A campsite with the perfect swimming hole in Northern Australia
By Helen Downs
When we set out for Lawn Hill Gorge nearly four years ago almost 80% of Queensland was in a draught.
As we drove along dusty roads we couldn’t believe how parched the land looked. At one stage, we stopped the car as cattle, mustered by helicopters and stockmen on horseback, were being driven across the road. I couldn’t believe how thin they were. Seeing this was a real wake up call as for how tough living on the land is for farmers, especially during the draught
This 2260 km return trip north-west of Townsville includes both sealed and unsealed sections of the road so we opted to take a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Once we turned off the Barkly Highway only the first 57 km of road was sealed and the rest was only open to four-wheel drive vehicles.
The gorge can also be reached via Gregory Downs. This 100 km road is unsealed and four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. However, it is also the only route suitable for conventional vehicles and off-road caravans.
If you are heading south to the gorge you will have access via a choice of unsealed roads that stem from Hell’s Gate and Doomadgee.
The unsealed sections of the road were rough and the patches of bulldust and corrugations were quite a challenge to drive through. After hours of going through red, dry, dusty and bumpy roads we were greeted by a couple of green trees and grass at the top of a hill. As we continued it got greener and greener.
It was hard to believe that in the middle of the draught swept land was this incredible oasis. Seeing this after several days of dry dusty roads was a welcome change.
We had booked to camp at The Grove which is one of the camping sites at Adele’s Grove.
This is located alongside Lawn Hill Creek downstream from Lawn Hill Gorge and Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park is only 10km away. When we arrived, we pitched our tents not far from the creek. It was so picturesque here with beautiful shady spots to relax in. The first thing we did was change into our swimmers so we could head off down to the creek and cool off.
There are also individual sites available for caravans and camper trailers or tents. Each has a fireplace and a tap for water. Selected sites are reserved for those traveling with dogs as well as sites for those who want to use generators.
Air-conditioned rooms and pre-erected safari tents are also available and you can either choose Accommodation Only or Dinner Bed and Breakfast packages. Linen is included when you book online.
There are also 14 caravan and camper trailer sites and six tent sites available at Lawn Hill National Park. It is essential to book ahead for all camping facilities.
Food and Services
When we went to Adel’s Grove we chose to take our own food with us. Alternatively, you can use the fish and chip shack or bar and restaurant facilities. There is also a shop which stocks frozen bread, long life milk, cold drinks, tinned foods and a limited number of basic supplies. You can also charge your phones here. If you think the food is pricey, just remember what the road was like as you drove there and that you are out in a very remote and isolated part of the Australian bush.
In the creek, you have a wide choice of things to do. You can enjoy a good swim, ride along on a boogie board or grab one of the many big black tires available to float around at a leisurely pace. We found tires to comfortably relax in with our drinks and absorb the beautiful scenery around us.
Sometimes we’d pair off and have a leisurely chat to each another or choose to have some relaxing time to ourselves. Even though there were several families staying at Adel’s Grove, there was this incredible sense of serenity which created a very peaceful atmosphere for everyone.
Exploring Lawn Hill Gorge
Lawn Hill Gorge is in Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park which is an easy 10 km drive from Adel’s Grove. We chose to book a cruise along the gorge and thoroughly enjoyed it. The cruise boat was environmentally friendly, powered by solar panels and an electric motor. As we silently cruised up the gorge our knowledgeable and informative guide gave us a real insight to where the original water came from.
The sharp contrast of the lush green plants that stemmed from the solid red rock formations was stunning. I made sure I had my camera ready to click so I could catch the breathtaking reflections this sharp contrast painted on the water. Definitely a sight not to be missed! There were only about twelve of us cruising down the gorge and the weather was perfect.
If you would prefer to explore the gorge independently and have a sense of adventure then hire a canoe or kayak. Don’t be surprised if you see turtles swimming underneath your canoe or kayak because they also have an affinity for the turquoise colored water. These are hired out on the basis of first come, first served!
There are a couple of excellent short walks from Adel’s Grove but most of the walks are found at Lawn Hill National Park. Some of these have spectacular views. One walk we enjoyed and would recommend is the Wild Dog Dreaming Track which follows the eastern side of the Island Stack.
This partly-shaded walking track led us to an important cultural place with ancient rock art and stone engravings which we viewed from platforms on the base of the cliffs. We then walked towards the lower gorge where freshwater crocodiles are often seen basking in the sun.
According to Park Rangers, a colony of little red flying foxes moved into the Lower Gorge in winter 2017so keep an eye out for them. This 4.5km walk is a great one to do and took us about 1.5 hours.
Adel’s Grove is a great place for bird watchers because there are several entirely different environments in close proximity to one another. The grassy woodlands and plains, lush riverine rainforest and rocky steep slopes support a wide range of species. There is also plenty to see at the national park. Bird lists are available so you can identify some of the new birds you haven’t seen before.
The best time to visit Lawn Hill National Park or Adel’s Grove is between May and October because the roads are more suitable for conventional vehicles towing vans. Although Queensland’s wet season normally occurs between January and March there is some storm activity in November, December, and April which can affect the roads. We advise people to check the conditions of the roads before traveling and to also book well in advance.
Lawn Hill Gorge Details
Lawn Hill National Park – Phone 13 74 68
Web: www.npsr.qld.gov.au/boodjamulla – lawn-hill
or www.npsr.qld.gov.au/lawnhill national park
Address: Gregory Road, Lawn Hill Queensland, Australia 4825
Helen Downs is a freelance writer who lives opposite the beach on Magnetic Island, located on the Great Barrier Reef, in Queensland, Australia.