Updated: Sep 12, 2022
Located on the Capricorn Coast is Byfield, about an hour’s drive north of Rockhampton. It’s claimed to be the start of the largest undeveloped area on the central Queensland coast, and with its massive amount of plantation pine forests, rugged mountains and huge acres of low growing heathlands covering countless sand dunes, it’s not hard to see why.
Getting too Byfield is as easy as heading north along Byfield Road from Yeppoon, through lush Queensland farmlands where Mango, Pandanus and Pineapple plantations flourish in the rich volcanic soil, where rugged pinnacles and the coastal range shadows the gullies below.
Mount Ganter, Maryvale, Bayfield, Castle Rock and Rocky Perch are significant landmarks that you can’t miss as you head further into Byfield. A recommended option before you head into the State Forest or National Park is to drop into the Byfield store for last minute supplies, a wonderful coffee or some local knowledge for any current warnings, as they generally have their finger on the pulse.
Byfield State Forest covers an estimated 25,000 hectares with a diverse range of pine plantation which is logged commercially, it has large areas of Wallum swamplands along with side pockets of stunning rainforest areas. Sections of the forest are regularly shut for harvesting but they are well sign posted as no entry.
The great thing about Byfield are the activities for the tourists and locals where camping is permitted at several places, Upper Stoney on the banks of Stoney Creek where swimming is a welcome relief when the days are hot and steamy.
Across at Red Rock, the camping areas are huge with large grassy sites, plenty of tall trees offer shade and dogs are allowed if kept on their lead. Water Park Creek is another great camping spot where you can swim, explore surrounding areas on the walking trails and even have a quiet fish.
With the abundant water beside the camp, kingfishers, doves and other birds often call this haven home. Then there’s 9 mile beach camping. Where if waking up to the sounds of waves crashing on the sand is your thing - there's 4 different camp areas.
Byfield also has two farm stays which are the Ferns Hideaway and Forest Fields campground. Forest fields was my go to this time where there’s up to 20 free range sites amongst an old citrus orchard. Fires and dogs are allowed plus they have bush showers and proper flushing toilets. It’s a peaceful place where the Wompoo Pigeon nest, there’s possums at night plus other tropical animals in the dense rich rainforest surrounding the farm.
The Byfield State Forest is used for other recreational activities like bushwalking, off-roading, fishing and mountain bike riding. A little fact for this area is that the local Byfield Fern is harvested commercially for sale at local florists.
To the east there’s Byfield National Park, which is next level exploring where you need to be self sufficient, be 4wd-aware and savvy if exploring solo. Listen to local warnings on the radio and from the Byfield shop, also be aware this really isn’t camper trailer or caravan-friendly getting to the coast.
As you head out from Byfield along Waterpark Rd then onto Stockyard Point Track towards the coast, there’s beautiful pockets of ancient Cycads, the colourful Byfield Red Grevillea all under tall gums. The road in is often compared to tracks like at Cape York; narrow and rough with several deep creek crossings before you hit the sand tracks.
Designated areas recommend you lower tyre pressures because the sand is extremely soft and with around 60km of trails within the Byfield northern end, this reduces damage to the trails, gives you better traction and also allows for better control of your vehicle.
It’s an amazing journey as you hit the sand tracks where the sand is stark white to the point you need to wear sunnies and often there are dingo prints in the sand along the road, and when you crest over some of the higher hills the views are simply stunning across the vast vegetation.
As you get closer to the coast, Big Sandy appears before you. This massive sand dune has to be attempted with respect. It’s a long 1km uphill run in your 4wd, and if you have the wrong tyre pressure you’ll need to reverse back down and start again. This is the last major obstacle before hitting Nine Mile Beach and your designated campsite, which must be pre-booked online before you arrive.
Nine Mile Beach is just that. Nine miles of unbelievable beach driving. Just a caution though: there are four metre tides up here so you need to know what the water is doing at any time. One way in and way way out. There are four campsites along the beach, each with their own special quality. Some have views down to the open water, some have dune walks and at others you can watch the sun set behind you over the mountains. There are no toilets or fresh water, so you need to be totally self sufficient and adhere to the rules of the park.
For the adventurous, a great test of your driving skills is to head the very northern end to Five Rocks Beach down the Death Valley Track. Getting here is as easy as heading back off the beach, down Big Sandy and then follow the signs to Five Rocks.
A trip to Byfield isn’t complete until you head out to Stockyard Point where the views are some of the best along the QLD coastline and westward back towards the ruggered mountains overlooking Byfield.
A little surprise in here are the fishing shacks that a few lucky locals have for their own little getaways. Don’t expect to find any shops or fuel in here – often you won’t even see a local but they may see you. The track down onto Five Rocks Beach is aptly named the Death Valley Track. It’s extremely narrow, the trees touch the roof and the sides of your 4wd, it can be very soft and rutted after heavy use.
But once you get down to the beach it is simply stunning, with views to Five Rocks (yes there really are five rocks ) and north up the coast. Queensland’s NPWS go to great lengths in this area with weed control, 4wd traction ramps on significant fragile areas and intersection numbers on tracks that criss cross each other.
Working with the local Durmbal people they maintain the park to high standards. There are a host of walking trails for those who like a sense of adventure, from 30-minute walks to overnight trails that have walk-in-only campsites south at Corio Bay.
But this park doesn’t come without it’s handful of dangers. Being in the north Queensland region, be wary of signs that highlight dangers. These may include crocodiles, dingoes, bullrouts, weather conditions, tides and current sand drifts. Any current warnings can be found online at www.npsr.qld.gov.au, Byfield store or by speaking to a ranger in the area. This is one destination that you’ll want to go back for more, as one trip is never enough.
Byfield is located an hour north from Rockhampton on QLD’s mid north coast. There are two sections to the park being intersected by Byfield Road. To the west there is Byfield State Forest where controlled logging operations take place year round in the Pine Plantations. To the east there is Byfield NP which is predominantly sand driving along coastal track exploring the coast.
There are a plethora of camp sites to choice from depending on your setup. In Byfield SF there is Upper Stoney Creek campground right on Stoney Creek which is beautiful and peaceful plus the swimming is great in the large waterholes. Across in the NP, there’s Red Rock campground in amongst large gums, up the road at the Water park camp theres access to another local creek for a dip. If beach camping is your thing, head down onto 9 mile beach to the allocated areas. Right in the heart of Byfield there’s a couple of beautiful farm stays including Forest Fields and Ferns Hideaway.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Byfield is all about nature, wether it be coastal views, hiking, birdwatching or just relaxing this place seems to have it all. The 4wd tracks on the western side of Byfield Road are relatively easy through the pine plantations, but on the eastern side of the road you’ll need some experience through the sandy tracks to navigate your way to the coast.
OTHER RELEVANT INFO
For all camping info wether it be for booking or park alerts head across to www.parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/byfield or pop into the Byfield shop to top up with fuel, grab a feed or a coffee and have a chat about what’s happening in the area with the workers there. The farm stays have their own websites that you can book online or call, these are a great base with facilities to explore the area.