A number of readers wanted to know more about Quilpie after a reference to it appeared in my first post. SO ... if you want to know how to spend a fun filled week in Quilpie (visible way off in the distance on the left, from Baldy Top!), read on!
For those of you who want to go back a step because you don't actually know where Quilpie is, click HERE for the Google Maps reference (yeah, I'm getting marginally better at the technical stuff...)!
We stayed for eight nights in June 09 after initially planning to stay for four, only moving on as we had limited time! It should be GREAT to visit anywhere in the outback in 2010 because of all the rain.
So ... what will keep you occupied in Quilpie for a week? Glad you asked! Below is what we did (more or less), and some of what we didn't do, but of course you can change the days around to suit yourself. Where to stay? We stayed at the Channel Country caravan park on a powered site - there's also on-site accommodation there (and the hot artesian spas...) and in 2009 we got 2 free nights for staying a week! Woo Hoo!
Day 1 - Quilpie acclimitisation:You'll more than likely have some time to check out Quilpie the day you arrive. We walked to get a feel for the town and surrounds - check out the following:
- excellent Visitor Information Centre, museum and art gallery;
- opal pulpit at St Finbar's church;
- main street shops - especially for opals;
- end of the railway line;
- 'Off Shears' bakery (run by a world champ female shearer);
- other eateries - pub, club, cafes;
- AND ... did I mention the spas at the caravan park???
Day 2 - Mail Run:
Take a 400 km mail delivery run with postman Dave as he beats the woes of retirement on his twice-weekly trip to around 10 remote station properties in the heart of 'Kings in Grass Castles' country. Leaving earlier than we normally would for work (aarrgggh!), we stopped at 'Alaric' (Vietnam veterans retreat), Canaway Downs in the higher country, before passing the 'Trinidad' boundary fence where Dave contacted Mrs Pegler via radio so our morning tea scones would be fresh from the oven when we arrived at the homestead 15 minutes later!
After touring Mrs Pegler's fabulous garden (featured in a book about outback QLD gardens) and viewing the nearby plane wreck, we returned via 'Thyalungra' (the actual KiGC property) - sad to see a now vacant 10-stand shearing shed. The highlight of our trip, this 'real' tour can be booked from the caravan park!
And nothing quite like a spa after a hard day on the road!
Day 3 - More Quilpie delights!
Yes, there is still more to see and do close by to Quilpie. Lake Houdraman, while on private property, has campsites, fishing and birdwatching - it's not far out of town across the river. On the way back, follow the loop trail along the river bank for more birdwatching (we saw wild budgies, and heard the elusive western geryone amongst other things) then check out the river on the other side of the road! Some beautiful spots, and more camp sites.
Do anything that you missed from Day 1 - the art gallery has a new exhibition each month, and there was also one at the pub while we were there.
In the evening, don't miss a walk up 'Baldy Top' (see picture at top) - the condom we found up there gives a clue as to what at least two locals found to do there - but for us this 360 degree panorama underlines the remoteness of the countryside with Quilpie kind of disappearing into the scrub. There's free camping here as well, amongst the flies, sandflies and mosquitoes ... but don't take my word for it - check them out for yourself!!
Day 4 - Opal Mining Frenzy!Staying at the caravan park gives you free entry to the exotically named 'Deuces Wild' opal mining lease with the chance to find some 'colour' (see, the lingo never leaves you!) and bury yourself in the depths of the outback with NO phone coverage and NO way of contacting anyone if anything goes wrong (except by emergency radio - if you have one)! Sounds inviting, huh? But the caravan park will organise a rescue if you're not back by a set time - which is why it's important to check in when you return. This is pretty much as far as we ventured into the world of extreme tourism!
BUT ... I'm getting ahead of myself! Despite the daunting but thrilling thought of being totally incommunicado for a day, the drive past oil donkeys (just like being on the set of 'Dallas'!), scrub and wide open places to get to the lease is part of the day out. Not to mention a Bourke's parrot sighting - a 'lifer' for both of us! The moonscape that is the claim is fascinating, with piles of rock, mud, gravel and water laying about and random people coming and going in the near and middle distance - just had to supress those thoughts of Aussie horror movies!
After finding our 'colour' - much of it discards around the parking area which gives you an insight into our quality standards - we left in good time to meet the return deadline and hit the spa again! Serious fossickers can get a license and head out to the imaginatively named Duck Creek and Sheep Station Creek fossicking areas, but for us, the rocks we had were quite heavy enough, especially considering their relative lack of value ...
Day 5 - Eromanga
Who doesn't want to be the furthest it's possible to be from the sea in Australia? An easy drive west to Eromanga will give you that unique experience (although it's hard to get a photo of it), along with an excellent museum (get the keys from the pub) and various other small town accoutrements - pub, caravan park, cafe and 'Opalopolis Park', a great rest area decorated with the ubiquitous opal right next to the outdoor museum.
If you care, the Eromanga area produces the largest volume of oil in the country, and Australia's largest dinosaur bones have been found here. With the opal mining, this makes up an odd triptych of regional delights.
Day 6 - Rest day
After all that excitement, why not spend the day in the park doing things like washing, fossicking in the public fossicking area, buying those souvenir opals (what? You didn't find any 'keepers' or 'cutters' at Deuces Wild??) and revisiting the bakery. You probably found, as we did, that anything other than a plain pie has been sold from the bakery by 12-ish, so the earlier the better! We did have a fabulous morning tea experience there, where my trusty partner managed to turn a massive Apple turnover with fresh cream into something closely resembling a plate of fresh roadkill while trying to eat it ... as the owner said 'good to see you're getting your vitamin C' (cream in case you missed it).
Day 7 - Further Afield!
We actually spent our last days revisiting favourite birdwatching haunts and, of course, the bakery and spas, but if you don't feel the urge for any of that, a day trip to Toompine, Adavale and/or Cheepie (the other Quilpie shire towns) will round out the week nicely. Which one to visit? Well ... it depends if you're interested in fishing, museums, Cobb & Co history, a pub lunch, or giant beer cans! The Toompine road is at left - we've never seen so many emus in one spot!!
We didn't even get to do other things, like visit the two national parks (Mariala and Idalia) in the area - bush camping with a permit is available there, along with outdoor activities like bushwalking and birdwatching.
The Channel Country caravan park also offers a tour - 'Do Birdsville the Easy Way' - if it hadn't been booked out, we'd have done it for sure. Leaving your caravan in Quilpie, the tour includes flying to Birdsville, touring the area, staying overnight then flying back to Quilpie. Again, with all the rain, it'd be an even better option for 2010!
See you next time!!!