough, Warrego, Carnavon, Newell and New England Highways, then the old Pacific Highway to Sydney.

I’ll try to write this blog whenever I have time and coverage and include photos whenever I get a chance to download them from my camera.

There’ll be comments on places we stay such as the fees and quality of the facilities; fuel stops and cost; the location of strategic turn-offs; and, how long it takes us to cover each stage.

We are travelling in a Nissan Navara D22 4×4 dual cab ute with a rooftop tent mounted on the well body.

Day 1 – Sunday 23 August 2015

Left Darwin around 12.30 pm, a bit later than intended as always. Within an hour we hit our first lot of roadworks at Coomalie but the five-minute delay gave us the chance to get the CDs out from under the driver’s seat and launch Bob Segar, always first on the playlist!

Drove past Adelaide River around 13.50; Hayes Creek 14.20; and Emerald Springs 14.25. Bob Seger finished so we swapped him for Adele.

Passed quite a few cattle holding yards packed with stock probably waiting for their overseas trip to Indonesia.

The Pine Creek turnoff came up 15 minutes past Emerald Springs and the one for Edith Falls 30 minutes later with nothing to distract us inbetween except occasional sightings of kapok trees and turkey bush and jet streams in the sky making me wonder where they were all off to.
Crossed the Katherine River around 15.45, fuelled up at Woolies: 56L @ 143.3 cents per litre (cpl) less 4 cpl discount $74.87. Odometer 59276.
Left Katherine 16.07. Passed through Mataranka an hour later. Sign warning ‘No fuel next 176 km’ which would be Daly Waters therefore no fuel at Larrimah, our destination which we arrived at around 17.50.

A fun place to spend the first night of our roadtrip

A fun place to spend the first night of our roadtrip


Staff members are welcoming, fun and friendly. A full dinner menu is available. Pies were advertised but not on the dinner menu. However, when I asked if I could have one, the cook insisted on baking a fresh one rather than giving me the last one left, baked earlier today, but earmarked for an elderly regular. It was delicious.
The facilities are basic: 1 toilet and 1 combined toilet and shower each for males and females.
Camp kitchen includes bbq, jug and toaster.
Cost $9 per person for an unpowered site.