Overnight Trip to the Conondale Range – and Back in Time for the School Pick-up
Excitedly, I planned another trip up to the Conondale Range – taking in Kilcoy, Jimna, Kenilworth and returning via Maleny and the Mary Valley.
I had been to the Conondale Range before and was keen to head off once more with the camper trailer.
The Conondale area is an area northwest of Brisbane and inland from Maroochydore. The area to play in is bounded approximately by Kilcoy to the south, Jimna to the west, Maleny to the east and Kenilworth to the north.
As far as regional government areas go, this takes in the Somerset and Sunshine Coast Regional Councils. In terms of First Nation People, the Waka Waka and Gubbi Gubbi peoples are the traditional owners of these lands.
Travelling North Past Dams That Secure Brisbane’s Water Supply
After a late start on a Wednesday morning, I headed west on the Ipswich Motorway, up the Worrego Highway (Darren Lockyer Way) at Riverview and then the Brisbane Valley HIghway from Backsoil – just north of Ipswich.
Like all good road trips, mine started with a stop at a bakery for a late morning tea. The Old Fernvale Bakery ticked that box admirably with its world famous range of meat pies and other delicacies. My chosen selection this time was a crocodile sausage roll and a chocolate milk drink.
After a brief stop and a quick visit to the Somerset Tourist Information Centre (with some nearby toilets and swings etc to wear out any little ones) it was onward to Esk via Lake Wivenhoe and the Wivenhoe Dam Spillway. The Wivenhoe Dam is a rock and earth filled embankment dam with a concrete spillway (Wikipedia).
Above Lake Wivenhoe is Somerset Dam on the Stanley River. It is interesting to note the different construction type here as the mass concrete gravity dam wall breaches the narrows of the Stanley River. Somerset Dam was named after local pastoralist Henry Plantagenet Somerset, the Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly for Stanley from 1904 to 1920 (Wikipedia). There’s camping below the dam wall and some decent picnic spots.
Below the Somerset Dam wall
Looking down on the dam wall
Camping below Somerset Dam on the banks of the Stanley River at Somerset Park Camp Ground
Another 30 minutes up the Esk Kilcoy Road is Kilcoy – which is a great spot to stop at another bakery, visit the tourist information office and possibly top up the fuel tank before heading ‘bush’.
Be careful in Kilcoy as they have a School Zone that lasts all day on week days. Kilcoy is also your last chance to make any last minute online bookings for camping at Charlie Moreland or Booloumba Creek Camping Areas as they don’t have access to the Interweb. If you wish to camp at Peach Trees Camping Area at Jimna, there is a wi-fi set up there for you to make bookings. Bookings can be made at http://www.parks.des.qld.gov.au or call 13 QGOV (13 74 68).
Be sure to grab some firewood along the way too.
Jimna – A Once Great Forestry Town
I took the Kilcoy-Murgon Road out of Kilcoy and headed to Jimna which is another 30 minutes up the road. If you do head into Jimna itself be sure to visit David at the Jimna Fire Tower Action Group (JFTAG). David runs a little museum across the road from the park and can talk all day about the old forestry days, the work the JFTAG is doing to preserve the Jimna Fire Tower (built by Arthur Leis) and the current status of the Queensland Government’s funding allocation and project status for its redevelopment. After your chat, go on up and see the tower for yourself and perhaps plan a day (sometime in the future) when it will be a big tourist attraction. Also, if time permits, pop in and check out Peach Trees Camping Area in the Jimna State Forest.
Taking the Dirt Road to Kenilworth
Heading south from Jimna and just three kilometres back down the Kilcoy Murgon Road is the turnoff to Sunday Creek Road (heading east). Take this road through the Conondale Range (travelling at about 700-800 metres above sea level) and some impressive wet and dry sclerophyll forests. Wind your windows down and listen out for the Bellbirds as you travel on towards the Charlie Moorland Camping Area – about an hour’s drive. Be sure to take care on this road as there are several steep climbs and descents, some tight turns and it can be slippery in the wet – and overall good fun.
Be careful after storms or heavy rain / winds too, as a fallen tree on the road can mean having to turn around and taking the long way back. Note too that turnaround areas are few and far between.
Conondale National Park
I stayed at Charlie Moreland Camping Area where there is a great swimming hole in Little Yabba Creek and some good toilets – no showers. The day use area has some free electric BBQs and you can choose a campsite with a fire ring. Keep an eye out for the flocks of Black Cockatoos flying over near sunset. If you forgot to book and it is not too late in the day, you can drive on to the National Parks Office down the road and make a phone call from a phone box there.
Home for the night at Charlie Moreland Camping Area
Picnic tables and BBQs in the day use area
Be sure to check out these impressive Southern Silky Oaks
Great swimming hole at about waist / chest deep
Free electric BBQs in the day use area
Only one channel on the TV – and no complaints here
Breakfast and the Search for Coffee
The next morning I awoke to a chorus of Kookaburras who had found something great to laugh at. They were of course joined by others who were all starting the day by calling out to their mates and anyone who wanted to listen. Note to self – learn more about the birds who live Out&About.
After breakfast it was a question of coffee or not….and how soon?
Leaving the Charlie Moreland Camping Area via the Sunday Creek Road (again heading east) you go past the National Park’s Office and come to the Maleny Kenilworth Road. So, if you want coffee and you want it NOW!!, head north to Kenilworth (I recommend the Kenilworth Bakery and check out their donuts on a Friday to Monday; or Nanna McGrinn’s Coffee Shop across the road and try their ‘famous’ carrot cake).
You may like to also check out the camping available in the Showgrounds at Kenilworth as this would be a great launching spot for other trips – and they have showers. If your coffee can wait 30 minutes or so, head south to Maleny.
Kenilworth and its coffee and gift shops
Heading Back to Brisbane
After my fix in Kenilworth, I took a detour to the Booloumba Creek Camping Areas and had a look around. If you are towing a camper or van my suggestion is Camping Area #4 otherwise it would be tent camping in one of the other spots. Access to Booloumba Creek Camping Areas is across three creek crossings with some entry / exit slope – so only high clearance 4WD vehicles are permitted… and keep an eye on the weather for rain filling the creek.
Booloumba Creek Camping Area #4
People with lower clearance vehicles have to leave their cars on the side of the road outside Booloumba Creek Camping area due to the creek crossings and take the walk in
After a bit of exploring I took the rather long way home via Maleny (on the Maleny-Kenilworth Road), and the Maleny-Stanley River Road to the Kilcoy-Beewah Road and its intersection with the D’Aguilar Highway. This is a long and windy road but great to get glimpses of the back of the Glasshouse Mountains and see bits of the country you may not have seen before.
When you hit the D’Aguilar Highway (there is another toilet here at Cruice Park), it is time for another decision – head east to Woodford and the Bruce Highway (M1) for a quick run down the motorways OR head west and go past Kilcoy and do it all again down through Somerset and Fernvale. If you head west, I suggest that you take the more direct route down the eastern side of Lake Wivenhoe (it is a hillier but more direct) and be sure to pick up a family meat pie (or two) for dinner when you visit Fernvale once more.
As I drove closer to home, I realised that the School Zone near my house had come into force and I thought to myself that there are not many reasons why anyone could not arrange for two days off work, organise the kids for a play date overnight or even take them out of school for two days and do this trip in the quite mid-week.
Or you could do it in a weekend – and come home with dinner.
I would do that trip again as a great couple of days out.