The Gordon family has been sharing its scenic cattle station with campers for the past 40 years.

Story and photos Ricky French

Gordon Country is a cattle station at the head of the fertile Goomburra Valley in the Darling Downs, two hours’ drive west of Brisbane. The valley nuzzles up to the western rim of Main Range National Park, which rears up steeply behind the 1620-hectare property. The spectacular rainforest-clad remnants of an ancient volcano dominate the view on the drive in from the populated east coast. The road climbs sharply to 1168 metres over Cunninghams Gap, then slides gently west towards Warwick. Crossing the range on the approach to Gordon Country is like entering another world, the city safely partitioned away, the promise of an escape beckoning. It’s the freedom and peacefulness of the property that has kept families coming back time and time again since the gates were first opened to campers more than 40 years ago. 

Sam and Sarah Campbell welcome new arrivals at the office, set among towering river gums and the coiling Dalrymple Creek. Sarah’s parents Ian and Sue Gordon are passing on the baton after guiding the station through its biggest transition in the Gordon family’s 156-year custodianship of the land. The decision to bring tourism onto the farm came out of necessity during the cattle price slump of the early 1970s. “You couldn’t get 50 cents a head,” Ian says. “I shot nearly 100 calves. It was terrible.” 

But the Gordons never considered leaving. Ian went contract fencing to make ends meet, and before long more and more campers were rolling in through the gates to claim a piece of temporary real estate by the creek. “We were one of the first stations to introduce station stays,” Sue says. “It worked because it’s just so pretty here. I was from the city and had never seen anything so lovely when I first arrived.” 

Even RM Williams himself was impressed, describing the Goomburra Valley as “simply one of the most beautiful valleys in Queensland”. He would often come up to go riding, and Ian remembers on one occasion going to his aid when his horse was struck down by stinging nettles high in the hills.

Camping areas on Gordon Country extend over seven kilometres along both Dalrymple and Banshee creeks – an enormous area that offers countless secluded spots. It’s still largely free of infrastructure and retains the classic Australian bush-camping feel. Campers are welcome to bring dogs and horses, collect firewood and explore at will. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #116

Outback Magazine: December/January 2018