After another great night at our fabulous free camp on the banks of the Warrego River we woke to a glorious sunny day. That made for a nice change from the overcast mornings we’d had so far. Our plan for the day was to make it Charleville.
We set off heading north and the road after Wyandra was a two lane road but quite skinny and rough. Still plenty of room for trucks to pass though and we were able to drive at our limit of 100km/h. Now that we are Light Rigid our maximum speed is 100km/h.
Again we didn’t see much livestock apart from the usual goats and emus however we did see a couple of mobs of cattle on this stretch.
About 30km south of Charleville is the site of one of Australia’s most horrendous accidents at Angellala Bridge. Around 9.00pm on Friday 5 September 2014 a truck carrying 52.8 tonnes of ammonium nitrate crashed at the Angellala Bridge. The following explosion was measured on the Richter scale as a 2.1 seismic event. The explosion was so powerful that residents of Charleville 30km away thought there’d been an earthquake. Amazingly no lives were lost although the truck driver received burns to 35% of his body and others were injured. The railway bridge was completely destroyed and will probably never be rebuilt. On the side of the road there are signs and a pull over area for tourists to stop and read the story of the remarkable event.
We arrived in Charleville and had a drive around the little town to orient ourselves. There is a CMCA RV Park just out of town so we drove out to check it out. It is a very large park, really just a bush camp but it has potable water, a dump point and a big rubbish bin. There is a communal area with central fire pit and free BBQ’s. This is where Happy Hour is held each night led by the current resident caretaker. It looked like a good spot to camp so we’d book online to stay there that night. It costs $3 per person per night for CMCA members. So a whopping $6 to camp the night.
Back in town we drove around the town centre and I was surprised by the number of lovely Art Deco buildings especially the Court House. The Visitors Centre is housed in the Charleville Station and we visited and bought tickets for the afternoon tour at Hotel Corones. Unfortunately the Bilby Experience , where you get to see some actual Bilbys is booked out for the next few days so we won’t be able to do that. Likewise the Cosmos Centre Night Viewing so we won’t be doing that either. We have seen so many motorhomes, camper trailers and caravans on the road. Every second vehicle is a caravan. With so many visitors many of the tours and attractions are sold out and caravan parks are full. This is fabulous for these small communities.
We visited the bakery for some fresh bread and across the road is the Historic House Museum. While Rich had some morning tea I visited the museum. The museum was built in 1889 as the Queensland National Bank with the bank at the front including a huge safe, and a residence for the bank manager and his family at the back. Across the yard at the rear were stables, tack rooms, and a buggy shelter. The property even had its own well. No expense was spared for the bank in the construction and the house features marble fireplaces, ceramic door knobs, cedar doorways and architraves and classic high ceilings. Today the house is home to a huge collection of local memorabilia including historical photographs, antique clothing, musical instruments, gramophones, and even the typewriter used by Rev. John Flynn (co-founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service). Out the back are some fine examples of horse drawn vehicles and motor vehicles. If you love old stuff and history then this is a must do stop in Charleville.
We drove out to the Charleville Airport Complex and this is where we were booked to do a tour of the Secret WWII Base the next day. There is a Dump Point and potable water available here for visitors. The area is also home to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitors Centre and the
Cosmos Centre & Observatory. We paid a visit to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitors Centre and this was a great little exhibition showcasing the wonderful work that this organisation has been providing for remote Australians for many years. Well worth a visit.
We also paid a visit to the Cosmos Centre and this too is a great Exhibition of all things astronomical and space. Lots of great displays. Kids would love visiting this place.
Back in town is was time for us to do our Hotel Corones Tour. This tour is run daily at 2.00pm between April and October and is a guided tour of the most famous building in Charleville. We rocked up for this tour with no real knowledge and thoroughly enjoyed our tour. The Hotel Corones was the crown jewel of Greek immigrant Harry Corones life. He migrated from a small Greek fishing island to Australia and through his own hard work and vision created an icon. Harry became a Charleville legend and was into everything. He made a fortune from his hotel but wasn’t shy of sharing his good fortune with his community. Many famous guests have stayed at the Hotel Corones over the years including aviator Amy Johnson, Robert Menzies, and even the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. Harry’s story is one of a migrant made good and is a great story happily shared by our tour guide whose great great grandfather was the builder of the hotel. A drink of your choice at the famous long bar is your reward at the end of the 3 hour tour. We recommend any visitor to Charleville take this tour. It is full of fabulous little anecdotes about Harry, his family, guests of the hotel and we loved hearing how enterprising Harry was. This tour gets a big thumbs up from us.
By the time we finished the tour it was time to find a camp for the night and we traveled back out to the CMCA Park where we were met and checked in by caretaker, Craig. The park had filled up while we’d been out sightseeing and there was a huge variety of motorhomes, campers and caravans, even a couple of fifth wheelers. After setting up camp we carried our chairs and a drink across to the communal area for happy hour. There were already about 20 people sitting around the fire and we enjoyed the next hour or so chatting and listening to others before heading back to camp for some hot soup and an early night.