Campsite review: Top of the Town Tourist Park, Stanthorpe Qld

The signs and billboards around the Granite Belt advertising Top of the Town certainly give the impression it’s the place to be in Stanthorpe. We stayed for two nights just after Christmas while exploring the national parks and wineries in the area.

This review is just our impression of the site. For full details about facilities and prices, check out the website: http://www.topoftown.com.au

Top of the Town, Stanthorpe

Top of the Town, Stanthorpe

Facilities

Top of the Town is a large, pristine park with roses around its reception and fantastic facilities for families: a swimming pool, open air movies and a games room, as well as good kitchens and bbq areas, and a huge laundry and drying area.

Not that we used any of these during our two-night stay but a park with extensive facilities has usually invested in its washblocks as well, and that’s certainly the case here. Hurrah! More in line with European amenities (thankfully retaining Australian-style loos) the washblocks were large, light, airy and spotlessly clean with loads of hot water. A relief given so many parks seem to focus on caravanners travelling with their own facilities.

The pitches are quite orderly and regimented, not huge, but there are good pockets of shade around. We had to move from our designated pitch because it was so far away from the power box, our cable didn’t reach. We found a handy Mitre 10 in town for an extension lead.

Top of the Town, Stanthorpe

Top of the Town, Stanthorpe

Top of the Town, Stanthorpe

Location

We thought ‘top’ of the town meant the park would be in the thick of things, as much as that’s possible in sleepy Stanthorpe. But despite the park’s website claiming it’s ‘centrally located in town and walking distance to all shopping’, we found it a long walk from anything. It must be a 30-minute walk into town. There is a small regional museum next door, but we drove everywhere else. Having said that, it’s probably closer to town than any other caravan park.

Top of the Town, Stanthorpe - happy campers

Verdict

We’d stay here again. Lots of things going on, washblocks are the best we’ve seen.

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Campsite review: Queen Mary Falls, Killarney Qld

There is a big choice of campsites and caravan parks around the Granite Belt. If you plan to visit Queen Mary Falls and the neighbouring waterfalls, this caravan park is in a perfect spot opposite the entrance to the falls and surrounded by national park and wildlife. You can walk a short distance to a lookout or a longer loop down to the base of the waterfall.

We stayed for three nights just after Christmas – note that they often operate a minimum stay at peak periods.

This review is just our impression of the site. For full details about facilities and prices, check out the website: www.queenmaryfallscaravanpark.com.au.

Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park

Visitors and residents

The site is popular with families and is a real draw card for nature lovers. We had wallabies playing next to our pitch and koalas and kookaburras in the tree above. There are all kinds of tropical birds swooping through the site and a feeding station by reception where you can hand feed king parrots and rosellas. The only creatures that were less welcome were the flies, who were prolific at certain times of day, although to be expected when you’re camping next to a field of cattle.

Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park - koala

Queen Mary Falls - kookaburra

What’s the site like?

The area for powered sites and cabins is fairly small but there is a beautiful and spacious grassy field for unpowered tents and vans, which was only sparsely populated. There are loads of spots for campfires which were well used at dusk, and helped to keep the flies at bay. They sell firewood at reception. One of the best things is the onsite café/restaurant/shop offering cream teas and light meals; it was always doing a roaring trade when we were there.

The washblocks let the park down, being a bit smelly and dingy with no hot water in the basins – not somewhere you’d want to linger longer than necessary.

There was no Optus phone reception in the site or surrounding area and Telstra was very sketchy.

Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park

Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park

Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park

Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park

Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park

Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park

Verdict

A short drive from Warwick and just steps away from Queen Mary Falls, the caravan park is in a great spot for exploring some of the best bushwalks and waterfalls in the Granite Belt. Nature lovers and bird enthusiasts will be in their element.

Queen Mary Falls

Campsite reviews – Mapleton, Qld

The scenic drives and rolling hills around the Glasshouse Mountains make it perfect caravanning country, but campsites are few and far between Montville and Maleny. Drive a few kilometres onto Mapleton though and there are a couple of lovely sites – both within walking distance of the best pub in the area. The Mapleton Tavern sits at the top of a hill alongside a smattering of shops, and the panoramic views from its wraparound verandah stretch across the Blackall Range to the twinkling lights of the Sunshine Coast.Mapleton Tavern

DSC_0509

Maleny Qld

Maleny Qld

Maleny Qld

We stayed at both Lilyponds Holiday Park and Mapleton Cabins and Caravan Park.

The reviews below are just our impressions of the park. For full details of prices, visit their websites!

Lilyponds Holiday Park: www lilyponds.com.au

Amenities
The only campsite I’d read about before travelling to Mapleton was in a review for Lilyponds, which gave particular praise to its showers for being able to ‘fit most European males, even those over 1.9 metres tall’. We thought that was a rather good endorsement (and do like a nice shower) so arranged to stay there first. When we arrived I immediately sent Paul (as the only European male in our party, albeit a bit shorter than 190cm) to inspect. He reported back that the showers were fine, although not particularly noteworthy. The ladies were okay as well – a bit tired and dark, but clean.

How about the pitches?
We were staying in an unpowered section next to a couple of tents; it was a pretty and spacious grassy area with space for campfires. There is a large bbq area as well but it was commandeered by a large group of families (with multiple toddlers and puppies competing for the airwaves) for our entire stay. It would otherwise have been a quiet and peaceful spot. The rest of the site is taken over by permanent mobile homes (oxymoron of the day), some of which do look rather run down.

Highlights
Guacamole fans – look no further! Many of the pitches at Lilyponds are surrounded by avocado trees absolutely laden with fruit, so bring your tastiest recipes and a large bag of Doritos for early evening snacks.

Avocados

Avocados

Lilyponds Holiday Park

Lilyponds Holiday Park

Mapleton Cabins and Caravan Park: www.mapletoncabinscaravans.com.au 

What’s the site like?
This felt like a much smaller site set in bushland; it does stretch a long way back but the land starts to slope uphill, which makes it less suitable for pitching a tent. We parked on a concrete slab and had a small but shady grassy area next to us. The grounds were meticulously kept and again, the staff were very friendly and helpful.

Amenities
The wash blocks are basic, but they were clean and functional. Males over 1.9 metres might need to stoop…

Location
As with Lilyponds it’s a really easy walk down the road to the Mapleton Tavern. It’s also right on the edge of Mapleton National Park, with an abundance of bush walks and scenic lookouts.

 Mapleton Cabins and Caravan Park

Mapleton Cabins and Caravan Park

Mapleton Falls

Verdict
The staff at both sites are incredibly friendly and although the washblocks were in need of updating, we liked the pitches at each. Free avocados in season is a definite perk at Lilyponds.

Maleny

Maleny Wines

Maleny

Campsite review: Cotton Tree Holiday Park, Maroochydore, Qld

I’m going to preface this review with the monumental declaration that Cotton Tree is, so far, our favourite campsite in Australia. <gasp!>

We weren’t planning to stay here, but the campsite we’d earmarked down the road in Mooloolaba was full when we arrived, so we carried on up the coast to Maroochydore.

This review is just our impression of the site. For full details about facilities and prices, visit the website here.

Where is it?
One of the nicest spots on the Sunshine Coast, Cotton Tree overlooks the beach where the Maroochy River meets the ocean. There is direct beach access from several points in the campsite; you’re greeted with crashing waves on one side, sheltered waters on the other and white sand all around. The Maroochydore Surf Club is only a five-minute walk away for great food and views, and there are a few cafes and shops just outside the front entrance of the site.


How was the site?
It’s huge! There’s a good mix of pitches and a few cabins. The premium waterfront sites are practically on the sand and surrounded by palm trees so get booked up very early, but any pitch around the perimeter has excellent beach access.

There are some large, modern washblocks and a couple of older ones, but they were all clean and well maintained. There are good laundry facilities and popular bbq areas.

You do pay for all this at $44 per night for a powered site, plus they ask for two $20 cash deposits on arrival for a key to the washblock and a boom gate card.

Who goes there?
Great for families, couples, silver nomads – any beach lovers will be in their element. Whether you think waves are for surfing, fishing or photographing, it’s a wonderful spot.

Verdict
Fab. Book well in advance!

Campsite review: Calypso Holiday Park, Yamba NSW

We did a lot of research into the best place to stay in Yamba. The Calypso is one of a few caravan parks scattered along the banks of the river, but it’s the one closest to the action. We were staying for three nights and wanted to set up camp for the whole weekend without having to move the campervan and all its paraphernalia whenever we ventured into town. Dismantling our awning is not for the faint-hearted!

This review is just our impression of the site. For full details about facilities and prices, visit the website: www.calypsoyamba.com.au.


Location, location, location

The location is ideal. Whether you’re in Yamba for surfing, fishing or simply exploring the coastline, the Calypso’s position next to the river is quiet, peaceful and within easy reach of the main attractions. A path runs along the river at the back of the campsite down to the beach, and then up to the lighthouse and Yamba lookout. There’s a handy Spar and a couple of takeaways at the front of the campsite, or it’s just a couple of minutes’ walk into the little town. Once you’ve exhausted Yamba, the campsite is right next to the ferry jetty and you can catch a boat to nearby Iluka several times a day.

How was the site?

It’s quite an orderly, regimented site hemmed on one side by regal looking lego trees and on the other, by the river. By late afternoon a sizeable crowd had gathered with a glass of wine to watch the sun set over the river – all very civilised. The pitches were a good size, although we didn’t get any natural shade. The washblocks were fine and usually empty. There were also some ensuite washrooms which didn’t seem to attach to a particular pitch, or if they did, there were a lot of people sneaking in.

Dining options in Yamba

It’s still a novelty cooking on gas in our campervan so we mostly celebrated the end of the salad era by serving up some hearty stews and soups.

There are a few takeaways near the site though, including the classic ‘Chick Inn’, and our caravanning neighbours cruelly wafted some pizza boxes under our noses as we sat and enjoyed our delicious… stew.

There’s a small strip of restaurants a short walk away opposite the Pacific Hotel, which were packed on the Saturday night we were there. We had a really nice dinner at the Yamba Bar & Grill which we’d definitely recommend – especially the desserts.

The food is meant to be good at the hotel as well; we had drinks there one afternoon. The views over Yamba are great, it’s just a shame you have to sit behind a glass wall to see them. Given Yamba (apparently) has the world’s best climate, a large outdoor terrace would be so much nicer than the current indoor seating area, which kind of reminded me of an old village hall – albeit with lovely views.

Who goes there?

We were traveling with two silver nomads so we fit in quite nicely, although we still shrank the average age somewhat. I think the other caravan parks in Yamba are more geared towards families with children so you might find the Calypso a bit quieter.

 

What about the mozzies?

Ah, yes. Mosquitoes like Yamba too. Most of the campsites pride themselves on being close to the river, so you’ll inevitably have to share your romantic sunsets with a few hundred buzzing locals. It wasn’t unbearable and I’ve been to far worse places along the east coast, but don’t forget the aerogard. And a fly swat. Or fish slice.

Verdict

There isn’t a lot to do in Yamba, but it’s good for fishing, surfing and chilling out – and all of that is very handy from the Calypso. The site was well maintained and the atmosphere was friendly. Next time we’ll take some rods and bait and try and put that fish slice to better use.

Campsite review: Adder Rock, North Stradbroke Island

North Stradbroke Island – Straddie – is a fabulous island getaway just an hour from Brisbane. Living right on its doorstep, we’ve caught the ferry over many times, but this was the first time we’d taken our campervan. Enticed by the beautiful surf beaches on the eastern side, we tend to bypass the quieter resorts of Dunwich (where the ferry docks) and Amity Point and head straight for Point Lookout. There’s free camping along Main Beach if you have a 4WD permit and a couple of camping grounds, including Adder Rock, where we stayed.

Point Lookout

This review is just our impression of the resort. For full details about facilities and prices, check out the website: http://www.stradbrokeholidays.com.au/camping.

Booking

Reservations are essential at all campsites on Straddie, and they can book out months in advance in peak periods. The booking process was a bit frustrating. As is often the case at Australian campsites there’s no online booking facility so you have to ring up the tourism office, but the opening hours were quite restrictive – don’t leave it ‘til the last minute. When our schedules finally aligned, our first choice site at Cylinder Beach was unsurprisingly full (it only has a small number of powered sites) so we ended up at Adder Rock.

Location

Located just behind Home Beach on the way into Point Lookout, Adder Rock must be one of the best places to stay on Stradbroke Island. It’s practically on the beach, and just a few metres away from a sheltered and patrolled swimming area and sweeping stretch of white sand. You can walk to the bowls club, a couple of souvenir shops and a petrol station selling a few groceries. I saw one review describing this as a  ‘commercial precinct’, which is probably overstating it a little, but if you’re in need of a loaf of bread or a shell necklace, they’re within reach. At a push, you could walk to the Stradbroke Hotel pub at Cylinder Beach, but it would be around a 30 minute walk along the road. You can drive into Point Lookout for a few more cafes in about five minutes.

Home Beach

Most roads on the island are accessible by car, and it’s definitely worth dragging yourself away from the beach to explore the freshwater lakes and walking trails inland. You only need a 4WD permit to drive on the beach (available at the link above), and to reach the foreshore campsites.

Adder Rock site

The site doesn’t have a view but the pitches were shady and most of them were nicely spaced – we had loads of room around us and there was a fairly relaxed vibe. The washblocks were light, airy and well maintained, there was a small play park and a couple of bbqs. The main attraction though is the beach, and the site was quiet most of the day until people started trooping back with body boards and fishing gear late in the afternoon.

Clientele

More Gen Y than baby boomer, Adder Rock seemed to attract groups of younger people camping together as well as families with children. Ours was one of only two campervans, most people were staying under canvas. Having said that, it was quiet and peaceful when we were there, and having met the manager of the park, I don’t think she would stand for too much unruliness!

Verdict

If you like the beach, and if you’re heading over to Straddie you probably do, you can’t beat the location. Book well in advance and have a great time!

A tale of two campervans

It was a weekend of firsts. The first time our campervan had ventured out of the local suburbs. The first camping holiday with my in-laws. The first outing for our new whistling kettle! (The gas had finally been installed).

Destination? Yamba. A small town around four hours south of Brisbane on the northern New South Wales coast, it was one of the first places we’d earmarked to visit when building the campervan.

Not only is Yamba consistently rated one of Australia’s favourite towns, CSIRO has declared its climate to be the best… in the world. Well that all sounded very nice. It was also a good spot to meet up with Paul’s parents, Jean and John, who were driving up from Sydney in a rented motorhome. It looked like a family holiday was on the cards.

We took our time driving down to Yamba via the coastal route, stopping first at the fabulous Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head. Famous among surfers for hosting one of Australia’s longest warm water surf breaks, the main attraction is unsurprisingly its stunning white beach and huge crashing waves. After dipping a toe in the water, we parked up and watched a group of beginner surfers and some French national juniors sharing the waves, while locals and tourists dropped in (to the car park – not our van) to take in the dazzling view and inhale some sea air. The whole place was buzzing.

And it was the perfect place for our inaugural cup of tea, made all the more exciting because last month I was the very proud recipient of… a Valentine’s whistling kettle! Isn’t she grand?

As morning tea threatened to roll into lunch we tore ourselves away from Lennox, and continued on to Bangalow, a little country town in the Byron Bay hinterland – deceptively close to the highway and an easy place to stop. Full of quirky shops and cool cafes selling gorgeous local products, along with a range of galleries and antique stores, I could have spent a whole weekend just meandering from one end of the strip to the other. Concerned that I was about to spend our weekend’s food budget before we’d actually got very far, Paul was starting to glance at his watch, so we bade Bangalow farewell. We arrived at our campsite in Yamba as the sun was starting to dip, and set up camp next to Jean and John.

Unfortunately, their trip north had not been quite so leisurely.

Planning to drive the 700km over a few days, they’d had a less than auspicious start in the Blue Mountains, which was suffering its worst flooding in decades. Having successfully navigated their unfamiliar motorhome around windy roads in torrential rain, they were relieved to arrive unscathed – albeit a little damp – at their first caravan park, and spent the evening contentedly listening to the sound of rain lashing the windows. That was until one dubious ‘splosh’ sounded a bit closer. Followed by another…

The van was duly replaced the next morning before it flooded completely and they reluctantly left the raindrop-bejeweled eucalyptus trees for the tranquility of the Hunter Valley. Unfortunately they had been pipped to the post by Rod Stewart and a few thousand of his closest friends, who had arrived for his concert the day before and booked out every last pitch. Sadly forgoing the promised winery tour, they ploughed on to the seaside resort of Port Stephens. With no rock stars or groupies in sight, they could finally start to relax, and almost see the amusing side of their disastrous first few days. This is the beauty of campervanning! The ability to be flexible and spontaneous, rather than a slave to the guidebook.

This new-found optimism dissipated rather swiftly the next morning when they awoke to a defrosted fridge and what turned out to be a major electrical failure. Trundling only as far as the local breakdown garage, the flexibility and spontaneity were starting to wear thin. Seven hours later and buzzing from a day’s worth of vending machine caffeine, they made their way north to Coffs Harbour, where the van played its final trump card. As they pulled into their fourth caravan park in four days on a steamy late summer’s day, the air conditioning wheezed one final sigh and went to sleep.

So when they made it to Yamba, hot, tired and a slightly jaded from their first motorhome adventure, they were desperately hoping for three days of uninterrupted relaxation. Luckily, we were staying in one of our country’s favourite places, and it didn’t disappoint.

This was only our second trip in the campervan, and the first time we’d had the gas connected, so I’d been excitedly planning our first hot meal on two rings. So what did we have on our first evening? A Greek salad. No need to rush these things.

Look at that head height though – hardly any stoop!

Our campsite, the Calypso Holiday Park, was in a great spot on the banks of the Clarence River and within easy reach of the beaches and shops. We took our new kayaks out for a spin, watched dolphins playing in the ocean and retreated to the Pacific Hotel for afternoon beers overlooking the beach.

Look, you’re not going to going to sneak past me

We did have one longer-haul trip and caught the ferry across the river to Iluka, which, surrounded by the estuary and national park, is a haven for anglers and bush walkers. We didn’t manage to partake in either of those activities, and spent most of our time walking several kilometres in the searing midday sun to the beach, which turned out to be almost adjacent to the one we’d walked to in Yamba the day before. The ferry trip was lovely though, and isn’t this the nicest op shop you’ve ever seen?

 

Yamba is a very peaceful village; it looks after its local residents and its refusal to succumb to the commercialism so familiar along the east coast draws holiday makers back year after year to enjoy its seaside charm and unhurried pace. It was the perfect place to do not very much at all.

By our last night, after three sunshine-filled days (CSIRO might be on to something there), we watched the sun set over the river and really did feel relaxed and rejuvenated. So much so that when Jean and John’s kitchen tap fell off the following morning, they hardly batted an eyelid.