Normanton is the type of place where you can pull up with a flask old school-style by the side of the road, says Amanda from the Gulfland Motel and Caravan Park and Gulfland Helicopter Tours.
Here, you can find adventures on your terms: “Creek crossings, drop off and tracks off the side of the road—there’s a wetland with a lot of bird life, stuff like that.”
Even on the main straight from Normanton and Karumba.
“If you drive real slow you’ll pass what we call the nursery for the crocs, you can see them sunning themselves by the side of the road.”
It’s classic Gulf Country adventure.
GULFLAND HELICOPTER TOURS AND HELIFISHING
The breath of the Norman River water system is jaw-dropping from above. Amanda’s partner Kris can take you up in a helicopter a short stroll from camp.
“You get more of an appreciation [in the air]. It is so dry and so arid, you can see the salt flats and all the tributaries,” Amanda explains.
“We don’t have the two tides.”
Normanton Railway and Krys the Croc are two local draw cards but news of the Gulfland Helicopter flights and Helifishing tours is getting around. Increasingly, Amanda’s hearing the word ‘bucket-list’, thrown around.
“We have kept our prices very lean.
“Because our market is grey nomads, they are watching their dollar,” Amanda explains.
“It’s about creating another interest in the town. If you stay another night, maybe you’ll have a meal up in town. It’s a domino affect.”
- Catch Dereck Quinn’s experience helifishing experience at Gulfland in What’s Up Downunder magazine
“My partner has been in the helicopter industry for many years. He knows a lot about the Gulf itself and—and he wanted to share his knowledge,” says Amanda.
The tours provide unique insight into monumental moments in Australia’s recent history.
“Kris will show you where the floods reached in 1974 and again in 2019.
“He can point out Burke and Wills’ last camp—‘that’s as far as Burke got’.”
From the air, the lessons are heartbreaking.
“The poor buggers were so close. They had no idea.”
For some, the rides are life changing.
“Some guests are terrified to fly but it is something they want to do,” Amanda explains.
One guest awaiting a repair would watch Kris fly in and fly out everyday.
“She was absolutely freaked out by it but I could tell she was interested. She kept asking about it. I said to her, ‘Come on, give it ago’.
“So she talked to Kris, he said ‘we’ll just see how you go, we can always come down if it is too much—just don’t grab onto my arm.’
Kris talked her through the whole way.
“By the end of it she was so excited. If you can imagine this 65-year-old woman skipping around.
“Sometimes, it takes that personal approach. People really appreciate it.”
CAMPING UP AT GULFLAND MOTEL AND CARAVAN PARK
There’s something deliciously cruisy about starting your day with an on-site attraction.
The helipad is a lazy stroll from camp. What’s more, there’s an air-conditioned restaurant on-site if you want to take the afternoon slow.
And a pool on-site, of course.
“We have plans of doing that up, once it quiet downs this year.”
The campsites themselves are quite spacious, all have power, sullage and are connected to towns water. Amanda and Kris make a real effort to care for the trees so that the sites are shaded.
“We keep them watered and look after our roads.
“We are more rustic. Not a lot of modern stuff. A good sense of humour with our toilet block.
“But that’s Normanton.”
- Check out the Gulfland Motel and Caravan Park