Ghost Towns Extract from On The Road - August 2015

I find western Tasmania a fascinating place. It's wild, rugged, feels 20 years behind much of mainland Australia and its landscape is littered with crumbling testaments to a bygone era. Ghost towns. Basing myself in the remarkably intact ghost town of Gormanston, I explored four other such places that lie scattered amongst the region’s forests and hills, harbouring forgotten stories beneath rusted iron and splintered rubble.


While the town post office closed in 1979, and most of the town’s buildings (which are few) wearily endure through shattered panes and dark, crumbling hulls, Gormanston is not technically a ghost town anymore. Gormanston – according to my friend and resident Luke Campbell, who lives with his family in what was formerly the town bank – now contains two houses that are permanently occupied. As of 2013, the town’s population was officially six. Just how did Gormanston come to its present state?


If I had to describe Lake Eildon National Park in a single word it would be diversity. The park, more than any other I have seen (and I've been to scores of them across Australia), offers the visitor many different kinds of environment, from rugged mountain ranges to a broad freshwater lake, with easy access to a wide range of opportunities for adventure-based activities. And all of this lies only 150km northeast of Melbourne on the edge of Victoria's Central Highlands.

The park has been on my bucket list for about 30 years, ever since I travelled through the Murrindindi district on a lightning road trip with a young family during school holidays. It was clearly marked on the map and oh so close, but it may as well have been on the moon because of time constraints and a lack of appropriate camping gear, and we had to pass it by. Fast forward to January 2015 – the kids are all grown up, my wife (Elizabeth) and I are retired and we own a Landcruiser and Kimberley Karavan equipped with everything one could ask for by way of comfort in the bush. As for the itinerary, we had several days to kill on our way to the docks of Port Melbourne, with passage booked on the Spirit of Tasmania for a tour of the beautiful Apple Isle, and our route from home in Hervey Bay practically traced a line through the park, as the crow flies. We were determined not to miss it a second time.

Lake Torrens Extract from On The Road - August 2015
Words and photographs by Ian Smith

The CBs were chattering, "Did you see that, that motorhome's going down the track." The 4WD people were bemused to say the least. How I had even got that far was a story in itself. I was supposed to be over 300 kms away in Coober Pedy.

Instead, I'd called in to Pimba and got some fuel, sucked in by the huge "Spud's Roadhouse" sign. How could you ignore a place with a name like that?

So it came to pass I got my diesel and was about to drive off when I noticed four signs. That was where it all happened. Just when I worked out that Woomera was only 6kms up the side road someone started talking to me and said Roxby Downs was a surprise, a veritable oasis in the desert.

Someone else butted in from the 15 or so rigs that were parked nearby and said Roxby had a top pie shop. Gosh, and only another 80kms out of my way, a small price to pay. After all, what else was on my agenda for the day?

The road out was an eye opener, the vegetation (read lack of it) made the Nullarbor look like a rain forest.


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