Doc and I passed through Julia Creek on our way back from the Cape a couple of years ago. We stopped for lunch at the pub, picked up some groceries, had a look through the information centre and continued on our way to Winton. Doc remembers it as the place where I tasted the bore water. Or not the bore water depending on your viewpoint, but that’s another story.
I know it can be dangerous relying on memories of such a quick trip, but I suggested that Julia Creek would be a good place to stop and relax for a few days.
So did it live up to my memories?
Before leaving Mt Isa I tried to go to Woolies to pick up some groceries but being Sunday it was closed. I’d run out of coffee and after Isa I wasn’t hopeful about getting anything in Julia Creek before breakfast the next morning. But I was pleasantly surprised – both supermarkets in town were open and both stocked fresh, ground coffee beans. And good extra virgin olive oil that I was also out of. So things started well.
Once we pitched the tent, we sat soaking up the sunshine and warmth, reading our books, me doing some writing and sorting photos, with a glass of wine and platter of biscuits & cheese. Getting better all the time!
Then we went out and collected some wood (very difficult to do when there aren’t many trees around), and had a beautiful campfire. Better and better.
The next morning dawned clear, and I got up and watched the sunrise. Once the sun came up it warmed up quickly and I wandered up to town for a look around.
Julia Creek (population 500) is just one of those places that make you feel good. Like most small towns in Queensland it has bougainvillea growing in pots along the main street. Unlike most places it has shaded parking in the centre of the main road. There are 2 supermarkets (both open 7 days) that also serve real coffee and hot food, there’s a butcher with beautiful country meat (closed 12.30-1.30 for lunch), 2 hardware shops, a laundry open 7 days, chemist, homewares shop with a beautiful bar that, fortunately for Doc, I couldn’t fit into the ute or I might have bought, a post office, a swimming pool that’s open and heated, and two pubs. It even has a hospital.
And it has the best information centre I’ve ever seen. If you want to know anything about Julia Creek – it’s history, attractions, life, culture – you’ll find it in the interactive exhibitions at ‘the Creek’. There’s even a big screen outside under the shade cloth sails that showed the state of origin!
Everything about Julia Creek is inviting. It’s small and they make the most of what they do have – water, country and people. There are plaques on places of interest throughout the town, there’s a signposted nature walk which takes you through places where animals and birds might congregate, the information centre is fabulous and now has a live Dunnart, and the people (at least all that I met) are friendly.
And Julia Creek is home to the Dirt n Dust Festival, which looks massive, and a lot of fun. I’ve been trying to get here for it for the last couple of years and am determined that one day I will. And I might even enter the bog snorkeling!
If you drive 41k east of Julia Creek, turn right on a dirt road, drive for another 18k then turn left through another station, drive a further 16k down that track and turn right again for another 5k you come to …. a red claw cray farm. Surrounded by the dirt and the brown of drought in the outback sits 8 tanks dug in the bare earth holding red claw cray. It’s run by a typical country couple – straightforward, no-nonsense and full of great stories. After showing us around the farm and the processing room, including a shed that Doc would kill for and the converted tractor they use to feed the cray, it was back to the house for a cup of tea, a piece of home made fruitcake and a taste of the cray. Being vegetarian I passed on the cray but the fruit cake was beautiful! Overall, it had to be one of the strangest things I’ve seen in the outback!
But now we’ve been here in Julia Creek for 4 days and the Alice chill is well and truly out of my bones. Unfortunately 4 days is all we’re allowed at the free camping site, so it’s time to move on.
Next stop THE billabong. And if you have to ask which one, you’re not Australian!