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.


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.


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


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.



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