It takes a bit of effort, but the trip to Kroombit Tops to see the wreckage of the WW2 Liberator bomber ‘Beautiful Betsy’ is definitely worth the drive.
For the lowdown on how, and how long it takes, to get to Kroombit Tops Lookout and Beautiful Betsy, click on this link.
Note: if you’re careful, and the road is dry, you could get a 2WD SUV (e.g.: RAV 4 or X-Trail) to the lookout at the top of the range, but you will need a 4WD with good ground clearance to get to the wreck site.
Betsy went missing in February 1945, but where it crashed remained a mystery until 1994 until a park ranger stumbled across the debris and remains of the eight airmen in the isolated bush.
Since then, many residents in, and around, the Gladstone Region have made the pilgrimage up the range to view the site. It’s been on my parent’s bucket list for some time, so we piled into a pair of 4WD’s and set off to see it.
To get to Kroombit Tops we simply turned onto Tablelands Road and followed it all the way to the top of the range.
We did make one small detour, turning right at Bundawilla Road and following the track for 5klms to see the Fairy Springs. The large, deep pools were stagnant at the time of our visit (March 2019) but this would be an amazing camping/swimming spot after a good flush out.
Kroombit Tops Range
As we climbed through the ‘high country’ we crossed several large, grassy pastures sprinkled liberally with bovines. We quickly discovered these free roaming cows have absolutely no road sense at all.
The farms petered out as the gradient increased and climbing up the range, we passed a few sheer drop-offs that would have stained the undies of the Man from Snowy River. But the views of the surrounding hills, valleys and mountains were amazing.
It would have been a hell of a job building the road to the top too. Note: the section of road on the steeper section of the range was covered in bitumen.
Kroombit Tops Lookout
Speaking of engineering feats, I don’t know who built the lookout deck hanging over the edge of the cliff face, but they must have had nerves of steel to dangle over that drop-off to cable tie the support beams together.
Anyway, on a clear day, which it was when we visited, the view over the Boyne Valley to Awoonga Dam is spectacular. The small signs on the lookout were also very informative.
Note: there were toilets near the lookout, but they’d been visited beforehand by someone with extremely questionable hygiene.
Getting to ‘Beautiful Betsy’
From the lookout we headed back along the track to the turn-off to the bomber site.
It’s a 20klm drive and, initially, the road isn’t too bad, but it does get much rougher, rockier and washed out. As you near the crash site there are a couple of steep inclines dotted with huge gibbers which had to be carefully navigated around.
We were surprised to discover some sections of the track were covered in deep layers of sand. If, by some miracle, you were able to make it this far in a 2WD, you wouldn’t be going any further.
The route is well signed and, after clambering up the slatted timber entrance, we entered the crash site carpark.
At this point the people who refused to use the filthy toilet at the lookout lurched into the scrub for a few minutes.
‘Beautiful Betsy’ Wreck Site
I don’t know how many teams of workers, volunteers (or convicts), it took to create the 400-metre path around the crash site, but they did an excellent job.
While my elderly parents were able to negotiate the track and the stairs with minimal help, it would be pretty tricky if you were on crutches and almost impossible if you were in a wheelchair.
Around us in nearly every direction are bits of the bomber. The biggest section is the tail which is mostly intact, but upside down. The rest of the plane, which didn’t disintegrate in the crash or burn afterwards, is scattered over a large area around us.
A surprising distance away from the impact zone are the four, fourteen-cylinder engines which must have torn loose from the wings and ripped their way up the hillside through the scrub.
The surrounding bush has the feel of a holy place. Even the people stubbing their toes on the odd sapling stump sticking out of the path were swearing in a subdued manner.
As we gazed about the wreckage it became fairly evident that the poor men aboard that fateful night wouldn’t have felt a thing in the end.
In a sombre frame of mind, we returned to the carpark.
Note: disrespectful souvenir pilferers will be prosecuted, or possibly beaten to a pulp by passing strangers if spotted.
We followed the signed one-way track back to Kroombit Tops which leads to the next attraction ‘The Wall’.
We nearly hit the wall getting to The Wall. Several times at least one of our vehicles wheels was dangling in mid-air as we negotiated the rough track.
According to my calculations (taken when I wasn’t sliding across the roof lining) it took us 12 minutes to travel one kilometre.
‘The Wall’ is a cliff face of rock, at the foot of which is a large, shady, grassy camping area. It was a pretty impressive spot so we stopped for lunch, and a bit of a potter around.
If the creek had been full of water (or had any water in it at all) it would have been the perfect place to spend the weekend.
Back on the track
The road leading out of The Wall is a tad rough, for a very long time.
On the bright side, when you aren’t being slammed into the doorpost, or dashboard, the view through the trees is amazing.
We did stop at one clearing where there were several large, flat rocks on which we perched for photos and to take in the views of the valley below.
To avoid your name on a cross becoming a future attraction of the Kroombit Tops experience, avoid going too close to the edge.
Griffith Creek camping area
We returned to the intersection of Tablelands Road, made our way back down the range and pulled into the Griffiths Creek camping area for a bit of a look around. Again, if there had been water in the creek this would be an excellent place to spend a few days.
There were no toilets either, so it was back into the shrubbery for bladdery relief.
A few kilometres down the track we passed the Ranger’s hut which did have toilets behind it, but the place looked deserted so we didn’t stop to see if they were locked; or clean.
All up, including rest stops, gawping time and lunch breaks it took us nearly eight and a half hours to cover the 190klms circuit from the Calliope crossroads.
Finally, here are my Top Tips for an enjoyable trip to Kroombit Tops:
- The best time to go is in the cooler months.
- Don’t go if it’s raining, is about to rain or has just rained. You may get up there, but getting back could be a bit tricky.
- Take plenty of water (and possibly a portable toilet).
- Leave the place as you found it.