Unforgettable family camping adventures at Sundown!
Issued: 5 Jul 2018

As busy parents of teens, it’s easy to get caught up in endless arguments about screen time and feel frustrated trying to communicate with them when their faces are glued to their phones. (Have you ever texted your teen from the next room to ask them a question? PS it works.)

Photo credit: © Queensland Government

As busy parents of teens, it’s easy to get trapped in endless arguments about screen time and frustrated trying to communicate with them when their faces are glued to their phones. (Have you ever texted your teen from the next room to ask them a question? PS. it works.)

Digital distraction probably doesn’t end there. Do you check work emails on weekends, or snatch some family time to do an ‘urgent thing’ before Monday? Guilty, your Honour.

Perhaps we all have some digital detaching to do!

We can't think of a better way to escape the daily grind—and all its electronic appliances—than getting back to nature on a family camping trip, off-grid!

Sundown National Park, a half day’s drive from Brisbane, is an outback adventure just waiting to happen. You and your teens can unplug from your ‘everyday’ (no mobile connection here!) and reconnect face-to-face (not phone-to-phone) in the vastness of a breathtaking landscape. Together as a family, you’ll discover new places, share new challenges and unwind in the quiet of nature.

We’ve pulled together some hints to help you plan an unforgettable adventure, so pack up the trailer or family tents, strap on the kayaks and mountain bikes, and head off to where the sun goes down (west, that is, from the ‘big smoke’).

Aerial view over rolling ridges, peaks and valleys carpeted in dense forest that ranges from bright green in foreground to deeper green, blue and indigo in the distance.
Aerial of The Broadwater | ©  Queensland Government

Bed down in the wilderness—how’s the serenity?

Not a mobile tower or power point in sight—welcome to the wilderness! Set up your 'home away from home' at The Broadwater, an idyllic camping area on the banks of the Severn River, near the southern park entrance. Hint: You won’t need a 4WD to get here, although if you plan to visit the northern part of the park, you will.

This is tranquil bush camping at its best. With private camp sites, pit toilets, showers (hot ones, if you boil the donkey heater, a drum of water heated over a fire) and small barbecues (bring your own clean-milled firewood and kindling), this accommodation has a ‘thousand-star’ rating.

You’ll need to be self-sufficient of course, with your own water and food. So set the teens their first challenge—catching their dinner, fresh from the waterholes along the river. Just remember to pack the fishing rods!

Blue kayak on the ground near camper tailer with canvas tent set up, and vehicle parked nearby, surrounded by open forest.
The Broadwater camping area | © Queensland Government

Splash in a waterhole—where to go for a wild swim

‘Out west’ the days can be very hot and nothing is better than cooling off in a waterhole surrounded by the sights and sounds of the bush. Wild swimming (yes, it’s a thing) is the best way to wash away the last of the ‘city stress’ and immerse the kids (and yourself) in nature.

Set off on the Permanent Waterhole track to discover a deep waterhole on Ooline Creek—the teens will spend hours here if you let them. Platypus feed here around dawn or dusk, so if you wait quietly and look for ripples on the water’s surface, you may be lucky.

Teenage boys on river bank checking out the water of wide deep waterhole fringed by forest.
Permanent Waterhole | © Queensland Government

Paddle on The Broadwater—what a place to perfect your stroke!

Do you have a family of teens who could rival the Oarsome Foursome? Or think they could, which is the point. The wide expanse of The Broadwater—a large permanent waterhole filled by the Severn River—is perfect for exploring by canoe or kayak. Your teens will spend hours here, absorbed in active outdoor fun, with waterbirds for company and imposing mountain ranges as a backdrop for their antics. Falling out (or being pushed out?) of their craft for a refreshing splash in the waterhole will definitely be on the cards.

At times though, the Severn River can be dry, with waterholes more like large ‘puddles’…we can’t (unfortunately) control the rain! So check conditions before you arrive to avoid disappointment.

A man in green t-shirt and hat paddling an orange canoe on wide section of river with bushy riverbank in the background.
Paddling on The Broadwater | © Queensland Government

Take a walk on the wild side (technology allowed)

Challenge the teens to a bushwalk. If they need persuading, the ‘carrot’ is that they can take their technology with them—for the camera function, of course! So, on with the joggers or walking boots and, with devices in pockets, set off on the Western Circuit. You’ll climb a ridge for sweeping views and great photo opportunities. This is high ‘traprock country’—the hard dense rock was formed from an ancient seabed, heated, squeezed and weathered into layers, and then carved by water into sharp ridges and steep gorges.

The teens’ challenge is to capture a ‘pano’ of the sweeping mountainous views, and to snap or video some of the wildlife along the way. You’ll see eastern grey kangaroos, wallabies, colourful turquoise parrots, and spiny-cheeked honeyeaters, to name just a few.

View over rolling hills and valleys clad in dense green forest from high vantage point.
Western Circuit | © Queensland Government

Remote red rocks and fabulous photo ops

You’ve come this far, so, if you have a spare day and a 4WD, head out of the park and around to the north-eastern entrance. Venture along the narrow, rough 4WD track for about 7km to Red Rock Gorge. Or, if you have mountain bikes, and a family of riders experienced in remote terrain, jump aboard the treadlies and set off for a two-wheeled adventure.

At the lookout, the teens will have another ‘pano’ challenge, this time capturing the red granite cliffs of Red Rock Gorge. They may even get creative and capture a video or create a 360-degree photo.

A man in bright blue t-shirt leans on handrail of lookout and gazes at views over forested ridge and deep gorge, under blue cloudy sky.
Red Rock Gorge lookout | © Ben Blanche

This is a definite 'must do'

Sounds like an amazing antidote for our family digital dilemmas and everyday distractions, doesn’t it? So, before the sun goes down (sorry, we just had to throw that in), check out Sundown National Park for more information or take a closer look at The Broadwater camping area. Always check park alerts before you go.