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Stunning views from the Imbil Lookout (7377 bytes)

Stunning views from Imbil Lookout

LOOK closely at one of the bushrangers who regularly ambush the heritage train at Imbil in southern Queensland and caravanners might recognise a familiar face

For John Beckman, who operates the tranquil and picturesque Island Reach Camping Resort at the southern end of the historic and friendly Mary Valley township, is among the star attractions.

The Valley Rattler steams into Imbil (13391 bytes)
The Valley Rattler pulls into Imbil Station

John and his band of suitably costumed outlaws stage a shoot-out at the pretty Imbil Station on the third Sunday of every month, much to the delight of onlookers, many who have travelled aboard the Valley Rattler - a collection of period wooden carriages hauled by a C17-Class 4-8-0 steam locomotive from Gympie 41km away.

In excitement terms - whether you're a railway enthusiast, passenger or tourist - you can't help but get caught up in the action as 'Gentleman George' is captured and publicly flogged. As John says: "It's all good fun."

The Valley Rattler arrives in Imbil every Wednesday and Sunday at around midday, with a colourful and friendly market greeting passengers every Sunday.

Tranquilly at Island Reach Camping Resort (6633 bytes)
How idyllic is this ... my 'van pitched at Island Reach

I recently spent three nights at John's idyllic camping resort at Imbil, the Mary Valley's largest township. Only 16km from the Bruce Highway in the Sunshine Coast region, it is an ideal spot for weary caravanners travelling the eastern seaboard.

Island Reach (telephone 07 5484 5247) is an extremely well kept and friendly eleven and a half-acre site on the banks of Yabba Creek. The parkland setting boasts short mown grass, toilets, small laundry ($1 a wash), hot showers and covered picnic area. Pets are allowed, though during my stay a couple of dogs on a nearby site were sometimes a nuisance with their barking.

Showers and toilets were clean with oodles of hot water available. There's only a handful of powered sites and the resort is more suited to self-sufficient caravanners. A bargain at $5 per adult, plus $2 for power if required.

Yabba Creek adjoins Island Reach Camping Resort (11991 bytes)
Yabba Creek

The creek is ideal for canoeing - these can be hired from the resort or you can take your own - or for cooling off on a hot Queensland day.

Relaxing outside my caravan, I enjoyed an abundance of native flora and fauna, including colourful parrots. Apparently, campers can sometimes spot a platypus foraging in the creek though I was not so lucky.

Just down the road from Island Reach is Chris and Joyce Zillman's fascinating Museum of Wonders, a must-see treasure trove of everything military including shiny Kaiser Bill helmets. Chris's interest in the headgear stemmed from the fact that his great grandfather was decorated by the Kaiser before migrating Down Under.

Chris Zillman outside his Museum of Wonders at Imbil (13634 bytes)
Chris Zillman outside his Museum of Wonders

In addition to military memorabilia, the museum has displays of old and new dolls, bottles and spoons, Aboriginal and Papua New Guinea artefacts, shells, fossils, mounted game heads, stamps, money, model cars and a great collection of old petrol bowsers.

There's even a 300-year-old Malayan matchlock, brought to Australia by a Dutch seaman who captured it from pirates off the coast of Sumatra. There are also beads believed to be from a 5000-year-old Egyptian mummy which has been in the Zillman family for generations. Entrance to the museum is a bargain $2.

Just round the corner in George Street is the inviting public swimming pool, which is open on weekdays from 3.15pm to 5pm and during weekends. Another bargain at just $1.

Imbil swimming pool (7530 bytes)
Imbil's swimming pool

Imbil is a terrific little town offering local arts and crafts gallery, a nursery, library, village green with barbecue facilities, friendly shops and the Railway Hotel ... all within easy walking distance of Island Reach. Don't miss the historic Timbermans Walk which weaves its way through age-old jacaranda trees, which were stunning and in full bloom during my visit.

Another 'must' is Imbil Lookout which has spectacular views over the surrounding patchwork of pineapple plantations, macadamia farms and grazing properties. There's a 'sundial' pillar and covered tables and benches. A word of warning: don't attempt to tow your caravan up the steep and winding access road.

The Railway Hotel at Imbil (13111 bytes)
The Railway Hotel ... popular watering hole for locals

The scenic all-weather 14km forest drive from Imbil to Borumba Dam, vastly replenished after drought, is well worth doing. Don't forget your rods, bait and fishing permit, available from Imbil's general store, because it is really good fishing with golden perch, Australian bass and saratogo there for the taking.

The forest drive takes about an hour and includes eight information stops, a lookout and a short walk. Permits are required to travel along other forest roads.

And while on the subject of driving, you never know what you might come across in Imbil. Strolling past the Railway Hotel I saw a wonderful collection of old cars from yesteryear lined up outside this popular watering hole.

Running repairs for this 'old lady' of the road (18634 bytes)
Running repairs for this 'old lady' of the road

The 18 gleaming machines belonged to members of the Queensland division of the Australian Veteran Car Club who were on a three-day tour of Kenilworth and the Mary Valley.

So, during my short stay in Imbil I experienced a heritage railway, a museum packed with treasures from the past and a slice of motoring history ... all wonderful icons from the past. Not to mention good old country hospitality at its best.



1: Queensland outback

2: Sydney circular


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Updated: November 4, 2003