Whenever campfire discussion turns to which towns are the most welcoming to grey nomads, one name inevitably crops up again and again … Julia Creek!
The Outback Queensland settlement, 660 kilometres west of Townsville, is constantly held up as a shining example of what country communities can achieve when roll out the red carpet for caravanners and motorhomers.
The Julia Creek RV Friendly Rest Area offers self-contained vehicles a free 96-hour stay, and it’s a very popular stopover for nomads heading along the Flinders Highway between Mount Isa and Townsville.
Campers staying at the water’s edge beauty spot can relax, throw in a line or a yabby pot … and they’re even offered the free use of bicycles so they can ride into town and explore. McKinlay Shire also runs an RV Camp Host program from April to September. Perhaps most impressive of all is the way which the shire works with the Julia Creek Caravan Park for everyone’s benefit. The van park hosts weekly bush dinners at which free campers are more than welcome.
With all this positive energy, it comes as no surprise to learn that travellers have voted with their wheels and the number of grey nomads discovering the town is booming. And there’s plenty to discover.
With a population of about 500, the township began life as a temporary terminus in 1907 when the railway was extended from Richmond to service the copper mines at Cloncurry. The town’s main industries are cattle, sheep, and mining.
The mine at nearby Cannington produces silver, lead and zinc. The ‘At the Creek’ Visitor Information Centre is housed in historic railway fettler’s cottages and the innovative audio and visual displays bring the area’s rich history to life.
However, the best way to go back in time is to take the Julia Creek Historical Walk. Visitors can follow a map around the 36 signposted historical sites. Also well worth a look is the Duncan McIntyre Museum, the Opera House, and the remains of a WWII Directional Finding Installation bunkers at the western edge of town. These buildings served as a wartime navigational aid for pilots and were directly responsible for saving allied aircraft from destruction.
Visitors certainly won’t need any navigational aids to find the town’s distinctive 30-metre water tower, which is shaped like a wine glass. At night it is illuminated by blue feature lighting and can be seen from up to 20 kilometres away. The tower, which was built in 1971, allows the hot Artesian water to cool after it is brought up from the ground.
The spa at the caravan park is a great place to enjoy the relaxing properties of these naturally heated Artesian waters, and the park is also the starting point for a superb 45-minute nature walk trail. While many grey nomads choose to come to the ‘Gateway to the Gulf’ for the iconic Dirt n Dust Festival held every April, ultimately, what keeps them coming back is the unmatchable warmth of the welcome they receive here.