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Lake Elphinstone

Location

Lake Elphinstone is situated 2 hours or 92 km southwest of Mackay. Head west along the Peak Downs Highway until you get to the Nebo Junction BP and travel a further 53 kilometres along the Collinsville-Elphinstone Road.

Take the turnoff for the Suttor Development road and head for the lake for another 4 kilometres until you see the camping area on your left.

The closest town is Glendon, only 24 kilometres north of the lake. Here you can find basic supplies, fuel and gas.

Lake Elphinstone Camping area is a beautiful little free camping area hidden in the Isaac region. It is so close to Mackay yet many locals do not even realise it exists.

The campsite tends to get busy during the winter months due to perfect weather and the fact that it is generally on the outback trail for most grey nomads. The lake is the perfect spot for boating and trying your luck at a bit of fishing and water sports.

This spectacular Lake is also home to 100’s of bird species that inhabit its waters all year round. There are so many ducks, pelicans and swans, it is pretty magical. Perfect for nature lovers and bird watching! You will be amazed. And the sunsets are simply awe-inspiring.

Lake Elphinstone has extremely clean and sparkling amenities. There is one block of unisex toilets and cold showers, with more at the nearby ski-club too.

Things to do

Water Skiing

The lake is perfect for water skiing depending on the wind conditions and is home to the Lake Elphinstone ski club. If you would like to check the wind conditions for the weekend visit: Weather Report for Area (link tp: https://tides.willyweather.com.au/qld/mackay.html). The lake is relatively sheltered from the elements so you should get some fun watersports time under your belt.

Fishing

Fresh water cod and red claw are some of the main varieties you can find in Lake Elphinstone. There is a concrete boat ramp at the Southern end of the campground available to all. Most campers have their boats moored at the banks of the lake during their stay for ease of use.

Kayaking/SUP

The Lake has scenic paddling opportunities, generally calm waters and plenty to explore around it’s banks.

Relaxing

Lake Elphinstone is a quiet and relaxing destination despite its location on the main mine access road. Campers usually stay here for a few days and it is a popular spot for nomads touring our beautiful country. Weekends tend to be the busiest times, but it rarely gets packed out. This is a peaceful place to relax and rejuvenate for the weekend or longer, enjoying the stunning vista from your waterfront campsite with a campfire.

Free Camping

Lake Elphinstone is a fantastic free camping area in the Mackay district. These particular camps are slowly disappearing around Australia. To keep these places free into the future, please do not destroy it by leaving rubbish everywhere and causing a nuisance to fellow campers and property owners. It’s this disrespectful behaviour that shuts down free camping areas.

 

Annoyances

The Lake Elphinstone Camping Reserve lends itself to longer stays, but you will have to be totally self-sufficient. So at times, you may get some semi-permanent set-ups but the council usually won’t allow you to stay for months, however there are no obvious signs to this effect.

Generators may be used and solar panels to keep you powered up through your stay but please be considerate of your neighbours. Nothing worse than a camper using a generator 24/7 during your stay.

The usual mosquitoes can be a problem at certain times of the year so make sure you cover up and use repellant.

Another annoyance can be the mining road that runs past the camp area, even though it is a relatively quiet road it can get large trucks driving past so be aware for the safety of your pets and children.

It can get pretty hot during the summer months from December to April so be aware and make sure you take plenty of drinking water. In winter, the night time temperatures can often fall to zero degrees between May to September.

Blue-green algae can cause skin irritation as well as stomach upsets in sensitive people. To minimise its effect, do not allow children to play in the algae rich shallows, especially when the water level is low. Do not drink the lake water, and please heed warning signs.

Dingoes are a real possibility here, although baits are laid by the local farmers. Keep your own dogs tied up so they don’t find the baits, and so they don’t bother the adjacent cattle farms.

The phone reception is patchy here, better at the top of the hill back on the highway towards Mackay.

The Verdict

Lake Elphinstone camping reserve is quite a magical camp area with plenty to do over a weekend, but be prepared to have tall reeds at the edges of the lake at times and no particular beach for the kids. This will obviously depend on the water level and the amount of recent rain.

The camping area is suited to people with boats and kayaks who love to fish or ski. Or for touring travellers who need a break and want to relax and tinker with their rig. Don’t visit here if you are looking for a great sandy shoreline, hot showers, cafes or don’t like being near a main road. If you are camping with a group it is perfect, shady flat areas, heaps of space and you can find a spot away from other campers.

The kids will have plenty of room to kick a football, run around and above all, enjoy  themselves.

Make your weekend special this year and give Lake Elphinstone a try, you may find this to be your next new favourite free camping destination.

Author:  Kris Gadsby is a Mackay local and founder of Gadsventure – Family Travel a blog which documents the Gadsby family’s travels worldwide offering advice and tips on budget family travel. Now on a trip around the world with their 4 young children, they have enjoyed many years camping in their Jayco including a 12 month trip around Australia in 2015 and enjoyed exploring the many campsites close to Mackay on their weekends.

You can find them on Facebook and Instagram.

At a Glance:

Cost: FREE unpowered sites (no powered sites)
Number of Sites: Approximately 30 sites facing the lake
Bookings: No need to book, best in best dressed
Amenities: Modern unisex flushing Toilets / Clean unisex cold showers
Dump Point: Yes
Rubbish Bins: Yes, large bins
Pets: Yes, (Be careful of baiting in adjoining properties)
Fires: Yes, but bring your own firewood and depending on current fire restrictions
Big Rigs: Welcome, plenty of big open spaces for any type of vehicle
Dangers: The lake may contain blue green algae, which can cause irritation to some people at different times of the year. Take notice of warning signs.

Off Peak Prices:

Powered Ensuite Site: 1-2 People: From $59
Extra Persons: From $12
Powered Slab Site: 1-2 People: From $39
Extra Persons: From $12
Powered Grass Site: 1-2 People: From $39
Extra Persons: From $12
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Big 4 Adventure Whitsunday’s Resort Cannonvale

Multi Award winning Big 4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort is easily one the best caravan parks in our region.

It is an easy drive up to Canonvale, turning right at Proserpine and stopping just before Airlie Beach. This makes this spot a great choice for an easy weekend away. In the off-peak season, you can often find great deals such as stay 3, pay 2 which makes it great value. There are cabins available too, prices start around $145 a night for a studio.

Camping and Caravan Sites

From when you first check into this beautiful park, you know you are somewhere special. The trees and gardens are beautifully manicured carefully to create shade on every site. The staff are so professional and helpful at every turn and your check-in experience is a breeze. You have the opportunity to join up to Big 4 parks to get great discounts on stays at all Big 4s in Australia. This is a fantastic opportunity to save money especially on longer stays, as you get 10% off. A 2 year membership costs $50, you can get yours here 

Driving into the park you will notice sites to your left. These sites are perfect thanks to their proximity to everything. There is a good sized amenities block very well located amongst the rows. You have 2 rows of shady concrete slab sites with a big green lawn in the middle. This is a wonderful place to supervise the kids while having your afternoon drinks. There are similar blocks further to the left. The first lot of slab sites here are our top choice for staying at Big 4 Adventure Whitsunday.

Driving further on you will come to the waterslides on the left and the cabins to your right. Keep driving past the slides and you come to the powered grass sites out the back. These sites do have a mesh pad to protect the area. There are even more grass sites around behind the cabins which back onto a small creek. Ensuite sites are also available.

Special Deals

At the moment, bookings for June/July school holidays have a special kids stay free deal. There are many more specials out of peak periods such as stay 3 and pay 2. Enquire about these when booking.

Amenities

The amenities blocks are super clean and well maintained with music playing while you bathe. There are two well positioned blocks each containing men and ladies toilets, hot showers, wash basins, a laundry, as well as a family bathroom and disabled bathroom. The block over near the cabins also has a TV and  camp kitchen too.

Things to do

Big 4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort boasts incredible amenities. You will never want to leave!
Perfect for the kids, it’s newest and most famous attraction is the addition of 18 new waterslides! These slides are adjacent to the existing free form pool with a couple of smaller slides which enjoys heated water during the colder months. The are here has a small spa in the corner, sun lounges galore, a massage hut, and toilet. There is often a coffee van or ice-cream van on site too. The entire pool area is fenced but there is no fence between the waterslides and the main pool area so you need to keep a close eye on your little ones here. This place gets incredibly popular, especially during school holidays and they also allow  visitor’s passes for $10.

A wonderful and shaded mini-golf course will entertain and this leads onto a massive adventure playground with 2 huge jumping pillows. The grass sites at the rear of the park are closer to the jumping pillows while the concrete slabs towards the front are closer to the pool. Badminton, basketball and tennis courts line the area next to the jumping pillows and there are movies shown on the big screen nightly during peak periods. Just BYO chair and insect repellant.

An onsite animal park is another great family friendly activity. Check feeding times with reception, this activity is FREE but bookings may be required during  busy periods. There are baby sheep, calves and goats and plenty of ducks and chickens as well.

Horse rides are often available for an extra cost, and there are other art and craft activities on all the time at the Lilipad. Just ask at reception for all the details when you check in.

Bring your kid’s scooters or bikes, the road here is perfect for riding around safely. Just make sure they wear helmets as this is enforced. You can hire pedal cars too.

There is a small shop at the reception for ice blocks and emergency snack supplies. They also have a limited supply of things like milk, noodles and sunscreen.

Surrounding Area

If you can drag yourself away from the awesome facilities at Big 4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort, you will find a Woolworths supermarket and McDonalds right next door and the Reef Gateway Hotel directly across the road which does great meals and has an awesome kid’s club and a takeaway bottleshop.

Airlie Beach is 10 minutes down the road, check out the markets on the foreshore on a Saturday. You can find booking agents for any Whitsunday Island hopping in town too. The nearest hospital is Proserpine.

Definitely check out Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill at Woodwark Bay for an epic sunset cocktail spot. Fat Frog Cafe is the closest place for a decent cup of coffee, and you get a coupon for this when you check in too!

There is a golf driving range just west of Canonvale shops.

Any Bad Bits? 

The sandflies and mosquitoes can be pretty fierce, so make sure you take your Aerogard. This place really heaves in the school holidays and long weekends thanks to its’ status as the best caravan park in our region. So if you are not into a lot of kids having a great time, then visit outside of these times.

The Verdict

Big 4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort ticks so many boxes for family friendly holiday fun. It’s an awesome place in every way. The amazing facilities and activities on offer, the beautifully fun and clean pools and slides and the green lush gardens make your stay completely pleasant. This is a fantastic place to stay and play for as long as you possibly can.

Author:  Kris Gadsby is a Mackay local and founder of Gadsventure – Family Travel a blog which documents the Gadsby family’s travels worldwide offering advice and tips on budget family travel. Now on a trip around the world with their 4 young children, they have enjoyed many years camping in their Jayco including a 12 month trip around Australia in 2015 and enjoyed exploring the many campsites close to Mackay on their weekends.

You can find them on Facebook and Instagram.

At a Glance:

Cost: Powered sites start at $39 for 2 people
Discounts available with Big 4 membership
Bookings: www.adventurewhitsunday.com.au or by phoning 1300 640 587
Cabins: Yes
Amenities: Hot Showers, Laundry, Family Bathroom, Disabled Bathroom, Camp Kitchen
Pets: No
Fires: No
Dump Point: Yes
Big Rigs: Drive thru sites available
Location: Cannonvale 145km north of Mackay, 1 hour 40 minutes.

Off Peak Prices:

Powered Ensuite Site: 1-2 People: From $59
Extra Persons: From $12
Powered Slab Site: 1-2 People: From $39
Extra Persons: From $12
Powered Grass Site: 1-2 People: From $39
Extra Persons: From $12
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Eungella Dam

Eungella Dam is one of the best choices for bush camping around our local Mackay area, and we really are spoilt for choice here. From beach to bush, Mackay has it all!

 

A pleasant 2 hour drive west of Mackay township passes through the verdant green Pioneer Valley before climbing up the range towards Eungella. Follow the road straight through Eungella town, over Broken River and towards Crediton Forest. Do not turn off to Crediton, just keep following the road as it becomes dirt, with cattle grids. The dirt road then winds around through tall trees and cow paddocks for another 30km until you reach the dam. Along this road you will see the sign for the Eungella Sawmill to the left, and you can grab a big bag of very decent hardwood for $10 here. It’s 2km off the main road.

 

The sign to the campground is just over a rise and heads to the right. Even after going up there many times I never know exactly which rise it is and end up getting surprised every time, having to do a u-turn.

 

Camping

You arrive at the top of the campground and can orientate yourself at the amenities block. This is where you pay for camping at the honesty box at the top of the hill. Keep going straight ahead to reach the boat ramp. There are fantastic campsites lining both the western shore to the right of the ramp, or the northerly shore on the left of the ramp. All sites are flatter closer to the water and this of course varies depending on the water level. The official word on the SunWater website is that camping is only permitted at least 5metres away from the shoreline.

 

Eungella Dam and the campsite is managed by SunWater. Check out the rules and current water level on their website here.

 

Western shore sites are shadier and are usually privy to a wider expanse of sandy beach however can be a little exposed to the SE winds. It it is windy, it is super windy here and it often blows straight into these sites. The north side is more favoured by water sports enthusiasts, and has fewer trees. There is more grass around this end and if the water level is nice and high, this would be the best place to camp. The wind blows cross shore here but you get a degree of shelter thanks to the hill in the middle. There is weed in the water no matter which side you camp.

 

Amenities

The amenities are clean demountable blocks with cold showers available. There is only one amenities area at the top of the hill which is a couple of hundred metres away from the nearest camper. It is advisable to bring your own chemical toilet if you don’t want to keep making the trek.
There are industrial bins up near the toilets as well. You will find non-potable water from taps around the park.

 

You can swim in the dam, paddle, SUP, kayak, fish, or ski. On calm weekends the dam comes alive with speedboats from dawn until dusk, but most people are considerate and the boats circle far enough off shore to not be a nuisance.

 

Swimming is possible straight off the shore, but the quality of your swim depends on the water level. There are quite a few weeds in close, and it is much nicer if you can paddle out past these before jumping in for a refreshing swim. The water is cool, clear and deep out past the weeds. And the temperature can be quite fresh most of the year but this is perfect on a warm spring or summer’s day.

 

There is no phone reception up here which is one of Eungella Dam’s endearing qualities. It is so great getting away from everything! If you are desperate however, you can find a couple of bars of service up at the lookout on the northern shore.

 

The water views over the glassy pool of Eungella Dam are perfectly stunning for sunrise and sunset with a myriad of water birds to share your peace.

 

There are fire pits all over the camp area marked out with rock circles so you can always find the perfect place for your fire. A campfire makes camping special doesn’t it?

 

Things to do

Boating and watersports really form the basis of action and activity at Eungella Dam. Join people in kayaks, canoes, giant inflatable unicorns, stand-up paddle boards, ski boats, fishing boats and more while the sun shines. The fish is well-stocked with barra and sooty grunter and there are regular fishing comps on. Chilling out at your campsite is another popular activity, simply whiling away your days and being entertained by all the activity on the dam. There are also fantastic bird
watching opportunities.

 

For longer stays, nearby Eungella National Park is a beautiful side trip, and the rainforest and many walking tracks make it worthwhile. If you are quiet, you might even get to see the famous and elusive platypus at Broken River.

 

You will find a 4WD track which takes you from the Diggings Road on the Eungella township end, all the way past The Diggings campsite, over the creek and ends up joining up with Eungella Dam Road. This route is not recommended if you are towing anything though.

 

Any Bad Bits? 

Eungella Dam can get pretty cold in winter with reports of frost. Great for campfires, not so great for sleeping out depending on your personal preference. The dam does contain blue-green algae which has been found to cause skin irritation and gastrointestinal disturbance (nausea/diarrhoea) in some people with rare severe effects from prolonged exposure. The algae accumulates along the shoreline, and is especially worse when the water level has dropped. To avoid any potential problems from blue-green algae, we recommend that you heed all warning signs, do not drink the water, swim away from the shore and don’t let kids play on the water’s edge.

 

There is the occasional hoon getting around, and we have heard some reports of solar panel theft so make sure everything is secured.

 

The Verdict

Eungella Dam is one of the top places to camp in Mackay region and a fantastic place to really kick back and enjoy a sundowner or two. Being 2 hours from Mackay means that as long as you get there before 6pm on a Friday, you usually get your pick of spots. No check out time makes every weekend feel like a long weekend! There is a road just north of the campsite which takes you through to Nebo, so you could even arrive straight from work to save time and hassle.

 

For a cheap, gorgeous and expansive campground which allows dogs and fires within 2 hours from Mackay, Eungella Dam is the place to be!

 

Author:  Kris Gadsby is a Mackay local and founder of Gadsventure – Family Travel a blog which documents the Gadsby family’s travels worldwide offering advice and tips on budget family travel.  Now on a trip around the world with their 4 young children, they have enjoyed many years camping in their Jayco Eagle.  After a 12 month trip around Australia in 2015 and exploring the many campsites close to Mackay ever since, they share their expertise with you.  You can find them on Facebook and Instagram.

At a Glance:

Cost: $5 per person unpowered (no powered sites)
Bookings: Honesty box – pay onsite, maximum stay 4 weeks
Amenities: Demountable toilets and cold showers
Pets: Dogs ok
Fires: Yes
Dump Point: No – The nearest one is in Mirani
Big Rigs: Welcome
Location: 109km west of Mackay, 2 hours drive
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Seaforth Caravan Park

Seaforth is a peaceful seaside town just 45 minutes to the north of Mackay making it a perfect place for a quick and easy weekend getaway.  The camping reserve is centrally located within the town and is walking distance to the beautiful beach, 2 shops, service station, post office, bottle shop and bowls club.

 

The stunning Seaforth Bay is an expanse of beach lined with coconut palms that give it a charming tropical feel.  Seaforth town is a small quaint village filled mainly with holiday homes, but with enough people to support a primary school and bowls club.

 

Driving into Seaforth, the council run caravan park occupies pride of place in the town itself, on the absolute beachfront and within walking distance to all Seaforth has to offer.

 

Bookings are not necessary outside of school holiday times as there are non-designated sites and plenty of space to choose from underneath the shady trees.  The spots on the beachfront have direct access onto the beautiful sand and clear views all the way out to Brampton Island!  There is also a great playground at the rear corner of the park with 2 well-positioned amenities blocks.

 

There are no powered sites at Seaforth Caravan Park however generators are permitted during daylight hours.  There are no washing machines either, and no laundromat service is available in Seaforth.  The camp kitchen is very basic.

 

Rustic amenities are clean and functional, but they could really do with an update and it costs 20¢ for a hot shower.  There is a dump point on site.

 

Things to do

There is a large enclosure which is great for swimming during high tide (check tide times here: https://tides.willyweather.com.au/qld/mackay/seaforth.html) and the top of the beach has showers,  shelters and BBQs, and a small wading pool that opens during school holidays.

 

There are heaps of things to do in and around Seaforth which makes it a great place to visit for a weekend or longer, however, you may be limited by the lack of power and washing machines.

 

There is a wonderfully maintained boat ramp and jetty facility at Victor Creek which will give you access to the Newry Island Group and beyond.  These islands are managed by National Parks QLD and have walking tracks and lovely beaches to explore.  A second, more basic boat ramp can be found at Seaforth Creek.

 

Fishing, prawning, and crabbing are popular activities – just check the latest Whitsunday GBRMPA zoning map here (http://elibrary.gbrmpa.gov.au/jspui/bitstream/11017/600/4/Map10-EditionV-Whitsunday.pdf) and don’t risk a fine.

 

The Seaforth Bowls club offers a courtesy coach on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, meals Thursday night to Sunday lunch, and live music Friday nights.  Free pool is available all day Sunday too!  For bistro and courtesy bus bookings phone the club on 4959 0201. They also have a playground to keep the kids occupied and frequently host barefoot bowls and social bowls competitions.  See their Facebook page for the details (https://www.facebook.com/Seaforth-Bowls-Club-174695459232354/)

 

Adjacent to the bowls club you will find tennis courts, and a fantastic BMX track with an undercover area including BBQs.

 

The beach is a gorgeous place to walk on and relax and the large tidal movements make it an interesting place to explore at low tide with mudflats to the south and rocks to the northern end.

 

At low tide, a popular activity is to walk across the causeway to Redcliffe Island at the northern end of Seaforth Bay.  Just please check your tides before attempting this.  There are heaps of opportunities for fresh oyster picking on the rocks around the island.

 

There are small markets every Sunday morning in the area around the big mango trees.  Here you will find some local handicrafts, farm-fresh produce, and second-hand books.  Enjoy the MEGA Market held the 1st Sunday of every month with a great variety of stalls including food and coffee vans too.

 

The nearby Old Station Tea House is a lovely place to partake in some scones in a beautiful garden retreat on the way to Cape Hillsborough National Park.  Visit the National Park at sunrise for the opportunity to see kangaroos on the beach, and for some fabulous walking tracks for all abilities.

 

If relaxing at your campsite is more your thing, you will not find a more relaxing place than Seaforth.  Kick back and watch the movements of the tides before strolling along the beach at sunset.  Enjoy the myriad of wildlife that frequently visits the campsite including Eastern Grey Kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, black cockatoos, possums, curlews and more.

 

Annoyances

The Seaforth Camping Reserve does not lend itself for longer stays thanks to the lack of power and washing machines.  Mosquitoes and sandflies can be a problem, make sure you cover up and use a good repellant.  There are warning of crocodiles in the creeks around Seaforth, please heed warning signs.  Venomous jellyfish are present in warm tropical waters between the months of October to April.

 

The Verdict

Seaforth Camping Reserve is a fantastic place to spend a few days, especially in the cooler months.  It is perfectly located close to Mackay and with its limited amenities, is great for if you want to get away from it all, without actually getting away from it all.

 

Author:  Kris Gadsby is a Mackay local and founder of Gadsventure – Family Travel a blog which documents the Gadsby family’s travels worldwide offering advice and tips on budget family travel.  Now on a trip around the world with their 4 young children, they have enjoyed many years camping in their Jayco Eagle.  After a 12 month trip around Australia in 2015 and exploring the many campsites close to Mackay ever since, they share their expertise with you.  You can find them on Facebook and Instagram.

At a Glance:

Cost: $26 per site for up to 6 persons unpowered (no powered sites)
$153 per week
Discounts available for clubs/school groups
Bookings: Phone 0427 373 358 or (07) 4966 4359 to make a booking.
EFTPOS available at Seaforth Booking Office
Amenities: Basic camp kitchen, rustic amenities, 20¢ hot showers
Dump Point: Yes
Pets: No
Fires: No
Big Rigs: Welcome
Location: 8 Prince Charles Ave, Seaforth 22km off the Bruce Highway
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