About Off The Track 4x4

We are George & Shelly, a married couple from Sydney, Australia, who love 4WDing, camping and travelling this great country of ours.   We love sharing our adventures and hope to inspire others to travel as well.    Join us on our journeys around Australia!  If you like what you read, please share our posts with family and friends and don't forget to follow us on social media. ..... making memories one track at a time 

Burke & Wills Country

As we mentioned previously, this whole area is Burke & Wills country and there is so much history here if you are interested.

Burke and Wills graves – Explorers Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills were the first to successfully cross Australia from south to north, but they both tragically died beside the Cooper Creek on their return journey. Their bodies were later exhumed and, following Victoria’s first state funeral (which was apparently attended by approximately 80% of Melbourne’s population), they were both laid to rest in the Melbourne General Cemetery.

King’s Tree – John King was the sole survivor of the Burke and Wills expedition. After leaving the bodies of his two friends, Burke & Wills, King had sought the help and skills of the local Aboriginal people to help keep him alive. About a month or so later, King was found by Howitt’s search party.

The Dig Tree

By far, the most well known location would be The Dig Tree, which is located on Nappa Merrie Station on the northern bank of Cooper Creek, about 100km or so from Innamincka, SA.

Now for those that may not be up to scratch on your Burke & Wills history, The Dig Tree is the site from which the Burke and Wills expedition party split into two and Burke, Wills, King & Gray set off for the Gulf of Carpentaria, whilst William Brahe and the rest of the party remained behind with instructions to wait up to three months for their return. They did exactly that, in fact they waited more than four months for them to return. The most tragic part of the whole story is that Burke & Wills did finally return, only to find the camp deserted ….. by only a few hours. Brahe and the others had literally left the camp only a few hours before their arrival. It was such a tragic, sad twist of circumstances that occurred.

On returning to the camp, they found it deserted, but found a carving on a large coolibah tree telling them where to dig for supplies. Before departing the rest of the party decided to bury some provisions on the remote chance the Burke and Wills may return. William Brahé carved three separate messages into the trunk of the tree.

The inscriptions marked the location of the supplies, the camp number, and the dates of the arrival of the advance party and Brahé’s departure. Whilst most of the carvings have now been covered over, you can still slightly see a small part on the tree, as shown on the pic below.

This Coolibah tree is believed to be is 200-250 years old.

The Face Tree – Only about 30m from The Dig Tree, you will find what is known as ‘The Face Tree’. Burke’s face was carved into the tree in 1898 by John Dick.

CAMPING

You can visit the Dig Tree as a day use visitor and camping is also available in the area adjacent to the Dig Tree Reserve. It’s very basic bush camping with really no facilities. There are basic toilets, but the camping area is quite large and it’s unlikely you’ll be camped near these. Campfires are allowed, but you must provide your own firewood.

There was a fee of (i think) $10 per vehicle to camp there. An honesty box as you enter is provided for this. You do not need to pre-book and the camping area is large so I don’t think you would ever need to worry about not finding a space for the night. It’s a beautiful place to camp for a night or longer, the sunrise and sunset is great, it’s quiet and relaxed and the bird life is abundant.

The ‘Dig Tree’ is one of Australia’s national icons, it’s one of those places which you visit and you are reminded of the harsh conditions our explorers faced. It’s a good feeling to know that we are able to visit places like this and be reminded of our past. Apart from the boardwalk structure built around the tree to help protect it, the site is exactly the same as Burke and Wills would have seen it all those years ago. Time moves on so quickly and life is such a rush nowadays, so it’s nice to be able to reflect on our history and see how lucky we are in comparison.

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Strzelecki Track, Innamincka and Burke’s Grave

After leaving Cameron Corner we headed north west up the Strzelecki Track towards Innamincka.  This is another of those iconic 4WD tracks that people want to tackle.  It’s not difficult, but it’s a fairly lonely drive, we barely saw anyone all day, so you definitely need to be well prepared. 

Something that we didn’t know until we started researching was that The Strzelecki Track was actually created by the infamous cattle thief named Harry Readford (also spelt Redford) whilst attempting to move 1000 head of cattle from Queensland to South Australia.

Harry, or Captain Starlight as he was known, lived an interesting life and his whole story is quite fascinating. The most interesting twist to the whole story is that, although Harry was found guilty of stealing the cattle, the judge and jury were so impressed and amazed at what he had accomplished, they they didn’t convict him for the crime!

Nowadays the track is used mainly by trucks and mining vehicles headed to and from Moomba. The Strzelecki Track runs for about 475km from Innamincka to Lyndhurst.

The town of Innamincka is located on the banks of the Cooper Creek in north-east South Australia and it’s a beautiful area, full of history and wildlife. It is one of those places that we actually really like, although there really isn’t much there and it has a permanent population of only about 10-15 people. After our first visit to Innamincka years ago, Shelly has always maintained that she had the best hot chips ever from the pub! (and anyone who knows Shelly knows that she loves her hot chips!). When we arrived in Innamincka this time we could not believe how busy it was, 4WD’s, Campers, Caravans and people everywhere! Neither of us had ever seen anything like that!

Innamincka is also a big part of the Burke & Wills story. This whole area is Burke & Wills country, this is the land they traversed in their ill-fated exploration of Australia. We both have quite an interest in the Burke & Wills story, so much so that back in 2010 we joined Vic Widman from Great Divide Tours on one of his tag-a-long tours to retrace the steps of Burke & Wills. 20th August 2010 marked 150 years since the Burke & Wills Expedition set off from the Royal Park in Melbourne and we were privileged enough to join Vic and 12 other 4WD’s to mark this occasion and to retrace their steps.

Unfortunately on that trip we didn’t get to visit Burke’s Grave as the roads were closed, but this time we did (well George actually visited on a work trip last year) so Shelly, and about a million flies, made the trek out to the grave by herself whilst George waited in the comfort of the Prado!

Robert O’Hara Burke’s grave site is not far from Innamincka on the banks of the Cooper Creek. This is the site where Howitt buried Burke’s remains in September 1861. His body was later exhumed and moved to the Melbourne General Cemetery.

Big Red Bash wrap up

Well there is another trip done and dusted, 4,838 km driven across 3 states over 16 days! ….. ok so yes we know we didn’t quite keep the blogs up to date while we are away, but we will do a recap of each day now that we are home and have more time and internet connection! But in the meantime, below is a quick recap of the whole trip to get you excited!

This was one of our shorter trips, only 2 weeks away, but as usual we still managed to pack alot into that time!

The main purpose of the trip was to visit The Big Red Bash, the worlds most remote music festival … and what an awesome, fun filled couple of days that was! They say once you visit you’ll go back again and that’s so true, we are all hooked! The bands, the people, the volunteers, the atmosphere … it was all awesome. Probably by far the best run event we have ever been to.

Although the bash was our main reason for travel, we wanted to make a mini holiday out of it too. We’ve been to Birdsville before and also to most places we visited, but it was still great. We stopped in at Cameron Corner again (where the borders of NSW/SA/QLD meet) and also stopped off at Haddon Corner for the first time (where the borders of QLD/SA meet).

We got our history on visiting some of the sites connected to Burke & Wills …. Burkes grave and Dig Tree to name a couple and we finally visited the Birdsville Hotel and went inside to have a beer (we’ve previously been to Birdsville but didn’t go to the pub, who does that! 😆)

Camel Racing 🐪 yes, we finally went to a camel racing meet, and not just any old camel racing, the ‘Melbounre Cup of Camel Racing’!  We spent 3 days camping at the race course and watching the Boulia Camel Races.

We went on a sunset dinner river cruise on the Thompson River in Longreach, attended an Outback Show at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, we saw the ‘big bogan’ in Nyngan and the ‘big billy’ in Trangie. We touched a dinosaur bone fossil at Winton and visited the site of the first Qantas plane crash in Tambo. We dropped into little country towns to support and show the love and bought heaps of souvenirs we probably don’t need!

Now to our good mate Stewy, so glad we got to experience our first bash together! Many of you would know that we travel quite a bit with Stewy and his daughter, they love this as much as us! And great to have Jackson along this time aswell! Glad you all made it home safely and we will see you on Fraser Island at Christmas!

It was great to catch up at the bash with Jim & Jackie who came along with us to Cape York last year, hope you enjoyed the bash and have a safe and enjoyable remainder of your trip.

The bash was the place to be and it was great to also run into Matt from Cub Campers again too, hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip, and following along on ours! We will see you soon to arrange our new awning!

Randomly running into one of Shelly’s old high school friends at the Birdsville Hotel (and at the bash and the races!), was great into see you Virginia and meet your family, enjoy the rest of your travels.

Jay and Sallie, our camping neighbours for a couple of nights in Longreach, it was great to meet you both (pj’s and all!), may catch up again one day.

To the guy who works in Target in Longreach, you are hilarious … really bad jokes, but hilarious! And to the people at the Wyandra Post & General Store, thank you for accommodating Shelly’s request for pepper even though you were allergic to it (who knew!) and thanks for opening our eyes to Mac n Cheese Smiths Chips (again, who knew!) …. hope you found your Spaghetti Bol chips! Also great briefly chatting with the caretaker of the Gladstone Hotel in Wyandra, good to hear a little about the community and the hotel.

And lastly, to our other friends, Lauren, Liam and the kids and Leah & Brendan who were meant to be coming to the bash and both didn’t make it for various reasons, hopefully we can all do it again next year!!

All the dust, the smoke, everything smelling like a campfire, the lack of showers and toilets, the cold, the flies …. we wouldn’t trade it for the world. To sit at camp and stare up at the stars, to share a beer with friends or total strangers, to meet the locals and share stories with other travellers, the laughs, the adventure and the memories …. this is life 💕

Oh and to share it with all of you guys too, we love it and glad we could take you along on the journey!

Check out all the stats below ⬇️⬇️⬇️

THE STATS
—————-
🔸4,838 km
🔸travelled across 3 states 
🔸16 days
🔸Total Fuel $1,290
🔸most expensive fuel $1.90/L for Diesel at Innamincka

🔸$210 total accomodation 
(1 x night hotel $160, 2 x nights caravan park $30, 2 x nights low cost camps $20, rest free camping or included in BRB/Camel Races tickets)

MINOR INCIDENTS
——————————
🔸Windscreen chip
🔸Lost reflector off camper
🔸Tear in the awning off the camper
🔸Changed tyre on the camper 
🔸Kangaroo splatter incident 

WHAT WE LEARNT
—————————
🔸It’s really exciting when you initially hear and see someone whip cracking …. it gets really annoying when that’s all you hear all day and night for a few days!
🔸‘Shelly GPS’ has nearly 100% accuracy, ‘George GPS’ is crap!
🔸It’s a game of luck when driving in Longreach …. cross streets have no ‘Give Way’ or ‘Stop’ signs! Oh and to it make it even harder to navigate, the power poles are situated right in the middle of street!
🔸Baby wipes really are your best friend when showers are few and far between (well we knew this one already!)
🔸If you look at a tyre before you leave home and think ‘we really should change that before we go’ ….. you probably should!!
🔸Be very wary of all dead kangaroos on the road! 
🔸You very quickly learn to be open about your toilet trips at the bash …. more on this later, but ‘one scoop per poop’ is the saying in Bashville!💩 
🔸We already knew it, but WikiCamps is awesome! We always find the best free camps using this app … if you aren’t already using it, you really should be!

Cameron Corner

After leaving camp around 8.30am we started our drive towards Cameron Corner. We had a brief stop after being flagged down by a young couple in an old Prado who needed some help. George checked a few things and then jump started the car to get them going again.

Next we stopped in at Tibooburra to refuel, grab some food and take a photo of the whaleboat …. an exact replica of the one Charles Sturt took along with him on his expedition.

Just before entering Cameron Corner you pass through the world’s longest fence, known as The Dingo/Wild Dog Fence. This fence stretches over an area of about 5,500 km …. now that’s a long fence!

The fence is there to protect sheep graziers and their livestock on the southern side of the fence from wild dogs and dingoes. The fence is constantly monitored and maintained/repaired by workers who are employed full time to keep it in order.

After passing through the fence you arrive a Cameron Corner, the place where NSW, Queensland and South Australia meet. John Cameron, a NSW Lands Department Surveyor, led the first survey party along the NSW/QLD border between 1879 and 1881. In 1880, upon arriving at the corner, Cameron erected a wooden boundary post with the inscription “LAT29” and “Cameron”. This original post is on display at the National Parks & Wildlife Service office in Tibooburra and a new post was erected at the location at Cameron Corner.

Other than ‘the post’ and being able to say you stood at the meeting point of 3 states, there isn’t really much else at Cameron Corner, it’s literally smack bang in the middle of nowhere! There is the Corner Store, which sells meals, fuel, souvenirs etc and of course it’s licenced so you can grab yourself a beer … which we did!

Back in 2014 we took the trek out to Cameron Corner to spend New Years Eve there. This was quite a fun night and we were actually surprised at the amount of people that turned up! We even ended up meeting a group who lived in the suburb next to us! Where else can you celebrate New Years Eve three times in one night ….. in 3 different states! Fenn & Cheryl, the owners of the Corner Store, put on a great night with games and entertainment and even fireworks. We will definitely be back for this again one year.

New Years Eve 2014 with Fenn, the owner of The Corner Store …. Shelly singing as usual!

The Corner Store was original established by Sandy Nall, an ex-Vietnam Vet. Apparently he had camped out there for a few weeks and after noticing how many cars drove past he came up with the idea of establishing a business out there. The original Corner Store was first opened in 1989. There is a memorial for Sandy under the flagpole out the front of the store.

Interesting fact, the store itself is located on the Queensland side of the border, but the telephone number has a South Australian prefix of 08 and it has a NSW postal address!

Big Red Bash here we come!

We had an early morning start as we have quite a few km to cover on the first few days. There are a few ways we could have headed to Birdsville, but of course we are picking the off-road way!

Although the day was predominantly driving, we did make time for a stop in Nyngan to visit The Big Bogan! Australia has so many ‘Big Things’ and we keep a list on our website of all that we visit, so a quick stop was definitely on the cards.

We ended up driving for exactly 12 hours and found a place to free camp down a little track off the side of the road.

Not another person in sight all night and the whole place to ourselves, A great first night camping after a long day.

Campfire, beers and prawns cooked over the fire …. yeah life is pretty good!

The most remote music concert in the world

Guess what! …. in exactly 14 days we leave home bound for The Big Red Bash! Many of you are probably asking “wtf is The Big Red Bash” …. well let us explain.

The Big Red Bash is the world’s most remote music concert. It is a unique outback experience where over 10,000 people flock to Birdsville in outback Queensland to attend a 3 day concert. Most people camp onsite for the duration of the concert (and the days before and after in some cases). The concert and camp area, known as Bashville, are located on a privately owned organic cattle station called Adria Downs.

The camping area sits on the dried-out bed of an ancient lake with the giant red sand dune, the famous “Big Red” (the highest sand dune in the Simpson Desert) as a backdrop.

The first Big Red Bash was held in 2013 and it’s grown significantly in popularity since then. It’s been on our bucket list since 2013 (well Shelly’s bucket list anyway, and finally she’s convinced George that we really do need to go!)

This year the headliners are MIDNIGHT OIL! Yes we are just a little bit excited! Shelly last saw Midnight Oil when they performed as part of the M-One concert in Sydney back in 2002, so it’s been quite a while!

This will be Midnight Oil’s first first multi day Australian music festival in over 22 years.

Over the three days, from mid afternoon each day we will be entertained by the following artists, finishing up on the last night with Midnight Oil. According to the organisers, the 40 meter high Big Red Dune will light up, and the full moon will rise up from the desert dunes during their set.

  • The Living End
  • Kasey Chambers
  • Richard Clapton
  • 1927
  • Busby Marou
  • Bjorn Again
  • Wendy Matthews
  • Mark Gable (The Choirboys)
  • Steve Kilbey (The Church)
  • Eurogliders
  • Chocolate Starfish
  • Neil Murray
  • Steve Balbi (Noiseworks)
  • The Chantoozies
  • Mark Williams (Dragon)
  • Dale Ryder (ex Boom Crash Opera)

Every year, various iconic Aussie musicians head to the bash to perform. The website states that As legendary Aussie artists fill the desert air with their classic sounds, your memories of this magical event will last a life-time. Or if you’re lucky – until the next Bash!

From what we’ve heard, once you experience your first Big Red Bash, it won’t be your last, so who knows, we could be back again next year!

So whilst we most likely won’t have reception at the concert, we will be taking plenty of photos and videos of the concert and the trip there and back to share with everyone.


Source, photo is from Outback Queensland website

The little church on the hill

For years and years I’ve driven past this little tiny church perched up on the top of a hill and always wanted to visit. With a cemetery spilling down the hill behind the church you could just imagine the stories that were held within the church and the graveyard itself.

As with many churches, this one comes with it’s own special history. In 1838 William Lawson called for tenders to build the church and it was subsequently built by James Atkinson, opening in 1841. St Bartholomew’s Church was the first church to open in Prospect.

Some of you may think that the name William Lawson sounds familiar and you would be right …… Back in 1813, William Lawson, Gregory Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth, along with their servants, horses and dogs, set off on an exploration which would ultimately create history. These three explorers would undertake the first successful crossing of the Blue Mountains by European settlers.

Many fellow Sydney-siders would know that all three now have towns named after them. William Lawson lived very close to the site of St Bartholomew’s church, his home which he named Veteran Hill was located at what is now the Prospect reservoir.

William Lawson passed away in 1850 and is buried in the St Bartholomew’s Church graveyard. The family vault (along with numerous other graves) has been restored with help from Blacktown City Council and the hard working people of The Friends of St Bartholomew’s.

The first burial to occur at St Bartholomew’s Church was in 1841, for Ann Goodin, aged 15. Her grave still stands today.

One of the great things about exploring this cemetery is that you can read about the people buried here, which gives you an insight and connection into their lives.

In 1967 the church was closed due to continuing vandalism, decay and a declining congregation. The last church service was held on Christmas Eve 1967.

By 1891, 360 burials had been recorded. Although the sale of burial plots ceased many years ago, burials can still occur on the site in previously purchased plots.

For over 30 years the church and cemetery stood on top of the hill overlooking the highway, slowly deteriorating. In 1989 part of the church was destroyed by fire, including the roof the 1850’s organ.

This important historical site is now owned by Blacktown City Council and they have, over the years, undertaken extensive restoration work, which is very important to keep the history alive.

The Friends of St Bartholomew’s group, who consist of an amazing group of volunteers, also assist the council to protect and conserve the integrity of the church and cemetery. Not only do they undertake restoration work, but they run tours, Ghost Tours and open days to help raise much needed funds.

This church and cemetery is one of the most historic sites in the Blacktown area and one of a few visible reminders of the former Prospect Village. By continuing the preservation and upkeep of the church and surrounds, it’s helping to keep alive the reminders of the local colonial past and the personalities which helped shape our history. The church is now listed on the State Heritage Register.

We both love learning about the history and stories behind the places we visit, but when we find something like this that is so close to home it is really special. This little church sits on top of a hill, surrounded on both sides by the M4 motorway and the Great Western Highway, thousands of people drive past every single day and wouldn’t have any idea of the history that is contained within.

Reading one of the brochures we thought that this sums up this church perfectly “St Bartholomew’s stands on its hill at Prospect, a quite oasis in the middle of a sea of development. It’s a testament to the pioneering families of the locality and the later individuals and organisations who recognise the importance of preserving this iconic site.

St Bartholomew’s Church & Cemetery is located in Ponds Road, Prospect, NSW.

Saying goodbye to ‘The Old Girl’

Many of you may know that we recently purchased a new 4WD for Shelly …. and unfortunately that meant that the old Prado needed to find a new home. We’d had this for sale for a while and we always knew that a vehicle like this would have to attract the right buyer. For a start, not everyone wants to buy a 23 year old car with nearly 300,000 km on the clock! We’d spent a lot of money on this 4WD over the years and it was in great condition for a vehicle of that age. Of course it had the odd scratch and dent, but it’s lived a fairly active off-road life, so what do you really expect!

Anyway, that right buyer did come along, a young guy and his family from the central west region of NSW. He’d done his homework, he’d seen our website and knew exactly the life this car had lived, there was now no hiding anything! They took the drive down to our house on a Thursday night to check out the Prado, George went over every single thing on the car, explained how everything worked, why we’d done what we’d done or used the parts we had, what had been replaced, what maybe needs to be looked at ….. we even gave instructions on how to pull apart the console and fix the 4WD shifter when it sometimes jumps out of place!

So after about 1 1/2 hours or so, we loaded the Prado with all it’s spare parts, the old back seats, the old stock wheels and we said goodbye and watched as she drove away with her new family.

Last photo, just before she drove away.

It was sad to see her go, she’d brought us so many years of memories. She was what started our whole 4WDing and travel adventures together. George owned the Prado when we met, it was this Prado that got George into 4WDing in the beginning. He’d researched for ages to find the perfect vehicle and this is where it all started.

When we first started travelling we slept in the back of the Prado, free camping or staying in caravan parks as we traveled around.

All of the dogs have gone 4WDing with us and love nothing more than a day in the bush, they all started off in the old girl.

Kayla, Shelly’s old dog, loved being introduced to 4WDing
Gelly & Charli have been 4WDing with us since they were pups and they absolutely love it.

The kids grew up knowing this car, Shelly learned to drive off-road in the Prado, she took us on so many amazing holidays and to places across Australia that we would never have gone to without a 4WD. We spent our 2 month honeymoon travelling in the Prado! Our first Cape York trip, we tackled the Old Tele Track by ourselves and without winching – even the new Prado needed to be winched out of Palm Creek!

Old Tele Track, Cape York
The Lions Den Hotel, FNQ
Our two Prado’s together on our New Years Eve trip to Cameron Corner

Lots of fun weekend trips with friends, getting stuck for hours in the Watagans at night! repairing the 4WD shifter in the middle of Stockton Beach!, pulling the Patrol out every time it goes near water (sorry Liam!)

At the end of the day, it was time for the Prado to go, but it was sad, a lot of memories drove away with that car. But hopefully the old girl still has a lot of life left in her and this new young family can start making memories of their own.

Interesting little fact is that this Prado was originally owned by a Doctor in Dubbo, she then came to Sydney to live 19 years of her life with us, so i guess it’s only fitting that she’s returning back to the country to live out her days.

What’s your camping style?

What’s your style? Do you need the best of the best and all the creature comforts of home or are you happy with just a swag, esky and the stars above you?

It’s such a personal preference isn’t it, and of course it comes down to the type of travel you do and ultimately how much you can afford as well.

When we first met and started travelling, for a few years we were just sleeping in the back of the Prado. We’d pull out the cargo barrier, fold down the rear seats and we had a piece of wood that screwed into place to make our ‘bed’. Throw an air mattress on top and we were set! Shelly even made up curtains for us! There was certainly nothing fancy about this set up, just the 4WD, an air mattress and an esky! Pull up wherever we wanted and we were set for the night. There was this one particular car park in Port Macquarie that we stayed in quite a few times …. shhhh! It was on the top of a hill, right next to a walkway to the beach and there were public toilets there too, it was the perfect overnight spot!

After a while we purchased our Waeco fridge which gave us a little bit of luxury with cold drinks and food and not having to worry about ice all the time.  For a while there, whilst we still slept in the back of the Prado, our little Waeco got it’s own little tent to sleep in!

Next we upgraded to a little 3 man dome tent which was great and we used it for years, including our first Simpson Desert trip. We had an air mattress and sleeping bags, but later upgraded to self inflating mattresses.

Finally we decided to spend a little more money on a tent (ok significantly more money!) and we purchased our Black Wolf tent which basically goes up in a few minutes. At around the $1,000 mark, this tent wasn’t cheap, but for the quality, the extra space and the speed and ease in which we could be set up, it was totally worth every cent! We still own this tent and do still use it on occasions, like our Cape York trip last year. We now also have stretcher beds to keep us up off the ground. These tents may have quite a hefty initial outlay, but the ease of putting it up, the quality of the product and the service from the company itself far outweighs that expense if you are going to be using it a lot.

Lastly in 2016 we finally caved in and purchased our brand new Cub Camper trailer.  Now this was a big investment compared to our previous camping setups, but we are so glad we spent the money. 

We had a brand new camper built just for us and we absolutely love it! We are now spoiled with storage and accessories and we sleep on a comfy double bed with a real doona!

We have a gas stove, a real sink, running water (no more making trips to and from the tap!), a freezer and so much storage space …. which in reality just means we now take way more than we need because we obviously never had the room before and didn’t miss it!

What will be our next upgrade you ask? Well definitely for the foreseeable future we will be sticking with the camper trailer, it is perfect for our needs and because we purchased a full off-road model, it is able to go anywhere the Prado does. Who knows, one day we may settle with a caravan and a little more luxury, never say never! But for now we are more than happy with what we have. Although there have been constant talks of maybe getting a swag as well to add into the mix! It would come in handy for the local overnight stays when we’ve been out 4WDing all day.

So there you go, it just goes to show that it really doesn’t matter what you have or what you can afford, you just need to make do with whatever you have at the time. Our type of travel has never changed from sleeping in the back of the car to sleeping in a $30,000 camper trailer. We are still exploring and making memories every step of the way. What you start with now may not be what you end up with, what your friends have may not suit your needs, budget or lifestyle and that’s fine. You just need to do what you can to make it happen so that you can get out there and experience our wonderful land for yourself.

Paronella Park

Paronella Park is located in far north Queensland and is one of Innisfail’s best known landmarks.  Located at Mena Creek, this amazing castle was built right on the edge of the magnificent Mena Creek Falls.

Now this place isn’t just another tourist attraction, this place has a truely amazing story behind it. It is all thanks to a man with a dream ….. a man named José Paronella. You see, José wanted to build a castle … and build a castle he did!

José Paronella, from Spain, arrived in Australia in 1913. For the next 11 years he worked hard cutting sugar cane, and later purchasing, improving, and reselling cane farms. In 1924 he returned to Spain and married Margarita, before returning to Australia. It was then that José purchased 13 acres of virgin scrub along Mena Creek for £120 and this amazing story started to unfold.

Over the years José began to create this amazing wonderland known as Paronella Park. Although he lived there with his family, in 1935 he also opened it up to the public so that they could all enjoy the spectacular place. José built the whole park by hand, including the Castle, bridges, a Tunnel of Love, Giant Staircase and hand planting over 7000 tropical plants and trees. This was also home to a Hydro Electric generating plant which supplied power to the whole park, the earliest in North Queensland.

Click Here to read more of the history.

José died of cancer in 1948, leaving the management of the park to his wife and two children. Of course the maintenance and upkeep of such a place was significant and over the years the park also suffered damage and setbacks due to the forces of Mother Nature, floods, cyclones and fires. The park was sold out of the family in 1977, and after a fire swept through the castle in 1979 the park closed to the public.

In November 2009, it was decided to restore the parks original 1930s era hydro electric system at a cost of $450,000 and, like it did when José was alive, this system now once again provides all of the Park’s electricity requirements.

Mark and Judy Evans, the current owner/operators, purchased the park in 1993 and set about putting this place back on the map. After a big job of restoring, maintaining and preserving the history of the park, it was reopened to the public and we can say that they have done an amazing job. They have taken the view of ‘restoring’, rather than ‘rebuilding’ and whilst small restoration projects have been undertaken, the true essense of this park and José insight and dream is still well and truly alive.

We visited in 2018 on the way back home from our Cape York trip, also meeting up again with two other families from our Cape trip. As soon as we arrived Shelly set off on foot to explore the area and take some photographs while George set up camp! Whilst you are welcome to roam around the park by yourself, your entry ticket also includes ‘The Dream Continues Tour’ – a 45 minute guided walk which takes you through the highlights of the park and tells the extraordinary story of José Paronella’s dreams and vision. This tour departs every 30 minutes from 9.30am until 4.30pm.

We all had a delicious dinner at the Mena Creek Hotel, which is also owned by the same people who own Paronella Park, and after the short stroll back to the park we were ready to join in ‘The Darkness Falls Tour’, in which we learned a little more about the history of the park as we strolled around the grounds at night. Seeing the park in darkness gave us a totally different perspective. This tour runs for approximately 1 hour and departs at 6.15pm each night.

After the tour, the current owners came out to speak with our group and told us a little about the history and their experiences and involvement since purchasing the park.

They also handed us all a little pouch with a piece of the castle in it, with a note that reads ‘This is a piece of José Paronella’s Castle. It was hand mixed by José in 1930 and came down in Cyclone Larry in 2006. We hope that this piece of castle reminds you to follow your dreams, just like José did’.

Now this had been on our list of places to visit for a while and we can now highly recommend it. Not only does your entry ticket include the guided tours mentioned above, it also includes overnight camping fees in their camping ground so that you can explore at your leisure. AND your ticket is valid for 24 months, so as long as you have it validated prior to leaving you are able to return again within the next 24 months.

This is one really well run tourist attraction and it’s not hard to see why they win so many awards.

This should definitely be on your list of places to visit. It’s quite the experience to wander around and marvel at the achievements of this man, a man who had a dream and did everything in his power to make that dream come true.

🏠 1671 Japoonvale Rd (Old Bruce Highway), Mena Creek, Queensland 4871

🖥 www.paronellapark.com.au

📞 07 4065 0000