Well its been a long break between blogs, but recent weather has left time for catching up! After leaving the totally iconic Lightning Ridge, we headed back across the border into Queensland. Our route took us through the quiet Bollon-Dirranbandi Road, to come out on the main Balonne highway, just before Bollon. A nice drive through there too.
Bollon itself is worth a stop. We dropped into Bollon Heritage Centre, which I would highly recommend doing. The volunteers were lovely people, full of local knowledge and very happy to share. It’s always a pleasure to chat to knowledgeable people who are so proud of their local history and willing to pass it on.
After a short stop in Bollon, we reluctantly peeled ourselves away to head west for the final two hour trip on this leg.
Cunnamulla appears out of the red dirt. Population around 1200, established 1868 , around 800 kilometres to the West of Brisbane.
The water tower has been mural painted by Artist Guido Van Helten, in 2019, a fitting tribute to the rivalry between Cunnamulla & Charleville 200kms away. A similar Water tower was painted in Charleville to match.
Be sure to visit the Visitors Centre for friendly service and a look through the time tunnel as well as museum. Interesting place to wile away a couple of hours.
We did not attend the experience at the railway station, but you can still go down and have a look around, as well as learn some of the history.
Cunnamulla has a number of licenced venues, as well as cafes, various shops, all within a short few blocks, making up the town centre. A lot of work has gone into different ornamental displays. They pop up here and there as you explore.
Cunnamulla is a mini gateway to other outback regions. From here you can head out to Eulo or further, and do a round trip out west, back through Quilpie to Charleville. Be sure to spend a day or two checking out Cunnamulla and the Paroo Shire. You will find interesting areas pop up unexpectedly.
There is a lot of unsealed road on this tour and it can be rough in parts. Located around 70kms from The Ridge, turning right off the highway, just after the big Emu, you will find the road leading you into the vast opal mine area. A 4WD isn’t required during dry weather, but definitely not a drive for a low hung sports car! Our Ford Territory took the trip easily in its stride.
The longest of the car door tours, the Orange car door tour, does need a majority of your day put aside as it is a bit of drive, but one which is highly worthwhile.
The first stop on the Garwin Opal Fields Orange Car Door Tour, is the Club in the Scrub. Fully licenced with food available from 10am, this rustic pub is a delight to visit. Boasting its own 9 hole golf course, beer garden, as well as free camping, the sprawling club is full of charm, warmth and local characters. An extra little note here, the Visitor Information Centre at Lightning Ridge has some of the tour maps for $1, but, here they hand them out free, along with a dose of goodwilled advice.
At the first stop, we explored the pub and the area around, wetting the whistle with some cold ones. It was a little early for a meal here, but, we could have easily stayed all day, however those opal fields were calling!
On your way to the second pub, you drive through working opal fields (no stopping here!), as well as a beautifully set up area of remembrance. Quite a surprise to find his tidy, well kept Sheepyard Community memorial amidst the dusty, rocky fields.
The Sheepyard Inn, provides the fields area with another pub, as well as fuel and supplies. Meals here were generous and much enjoyed. Across the road from the pub are numerous vehicles from days gone by, including a double decker bus. Its very dry out here without salt water and humidity so vehicles don’t rust out as fast as they would closer to the coast.
Once you’ve had your fill, head on round to the final pub, Glengarry Hilton. You will pass some interesting miners abodes during your journey, some are very basic, with the odd one a bit more like normal living. Never stop and fossick for opals around the mine fields, there are private claims everywhere and you don’t want to be stealing someones income.
The Hilton has a mound behind the back of the old toilet area, where you can fossick happily. It takes a good eye to find anything with colour.
Theres a quirky little shop, within a very short walk of the Hilton too, be sure to check that one out. Even selling Air guitar strings and other humorous items, it really is worth a look.
Should you be expecting the Hilton to look like the Hilton Hotels, you might be in for a bit of a surprise! This pub is of similar rustic, quirky design to the other two. Once you’ve satisfied you’ve seen all you want to see and picked up some souvenirs, follow the circuit road back.
Referred to by locals as The Ridge, this was definitely a highly entertaining part of our trip. You’re in Opal country now, the landscape has changed dramatically from rolling cotton and pastural fields to a much stonier view.
What to do at The Ridge? Where to start! This place is packed to the brim with things to see and do. For a relatively young established area, with opal mining starting in the early 1900’s the history here is incredible. Even though it is suspected opal was first found here in the early 1800’s, it took a long time for the area to become popular for opal mining.
Stop by the visitor centre, that should be your first port of call and it’s easy to find, just on the outskirts of the township, right hand side as you arrive. The lovely, helpful staff there will run you through the car door tours, as well as everything you need to know for the duration of your stay.
Definitely worth a visit to The Ridge, and luckily, very close to the Qld border, so was safe then for us to pop over for a visit , before lockdowns. At least if anything changed, we could head back to Qld in no time.
Artesian water from the great artesian basin, supplies the area. Locals highly recommend heading to the free hot artisian baths on the outskirts of the township, to relax in the 40-50 degree C pools. Natural pressure sends this approximately two million year old water to the surface. If you don’t make the hot pools then simply savour the shower at your accommodation. Its exactly the same water. Whilst here though, do not drink the tap water.
Our accommodation, Bluey’s Motel, was located directly across the road from the local Bowls club. Currently undergoing some extensive renovations to increase the already, large areas, the bowls club was a handy spot for a relaxing beverage and good meals.
Bluey’s owners happened to be there when we were, with Robert narrating some highly entertaining stories on the local area. Have a chat with the Manager Corrina there too, she has a very interesting opal collection, as well as a lot of a lot of knowledge regarding the opals and the best buys.
There’s a lot to see here and the locals are forthcoming with the stories, many a tale to be told! A couple of our favourite characters were Sean & Corey at Lunatic Hill. Drop by and have a chat to the boys, they were highly entertaining. These brothers love their animals, and were more than happy to pose for a photo.
After looking around opals and the prices, their pricing was really good. If you’re in the market for some opal, stop and chat to the boys. Lunatic Hill is not far past the incredible Chambers of the Black Hand.
Chambers of the Black Hand is breathtaking. If you were only going to visit one place with an entry fee, this is it. But, be warned, you need to be able to negotiate around 83 steps, steep, ones.
The story behind this mine and the carvings is mind blowing. Ron Canlin, accidentally turned to carving when he made nothing from the opal mine
Once you are down those steps, you will be met with a guide who gives you a quick briefing, then sends you on your way to explore this incredible chamber of hand carved walls. What you will see will amaze you, and if you can handle those steps, I would highly recommend checking this out. The $40 cover charge per person is high, but as a once in a lifetime attraction, don’t miss it.
40 feet underground, a totally fabulous display awaits you. Ron Canlin started Chambers of the Black Hand in 1996 and he hasn’t stopped since. Originally, he spent 6 months digging a tunnel with the idea of showing off the opal mine. However, the first carving was the simple word ‘Welcome’. From there the carvings grew into the breathtakingly accurate images you get to see today.
For a mine which firstly earnt Ron a mere $27 000 over 25 years of hard work, to have evolved to the popular tourist attraction it now is, in itself is astonishing. You will be in awe of what this sandstone has been turned into so take some time to drink it all in, check out every nook and cranny, before you make your way up those steep steps to return to the surface.
The Visitor Information Centre can provide you the information on the innovative Car Door tours. A great way to visit the highlights of this area, where you simply find the first colour door propped at the side of the road, of your chosen tour, then follow the arrows. More about the Car Door Tours in Part Two.
There are a couple of choices for travelling over the QLD/NSW border to Lightning Ridge. Our first intention was via Nindigully -Thallon-Murigindi. However, locals advised that after recent rain, there had been some washouts on the road which had unsealed parts. Unfortunately, this meant missing the Thallon murals and other local sights, it is best, though to heed local advice, particularly for unsealed roads.
After farewelling St George with breakfast at St George Bakery, we headed along the sealed Castlereagh Highway towards Dirranbandi, a short 1 hour drive.
Located on the traditional lands of the Kooma people, the indigenous population here identify as Gamilaroi. And what a lovely spot for the township, with the town reserve surveyed around 1885. This makes Dirranabandi a comparatively young town, with a population of approximately 700, which varies each year as seasonal workers stay whilst working for the cotton farmers.
Around 9kms from the township, is the largest cotton producing property in the Southern Hemisphere. The 80,000 hectare (over 197,600 acres), Cubbie Station and their cotton ginnery, making them the major employer for this area. This station also is the largest irrigated station in the Southern Hemisphere, being a role model for inland Australia’s sustainable development, both ecologically and economically.
Such a beautifully clean township with plenty of interesting structures to see as you wander the reserve stretching the legs.
But, the jewel in the crown was quite possibly, the Dirranbandi Bakery. Decorated with reminders of the owners home Russia, including simply gorgeous tea sets, this spacious bakery was very popular.
Multitudes of sweet delights and pastries, beckoned from their various cabinets. Stocking up on supplies for ‘later’, it was time to continue a short 45 minutes to Hebel.
Located close to the border, Hebel’s population is around 70, with the township boasting a pub, General Store and Camping ground. All which have withstood the passing of time, reminiscent of the good ole days.
Being around 4kms from the QLD/NSW border, Hebel was originally established as a border town with a customs post, around 1886. Once part of the trail for Cobb & Co and a with the pub previously a hideout for the Ned Kelly gang, Hebel has its fair share of history to share.
An easy 45 minute drive from Hebel and you arrive in Lightning Ridge, opal country. Our accommodation here, was the easily located Bluey’s Motel, directly across the road from the Bowls Club.
More about Lightning Ridge, in the next story. Cannot give it all away here!
April 1864 saw the Balonne River crossing area, named at St George, by Sir Thomas Mitchell, the NSW Surveyor-General. The date was close to the date of England’s patron Saint George feast day, hence the towns name. Since those times, St George has grown to a population of around three thousand, with a successful farming community in place, established from drawing on the Balonne River, as opposed to artesian water.
Check the flood markers down by the river. Its very interesting to see the different river flood heights over the years. Interesting to note to that, only a year or two after the 2011 flooding, the river was so dry you could walk across. This was an interesting fact learnt from the local baker, Trent, during a run in his model T Ford.
Our first port of call after check-in at Kamarooka Tourist Park, was to visit Queensland most Western Winery, Riversands.
Helpful staff will run you through a tasting if you wish, or, there is a menu should you like to spend some time chilling over a meal and wine. And of course you most likely will want to try the F****ing Good Port, we did and there were a few bottles purchased.
An early morning run around the township with Trent in his Model T Ford, was a little chilly on the hands, but a great way to get a look around the town, with Trent providing a very informative narrative on the town, amenities and history. Trent certainly is a great ambassador for St George! Add to that, your $5 for the ride is fully donated to the Flying Doctors and I am sure you will be wanting to take the spin around town with Trent.
Brett is your host for the informative sunset river cruise. For $35 per head, BYO your own drinks and nibbles whilst relaxing on the 2 hour cruise. As the sun disappears for the day, you are cruising along the river, chosen beverage in hand, listening to Brett as he tells of the areas history.
From his position at the front, Brett can pick out the locals who are fishing from their private jetty’s or relaxing on their private properties. Locals returned the happy smiles, cheers and waves they receive from the boat guests, as you cruise past.
The timing of our arrival into St George plus departure, meant we were limited in what we could do. However, there are Cotton farm tours, as well as the Unique Egg store, and a number of other attractions.
A short 30 minutes from St George is the infamous Nindigully pub. Touted as Queensland’s oldest pub, licensed in 1864, plus also being one of the locations for the 1999 Hugh Jackman movie, Paperback Hero.
Nindigully boasts a population of 9, however, this complex is intriguing, with something to see everywhere. No accommodation, you need to bring your own, but the parties this place would have seen over the past 150 odd years, would have been incredible.
Certainly be sure to visit Nindigully. This place is seeped in history, with entertaining staff and generally a great atmosphere. We didn’t have a meal here, but there’s some very famous huge meals to be enjoyed, just make sure you are hungry. There’s even chandeliers!
Take some time to visit St George, it really is worth the drive to indulge a few days at this beautifully tidy outback town, full of friendly locals willing to share their stories.
Brisbane to St George, via Dalby is an approximately 5.5 hour drive. A good first driving break is at Jondaryan, an easy two hours from Brisbane, with the service station here providing clean bathrooms, food and drinks. There is also the tourist attraction, Jondaryan Woolshed here, but this, unfortunately, is closed for the foreseeable future.
The hustle and bustle of suburban life, swiftly disappears in the rearview mirror, the further you drive along the Warrego Highway. Scenery changes to wide open spaces, with small tufts of snow-white cotton beginning to appear on the roadside, as you approach Dalby. Dalby being a mere 30 minutes from Jondaryan along the wide, easy to drive highway.
Plenty of places to stop in Dalby too, if you would like a break or a look around the quaint township. We chose to stay on night on our return trip, so more about Dalby yet to come.
Turn off to the left to follow the 290km Moonie Highway, with a short 1 hour 15 minutes to the Moonie Crossroads. You’re driving in areas frequented by road trains now, so be sure to give them room whenever the road narrows.
Tufts of white cotton, turn into a splattered sea of white, lining the highway. You could be forgiven for thinking of this as white sand or snow.
Remember too, you are entering the home of many wildlife, who may choose to shoot across the road at any time. The worst times for the Roo’s and foxes is the twilight and sunrise. Emus can appear at any time, and when you see one, there’s a pretty good chance there’s a mob close by. The amount of road kill at the side of the road, is a good indication as to the risks of driving out here. We made a point of limiting our highway driving times to between 8:30/9am to 3pm, during the month of June.
Moonie is a must stop. With a thriving pub, café, shop, caravan park, accommodation and friendly service, Moonie, hosting a permanent population of less than 200, is a refreshing break on the highway run.
A further two hours to St George from here, the final part of the first leg. Now you really do enter the vast outback areas. Before too long, the scenery changes to become filled with red dirt, long straight roads and scrub. If you’re wondering why there are wide strips graded along the sides of the highway, this is to help give you more wandering of wildlife or cattle who choose to cross the road ahead.
Our chosen place to stay on this occasion, was Kamarooka Tourist Park, hosted by Wade and Brenda. Cabins here were clean and quite adequate for a couple of nights. Every night your hosts, hold a happy hour from 5-7pm around the open fire, with complimentary garlic pizza bread. A good initiative to bring visitors together.
Next story will be about St George itself. A thriving, clean, tidy town, St George was a pleasure to visit.
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Only a mere 75 minutes by Ferry from Brisbane city, this island resort is exactly that. Here you can be drinking cocktails whilst basking in the glow of a tropical island sunset, feeling like you’re a thousand miles from home. It really is that good.
Who would believe that over on the horizon, is the bustling metropolis of Brisbane! Here you really are a world away from the daily grind of life, sinking your toes into the crisp white sand, crystal blue water rolling gently nearby, whilst you stroll the lengthy beaches.
Activities available through the resort, range from free eco information talks on the local wildlife, through to quad bikes, snorkelling, helicopter rides and para sailing. Then of course there is hand feeding of the wild dolphins, a nightly ritual you will have the pleasure of attending once, should your accommodation have this inclusion. If you’re into activities whilst on holiday, there is definitely no reason to be bored here.
Moreton Island itself, has the option of bringing your own 4WD if you would like to explore more of the island. There are numerous camping and other accommodation options spread over the island, for those not wanting the resort lifestyle. Keep in mind though, all the extra circular activities available through Tangalooma, are only available to guests of Tangalooma Resort.
The vehicle ferry departs from a different Brisbane wharf, to the Holt Street passenger ferry. Arriving onto the beach near the wrecks, the vehicle ferry drops a ramp for the drivers to exit their vehicles. Resort visitor and other foot passengers can travel on this ferry too, but you need to cart your luggage down to the resort, if that’s where you are staying, as there is no service between the two.
Accommodation at the resort, ranges from budget rooms and standard hotel rooms through to apartment style living. There is something to suit all budgets and tastes.
The hub of the resort is the reception, bar, restaurant complex. An ideal place to meet for catch ups through the day or chill out at any time. Staff were helpful and willing to answer queries or assist wherever they could. Food quality was overall high, with some delicious options available.
A general store exists too, close to the wharf where you disembark or catch the ferry. Next to this the photo shop and the interesting and informative Eco Centre.
Brisbane is lucky to witness some incredible sunrises with glimpses of beautiful sunsets at times too. From the resort, you can witness some amazing sunsets, as look across the bay to Brisbane and Sunshine Coast areas. The view from this direction is truely a wonderful experience.
Be sure to book your visit in advance, as the resort is a popular place. The option is there for day trips too, but consider taking a bit more time so you can witness everything this stunning location has to offer. Especially if you’re wanting to hand feed the wild dolphins, this is a night time experience only which is included with certain accommodation bookings, ranging from the standard hotel room. This is not an experience which can be purchased on its own.
Might see you there one day!
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Nestled on the mountain, just behind Montville Township, is the superb Flame Hill Vineyard. Stop by for a tasting, enjoy a meal overlooking the vines, watch as the chooks wander around the vineyard. Over in the distance you will see the occasional vehicle, otherwise, you are surrounded by pure country air and rolling green.
On the day we visited, Mr Rooster was busily rounding up those feathered escapees who insisted on wandering further afield, than he felt was allowable. None of the chooks were particularly bothered, ignoring his insistent squawking, whilst they continued to do their own thing.
Food was deliciously fresh, well presented, with staff pleasant and unobtrusive.
This venue has all the elements for a relaxing visit. Sit back, drink in the incredible vista rolling as far as the eye can see. Peace, serenity and relaxation envelop you. If you don’t leave here with less stress than when you arrived, perhaps you need to stay longer.
Take some time to enjoy what this vineyard has on offer. Perhaps stay locally a night or two. There are many incredible options for a quick break away, in this Sunshine Coast Hinterland area. Highly recommend the nearby Misty View Cottages for a romantic couples retreat.
Be sure to stop by, it’s an easy day trip from Brisbane, or a wonderful get away destination. Cheers!
Secluded, luxury couples rainforest accommodation, overlooking moody Lake Baroon, are the perfect setting for a break away from life. Each cottage is named on a theme from the past.
Relax on your balcony, allowing the stresses of life to dissipate around you, whilst you marvel at the pure beauty of nature, in her best attire.
Your hosts, Shell and Tony, forward think every little detail to ensure your stay is as comfortable and enjoyable as absolutely possible. Shell is absolutely delightful, we had some lovely insightful conversations during the course of our short stay. We didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Tony on this occasion, perhaps next time.
There’s a lot to see around the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. So you have to decide, do you simply chill, relax and indulge, or spend some time exploring this beautifully diverse area. Around a fifteen minute walk away , is the impressive Flame Hill Vineyard, complete with cellar door and restaurant. But, I do warn you, there’s a couple of steep driveways in there, so if you have a sober driver, take advantage of that fact! Flame Hill Vineyard will be the next story, so keep an eye out for that.
A day of relaxing or exploring, deserves a super treat for the evening. So, if it’s cool enough, (and we were so lucky one evening that it was!), light the fire and enjoy the ambiance that only a flickering flame can give.
This magical area and property has so much to offer. Fresh local produce, privacy, space, luxury amenities, the list goes on.
There are times in life you need a break and to treat yourself and why would you not do that in this stunning area of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Seriously, just do it!
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The diversity of Southern Queensland , from sea, to mountains and beyond, never ceases to amaze. From Brisbane we are lucky to easily indulge in day trips or weekends away within just a couple of hours drive from our own doorsteps.
Sunshine Coast Hinterland, not only provides beauty and interesting areas to visit, but, the welcoming warmth of the locals is something you will never forget.
We had a short stay in Montville recently, an early Christmas break to beat the expected crowds, flocking to holiday at the end of this pandemic year. A fantastic way, to take a breath and relax before everything becomes full on.
Whilst in Montville, we did a short day trip via, Mapleton, Kenilworth and Maleny. This can easily be completed from Brisbane without staying, but, why would you not want to spend more time in this stunning area. More about where we stayed in the next article!
Mapleton is next to Montville, taking under ten minutes to get there. From here you turn left and drive around twenty minutes to reach Kenilworth. However, if you’re looking for a breakfast break first, make sure you stop at Cafe Mapleton. We had such a wonderful time talking to the very interesting owners!
This pretty little cafe, has such a beautifully laid back vibe. If you’re in a rush, don’t bother to stop, this is a place you come to relax and enjoy. Simple, wholesome meals, created with a smile and a whistle. We loved this cafe!
Kenilworth, is a popular township, some fantastic shops for wiling away time, including the Kenilworth Dairies. Not just cheese and milk products, they stock more than enough to make your own delicious platters, including relishes and crackers. A little cafe is on site too with a few scattered tables and shade umbrellas.
We wandered along the Main Street, lined with colourful, cute shopfronts, popping in here and there to check out the local wares. The Chocolate shop, oh my what a find! With an incredible array of chocolate, sporting an unending array of flavours, shapes and fabulous ideas, it’s very easy to lose track of time as you salivate over the endless purchase possibilities.
Browse the other shops too. A great way to spend a few hours, all the time remembering you are injecting some much needed tourist dollars into a small country areas economy.
The local park is conveniently located across the road from the shops and the Dairies. A lovely tree filled green space with children’s play areas and shady seating as well as toilet facilities on site.
Once you’re ready to leave this gorgeous area of Queensland, continue on the route to Maleny. Again the cuteness and quaint shops are totally enthralling. Lose yourself here for a few hours, there’s plenty to see. Depending on the day, there’s markets, quaint shops, an IGA which sports the most incredible delicatessen array we have ever seen in a supermarket, seriously go check it out!
Be sure to visit the bakery and the genuine butcher. Everywhere we went we were told brief or long stories. Peoples life’s are so interesting. I love that every person has a story. And until you talk to them you never get know even a little piece of their story.
Tear yourself away from this gorgeous area to head home, or visit the Maleny dairy, and other shops on your way back to your accommodation. But, even if you’re heading home, turn left to head to Montville just to the visit the totally amazing secondhand/record shop, just past Maleny Dairy.
We were stopped here for a long time, so much to see plus add that to a beautiful chatty owner who shared some of her interesting life story with us. What a most amazing experience!
We didn’t even scratch the surface in what to do on this day trip. I swear you could do this every weekend for a year and still not know this area inside out. Next week, I will share the incredibly special venue we stayed it. Trust me you will love it ! Remember to follow Dine Live Travel on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat for more photos!