We spent two nights at El Questro Station. Located at the eastern end of the Gibb River Rd, two nights is definately not nearly enough time to see all it has to offer.
Why did we not stay longer? I will get to that later.
I did not know a lot about the place before we came, it was the least researched stayover so far. We had both heard of it in all the GRR advertising. It turns out after reading a bit about the place I have some mixed feelings, I am not sure if I like it or not. Or, were we just influenced by the reviews?
Lets start on the positives. It is an adventure driving in with a dirt road and a few little river crossings, one of them being a small section of the Pentecost River. You are greeted with a very nice homestead area and friendly staff.
The camping on offer is fantastic. You have a choice of a caravan park style zone or, if you choose you can go with a “private river frontage” site. These are spaced out along the river with gaps of about 20m between them.
We chose one called Willy Wag Tail. It was a beautiful and shady spot and it was indeed private and very nice. We both commented many times how nice it was to not be crammed into a van park for a change.
We really only had one full day here so we had to choose our adventure carefully. We headed off to Zebedee Springs early as they are only open 7am – 12pm daily. Why you ask? I did ask!
These are thermal springs cascading over small falls creating lovely little spa pools to sit in. The temperature ranges from about 28 – 32°C. We thought they were beautiful and enjoyed the lazing.
We did however have one eye on the clock as it turns out the springs are shut to the average punter at midday. This is so tour groups paying top $$ can have exclusive access! ok…
We then chose to look at El Questro Gorge. This is a difficult walk, classed as a “4”, with the promise of a nice swimming hole at the midway point. The trail does continue onwards but becomes a grade 5 and gets very hard going.
We enjoyed the 4wd in to the carpark. It has a “grade 5” river crossing (very deep and long) as well as sandy ruts to have fun in. The walk was also spectacular with the kids eagerly clambering over the rocky riverbed.
The midway water hole was amazing swimming. With beautiful clear water and a rock to jump off. We walked out a little exhausted but very satisfied.
We managed to get back in time to see the last speck of sunlight sink over the range from Pigeon Hole lookout. The view over the Cockburn Ranges was very impressive.
We ducked back into camp for some quick dinner on the run as Kaz and the kids twisted my arm to go and see the music on at the bar. “The Nomadics” were awesome with beautiful harmonies and some great guitar sounds from the two Maton guitars.
We packed a hell of a lot into our one full day at ELQ. So why did we not stay longer? It was very busy, there were people everywhere. The roads around the station are downright dangerous.
I know dirt roads, corrigations and dust are the reason we are driving the Gibb but… they were so badly corrigated that everyone tries to drive “the magic 90kms/hr” to smooth them out. Consequently you get never ending traffic, dust and inconsiderate holiday makers hurtling towards you at every corner. We did see the grader a lot, hard at work, but more than once we feared for our safety.
It was crazy expensive! The kids were free which was nice but $30 per night for an adult and then hit up for a $20 “wilderness pass” became quite hard to take. I understand the place is in the middle of nowhere but I couldn’t help but feel a bit like I was being extorted due to lack of any alternative.
I know a few people we have met who are tossing up whether to visit ELQ or not. It is a hard call.
It would be difficult to drive all this way and decide not see it due to it’s reputation. It would also be a welcome respite if coming from the west on the long slog over the GRR.
In the end we are glad we stayed but if we ever come back this way we would happily give it a miss. In reality, El Questro is reeling in the crowds and would not care either way if you came in or not… thats the feeling we got anyway. We liked it, enjoyed it, but probably not one of our favorites.
Onwards to the first real taste of the legend that is the Gibb River Road. Our first stop is a little gem called Ellenbrae Station. That is for the next blog.