St George, Qld

By: Kevin Smith, Photography by: Kevin Smith


Heading west? Or just want to get away from it all? Drop by St George and enjoy its rich heritage.

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You don’t have to look very far to find interesting history in rural Queensland. Just 520km west of Brisbane is the quiet town of St George in the Balonne Shire. St George was named after the saint’s day in England by Major Sir Thomas Mitchell, who camped there in 1846. To mark the spot, a stone memorial and plaque was erected where he stayed.

Camper trailer enthusiasts need not worry as the route to St George is easily accessible with proper roads from Brisbane and surrounds. The history buffs among us will be excited to learn that the journey is part of the old Cobb & Co route as it moves westerly across the state. Now called Adventure Way, the stretch is also known for its stunning sunrises and sunsets and blindingly clear skies at night for stargazing.

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There are plenty of camping options with free sites near Lake Kajarabie which is 20km north of town, and riverside camping just 9km north of town at St George Riverfront Tourist Park (formally Kapunda Fishing Park) on the Balonne River. For a more remote location, travel 50km north to the site near Warroo Bridge. No facilities, just peace and quiet.

St George Riverfront Tourist park, where we stayed, provided a welcome respite from the baking sun during my journey west. Rick, the owner, directed me to some of the best river frontage I’ve ever seen. It’s great little spot with a corner shop, the usual park amenities, fishing gear (and a courtesy canoe), fireplaces and bait. The 35-acre park is also pet-friendly. 

ST GEORGE

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St George’s tourist information centre offers a plethora of information on attractions, points of interest and general information. Just across the road you’ll find the river walk, which lazily makes its way beside the Balonne River for almost two kilometres to the Jack Taylor Weir where Sir Mitchell’s memorial is posted. The cool breeze wafting off the river is refreshing as you check out the war memorial wall and flood markers.

Drawing its name from ‘water’ or ‘running stream’ in the language of the Mandandanji people, the Balonne River has subjected the town to multiple floods over the past 10 years. Up to 2000 residents were evacuated twice in 2010, 2011 and, most recently, in 2012. It’s a testament to the power of this river when you see just how far away it runs from town. Despite the floods, St George is a beautiful town with Bauhinias and Jacarandas lining the streets.

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While you’re there, it’s worth dropping into the Unique Egg gallery, and inspecting the handiwork of artist Steve Margaritis who has been carving emu eggs for more than 60 years.

North of town is Beardmore Dam. While camping is forbidden, it’s a great spot for a picnic under the massive shady gums. There is always plenty of roos feeding on the grass or flocks of pelicans on the dam. Two rivers meet here, the Balonne and the Maranoa, which give birth to the start of the northern catchment for the Murray-Darling Basin.

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If you’re a keen angler, you’ll be pleased to know that this area has some of the best inland fishing Queensland has to offer. Seven river systems traverse the area, bringing in cod and giant yellow belly. The river is a playground for water skiers and provides a passage for a guided river cruise tour that takes you up stream to highlight local points of interest, and the varied birdlife that inhabit the area.

THE NINDIGULLY PUB

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Head 45km south east of St George along the Carnarvon Highway and you’ll come to the Nindigully Pub – the oldest continually licensed pub in Queensland. Licensed in 1864, this watering hole was originally the shearers’ quarters for the Nindigully Station. The ‘Gully’ has changed from hand to hand throughout the ages, having 21 licensees since it was opened. It’s a testament to the importance of the site when you consider that in the early 1900s the population stood at a paltry six people, yet the pub, general store and town hall were kept alive.

If you do plan on visiting this iconic pub, jump online and check out their social calendar. Remote as it is, there are plenty of events including pig racing, talented bands and singers as well as other entertainment.

HEYDAY

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Step back in time to when the first land leases in this area were issued, only a few years after Sir Mitchell pioneered the route between Sydney and the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1846. In those days, there was plenty of water, stock, and the town boomed and flourished. Legend has it that even Ned Kelly and his gang made their way to the outback town. Fields bloomed cotton and wheat, with grapes, rock melons, pumpkins and onions being added to the list in recent times. 

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Whether you’re on a quick stop journeying west across this great land, or visiting for a day to see the sights, St George and its rich history will leave you yearning to stay and relax in the quiet outback setting.

FAST FACTS

  • St George is about 520km west of Brisbane in the Balonne Shire via the A2 past Toowoomba and the Moonie Highway (route 49).
  • Free camping is available 20km north of town at Lake Kajarabie.
  • Free camping is also available out the front of the Nindigully Gully Pub. 

Check out the full feature in issue #109 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.