A half day’s drive from Brisbane, there’s an outback adventure just waiting to happen. At Sundown National Park, you and your kids 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.
Because, as busy families, that’s just what we need—a back-to-nature family camping trip, off-grid, for some ‘digital detaching’. Leave behind those endless arguments about teens’ screen time, and the temptation to check your work emails at home! Together, 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’).
Bed down in the wilderness—how’s the serenity?
The Broadwater camping area | Brett Roberts © Queensland Government
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 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. Perfect! Set the teens their first challenge—catching their dinner, fresh from the waterholes along the river. Just remember to pack the fishing rods!
Splash in a waterhole—where to go for a wild swim
Permanent Waterhole | Brett Roberts © Queensland Government
‘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 the Severn River—the teens will spend hours here if you let them. Platypus may be seen feeding here around dawn or dusk, so if you wait quietly and look for ripples on the water’s surface, you could be lucky.
Paddle on The Broadwater—what a place to perfect your stroke!
Paddling on The Broadwater | © Queensland Government
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.
Take a walk on the wild side (technology allowed)
View from Western Circuit | © Queensland Government
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!
Grey kangaroos, Western Circuit track | © Queensland Government
Also see if they can snap or video some of the wildlife along the way. You’ll see eastern grey kangaroos and wallabies—both red-necked and swamp varieties. This park is home to many species of birds—keep an eye out for the colourful flash of red-winged parrots, and listen for the repeated, sad-sounding trill of fan-tailed cuckoos.
Remote red rocks and fabulous photo ops
Red Rock Gorge lookout | © Ben Blanche
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, set the teens a ‘pano’ challenge to capture the red granite cliffs of Red Rock Gorge. They may even get creative and create a video or 360-degree photo.
This is a definite 'must do'
Severin River, Sundown National Park | Brett Roberts © Queensland Government
Sounds like an amazing antidote for our family digital dilemmas and everyday distractions, doesn’t it?
Always check park alerts before you go.