When we drove into Mitchell, it was just on sunset and we needed someplace to stop for the night. Mitchell is that sort of town. It’s on the crossroads to a number of attractions without really distinguishing itself as an attraction in its own right. But after spending a couple days there, we’ve discovered there’s lots to do in Mitchell!

Queensland farmland around Roma, November 2010
The highway between Roma and Mitchell was bordered with huge, flat farms.

We pulled up at the town’s central park — having spied a generic playground — and let the girls out for a play. It was then that Mitchell first started to surprise me. Adjacent to the play area was a display of old machinery. A huge locomotive and ancient tractor were accessible for the children, even inviting them to climb up. David had almost as much fun as the girls at playing on the locomotive.

Locomotive at Mitchell, November 2010
This old steam locomotive was made in Illinois and originally ran on Queensland's extensive rail network.

Delaney at Mitchell, November 2010
Delaney always enjoys an opportunity to crawl around after our trips on the road.

At Mitchell, November 2010

Playing on the locomotive at Mitchell, November 2010

Locomotive at Mitchell, November 2010

Calista on the locomotive, November 2010

We spent the night near a railway line on the outskirts of town. This was the first time that we have camped “incognito” on this trip, and the location wasn’t spectacular.

Our parking spot outside Mitchell, November 2010
We spent the night just off the main highway outside Mitchell, but it was still a very quiet spot. We regretted the location in the morning when we realised that we had parked on Bindi Central, and everything that touched the ground was soon covered with these horrible spiny seeds.

In the morning, we returned to the main park for another play and to do some housekeeping — washing dishes and tidying up. (It seems that if we don’t stay on top of the boring housekeeping every single day then the truck and trailer dissolve into a big pile of junk where you can never find what you need!)

Rubbish bin at Mitchell, Qld, November 2010
The public rubbish bins throughout Mitchell are in this design, which reminds me of the Easter Island statues.

Our next stop was next to the river. We browsed through a historical museum. The museum was actually closed to visitors, but it was open today simply because the caretakers had organised a working bee among the volunteers. So we received a guided tour and got to experience some of the exhibits that are normally off-limits!

We followed a concrete pathway that promised a river walk, only to find that the footbridge across the Maranoa River had been dismantled long ago. Never mind. Wild mulberry trees growing along the path provided an exciting focal point, especially for Brioni who has declared mulberries to be her favourite fruit!

Picking mulberries, November 2010
Brioni was the Mulberry Queen. She climbed up high to get them, and kept asking if she could return to the tree.

Enjoying mulberries, November 2010
Purple fingers (and stains on clothes) are a sure sign of mulberry enjoyment!

David took the three older girls to play in the river while I looked after Delaney. Dell is still napping in the morning, and so that means that I’m often stuck at camp while the other kids and David play away. I don’t mind so much — sometimes I use the time to write, other times to just tidy up camp.

David playing with the girls at the Maranoa River, November 2010
The girls can never resist an opportunity to go for a swim, and the highway bridge (narrow as it may be) provided some lovely shade for their play in the water!

Bridge over the Maranoa River at Mitchell, November 2010
A local artist has decorated the bridge supports with interesting murals depicting local activities — both past and present.

In the early afternoon, the Great Artesian Spa was open for business (it keeps bizarre operating hours — if you’re planning a visit, research it in advance), so we toddled up the street, towels in hand. The Great Artesian Spa is resourced by groundwater surging up from the Great Artesian Basin. The water is naturally heated, and the spa complex maintains two small pools.

One is at 39°C and the other is at 27°C. It also operates a swimming pool for the local residents with a small water park to amuse the little kids. We enjoyed our time in the two spa baths. We moved between the hot and cool pools frequently, and the girls entered into elaborate fantasy games (as they do almost everywhere), amusing the other spa-goers.

At the Great Artesian Spa, Mitchell, November 2010
The water was a lovely temperature to swim in.

At the Great Artesian Spa, Mitchell, November 2010
Delaney really enjoyed her time in the water. I think we'll make a water-baby of her too!

At the Great Artesian Spa, Mitchell, November 2010
Calista enjoyed the opportunity to play freely in water where she could see the bottom (so she didn't go over her depth)!

At the Great Artesian Spa, Mitchell, November 2010
The hot spa has an old-fashioned bore spout to add character to the pool.

At the Great Artesian Spa, Mitchell, November 2010
I enjoyed the chance to relax in the warm water and chat with some local ladies.

At the Great Artesian Spa, Mitchell, November 2010
The exterior walls of the spa complex are decorated with lead-lighting. The spa fronts the main highway, so it should be easy to find except that the signs are so small — we almost missed it!

As the sun set, David built a fire under the bridge, close to where he had been swimming with the girls, and he cooked a fabulous dinner on a frying pan. It was a lovely location — the driftwood from a previous flood provided good fuel for the fire, and the girls declared their meal to be “DE-licious”!

Cooking by the Maranoa, Mitchell, Qld, November 2010
Our little campfire was by the Maranoa River where David had played with the girls earlier in the day.

We stayed the night in our spot on the edge of town, adjacent to the main bridge over the Maranoa and under the shade of a bottle tree. I prefer camping in more remote spots because we can leave the doors open, but camping in the town is a good option when all the other activities are close-by.

Camping at Mitchell, November 2010
Our second night in Mitchell was spent under this bottle tree just near the bridge. Even though it was on the highway, there's very little traffic so we weren't disturbed.

Before we drove away from Mitchell, we drove out west to the town weir. In Australia, a weir is a dam that includes a spillway. The water wasn’t running over the weir, and so we drove down the base of the spillway and climbed up for a swim.

At Neil Turner's Weir, Mitchell, Qld, November 2010
Of all the crazy places we park the truck, this has got to be one of the best. We backed up a dirt track to get as close to the bottom of the weir as possible.

Neil Turner's Weir, Mitchell, Qld, November 2010
We didn't tell the girls where we were and let them discover the water at the top of the weir for themselves.

At Neil Turner's Weir, Mitchell, Qld, November 2010
Yay, they found the water!

At Neil Turner's Weir, Mitchell, Qld, November 2010
The weir sloped down gently, providing easy access for swimming.

Swimming at Neil Turner's Weir, Mitchell, Qld, November 2010
David loved joining the older girls in the water.

Neil Turner Weir, Mitchell, Qld, November 2010
It was a beautiful day to be swimming.

Calista and Dell napped in the truck, so I stayed pretty close to the vehicles while David swam with the older girls. The park that is attached to the Neil Turner Weir is set up as a casual camping spot, and we counted half a dozen camper-vans and caravans in the car parks. If we were to spend more time in Mitchell, this would definitely be the place to stay!