CARNARVON Gorge is world-famous, but that's not the whole story for beautiful camping spots in the Rockhampton region. Here's our pick for the top three:
1 Blackdown Tableland
How to get there: Blackdown Tableland National Park lies in central Queensland 183 km west of Rockhampton. The signed turn-off on the Capricorn Highway is 11km west of Dingo or 110km east of Emerald (35 km east of Blackwater). To reach the park entrance shelter, follow the 6km sealed road to the top of the tableland - Beware! The 6 km road from the base of the tableland is winding and climbs steeply. It is not suitable for towing heavy trailers or caravans.
Why it's great: Rising abruptly above the surrounding dry plains, Blackdown Tableland has spectacular sandstone scenery with gorges and waterfalls. It lies at the north-east edge of the central Queensland sandstone belt.
The park supports diverse plant communities including heathlands, dry eucalypt forests and moist pockets of ferns, mosses and orchids. Being elevated, the tableland is often cooler and moister than nearby plains. Its isolation means plants and animals that are found nowhere else thrive here.
You could relax in the Munall campground's cool and quiet bush surrounding. Close to popular walking tracks, it is a great place to make your base. Natural features include include the Blackdown stringybark, a macrozamia, red bottlebrush, the Blackdown "monster" (a type of underground cricket) and a Christmas beetle.
This is the traditional home of the Ghungalu people, who have visited this place for thousands of years and left behind rock art, vivid reminders of their special culture.
Tips: Roads past the entrance shelter are unsealed, slippery and winding. Most of the park is accessible to 2WD vehicles driven with care, but you will require a 4WD for the Loop Road to Mitha Boongulla. Water is essential. Take oceans of it!
Watch out for: Walking dangers. Beware of pea gravel, which can be extremely slippery. Never go near cliff edges - they can crumble.
2 Keppel Bay Islands National Park
GPS: -23.178396, 150.948189
How to get there: Access to the islands is by boat only. Boat launch facilities and charters are available from Rosslyn Bay Harbour, 8.9km south-east of Yeppoon, with secure parking available nearby. It is also possible to arrange transport to the national park islands from Great Keppel Island.
Why it's great: Keppel Bay is a broad sweep of water off the central Queensland coast from Curtis Island to Corio Bay. The picturesque Capricorn Coast, with its townships of Yeppoon, Emu Park and Keppel Sands, fronts the bay. Keppel Bay is studded with islands. The two largest, Great Keppel (1454ha) and North Keppel (627ha) are surrounded by 16 smaller islands and several prominent rocky outcrops. Vegetation ranges from open grassland and heathland to tall, shady forests and dense, low forests.
Tips: Camping is allowed on North Keppel Island, Humpy Island, Middle Island, Miall Island, Conical Island, Divided Island and Pelican Island. Camping permits are required and fees apply. Ensure you have oceans of drinking water - allow at least five litres per person per day. Take a two-way marine radio or mobile phone in case of any emergency. Some mobile phones have reception from hilltops (check coverage with your provider).
Watch out for: Steep hills and cliffs, which plunge into the sea, are features of the islands but there are also sheltered bays and quiet sandy beaches.
3 Five Rocks and Nine Mile Beach
GPS: -22.778611, 150.805278
How to get there: Byfield is about one hour from North Rockhampton, or 30 minutes north of Yeppoon.
A four-wheel-drive vehicle is needed throughout the main section of Byfield National Park and to access Byfield Conservation Park. Four-wheel-drive is recommended to access Sandy Point section of Byfield National Park. Camping is permitted at three places: Five Rocks camping area, in Byfield Conservation Park, and Nine Mile Beach camping area and Scouts Camp at Water Park Point headland in Byfield National Park.
Why it's great: The rugged drive through the national park, an hour or so north of Rockhampton, to get to the unprecedented Five Rocks beach attraction is as much a part of the adventure as the destination.
Tips: Take a well-stocked first-aid kit suitable for remote and marine situations.
Bring insect repellant to guard against mosquitoes, sand flies, midges and ticks.
Bring a portable fuel stove as fires are not permitted in Byfield national and conservation parks except under strict conditions.
Watch out for: Massive parabolic sand dunes - the oldest reaching 5-6 km inland - occupy most of the southern part of the park. In the north, and the rugged pinnacles of The Peaks and Mount Atherton dominate the landscape.
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