Arno’s Wall, Winton QLD

Arno’s Wall, Winton QLD

If you want to see something a little unusual on your next outback adventure, Arno’s Wall should definitely be on your itinerary!  This ‘monument’ is something a little bizarre that everyone should take time to see when visiting Qld’s outback town of Winton.

Arno Grotjhan’s wall(s) have been constructed over the past 30+ years, reach two metres high and extend for at least 70 metres and are made of concrete and rock from Arno’s opal mine at Opalton.

 

I was walking past the gates, video camera in hand, when 2 big dogs started growling at me from the back of the ute parked out the front. I took the long way round, and kept filming. On my way back past, a man came out the gates, telling the dogs to settle down. I thanked him and asked if these walls were his. He nodded, Chris joined us, and Aaron told told us all about the walls that his father had built.

Arno Grotjahan was one of Queensland’s most well-known opal miners, and immigrated to Australia from Germany in the 1960’s. Not long after he arrived in Winton, Arno mined a valuable boulder opal and was able to to purchase a house in Winton. He spent the rest of his life mining, raising his family and collecting Australian and international memorabilia. When his collection got a little too big, he decided to create Arno’s Wall.

While we were chatting, Chris looked at me, then back at Aaron, then back at me, then back at Aaron before asking ‘Were you on a TV show by any chance?’ Aaron nodded. ‘Yes, I’m Opal Hunters next top loser!’ he said laughing.

Aaron, who has now taken over from his father who is now deceased, invited us to come inside the gates for a sneak peek at what he’s got planned over the coming years. We met his mate, his cat and gained a lot of insight as to why these walls were built and his plans for the future. The backyard is overflowing with, what some people would call, junk, but according to Aaron – he has big plans for every piece of it.

 

These quirky walls are so much fun to look at – and the closer you look, the more quirkiness you see and the more fun you have! There are so many industrial and household items like typewriters, TV’s, entire motobikes, engines, sinks, sewing machines, wheels, ovens, nuts and bolts, appliances, springs, a letterbox, a petrol bowser and the list goes on.

Aaron is going to be finishing another wall and tidying things up so visitors can actually walk through the walls of art which have been made from items mostly scavenged from the Winton Dump.

It’s a great piece of Winton’s history concreted into the walls and floors at this property in the heart of the town, just behind Winton’s iconic North Gregory Hotel.

Black Rocks, Esk, NSW

Black Rocks, Esk, NSW

Sand dunes, huge black rocks, perfect grassy campsites, and a spectacular coastline – this is Black Rocks, NSW – an incredible natural paradise.

We have thoroughly enjoyed the past four days camped up at the Black Rocks Campground in the Bundjalong National Park in Esk on the NSW North Coast. We have spent quite some time in this area over the past 10 years, but this was our first time camping at Black Rocks as our usual ‘go-to’ is Woody Head Campground, just around the corner. Day trips to Black Rocks are great, but not the same as setting up camp for a few days!

‘Set behind the dunes amongst tuckeroo and banksia trees, Black Rocks campground is perfectly positioned right by Ten Mile Beach and near Jerusalem Creek. Not far from Evans Head, it is a great place for a family camping holiday, with campsites for caravans, camper trailers and motorhomes.’

When I posted on our socials about our trip, the most common question was ‘how was the road in?’ We found the road to be smooth and in really good condition. Dusty in the dry, and of course the rocks are still there as they always have been. But all in all, great condition. We did hear that just a few weeks earlier it had been very corrugated, so clearly some work has been done to it since then – my guess is in preparation for the Easter holidays.

Black Rocks Campground is extremely popular, and spots are snatched up pretty quickly, especially during the holiday periods. We stayed the week before the Easter Holidays and were lucky enough to secure the very last site big enough to accommodate a caravan, which was site 28. This is a GREAT spot! It’s a large, flat, grassy site with a clothesline, fire pit and undercover table and chairs. It is also right across from the beach, toilets and public BBQ. We even had a host waiting for us upon arrival!

There are 50 sites available at the campground and most of the sites are similar, but of varying sizes. Some are suitable for caravans, some for camper trailers and others just tents. Some are ‘walk-in’ sites and others can easily fit your whole setup.

You will find picnic tables, barbecue facilities, carpark, clean drop toilets, fire pits and clotheslines dotted around the place, and there is even a dump point if you need it. You will need to bring your own drinking water and firewood.

The beach itself is incredible and you could easily spend hours exploring the huge black rocks dotted all along the coastline. The weather in the previous few weeks had been a tad crazy which meant that the ocean and beach was covered in foam and quite vicious looking! It was also extremely windy for most of this stay.

Jerusalem Creek is well known for those who like to take the kayaks out for a paddle, and the Jeruslam Creek Walk is a 10.3km, three to four hour walk through the wetlands for people who prefer to explore with their feet on the ground.  

Black Rocks Campground is part of the Bundjalong National Park, which means that booking fees must be paid and permits are required. We paid $24 per night camping fee plus $8 per day for the car.

Click here to book https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/camping-and-accommodation/campgrounds/black-rocks-campground

Long Weekend with the Crew at Habitat Noosa

Long Weekend with the Crew at Habitat Noosa

Think an enormous campground on the banks of an enormous flat lake where enormously good times can be had!

Habitat Noosa is a 65-acre eco-resort in The Great Sandy National Park on the Sunshine Coast with 500 metres of lake front on the Noosa River. The stunning Lake Cootharaba, the largest salt water inland lake on the Noosa River is the gateway to the upper Noosa River and the Noosa Everglades.

This weekend (being a long weekend), the lake was filled with people on stand-ups, kayaks, canoes and when we were here before (years ago!) we saw people sailing, wind-surfing, kite surfing and fishing. Complete with solar-sites, 9-par golf course, bistro/bar, micro-brewery, watercraft for hire and even tours into Australia’s Everglades, it’s no wonder this place was completely booked out for the Ekka long weekend! I had no idea that there are only 2 Everglades in the world … The Florida Everglades and these ones – The Noosa Everglades. There is also direct access from here to some ripper walking trails in the National Park.

Please note that as this is a national park, no pets are allowed and all rules that apply to national parks apply.

 

Watch Video Here

We went with our regular crew of about 12 vans and a few that used the wilderness glamping and luxury glamping tents. Oh – and of course the teenagers that swagged it under the gazebo.

It was a long weekend for most, but not Chris’s kids who live on the Bayside. Most of our friends headed up on the Thursday, but we had to wait for the kids to finish school on the Friday and then enjoy the long weekend traffic all the way up. It took just under 4 hours! Others who went up earlier in the day had the same headache. Oh, how we love the weekend traffic to the Sunny Coast! 

We picked up our late check-in pack from reception and pulled in through the bright red boom gate about 7pm. The campfire was roaring, and beers and conversations were already flowing. What a relaxing way to end to another hectic week.

The next morning we thought we would get up early to snap a few pics of the sunrise over the lake, but the closest we got to that was a shot of the light seeping in through the hatch in the roof of the van as the sky changed from dark to light. It was overcast and threatening to rain.

It soon cleared up to a beautiful morning filled with exploring, water ‘sports’ reading, sunbaking, wheelies and just hanging out.

While I was reading/sunbaking on the beach I overheard the people behind me saying that the guys in reception had said a storm was coming about 3pm. The winds started picking up about 11:00 and mid-afternoon the ‘storm’ hit. It was more like a windy sun shower … but it made for some interesting times none-the-less!

At 12:00 the (big) boys headed over to the Eco-brewery to try 6 of the 8 beers on offer. This is Australia’s only artesian micro-brewery using water that has been filtered through time in the Cooloola sandmass to produce delicious, preservative free beer. This was by booking only due to Covid restrictions. They had one hour to finish the 6 jugs and did so easily!  

While the boys were at the bar, I headed back to the van and baked some scones in the air fryer and the teenagers did ‘teenager stuff’.

The rest of the day was filled with more of the same; friends, brews and good times (and Chris annoying everyone with the video camera!)

When Sunday rolled around, there was no feeling of ‘it’s gone way too fast!’ from us! The kids caught a lift home with our mate’s son who’s now on his P’s (how cool is it when the kids start driving?!) and we simply packed up and headed off to our next destination – Glastonbury Campground in the Brooyar State Forest. Now that’s an adventure for another time …

HABITAT NOOSA

  • Powered/unpowered sites
  • Glamping tents
  • 9-hole par 3 golf course
  • kiosk
  • watercraft for hire
  • Everglades tours
  • new toilets and showers
  • renovated camp-kitchen
  • group and education centres
  • CootharaBAR – bar and bistro
  • Eco-brewery artesion micro-brewery
  • kiosk serving breakfast, snacks and First Batch coffee
  • two levels and styles of glamping accommodation

Book here: https://www.habitatnoosa.com.au/

Camping from $33 per night

Wilderness Glamping from $150 per night

Luxury Glamping from $239 per night

Moreton Island

Moreton Island

Moreton Island is one of our favourite Aussie destinations, and we are so lucky to have it right in our own backyard.

Chris has been holidaying on the island since he was a kid and has been bringing me along for the adventures for the past 10 years. (yup – we have been together 10 years this October!)

 

He’s told me stories of his parents, aunties, uncles and cousins all loading into an old troopy and camping up at the Ben Ewa Camp Ground; of how he used to head over as a teenager and get up to all sorts of mischief (like falling off a tailgate that snapped when they hit a bump driving along the beach) and camping with tents and gazebo.

We first camped on Moreton many years ago in an old tent that I brought with me from Tassie. Since then we’ve camped in our rooftop, camper trailer and even towed our 22’6” Jayco across to the surfside. Yep – it was a little tight through Middle Track!

We’ve spent weeks camped up in the dunes on the surfside in the middle of summer, weeks in the same dunes in the middle of winter, a few nights in the glamping tents and multiple nights in other various campsites dotted along the beach on both sides of the island. We’ve had a wander through ‘The Birdcage’, a house for hire in Bulwer where family were staying and of course we’ve had a sticky at the Tangalooma Resort. And while it’s not our preferred type of accommodation, we have friends who love it.

There are plenty of choices for those who decide to stay on the island and this trip we spent 3 nights in the Castaways Glamping Tents and 3 nights in beach campsites. (See our review on Castaways on our YouTube video. Link here https://youtu.be/rVBlaKkaJFI )

Needless to say, we love Moreton and don’t really mind where we stay as each area has its own ‘uniqueness’! We do prefer absolute beach front though and love the sunsets and calm waters of the Western Beach and the sunrise and surf over on the Eastern side.

 

We’ve spent time snorkelling, fishing, sandboarding, surfing, hiking, exploring, kayaking, swimming, sunbaking and of course drinking and eating! There is so much more to do than hang out on the beach and we highly recommend exploring the old World War II Bunkers that are scattered across the island.

There really is so much to see and do and we would love for you to watch our latest YouTube video as we show you around the island. Link here https://youtu.be/rVBlaKkaJFI

Sadly the weather wasn’t the best for us on this particular trip and we had a day or two that was more suited to curling up with a good book and a cuppa! This meant we weren’t able to climb Mt Tempest, explore the Blue Lagoon or head down to Kooringal and the Gutter Bar. But we suggest that you do!

We often get asked how long we recommend staying. Let’s just say we stayed for 6 nights this trip and still didn’t do everything that we wanted to!

Please make sure to book your trip well in advance as the Micat’s more popular ferries can book out pretty early. If you are planning on camping you will need a camping permit before you head on over. Book and get everything sorted here: https://www.moretonislandadventures.com.au/

Let us know what your favourite Moreton Island experience is and if you haven’t been over, are you planning on it? If not, why not? We are sure you will love this perfect island holiday destination as much as we do!

Check out our YouTube Video here

The Gorge, Clarence River NSW

The Gorge, Clarence River NSW

We were so lucky to stumble across The Gorge on the Clarence River!

After spending some time on the stunning white sandy beaches of the NSW North Coast, we felt it was time to head inland and swap sand and saltwater for grass and the fresh, running waters of the Clarence River, also known as ‘The Big River’.

Chris had spotted a couple of sites that looked good on Wikicamps and asked me to pick one. After seeing the photos and read the existing reviews of The Gorge, I knew this was a place we had to explore. When we couldn’t get through on the phone to make a booking, we decided that we would drive to the property and if they were booked out, we would simply drive back.

Located 75km north-west of Grafton, the drive to this property is almost as exciting as spending time there!

The way in was a long, windy, corrugated dirt road that bumped us all over the place with views so spectacular that we didn’t mind the bumps one bit! The road winds its way along the ridges, giving you glimpses of the Clarence River below on one side and incredible mountain views on the other. (luckily you drive out the same way you drive in, so I had the river views on the way out!)

We saw cows grazing on some of the greenest grass covered rolling hills we have ever seen, coupled with the bluest of blue skies with a smattering of fluffy white clouds. We were literally lost for words. There was something beautiful from every direction as far as the eye could see! I ended up putting the camera down and just soaking it all in as there was no way I could capture everything.

Crossing grids and splashing through causeways is all part of the fun, all the while keeping an eye out for cows and other wildlife like kangaroos.

 

After passing through 2 giant trees with signs displaying ‘You are entering The Gorge. All Welcome’, ‘Private Property’, ‘Day Visitor Permit Required $10’ and a phone number to call to make a booking, we rumbled over a wooden bridge and looked at each other in confusion as we both asked if we heard voices! When I popped my head out the window, I could see a family splashing away in a rockpool below the bridge. That was when we started to get really excited; stunning scenery beside the mighty Clarence River, little rockpools and no phone service. This was beginning to feel like paradise.

We made our way along another 4km of windy dirt road, across some more of those tiny wooden bridges until we came to the homestead. A man was standing out the front in thongs, shorts and a singlet and he came up to welcome us as soon as pulled up.

We met Buck and Belinda (say that 3 times quickly! Lol) who are just lovely! They explained why we couldn’t get through to make a booking. Frustratingly, their phone lines have been down for ages and there is no service at all on the 8000+ acre property, home to over 30 different campsites with 10km of river frontage on the Clarence! And to complicate things further, as they are new owners, they don’t have the passwords for any of the website Facebook or Instagram pages! So, your best bet is to take the long, windy, bumpy and most spectacular drive right up to the house and say, ‘I’m here!’ just like we did 😁

They told us there were showers and toilets up near the Homestead, but nothing else around the property. And as most campsites are a fair way away, it makes life much easier if you are self contained! Bathing in the river is always refreshing 😉

They suggested we camp below the homestead on the river and guided us down in their bright orange Kubota. They walked us in to check out the site (known as Old Boat Place) before we drove the Hilux in.

We asked them how business was over Christmas and that’s when the stories of the bushfires were shared.  When they showed us videos of the hills glowing red, smoke blanketing the river and gorge and the water bomber helicopter dropping in to fill up right beside the boat, we realised just how close and how dangerous it had been for them.

 

Belinda explained that the property had been in drought for as long as the they had been there, with calm and crystal-clear river water, but recently the heavy rains had lifted the waters to levels they hadn’t seen before and some of the campsites were still very muddy. What a start for this lovely couple on their new property! Drought, heavy rain and bushfires, all within a matter of months!

 

The river is now wide, flowing and quite muddy – but still beautiful and most definitely swimmable. As we were setting up, a truck was returning from dropping campers into the river further up so they could float their way down on their inflatables. Not long after they came bobbing down, hats on with drinks in hand. How relaxing!

Buck said they were about to head up the river and see what it was like with so much water flowing after the floods and asked if we would like to join them. Of course we said yes, and within an hour we were set up, had swum in the river with the turtles while tiny fish nibbled at our toes, and were ready when they arrived on the Kubota to take us first to Skinny-dipping Waterhole (I think that’s the name!) and then up the river in the tinny.

But first … the waterhole. Once again, we bounced along the road in the Kubota, over the bridge and down until we came to a secluded little corner with the most inviting stream babbling along and over some rocks into a deep waterhole.

We all got into the clear water and Chris and I paddled over to the little waterfall. I didn’t want to get out! But it was already 4:30 and we had a river and some incredible waterfalls to explore!

We drove back to our campsite where the tinny was moored, jumped in and headed off up stream. The further we went, the more spectacular the scenery became. Fish, birds, cliffs, waterfalls and incredible rock structures once again made for a moment where the camera just had to be put down, and we tried to take it all in.

We pulled in, tied the boat up and decided to do the rocky 2km walk along the river’s edge to see the falls. I wasn’t sure how I’d go in thongs and Chris being barefoot, but we were fine and so very happy we decided to do it.

The first falls, Willowtree Falls, were affectionately known as the ‘baby falls’ … but not this time! Water was barrelling over the top and there was no way you’d get in for a quick dip at the bottom.

Belinda assured us that as beautiful as these falls were, the best was yet to come. We continued on over grassy hills, up rocky walls, under shrubbery and across water covered plains until we reached the magnificent Rainbow Falls. There is no need to ask why the name, as you can clearly see a rainbow directly in front of the falls created by the mist spraying gently onto your face and body as you stand and admire what was once a lovely swimming spot that is now a raging waterfall!

We just sat, mesmerised until we realised it was nearing 6:30 and we still had to walk back to the boat, ride down the river and Chris still had rocks to jump off and ropes to swing off before we could head back to camp.

The river was flowing quite fast, so we decided to see how far we could get with no motor – but it wasn’t long before we were leaning over the side and pushing the tinny off the rocky walls, and Buck was firing the motor up to stop us side slamming into a large rock that was looming right up in our path!

When we could, we just drifted in silence, listening to the birds, fish, turtles and all the stories Buck and Belinda had to share about this incredible place.

The property has long been a working cattle station, and Buck, Belinda and Belinda’s mum are in the process of bringing their own herd of cattle to run here.

Chris was shown all the best jumping spots and gave them a go (except the first one as we’d forgotten to stop!). He also climbed the riverbank and swung off an epic rope swing after Buck showed us all how it was done!

It was past 8:30 and dark by the time the boat pulled back into our campsite. We were tired, hungry and exhilarated! What an amazing way to spend Australia Day!

Buck and Belinda went back to the homestead and we cooked up our lamb steaks and salad.

It wasn’t long before Chris was up in the rooftop tent and I was laying back in my camp chair staring in amazement at how many stars there were and how brightly they were shining!

The next morning, we were up as the sun was peeking over the hills, lighting up the glassy river

By 9:30 am we were saying our goodbyes, wishing we had more time to spend at, and making plans to return to The Gorge here on the mighty Clarence River.

How to get here:

Drive out and pass through Copmanhurst, keeping an eye out for a large sign saying ‘Appletree Flat Road’. You will also see a sign saying, ‘The Gorge Station.’

Not long after you will come across Lilydale Bridge, a very low bridge where you will find plenty of campers (this was also on our list). We actually stopped here and had brunch on the rocky riverbank on our way home.

After crossing the bridge, turn right at the sign for The Gorge and then just keep driving for about 35km. This is where the scenery is spectacular no matter where you look!

You will see the welcome sign for The Gorge Station and continue on a further 4km until you reach the homestead.

MAP HERE:

https://goo.gl/maps/Rj3GY1Tnc1H1PUaD7

Helensvale Meet Up

Helensvale Meet Up

RnR Wanderers, Let’s Get Outta Here and Makn Trax were coming along for our first weekend away in months! We’ve had a really rough year having had no van or 4x4 for what feels like forever, and this was us finally getting back out there doing what we love.

 We still don’t have a caravan or a battery system in the Hilux but we weren’t going to let this stop us. So, we were heading off with what we do have – the Alucab rooftop and a borrowed Eski packed with ice.

Our initial plans of a weekend at Flanagan’s Reserve were completely thrown by the devastating bushfires that have wreaked havoc in our National Parks and so many other places. Where could we go on such short notice we wondered? The BIG4 at Helensvale popped into my mind (it’s our local go-to park being only 20 minutes down the highway). Worth a try I thought and made the call. Within a few minutes we were booked into the unpowered sites down the back by the river.

It’s such a fun park with awesome amenities and great, super-friendly staff. I love the huge tropical fish tank in one of the (really nice) camp kitchens and the even bigger one in the amenities block! It’s pet-friendly and even has a dog-park which was perfect for Mel and Geoff’s pooches Molly and Kiki to have a good run around in. If dogs and fish aren’t your thing, feel free to check out the various animals in the ‘petting zoo’. There’s a BMX track which Greg’s little fella didn’t take long to find, and plenty of open spacefor the kids to ride/tun around in.

The pool area lit up by flames at night and open until 9 p.m., is amazing.  You can relax in the spa or splash around in the heated pool which has a water slide while the kids (if you have them) have fun in the shallow kid’s pool. If you get hungry while hanging out in the pool area, you’ll find the café serves scrumptious food and drinks until 8 p.m. And they can whip up a mean cocktail! 

Yep, this park is just awesome! It also helps that the park is located right across the highway from Movie World, Dream World, White Water World, Wet n Wild, Outback Spectacular and Top Golf and isn’t far from Surfers Paradise or Brisbane.

This park is just awesome! It also helps that the park is located right across the highway from Movie World, Dream World, White Water World, Wet n Wild, Outback Spectacular and Top Golf and isn’t far from Surfers Paradise or Brisbane.

Mel and Geoff (RnR Wanderers) were already set up when we arrived about lunch time on Friday. We parked the Hilux next to ‘Blondie’ and our Alu-cab roof top and brand new awning was set up within a few minutes.

We had a bit of a chat before I left the boys with their beers and went for a splash in the heated pool.

When I returned to camp, Greg from Makn Trx  had arrived along with Kurt and Carly from Let’s Get Outta Here .

 The boys were frothing over Greg’s chopped 200 series and discussing all things 4x4.

Camping makes a person hungry and we were there is a flash when Kurt and Carly invited us over to their caravan for Weber-fired pizzas. Carly’s got that recipe nailed … dinner was delish!

It was still early when we climbed up into the roof top. It’s super comfy so we fell asleep fairly easily despite the sound of the freeway. We had forgotten how loud the road-noise is when not in an enclosed van!

The sun peeking in through the flyscreen combined with the cockatoos squawking had us up pretty early. I pulled up a camp chair by the river to read for a while and Chris did whatever it is Chris does (Instagram and YouTube I think … lol).

By the time the others were up and about, we’d showered, and Chris was getting hangry. We thought brekky at the café would be quicker than cooking our own, so we all headed over there to find we had 15 minutes before the gate opened.  Not to be idle, we decided to have a bit of a sticky at the huge new water park that will be open to the public in February next year. It will be amazing!

On the way, some gorgeous little French Bulldog puppies name Bob and Marley grabbed our attention and wouldn’t let go! They were adorable and had us all wishing we could take them home. Marty (their dad) came out and had a chat with us. Turns out he was there with his family on the final leg of their lap around Australia! ‘Glamping Around Oz’ was stuck on their Silverline next to a big ‘For Sale’ sticker.

Breakfast was divine (pancakes, eggs benedict, brekkie wraps and big breakfast filled our table) and a great way to start the day that was filled with relaxing, chatting, swimming, being a little crazy in the pool and just enjoying each other’s company.

We had a nibbles platter for lunch, again thanks to Kurt and Carly, and said goodbye to Greg who was packing up and heading off only to set up in a new location a few hours later. The rest of us all went our separate ways for a few hours; some of us reading, others (Chris) having naps, swimming, and doing whatever else we felt like.

Chris added some awesome graphics to the back of the Let’s Get Outta Here Van and managed to get it straight even after a few Big Heads!

We came back together later in the arvo to sort out how we were getting to and from Top Golf which was just across the Motorway. Needless to say, we were all a little disappointed when we arrived to find out that the wait to play was over two hours.

We decided food was the next best thing (I know, food did feature a lot in our weekend!) and headed to the Boathouse Tavern for some amazing food and drinks.

We sat outside next to the live music. It was fun to people watch a bit and continue chatting. We didn’t run out of conversation all weekend which I guess is to be expected when like-minded people with similar passions get together. It was great!

There was a brief lull while we were all devouring our meals … but that didn’t last long! We all have so much in common and so much to share with each other … including lots of laughter.

I tell you … Mel and Carly seriously crack me up! Such hilarious human beings.   

Sunday was breakfast at the café and then time for Kurt, Carly and us to pack up and head off. We watched Mel and Geoff disappear in our side mirrors as we drove away … they were lucky enough to be hanging around for an extra night.

We had such a great weekend even though it was nothing like we had originally planned. Our free-camping adventure at Flanagan’s turned into a caravan park adventure with loads of delicious food and pool time! Who can complain about that? Certainly not me! I had a blast and I can’t wait until our next meet up in mid-December. 

Thanks to Mel and Geoff, Greg and Ellie and Kurt and Carly for making the weekend awesome.  Oh, and Chris. Of course, thanks to Chris! He makes all my weekends awesome 🙂