The Back of Bundy

12 August 2010

The run west of Bundaberg takes you from the lush coast through rugged mining country into the land of cattle and RM Williams

Now don’t get me wrong, Bundaberg is a nice place to visit, but many of we southerners tend to ignore the smaller towns up the Bruce Highway in favour of the bigger centres. In Bundy’s case, north-bounders jump off the Bruce Highway onto the Isis Highway headed for Bundy and miss out on the little joints further up Route 1.

For example, Childers is not far past the Isis turnoff, and it’s a beaut place. It always seems green there and the town is one of the busiest regional centres I’ve seen. Parking in the main street is sometimes impossible (but then that’s why they have back streets). There’s a lot going on here and your first stop should be the Childers Regional Gallery and Tourist Information Centre. Most of us know of Childers from the disastrous fire at the Palace Backpacker Hotel in 2000, when 15 young folk were killed. The building has since been restored and forms part of an attractive main street.

The memorial to the backpackers in the gallery is a moving exhibit, and I encourage all RVers to stop in and pay tribute. It is a tragic story and a stark reminder of the dangers of fire. The people of Childers have turned the gallery into a beautiful place with exhibits from many talented artists.

Just downstairs from the gallery is the Childers Pharmaceutical Museum, believed to be one of only two museums of its kind in Australia. It is amazing what has been preserved here – over a century worth of medical instruments, tools and equipment.

At the Childers Historical Complex you’ll find more interesting old stuff, like a sugar cane train that was imported in 1916 from England. In fact, this part of Queensland seems to have a train fetish. There’s a bunch of them in museums, parks and so on.

The old buildings on-site contain memorabilia and old photographs, and there is also an old schoolhouse you can take a wander through. The cottage was built in 1890 at the Isis Central mill and then moved to the Complex in 1985. During its use it was rented out to mill workers. There is a wealth of history here and lots of interesting artefacts. You really are stepping back in time.

The Soldier’s Room Memorial on the highway is dedicated to the soldiers from the region killed in the wars of the past century. There is a bronze plaque honouring each soldier and where possible, a photograph. The building expresses patriotism and heroism at its best. Alongside is a big artillery piece for those who like things that go bang.

Most of Childers was destroyed by fire in 1902, so most of the buildings are dated from 1903 when they were rebuilt. The Palace Hotel on the main street was originally the Palace Backpackers, where the fire tragedy of 2000 occurred. It has since been lovingly restored. The architecture of the buildings, hotels, and shops in Childers is truly magnificent.

But Childers isn’t just about old buildings and museums, at the southern end of town you will find Snakes Down Under Reptile Park, where Ian Jenkins displays a bunch of the deadliest snakes in the world. Being around such deadly reptiles is a bit unnerving, but Ian puts on a very informative show and teaches us how to appreciate and understand these snakes in the wild.

Just up the road from the Reptile Park is Mammino Macadamia Nuts. Here you’ll fi nd some delicious home made ice cream. Teena and Anthony Mammino started the ice-cream business when the 11,500 tonnes of sugar cane they supplied to the sugar mill didn’t make enough returns. They sought to diversify their operation and as luck had it Anthony’s father had planted 600 macadamia trees 20 years prior as a hobby. Teena began experimenting with her grandmother’s ice cream recipe and mixing in the nuts, to great success.

There is a lot to see and do in Childers, so make sure you plan some extra time in your schedule for icecream, snakes and a wealth of fascinating history.

While Childers is the major town on this journey, there are many smaller towns well worth a visit. About 50km up the road is the small town of Gin Gin. This is a pleasant place with wide streets and beautiful gardens down the middle (with clean loos).

The museum at Gin Gin was closed when we were there, but we wandered around the grounds and found the Bunyip – yet another cane train that began work at the local mill in 1896. On the main street is a big IGA if you need to stock up, and I can recommend the lamb chops from the local butcher.

Just outside Gin Gin turn left and take the road to Mt Perry. This will eventually take you through to the Burnett Highway just north of Eidsvold. The road is tar all the way and no problem for vans, though the area is hilly with some winding sections. Still, it’s a pleasant drive.

Maps show various ‘towns’ such as new Moonta, but these are really localities. Probably bustling centres during the mining boom around 1850 when copper, silver and gold was drawn from this region, but activities ceased in the early 1900s.

One such locality is Boolboonda and you’ll see a sign on the left directing you to the Boolboonda Tunnel only a couple of kilometres off the main road. The tunnel was built in 1883 to carry a rail line between the Mt Perry mines and Bundaberg. It was carved from the virgin rock and is unsupported by concrete or props – it’s just bare rock and home to a colony of bent-winged bats.

You can actually drive through this 192m passage, but I wouldn’t take a van through. A good dirt road leads to it that you can take the van over, and there’s an area to turn around just short of the tunnel.

Mt Perry is a quiet little town now, but in the boom days of the copper it supported a population of around 30,000 and supposedly had 21 pubs! Nowadays it’s very peaceful, surrounded by rolling hills. A copper smelter operated in town up until the early 1900s, and you can walk in to view the remains and the immense panels of slag that seem to have made up the floor.

There’s a very neat museum in Mt Perry that reflects the area’s past mining history. There’s also a very pleasant, shady park opposite the general store that’s ideal as a cuppa stop.

Continuing on, you’ll reach the Burnett Highway at a locality known as Ceradotus, named after the famous lungfish that’s found in the Burnett River, and 10km south of there you find the quiet village of Eidsvold.

This is one of those beaut little country towns, peaceful, well tended and with very wide streets. Loads of murals are painted on the walls of the buildings. This is beef country, and if you take a drive west to Kirar Weir you’ll see why. Watch out for livestock on the road! There’s a council-run caravan park backing onto a golf course, so if you like whacking white balls, this is a good stopover.

Eidsvold also has a historical complex, a neat pub, and soon will have an Australian Bush Centre to honour the legend of its most famous son, Reginald Murray (R.M.) Williams.

The countryside west of Bundaberg covers a wide range of scenery and attractions, from the lush green of the coastal cane to the more rugged hills of the mining country and on to the rolling grasslands of cattle country. From Childers to Eidsvold there’s plenty to interest the RV tourer.



Childers Tourist Park and Camp

111 Stockyard Road

Ph: (07) 4126 1371

Sugar Bowl Caravan Park

Ph: (07)4126 1521

[email protected]



Council Caravan Park, Ph: (07) 4165 1168


Banksia track and the boardwalk
Within Burrum Coast National Park.


Coongarra Rock
4WD enthusiasts can explore rocky outcrops, caves, rock pools and natural vegetation – 24km south of Biggenden and Coalstoun lakes. Take Lords Rd turn-off; 4WD vehicles only.


Hinkler Glider Museum
This is home to a life-size replica of Bert Hinkler’s 1912 Glider and displays a history of Hinkler’s fantastic achievements.


Flying High Bird Sanctuary
Cnr of the Bruce Highway and Old Creek Rd; it’s the largest walk-through free flight aviary in the country.

Ph: (07) 4126 3777

Sticky Beaks Café
Try homemade jams and preserves created from local produce.
For information call (07) 4126 2800.

LARC Tours

Jump aboard the pink LARC, an amphibious craft that will take you for a ride across deserted sandy beaches and pristine estuaries to the isolated Bustard Head Lighthouse. A $35 day trip includes morning tea, lunch and an Aussie Billy tea.


Ph: (07) 4974 9422

[email protected]


Soldiers Room, Childers
Snakes Down Under, Childers
Mt Perry Smelter
Boolboonda Tunnel
Kirar Weir

By Gil Schott