Mitchell was one of our stops in our adventure in Outback Queensland.
Soaking in the soothing mineral springs at Mitchell is just one of the surprises that awaits you in this quaint town on the edge of the outback.
Just 87 kilometres west of Roma via the Warrego Highway, Mitchell sits peacefully on the banks of the Maranoa River. It lies in the westerly-most reaches of Southern Queensland Country and services the adjoining communities of Amby, Muckadilla and Mungallala.
We pulled up out our first stop where many a sun-scorched traveller has found bliss floating in the thermal mineralised waters of the Great Artesian Spa. It’s relaxing for the body and therapeutic for the soul, and a precious natural resource that the locals proudly share. Located in Mitchell’s aquatic centre, the Spa offers two large pools, one warm and one cool, of natural artesian water. It has been designed for easy access, with a hydro chair for those with restricted mobility.
Another exciting venture can be to explore is the magnificent sandstone formations and pristine native ecosystems and take in magnificent panoramic vistas at numerous sites throughout the area. Accessing the Mt Moffatt section of Carnarvon National Park is easy from Mitchell. Nature lovers will be impressed with the abundance of wildlife including over 250 bird species living in and visiting the area. We didn’t venture the 6 hour drive north because we were heading to Charleville next.
Mitchell’s active community is keen to preserve the treasures and lessons from the past and have created a range of heritage and cultural displays covering its local indigenous cultural heritage, early explorers and pioneers, bushranging past and social history. So our next stop was making our way to the Heritage Museum, which was packed full of local history.
Before camp we dropped into Major Mitchell’s Campsite, established in 1846 on his fourth expedition to map an overland route from Sydney to Darwin.
For a taste of the town’s chequered past take in the history make sure you check out Kenniff Court House, which is the original courthouse where local bushrangers, the Kenniff Brothers, were committed to stand trial in 1902.
Just outside of town is the Neil Turner Weir, a free campsite beside the river with fresh water available, toilets and apparently, good fishing. We also had some internet access. There were a number of other free campers at the site, not as many or as close together as the previous spot and quiet and peaceful.
There is something wonderful about sitting in a spot beside the water, watching the sun go down with nothing else to do BUT watch the sun go down. It’s also wonderful to watch Kim enjoying herslf fishing (not catching mind you). We settled in for the night and the next day we took a quick trip up the road to Morven for another overnighter.
If you embark on this breathtaking adventure, you’re destined to pass through a stunning coastal town called Rainbow Beach, and yes, it’s as alluring as it sounds. Once you get a taste of Rainbow Beach’s unique, homely charm you’ll be left wanting more and it’s not uncommon to overhear visitors exclaiming, “I wish I could live here!”
Unlike people I know, I have been going to Rainbow Beach since the early 90’s and experienced many changes in the area, some good, but a lot bad. I watched in the early 90’s when the camping area was swallowed by and big sink hole. I got to drive the rough dirt road to get to the point compared with today’s bitumen road. You could enjoy the peace and quiet and enjoy great fishing. You took trips to collect some coloured sands and climb the Cherry Venture.
Now days there are rubbish littered everywhere at the campgrounds. P Plate drivers roaring over the sands. People looting camping equipment and erosion destroying the coloured sands. No longer a place for peace and quiet.
It’s a stunning drive and there’s much to explore, so my best piece of advice is; don’t rush it. Pull over at Double Island Point, a popular day-trip destination for Sunshine Coast locals. Roll out that picnic blanket and soak up some sunshine then walk off your meal with a stroll to the headland to enjoy an incredible 360-degree view.
Once you reach Rainbow Beach you’ll be starving. Arcobaleno On The Beach is a local town favourite. This gorgeous Italian restaurant offers up a great courtyard and lovely atmosphere. The staff are all locals and do a great job of serving crispy wood-fired pizzas and delicious pasta every day of the week.
When we holiday at Rainbow we normally stay at Debbie’s Place. Debbie’s Place offers luxurious and tranquil self contained and motel style accommodation in the heart of Rainbow Beach. With affordable one, two and three bedroom suites to choose from, each self contained unit comes equipped with your own private veranda surrounded by lush, tropical gardens. Self contained suites also possess kitchen and dining facilities or if you prefer, an array of restaurants and shops are just a short stroll away. We pick this place because they offer us a special self contained room so we can take our dog.
We always visit to the Carlo Sand Blow, which is a must for everyone staying at Rainbow Beach. This iconic sand mass provides great views of the coloured sands, Double Island Lighthouse and Inskip Peninsula. When you visit at sunrise or sunset you capture some amazing photographs.
If you feel like exploring more of Great Sandy National Park, make Seary’s Creek your final resting point. The creek is beautifully clear, with subtle orange, tea-tree tannins. You can float or play in the water, read a book in the shade, or stroll along the picturesque boardwalk.
Experience something truly unique and ride a horse along Rainbow Beach. All riding experience levels can be catered to and you can choose between a beach ride, country ride, even a full moon ride!
From Rainbow Beach, you’re in prime position to explore the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island. There are many great day tours on offer, like the Fraser Island Discovery Tour, which will take you on an adventurous 4WD excursion up the beach to Inskip Point where you’ll board a barge and cross over to the iconic island.
Spend the afternoon walking through cool, towering rainforest, swimming in freshwater lakes or watching dingoes explore their native habitat.
Now’s the time when it’s much cooler, and while everything is so beautifully green, to explore the back roads a couple of hours out of Brisbane.
The film of dust which settles over your car is a small price to pay for the pleasures of ascending into Bellthorpe State Forest on a winding dirt road, and following the switchback country lane east through picture-book scenery eastwards towards Maleny.
The gravel crunches under tyres as you stop in the woodland’s shade. Switch off the engine, get out and take some moments to appreciate the entrancing forest, the peace, the occasional call of a bird.
In Bellthorpe, the massive grey trunks of blue gums soar high to the canopy. Below, the ground is a sunshine-patterned garden of brackens and ferns, and piccabeen palms punctuate the scene.
Just getting to this beautiful place is what Sunday drives are all about.
We’ve done this trip quite a few times and each time we leave different times. Some of the photos reflect the differences.
We always like to head off early, heading out of Brisbane for Samford, and checking for bargains at the Ferny Grove Station market. Then head off to Dayboro, were we come across the weekend cyclists are out on their long-distance rides, so watch out for them.
Dayboro is just over 40km from Brisbane, has a small Sunday market along the pavement in the main street, note the selection of home-baked cakes.
We then take the hill route to Mount Mee, sometimes calling in at the impressive cafe in the vaulted-roof pole house at Ocean View Winery. Further on, we always stretch our legs at the Dahmpongah Lookout, with its wide view over pastures and the distant spires of the Glasshouse Mountains from the southwest.
We then move onto Woodford, and on a Sunday morning it’s busy with pleasure drivers, motorbike tourers and locals. On the first and third Sunday of every month, volunteers offer steam train rides on the Durundur Railway. The Australian Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Society has an assortment of mining and cane trains to run on its “two foot” gauge line. Passengers sit in wagons once used to move bagged sugar to the port for the six-minute run to Storey Brook station, where cottage herb gardens are the attraction.
Heading northwest on D’Aguilar Highway, ignore the next right turn to Beerwah, but three or four kilometres further on, take the next right to Stony Creek.
This little road climbs north up into the Conondale Range, but a short way in, take the right turn and drive 4km into Bellthorpe Forest Reserve. At road’s end is Stony Creek recreation reserve, with picnic tables, toilet block and a short walk to a pool fed by the creek. The running creek is a pleasant place to sit and cool your feet, and the pool is shallow but inviting for a cool-off.
Back on the road to the Conondales, the bitumen runs out as the road climbs into state forest. There’s an expeditionary element to the drive because sign posts are few and far between. High up, there’s a junction. Turn right on the narrow West Bellthorpe Rd, a graded gravel route which follows a hogsback, with forest on one side and dairy cattle meadows on the other.
Here are glimpses of the Glasshouse Mountains from the northwest. You’re in the Mary River catchment, back on a ribbon of bitumen and heading through Booroobin in very picturesque hill country. You emerge on the Woodford-Maleny Rd. Turn left, then right on the Maleny-Kenilworth highway and ease down into the charming town, round about lunchtime.
Maleny has an interesting mix of shops and a great choice of places to eat. The Big Byte Cafe has an internet corner and a gallery of black and white photographs of pop music stars well worth checking out.
No visit to Maleny is complete without a side expedition through more attractive landscapes down to Baroon Pocket Dam.
This is the Sunshine Coast’s drinking water supply, a forest-fringed lake covering 380ha. The Lake Baroon Freshwater Fish Stocking Association has been introducing Mary River cod, golden perch and Australian bass fingerlings in large quantities since at least 1989, so it might be worthwhile taking your rod.
For the best Glasshouse Mountain views, when heading back towards Brisbane, retrace your route on to the Maleny-Woodford road and follow the Blackall Range Tourist Drive signs towards Mary Cairncross Park on Mountain View Rd.
A kilometre along, there’s ample parking space at McCarthey’s Lookout, commanding a fabulous view over the Glasshouse Mountain caldera from the northeast.
A couple of kilometres further on, at another good mountain viewing spot, Mary Cairncross Park is a hugely popular picnic ground. Abutting dense rainforest, the open grassed area is skirted by a path. Timber benches have been provided along this Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Walk, complete with a bamboo trellis on which vines essential in the lives of the butterfly are being cultivated.
Mountain View Rd leads back on to the busier Landsborough Rd down the range towards the coast. At Landsborough, follow the old Pacific Highway south. On this drive, there are plenty of excuses for another stop: Australia Zoo, roadside shops selling locally grown pineapples, macadamia nuts, fruit and vegetables and even a fisho’s van. And suddenly, you’re back on the motorway, vying with the traffic, which on a Sunday afternoon is probably slowing down well ahead of the Bribie turnoff.
Things to do in Maleny
Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World.
Meander through some of the most exquisite gardens in Queensland featuring a panorama of waterfalls, ponds and colourful plantings, idyllic rainforest surroundings and views of the spectacular Glass House Mountains at Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World. Bring a picnic to enjoy by one of the many lakes or lounge under a tree with a good book and soak up the peace and serenity.
Baroon Pocket Dam.
Baroon Pocket Dam is a picturesque lake tucked away between Montville and Maleny. The dam offers a range of fantastic recreational facilities and you could easily spend the whole day exploring the shores and waterways. There are picnic tables, free barbecues and playgrounds for the kids, making it the ideal spot for a get together with family or friends. Take a dip in the calm waters, kayak the lake and its tributaries or simply cast your rod and wait for the Australian Bass to bite.
Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.
Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is 55 acres of subtropical rainforest overlooking the Glass House Mountains. A remnant of the rainforests that once covered the Blackall Range, the Reserve is a living museum of diverse plant and animal life. There are several tranquil walking tracks, boardwalks and viewing platforms where you can soak up the natural beauty and read information about various species.
Leave your vehicle in the car park on the banks of the Obi Obi Creek and take a short, level walk downstream to Gardners Falls, a hidden gem in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. You’ll pass a number of shallow rock pools which are ideal for smaller children who just want to splash about. Follow the bubbling waters downstream where the pools increase in size and enjoy a freshwater swim in the largest pool underneath the falls
The Cheese Circuit.
A visit to Maleny Dairies will not only prove that milk comes from cows (not cartons) but that it tastes so good! The milk, yoghurt and ice cream can be tasted and bought at the farm shop. You can also join a farm tour, ride a tractor and see the cows milked at 3 pm. Once you’ve tasted the raw goods, head to Maleny Cheese, where you’ll see the cheesemakers in action and enjoy tastings in the café and shop.
Brews and Views.
Stop in at Maleny Mountain Wines to sample a range of reds, whites, fortified and dessert wines from Australia and around the world. The friendly staff will find the perfect wine for your palate or the best drop for your celebration, picnic or BYO dining. If you prefer beer, make a pit stop at Brouhaha Brewery.