If you were told that R M Williams (the man, not the company) said that one of the most beautiful, rugged valleys in Australia was only a couple of hours from you, would you take a look? You’d be mad not to! Goomburra Valley is not far from Brisbane. If you live somewhere else, it’s going to take a bit longer.
At one end of the valley there is a National Park with dense rainforest and tall vertical cliffs. From the other side, it is a wide open valley with large, level paddocks well suited to cattle grazing and farming. Although there are still cattle grazing in this 30km long valley, there are plenty of camping and 4WDing options. The original and largest of these is Gordon Country.
Samuel Gordon first settled in the valley over 150 years ago. His grandson Ian still runs the property. That’s a lot of history just there! It’s still a working cattle property but visitors have been camping on the banks of Dalrymple Creek since the 1970s. These days there are even facilities for weddings and fine dining, although we cooked our own meals on the fire. With over 4,000 acres, there can be a lot of people camping… but you can still feel you’ve got the place to yourself.
The 4WDing at Gordon Country is only moderate so don’t bother with your rock crawlers here. There are however some steep, rocky climbs that reward you with sweeping views across the neighbouring rugged valleys. There is also a 4WD playpen with obstacles of varying difficulty to show the mates what you can do or to give the partners a bit of practice 4WDing.
If hard 4WDing is your thing, you are in luck. Janowen Hills is another site in the valley that offers camping and 4WDing to the extreme level. If you intend to go there 4WDing, there is a buddy system in place. This requires at least two 4WD vehicles travelling together – so don’t go it alone. Bring a mate. A few years back we found a fella who was stuck pretty well. Even his buddy couldn’t help. One of our blokes pulled out his pink (?!) winch rope which did the trick to get old mate’s four wheels on the ground again.
Both Janowen and Gordon Country allow you to bring your dogs with you as long as they are kept under control and you clean up after them. If you want to bring motorbikes though, they’re not welcome. There’s a couple of other places nearby on the Cunningham Highway that cater for the dirt bike crowd.
Most people will visit Gordon Country for, dare I say it, the serenity. Camping is mostly along the creek which flows all year round; and there are a few deep swimming holes in summer. In winter, it can get very cold (like ‘below freezing’ cold) so don’t forget the warm sleeping gear like I did this last trip (total rookie error!).
With cattle grazing the paddocks, the camping areas are like parks with mown grass making for the most enjoyable campsites. There are half a dozen different campsites all along the creek with names like Banshee Valley and Bull Hole. Some sites are powered and there are different levels of facilities at different campsites. Tall trees stretch skywards and there is plenty of firewood around. Might be worth throwing in the chainsaw, though.
If either of these camping locations are not what you are looking for, there is the National Parks campground at the eastern end of the valley. Sites are a bit cheaper but no dogs or generators are allowed. The NP campsite isn’t as picturesque as the creekside Gordon Country area, but it is a good base if your prime activity is bushwalking.
One bush walk that shouldn’t be missed is the Sylvesters Lookout walk which is a short 450m each way. The narrow, sometimes rocky track winds through thick rainforest before taking you to the edge of a cliff dropping away a few hundred metres below you. There is a secure platform to make the best of the fabulous view at any time of the day.
There are a few other longer walks taking in cascading streams providing a home for the endangered ground-dwelling Fleay’s Barred Frog. There are a number of interpretive signs explaining both the natural and man-made history of the area. Logging was another reason the valley was of interest to the early settlers. One of the signs adjacent to a huge tree stump explains that it was a massive Sydney Blue Gum that stood over 36m and was around 500 years old. It was cut down in 1962 and it will take a long time before there are any more of that size again.
An easy drive from Brisbane, the Goomburra Valley is too easily overlooked when travelling from interstate. For the locals though, it is a favourite… and they keep coming back for good reasons.