PEOPLE MAKE IT
The Western Downs prides itself on its people and it’s them who make it a special place – their country hospitality and appreciation of the land.
Western Downs is also renowned for its distinctive and quirky festivals and events, helping to make the region what it is.
Visitors and locals alike can join the fun of the world’s biggest watermelon festival, the Chinchilla Melon Festival, which attracts 20,000 people annually.
Experience a grand night of opera in the grounds of the magnificent Jimbour House; watch the camels take to the track at Tara’s Festival of Culture and Camel Races or immerse yourself in country-style fun at the Back to the Bush Festival in Miles.
In 2022, Grey Nomads recognised the Wandoan Soldier Settlers Avenue of Honour in the Australian Street Art Award Winners (Silver) for Best Monument or Memorial and the Big Skies Festival received a bronze gong in the Best Grey Nomad Festival or Event category.
The Western Downs is famous for its Big Skies Festival
The Western Downs is one of the most popular touring and RV destinations in the country with a huge number of options for short break stayovers. Set up camp in some of the more tranquil locations along the many creeks and rivers that wind through the region, or bunk down at any number of the many caravan parks, showgrounds and farm stays.
Lake Broadwater Conservation Park (Dalby)
The Lake Broadwater Conservation Park is a 20 minute drive west from Dalby along the Moonie Highway.
Wake up to the crisp fresh air, birds chirping, wallabies grazing at the water’s edge and the sun sneaking over the horizon and reflecting over the lake. And it’s not just about the waterfront views from the camping and RV spots with the lake offering water skiing and kayaking (at high water levels).
If you’re an avid birdwatcher, you’ve hit the jackpot – the park is a sanctuary for more than 240 species of birds and boasts a birdwatching track further along the road from the lake.
The maximum length of stay here is 21 nights, at a cost of $7 per person per night, payable on site to Council caretakers. No animals or fishing are allowed here, but it is a perfect location for birdwatching and water activities. There are powered sites, toilets, showers, camp kitchen and firepits (no bookings).
The 2023 Chinchilla Melon Festival was a resounding success
Chinchilla Weir (Chinchilla)
Chinchilla is teeming with camping spots where you can take part in water sports, fishing for golden perch, Murray cod or silver perch or just take the time to reconnect with nature in all its tranquillity.
9km south of Chinchilla is the Chinchilla Weir, situated along the Condamine River. With free camping in designated areas (with a two-night maximum), you can make the most of a camping mini-break weekend. There are 10 powered sites and donations are accepted at the Chinchilla Visitor Information Centre. Facilities include toilets, picnic tables, shelters, barbecue, firepits and waste bins. BYO drinking water and fishing licence. Animals are welcome.
The redeveloped Tara Parklands
Caliguel Lagoon (Condamine)
A short 7km drive south of Condamine, you’ll find Caliguel Lagoon. Everything about this camping destination centres on the water. It’s a great spot for kayaking, jet skiing, swimming and fishing. It’s a site that you come to for a visit but stay a while, thanks to a toilet block (disabled and baby-friendly), an outdoor shower, barbecues and picnic facilities. A great spot for birdwatchers to while away time spotting the abundant bird life.
If you’re a keen photographer, try getting some shots of the sunrise at Caliguel Lagoon on the south-western outskirts of Condamine, or wake up with the birds and the sun slowly rising, reflecting its candy-coloured rays through the trees onto the calm waters of the lagoon.
Caliguel Lagoon has terrific facilities
Tara Lagoon (Tara)
Tara is home to serene camping grounds with facilities and powered sites. With tranquil walking tracks adjoining parks and gardens, bicycle tracks and ample opportunity to enjoy the impressive native parrots and birdlife that collect in the eucalypts, you’ll find peace in this part of the Western Downs. Fishing opportunities are also abundant here, with indigenous fish species restocked annually.
Tara Lagoon is a camper’s and fisherman’s haven, beckoning with the promise of yellowbelly, jewfish and yabbies to inspire many camping cook ups. Bring your kayak and canoe for a leisurely paddle (no power boats).
There are 30 powered sites on offer and fees start from $5 per night for unpowered sites and $10 per night for powered sites (first payment covers three nights), which are payable to the council caretakers who come past each day. Bookings are not required. Facilities include showers and toilets, barbecue and firepits.
If you’re not fishing, you can stretch your legs – the lagoon is surrounded by a Memorial Park and a 4km circuit walk with a new boardwalk across the water.
Stargazing by the campfire
Gil Weir (Miles)
There’s no shortage of space to camp in Miles. When you’re not exploring your campsite, explore the local area – from fishing, spotting local wildlife to wandering through historic attractions. There’s also plenty of water sports for fans, in the form of swimming, kayaking, boating and water skiing.
Just 4.5km south of Miles along the Condamine Road, you’ll find the camping oasis of Gil Weir. This free camping spot is for those who are self-contained as there are limited facilities, however it is a beautiful, picturesque spot which is great for fishing, relaxing and birdwatching. The Weir is stocked with Murray cod and golden perch (fishing permit required). Animals are allowed.
Stunning stars in the big skies of the Western Downs
Waterloo Plains (Wandoan)
Waterloo Plains, 70km north of Miles in Wandoan, is a bird lover’s paradise. Pitch your tent among 11 hectares of parkland hugging the water lily-clad lake. Onsite facilities include picnic tables, hot showers, toilets and bins, making this a comfy campsite for a night or two. Camping here is completely free. There are no powered sites and a two-night maximum stay.
Keep your birdwatching book handy – up to 30 species of birds have been spotted within 30 minutes at this park. Beyond birds, there are plenty of reasons to get out of your camp chair and into Wandoan’s wild. There’s a self-guided heritage trail through the park complete with walkways and bridges, so you won’t need to wade through any wetlands to get around.
Signage at Tara Lagoon
Brigalow Creek (Meandarra)
Brigalow Creek is well known for its water lilies and fishing for golden perch and jewfish. The campground is a large, flat, grassy area on the banks of the creek. A lovely spot to enjoy the region or just a morning tea stop on your journey.
There is a maximum 14-night stay at a cost of $10 for three nights for a powered site. There are 12 powered sites, toilets and showers.
Be sure to stop in at the Meandarra Anzac Memorial Museum showcasing the bravery and sacrifice made by our ANZACs.
For further information about camping in the Western Downs visit:
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Written: Thu 01 Jun 2023
Printed: June, 2023