Lake Awoonga is one of the best places for fishing in Central Queensland. KRYSTEN BOOTH reflects on a pleasant night on the water, despite all not going to plan.

It’s fair to say that when it comes to boating I’m no Christopher Columbus, but getting lost on a dam is ridiculous. Lost we were, though, in a tinnie on Lake Awoonga at three in the morning.

It all started out so well. Eight hours earlier a crew of seven piled aboard the houseboat which would be our floating shelter for the next few days. Steaming off into a golden winter sunset, the lake held promise of peace, quiet and, most importantly, barramundi. The boat held the other important ingredients – playing cards, a CD player, beer and enough food to sink a ship (fortunately we were on a boat). Crucially there was also enough fishing gear to make Rex Hunt blush.

With the evening closing in the throttle was pushed forward and we motored on to find a spot to drop anchor for the night. After a barbecue on the top deck and a few drinks we were ready to justify this trip which forced seven adults to sleep in a room not much bigger than a London bathroom – it was time to fish.

With temperatures dropping on the lake, some made the sensible decision to enjoy a board game while the foolhardy decided the cumbersome proportions of the house boat would hamper any attempts to land a big barra. “To the tinnie,” it was decided. The next few hours went decidedly fast, despite the fact that the fish had obviously downed tools for the day and were enjoying a quiet Friday night in. Instead, we used the time to enjoy the lake under a full moon – perfect for the navigationally challenged.

Lake Awoonga is about 20 minutes from the port city of Gladstone, in central Queensland. Its biggest attraction for visitors is the fishing. It’s one of the few places where barramundi can legally be caught all year round because it’s not a natural breeding environment. The fish are introduced as fingerlings and don’t breed in the fresh water. But they do grow – the largest caught so far in the man-made dam weighed in at a touch under 30kg – and make for good fighting and, more importantly, good eating.

For big fish they proved decidedly difficult to find on our trip, but as we drifted aimlessly across the lake in the early hours of the morning our focus turned from what was supposedly below the surface of the water to the pea-soup fog above it. And that’s how you get lost on a lake.

For the next two hours we were forced to zigzag across the lake in search of the mother boat. Thankfully the weather gods reappeared to lift the fog and restore our sense of direction. Unfortunately, the fishing gods weren’t so kind. But on a dam where the company’s good, the weather’s fine and the sunset’s stunning, the fish could go and get lost too for all we cared. •

• Krysten Booth travelled to Australia with Global Village (0870-442 4848. Flights to Brisbane start at £751.

• For more information on hiring a houseboat on Lake Awoonga see +61-7-4975 0155.

Other highlights of central Queensland
1770/Agnes Water
These twin beach towns have recently hit the discovered” list. OK, Captain Cook spotted them 237 years ago, but until recently Agnes Water and the Town of 1770 have been disregarded by tourists and weekend warriors who found the five-hour drive from Brisbane too much. But with coastal property booming in Australia, new resorts are springing up in the area.

The arguments end here – Rockhampton is the Beef Capital of Australia. It hardly sounds like a good reason to visit, cracking steaks aside, but a trip to the Great Western Hotel is excellent. The pub, owned by country musician Lee Kernaghan, regularly hosts top-quality rodeos in the undercover purpose-built arena at the back of the pub. With seating for more than a 1000 people it turns a night at the pub into a lot of fun as cowboys get pummelled by beasts with names like Brutus and Chainsaw.

Great Keppel Island
A 30-minute boat ride from Yeppoon, Keppel is a beautiful island which doesn’t attract the kudos of its northern Whitsunday cousins. But that shouldn’t bother anyone who enjoys swimming in picture-perfect water and lazing on golden white beaches. For a number of years the main resort was owned by Contiki who turned it into a party destination but, now under the helm of the Mercure chain, it’s a more sedate affair. Other accommodation options available on the island include camping and a hostel.”