BEAT THE HEAT: 15 of Gladstone and CQ's best swimming holes
NATURAL or man-made, there's plenty of beautiful watering holes to cool down across the Gladstone Region and Central Queensland.
Pump up the inflatables and head down to Lake Awoonga, or jump in the car to discover the hidden Stony Creek waterfall at Byfield National Park.
Some spots may have dried up in the winter months, but welcome rainfall has others crystal clear and inviting.
Here are some of our favourite swimming spots across the region, from right here in Gladstone's city centre down to Blackmans Gap, and as far west as Emerald.
1. Lake Awoonga
Gladstone's most popular swimming spot is well-known for a reason.
Just 30 minutes outside the city centre, you and your family can spend the entire day there, with plenty of shade, barbecues and a playground to keep the kids occupied.
Cruise around in a kayak, a stand-up paddle board, or one of the boats to hire - or just go for a dip in the freshwater dam.
2. East Shores
The revitalised East Shores precinct is fast becoming one of Gladstone's favourite attractions.
Let the youngsters run wild in the water park while you relax in the shade.
3. South End, Curtis Island
There's more to Curtis Island than LNG plants - why not take the opportunity to see for yourself this week?
On the opposite side of the island you'll find a haven for swimming, camping and turtle watching, with miles of sandy beaches and turquoise waters.
There's also plenty of opportunities for birdwatching and bushwalking, and you can always grab a meal and cold drink from Capricorn Lodge.
To get there: Catch the Curtis Ferry Services ferry (vehicles permitted) or arrive by private vessel.
4. Blackmans Gap
This picturesque spot is something different to the beaches and lakes in the Gladstone Region.
Blackmans Gap is a picturesque rock pool/water hole located near the Boyne Valley, and is a beautiful place to spend a day - just check out #blackmansgap on Instagram for proof.
To get there: Turn onto Blackmans Gap Rd off Gladstone Monto Rd. It will take you down a dirt track, which you should follow until you see an area to your left for parking.
There will be a running creek near the car park - walk along the dirt track and rocks until you find the waterhole.
5. Boynedale Bush Camp
Boynedale Bush Camp is off Gladstone Monto Rd, about 26km south of Calliope.
This free camping spot on Lake Awoonga is the optimal family escape, with swimming, boating and all popular recreational activities available.
This one is a favourite with the locals.
To get there: Look for the signed turnoff to the east on Gladstone Monto Rd, then follow the unsealed road about 2km to the campground.
6. Tannum Sands beach
A great place to go for a dip - but don't forget to bring your thongs as the sand gets mighty hot at midday.
7. Stony Creek
North of Gladstone, one of the Rockhampton region's most well-known fresh water swimming holes is Stony Creek in the Byfield National Park.
Upper Stony Creek has pristine swimming and a large open campground, set amongst a eucalypt and pine forest, right near the creek. Fees for camping apply.
There is a short (1km) walk along Stony Creek which is fairly easy and suitable for kids. There is a nice little swimming hole at Freeman's Crossing.
If you're feeling adventurous, take the extra step and ask the locals how to find Byfield's hidden waterfall.
8. Fairy Bower
Located at the Scrubby Creek Bridge on Fairy Bower Rd (just outside Rockhampton) is a lovely freshwater swimming hole.
The popular swimming spot includes a rope swing.
To get there: Turn off the Capricorn Hwy onto Fairy Bower Rd until you reach the bridge.
9. Springers Lagoon Creek
Local natural waterhole Springers Lagoon at Gracemere is as a popular site for swimming, fishing and family barbecues.
To get there: Turn off Gavial Gracemere Rd onto Sullivan Rd and follow it to the end.
10. First Turkey
Another popular swimming hole near Rockhampton is at First Turkey in the Mt Archer National Park.
The swimming hole is part of Moores Creek on the Zamia track. To get there, head up Sunset Drive in Norman Gardens, turn right onto the bush track and follow it until you reach the swimming hole.
The swimming hole is best after decent rainfall, once the creek has stopped rushing.
11. Mt Morgan Big Dam
The 'Big Dam' at Mt Morgan is a very popular spot for swimming, picnicking, BBQing and even kayaking.
There's a huge playground, plenty of under cover seating and there are two toilets blocks available.
To get there: Head up Byrnes Parade, Mount Morgan.
12. Rainbow Falls, Blackdown Tableland
A backdrop to mining town, Blackwater, this spectacular national park rises above the surrounding dry plains and is home to breathtaking waterfalls.
Rainbow Falls cascade into a beautiful swimming hole, guaranteed to cool you down no matter how hot.
Bring some water and pack a lunch for a day trip, or make a weekend of it camping at the nationl park.
To get there: Blackdown Tableland National Park is 183 km west of Rockhampton. The signed turn-off on the Capricorn Highway is 11 km west of Dingo or 110 km east of Emerald (35 km east of Blackwater).
13. Fairbairn Dam, Lake Maraboon in Emerald
Popular with fishers, this is also a perfect spot for the kids to cool off.
The man-made lake is three times the size of Sydney Harbour and perfect for taking the boat out, water sports or just taking a dip.
BBQ facilities are on site, or head up to the Lake Maraboon Holiday Village for the local specialty - Red Claw.
To get there: Follow Selma Rd for 18km until you reach Fairbairn Dam and Lake Maraboon. From Springsure, head north on the Gregory Highway (A7) for 50km then turn left onto Selma Rd. Follow Selma Rd for 9km until you reach Fairbairn Dam and Lake Maraboon.
Head down Slema Rd, Emerald. Suitable for 2WD vehicles.
14. Bedford Weir, near Blackwater
Large grassy camping areas skirt around the Bedford Weir about 25km north of Blackwater.
There are plenty of facilities to get on the water in a boat or canoe, cast a line or take a dip in the nearby lake.
This is the perfect spot for a stopover if you are heading out west, with free camping and facilities on site.
To get there: About 25km north of Blackwater, QLD on the Blackwater Cooroorah Rd.
From Emerald, head east on the the Capricorn Hwy for 73km and take a left just before Blackwater.
15. Bundoora Dam, Middlemount
Blink and you might miss Bundoora Dam, located about 28km south-west of Middlemount and nearby Dysart, Tieri and Capella.
The man-made dam was constructed on German Creek and is an ideal spot for swimming and water skiing.
If you're more inclined to recline, drag out the camp chars and park up in the shallow shore line.
Bring your camping gear to make a weekend of it, and be sure to pack the rod for a shot at snagging a saratoga, golden, perch, ell-tail catfish, sleepy cod, spangled perch and redclaw crayfish.
A 6 knot speed limit applies to boats.
No bookings or 4WD necessary.
To get there: Follow the Connection Rd, Middlemount across the train tracks.