Longreach, Outback Queensland

Longreach is known as the ‘Heart of the Outback’ or ‘Gateway to the Outback’. This great little town is home to approximately 3000 people and is located in the central west region of Queensland – about 700 km inland from Rockhampton.

The first pastoral lease in Longreach was granted in 1863 and was called ‘Bowen Downs’. Some may recognize that name …. only a few years later it became the site of the most infamous cattle theft in Australia. It was from here that Harry Redford (Captain Starlight) decided to steal 1,000 head of cattle and muster them down towards South Australia. We did mention a little of Captain Starlight’s story in one of our recent blog posts

Longreach was very big in the wool industry and back in the 1950’s it was a very wealthy area due to this. Nowadays, although wool producers still exist, Longreach is now heavily involved in the beef cattle industry.

The Thomson River is found just outside the town and is a great spot for camping, fishing and boating and is home to many fish and birds. Not only is this river a popular spot for Longreach locals and tourists alike, it is a pretty special river in it’s own right. You see, the Thomson River eventually meets with the Barcoo River where they join to form Cooper Creek. This is the only place in the world where two rivers meet to form a creek!

Longreach was officially gazetted in 1887 and was actually named after the founder could not believe how long the reach of the Thomson River was!

There is plenty to do in and around Longreach and below we’ve detailed a few of the places we visited during our short stop over this time.


STARLIGHT’S CRUISE EXPERIENCE (by Outback Pioneers)

This appears to be a very popular cruise and we can see why, it was great!

Our night started when we were picked up from our van park at 4.30 pm and driven by coach down to the river, along the way we were given commentary and information about the town and it’s history. After arriving you are escorted to down to the river to board the Thomson Belle Paddlewheeler (we were actually on the Thomson Princess Riverboat, which was still great. They use both boats when the groups are large).

The cruise itself goes for about 1 hour and includes nibble platters, great commentary and lots of laughs (and it’s BYO so you can enjoy a few drinks too). After watching the sunset, we then headed ashore for some bush poetry which was great. The first poem in particular, about the light horses was quite emotional. This was followed by a traditional stockman’s camp-fire dinner of beef stew and mash, followed by apple pie and custard.

After dinner we all headed back down towards the river to watch the sound and light show which explained the story and adventures of the notorious cattle thief Harry Redford, also known as ‘Captain Starlight’.

We then finished the night with billy tea and damper around the fire, raising of the flag and singing the national anthem, before being dropped off back at camp about 8.30pm.

This is one of those real outback experiences, full of great hospitality, information and yarns. It’s run by the Kinnon family, who are a local family of graziers who have moved into the tourism business as well. The pride and the passion they have for their little town and the lives they live is well and truly alive throughout the night.

Highly recommended tour and next time we are in town we will definitely be booking into their Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience as well.

Contact
Telephone: 07 4658 1776
Email: reservations@outbackpioneers.com.au
Click Here for more information
The booking office is located next door to the Station Store in the historic ‘Welcome Home’ building at 128 Eagle Street, Longreach.

Cruise Details
Duration: 4 hours
Cost: $119 per adult (as at October 2019)
The price includes river cruise, nibbles, 2 course dinner around campfire, billy tea & damper, entertainment, Starlight’s Spectacular Sound and Light show, coach pick up and drop off from accommodation, BYO alcohol.


TROPIC OF CAPRICORN

The Tropic of Capricorn runs right through the centre of town in Longreach.

Location: Landsborough Highway, Longreach (outside the council chambers)


AUSTRALIAN STOCKMAN’S HALL OF FAME AND OUTBACK HERITAGE CENTRE

This centre was opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II. If you want to learn about outback life, our explorers and land owners and everything in between, this is the place to visit. Not only is the museum a great insight into Australia’s and outback Australia’s history, the building itself is amazing!

The Outback Stockman’s Show & Dinner also looks amazing and something we will do when we visit next …. always something else to add to the list!

Now while the museum is a must-do, the Australian Stockman’s Experience show is awesome! It’s run by a Stockman and between him and his animals we were guided through life on the land from years gone by to now. You hear his stories of life on the land first hand. It’s a fun, entertaining and informative hour long show that you cannot miss! The Australian Stockman’s Experience show is held most days at 11am.

Address: Landsborough Highway, Longreach
Phone: 07 4658 2166
Email: museum@stockmanshalloffame.com.au
Website: www.outbackheritage.com.au


QANTAS FOUNDERS OUTBACK MUSEUM

We visited the Qantas Founders Museum and did the tours during our last visit to Longreach so this time we just popped over for lunch and took a few quick pics from the car park! But this is a DEFINITE must to visit if you are in Longreach.

QANTAS (Queensland and Northern Territory Arial Service) is a name everyone knows, and even if you aren’t all that interested in planes, i’m sure you’ll find that you enjoy a visit to this place. It’s not hard to find, the big red tail of a decommissioned Boeing 747 jumbo jet can be seen from miles away and as you get up close you realise exactly how big these planes are, you are literally parking in the car park right next to a jumbo jet!

Of course entry fees apply to the museum and to undertake the different tours so make sure you arrive early or check online beforehand to work out what you want to see and do. You’ll not only learn all the history of this famous airline, but you’ll see plenty of old planes and displays, learn the secrets and obtain access to parts of the planes that you would never normally see.

Address: Sir Hudson Fysh Drive, Longreach
Phone:  (07) 4658 3737
Email: info@qfom.com.au
Website: www.qfom.com.au


Like we said, there are plenty of other things to do in the area, like a visit to the School of the Air, Powerhouse Museum, Cemetery tours, Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience, Harry Redford Old Time Tent Show, Captain Starlight’s Lookout, station tours.

Make sure you call into the information centre on Eagle Street to grab a tourist guide or ask them questions as they know where to get the deals and save on entry fees or buy combined passes for various attractions. This is generally our first stop in any new town. They are knowledgeable, they are locals and they know the area so go in and ask them questions, ask what there is to do in the time you have. At the end of the day, that’s what they are there for!

George hanging with the locals!

Yeah it was a short visit, but we had been there before so we don’t feel like we missed out on anything. We thoroughly enjoyed our 2 night stay at the Longreach Tourist Park (a much better experience than we had camping in Longreach last visit!). As it was a relatively last minute decision to visit Longreach we obviously didn’t pre-book and as it turns out, they were quite busy! We ended up camping in the overflow area of the park and to be honest, we thought it was better as we had more room!

As with many of these outback towns, Longreach know that how much the tourists bring to their town and they really do cater for that. You’ll even find dedicated caravan day parking areas where you can park your car with caravan attached while you go exploring.

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Winton, Outback Queensland

After leaving Boulia we said goodbye to Stewy and the kids as they headed back to Queensland and we also started off on our journey home. We had no plan, but we had about 6 days before we needed to be back in Sydney so we had a quick check of the maps and decided to headed off towards Winton.

After a week of no showers (thank god for baby wipes!) we decided to check into a hotel for the night and make good use of their shower and bed! We also took a night off cooking and headed to one of the local pubs, The Winton Hotel, for dinner.

The next morning we were up early to get in some exploring before the relatively short drive to Longreach, where we planned to spend 2 nights. We’ve visited both Winton and Longreach before, but it was nice to be back and spend a bit more time looking around.

If you ever find yourself in Winton, here are a few of the highlights for you to check out.

The North Gregory Hotel

Established in 1879, The North Gregory Hotel was reportedly the site of the first public performance of Australia’s unofficial national anthem, ‘Waltzing Matilda’, on 6th April 1895.

The original North Gregory Hotel was was pulled down in 1900 and rebuilt, only to burn down in 1916 and again in 1946. The building that stands now was built in 1955 and nowadays this hotel is not only a reminder of the past, but also a great place to eat, drink and sleep.

Located in the centre of town, this hotel provides hotel rooms and non-powered caravan sites.

Address: 67 Elderslie Street, Winton
Phone: 07 4657 0647


Qantas Airfield Commemorative Cairn

This location marks the site of the first landing ground of Qantas. When most people are asked where Qantas was born, they think Longreach, but it was in fact Winton. The local saying about Qantas is that it was conceived in Cloncurry, born in Winton and grew up in Longreach.

The Qantas story officially begins with it’s ‘birth’ in Winton on 16th November 1920, with the initial registration of the company. The Winton Shire Council was the first local authority in the world to support an airline, contributing financially to the purchase of the first landing field. The first Board Meeting was held at the Winton Club on 10th February 1921. There is a commemorative cairn in Elderslie St and also at the site of the landing field.

Price: Free!
Location: Located on Hughenden  Road, behind the Diamantina Heritage
Truck and Machinery Museum 


The Winton Club

On 10th February 1921 the first Qantas Board meeting was held here. We believe there is quite a range of Qantas memorabilia on display, but the club has never been open while we are there.

Location: 27 Oondooroo Street, Winton
Contact: wintonclub@hotmail.com


Jolly Swagman Statue

This statue is dedicated to Banjo Paterson, who wrote Waltzing Matilda. It’s also a tribute to the many swagmen who lie in unmarked graves across Australia.

Price: Free!
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton
(outside the pool at Barry Wilson Memorial Park) 


Musical Fence

This is a strange, yet fun!, place where you can ‘play’ musical instruments made from various everyday items. This is the worlds first musical fence!

Price: Free!
Location: Located on Hughenden  Road, behind the Diamantina Heritage
Truck and Machinery Museum 


 Banjo Paterson statue

A statue of Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson, who wrote Waltzing Matilda. Note: A fire destroyed the Waltzing Matilda Centre in June 2015 but the statue of Banjo Paterson was undamaged. The new centre re-opened in 2018. 

Price: Free!
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton
(located outside the Waltzing Matilda Centre)


Waltzing Matilda Centre

This is the first museum in the world dedicated to a song! This centre tells the story of our unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda.

Unfortunately the original Waltzing Matilda Centre was completely destroyed by fire in June 2015 and very little was able to be saved from the ashes. We did visit the original centre and it was great.

Price: $30 per adult, $10 per child (age 5-11) as at September 2019
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton


The Age of Dinosaurs Museum  

If you like Dinosaurs (and lets face it, who doesn’t!) then this museum is somewhere you need to visit. This is home to the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils in the world.

Years ago while out this way we visited Lark Quarry, the site of the world’s only known record of a dinosaur stampede, that was pretty cool! So this time we visited the The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum to learn a little more about these amazing prehistoric creatures.

We even got to touch a fossilised dinosaur bone, how awesome is that!

The tours are split into 3 sections, but we didn’t have time to see the Dinosaur Canyon, but we did join the guided tour of the Fossil Preparation Laboratory and the Collection Room. Great few hours and highly recommended to visit if in the area. If you are limited for time, just let them know when you arrive and they will happily work out which tours you can do.

The Fossil Preparation Laboratory shows you where palaeontologists expose the fossilised bones, you can actually see them working.

The Collection Room is where you’ll find the bones of ‘Banjo’ (Australovenator wintonensis). ‘Banjo’ is the most complete Australian carnivorous dinosaur ever discovered.

We didn’t visit the Dinosaur Canyon but this area is part of a dinosaur dig where bones are currently being found.

You can even book in to a ‘Dig-a-Dino’ experience where you take part in a real life dig for dinosaur bones. You live and work and learn onsite for 5 days. Definitely something we’d both be interested in taking part in at some point in the future.

Price: Prices vary depending on which tours you do. See website
Website: www.australianageofdinosaurs.com/
Location: Lot 1, Dinosaur Drive, Winton
Located about 25km from Winton. Turn off the Landsborough
Highway onto Dinosaur Drive (it’s well signposted). We were towing
the camper and there is plenty of room for parking.


There is plenty more to do around Winton, and there are some great pubs and eateries and bakeries. Another must visit (which we went to on our last visit and loved it) is the Diamantina Heritage Truck & Machinery Museum. This features many restored heritage trucks, tractors, machinery and memorabilia.

Boulia Camel Races

In all our years of travel we’ve never seen camel racing, we’ve seen camels running in the wild, we’ve ridden camels and we’ve visited camel farms, but never been to a racing meet. It’s something we’ve been trying to get to, but dates of events and other commitments just never seem to align. So when we found out the Boulia Camel Races were being held straight after the Big Red Bash we knew we had to visit.

Known as the Melbourne Cup of camel racing, the famous Boulia Camel Races is held annually on the third weekend in July and apparently attracts people from all over the world! Like Birdsville does at Big Red Bash and Birdsville Races time, the population of Boulia dramatically expands during the racing period. For a town of about 300 people, this can swell to 3000 during the 3 day racing carnival. Just think of the funds this puts back into the community and surrounding areas …… just take a look at the constant line up for fuel and you’ll see how much money is being put back in! Again, thank god for long range fuel tanks!

The party starts on the Friday night, with live entertainment until late into the evening. The racing starts on the Saturday morning and continues on all day, along with a bar, various stalls, food stands and entertainment. Saturday night is party night again with bands and fireworks. The racing starts again on Sunday morning and finishes with the main event, the “Boulia Camel Cup” in the early afternoon. The Boulia Camel Cup is the longest camel race in Australia, at 1500m long.

So what’s it like? …… well lets just say that camel racing is like horse racing in slow motion! But the camels are much more naughty and opinionated than horses! We saw a camel finish a race and try to break through into the crowd, one that wouldn’t let it’s jockey off, and one that turned around half way through the race and started heading in the wrong direction …. yep, it was pretty entertaining! And let me tell you, when you are standing there waiting for the camels and jockeys to walk the whole 1500m round to the starting line before the race even starts, this is a very long process! There is a lot of waiting for something to happen.

But you know what, once those camels start racing, you can’t help but get into it. Watching these huge creatures hurtling down the track, the commentator getting into it, the crowd yelling and cheering hoping to win some money, red dust flying everywhere, it’s actually pretty awesome …. Another thing ticked off the bucket list.

If you looked closely to the beginning of the video above, you may have noticed that the jockey was Nick ‘The Honey Badger‘ Cummins. We are not exactly sure why he was there, but he was racing in one of the races and competing in the camel tagging – and looking quite nice with his shirt off when Shelly saw him at camp in the morning!

I think we already knew what to expect as we’ve done so much travel and spent so much time in the outback, but for someone from the city this could be a bit of an eye opener, but also so much fun! There’s a lot of drinking and there’s a lot of Akubra hats (yep we fitted in well)!

Not only are there camel races, but plenty of other entertainment including yabby and novelty races, camel & sheep tagging competitions and nightly entertainment.

Camping is included at the racetrack as part of your ticket. There is plenty of land available to camp on. Many people camped right up towards the track and were quite crammed in, but we had plenty of space to ourselves, just meant a slightly longer walk to and from the track.

Like at Birdsville, the weather at night was still very cold, as were the mornings. It didn’t take too long to warm up in the mornings though and it was hot during the day, but once the sun went down the camp fire was a very welcome addition that’s for sure.

Another dinner cooked over the fire

One of the other things Boulia is famous for is the Min Min Lights. This is one of those stories where you really don’t know if its a myth or not. These unexplained balls of glowing light were first sighted in the Boulia area in the early 1890’s. The first reported sighting was over a grave at the rear of the Min Min Hotel (no longer standing).

Over the years there have been numerous sightings by travelers and local residents, stories of these balls of bobbing light that follow you along lonely roads at night or visit you while camping in the area. Whilst there are theories, there is no scientific explanation of what the Min Min Lights actually are.

The Min Min Encounter is a great attraction to visit to find out more about these strange lights …. they say ‘you don’t find them, they find you’! It’s a really interesting place and definitely one to visit if you are in the area.

We have visited Boulia before so didn’t visit the encounter again, so whilst Stewy and the kids went off to the Min Min Encounter, where do you think we headed …. the pub of course!

George indulged in a camel burger (they have a whole ‘camel menu’) and Shelly had to drink XXXX out of a maroon can – what’s up with that! Sorry to our Queenslander followers!

EVENT DETAILS

Price: $80 (for a 3 day pass), single day passes available as well.
Children under 18 are free.
When: Held annually on the third weekend in July
Location: Held at the Boulia Racecourse in Boulia, Outback Queensland.

Free camping onsite is included in the price of your ticket.
Get all the details at www.bouliacamelraces.com.au

Our climb up Big Red

The kids were doing it all day every day, the more energetic were getting up early to watch the sunrise or taking their wine and crackers up to watch the sunset, but us …. well you know how we feel about walking!

Now we’ve driven it before and that was one of our highlights, but now we had the chance to walk it and that was something you just had to do. Couldn’t have left knowing that we didn’t climb Big Red.

This sand dune stands well over 30 meters tall so he’s a pretty big one (the first and biggest in the Simpson Desert), but once you are standing on the top you are rewarded with amazing views, a view of the whole of ‘Bashville’.

Throughout the Big Red Bash, the top of Big Red was always a hive of activity, whether it was for a morning yoga session, watching the sunrise/sunset, watching the world go by and reflecting on life or playing a game of beach volleyball.

Of course, as this was the only place you could possibly grab any mobile phone reception throughout the event, there were also plenty of people up there frantically waving their phones around trying to get a bar of service!

So yes we are glad we did it, even if George complained he was going to die!

Big Red Bash wrap up

Well there is another trip done and dusted, 4,838 km driven across 3 states over 16 days! ….. ok so yes we know we didn’t quite keep the blogs up to date while we are away, but we will do a recap of each day now that we are home and have more time and internet connection! But in the meantime, below is a quick recap of the whole trip to get you excited!

This was one of our shorter trips, only 2 weeks away, but as usual we still managed to pack alot into that time!

The main purpose of the trip was to visit The Big Red Bash, the worlds most remote music festival … and what an awesome, fun filled couple of days that was! They say once you visit you’ll go back again and that’s so true, we are all hooked! The bands, the people, the volunteers, the atmosphere … it was all awesome. Probably by far the best run event we have ever been to.

Although the bash was our main reason for travel, we wanted to make a mini holiday out of it too. We’ve been to Birdsville before and also to most places we visited, but it was still great. We stopped in at Cameron Corner again (where the borders of NSW/SA/QLD meet) and also stopped off at Haddon Corner for the first time (where the borders of QLD/SA meet).

We got our history on visiting some of the sites connected to Burke & Wills …. Burkes grave and Dig Tree to name a couple and we finally visited the Birdsville Hotel and went inside to have a beer (we’ve previously been to Birdsville but didn’t go to the pub, who does that! 😆)

Camel Racing 🐪 yes, we finally went to a camel racing meet, and not just any old camel racing, the ‘Melbounre Cup of Camel Racing’!  We spent 3 days camping at the race course and watching the Boulia Camel Races.

We went on a sunset dinner river cruise on the Thompson River in Longreach, attended an Outback Show at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, we saw the ‘big bogan’ in Nyngan and the ‘big billy’ in Trangie. We touched a dinosaur bone fossil at Winton and visited the site of the first Qantas plane crash in Tambo. We dropped into little country towns to support and show the love and bought heaps of souvenirs we probably don’t need!

Now to our good mate Stewy, so glad we got to experience our first bash together! Many of you would know that we travel quite a bit with Stewy and his daughter, they love this as much as us! And great to have Jackson along this time aswell! Glad you all made it home safely and we will see you on Fraser Island at Christmas!

It was great to catch up at the bash with Jim & Jackie who came along with us to Cape York last year, hope you enjoyed the bash and have a safe and enjoyable remainder of your trip.

The bash was the place to be and it was great to also run into Matt from Cub Campers again too, hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip, and following along on ours! We will see you soon to arrange our new awning!

Randomly running into one of Shelly’s old high school friends at the Birdsville Hotel (and at the bash and the races!), was great into see you Virginia and meet your family, enjoy the rest of your travels.

Jay and Sallie, our camping neighbours for a couple of nights in Longreach, it was great to meet you both (pj’s and all!), may catch up again one day.

To the guy who works in Target in Longreach, you are hilarious … really bad jokes, but hilarious! And to the people at the Wyandra Post & General Store, thank you for accommodating Shelly’s request for pepper even though you were allergic to it (who knew!) and thanks for opening our eyes to Mac n Cheese Smiths Chips (again, who knew!) …. hope you found your Spaghetti Bol chips! Also great briefly chatting with the caretaker of the Gladstone Hotel in Wyandra, good to hear a little about the community and the hotel.

And lastly, to our other friends, Lauren, Liam and the kids and Leah & Brendan who were meant to be coming to the bash and both didn’t make it for various reasons, hopefully we can all do it again next year!!

All the dust, the smoke, everything smelling like a campfire, the lack of showers and toilets, the cold, the flies …. we wouldn’t trade it for the world. To sit at camp and stare up at the stars, to share a beer with friends or total strangers, to meet the locals and share stories with other travellers, the laughs, the adventure and the memories …. this is life 💕

Oh and to share it with all of you guys too, we love it and glad we could take you along on the journey!

Check out all the stats below ⬇️⬇️⬇️

THE STATS
—————-
🔸4,838 km
🔸travelled across 3 states 
🔸16 days
🔸Total Fuel $1,290
🔸most expensive fuel $1.90/L for Diesel at Innamincka

🔸$210 total accomodation 
(1 x night hotel $160, 2 x nights caravan park $30, 2 x nights low cost camps $20, rest free camping or included in BRB/Camel Races tickets)

MINOR INCIDENTS
——————————
🔸Windscreen chip
🔸Lost reflector off camper
🔸Tear in the awning off the camper
🔸Changed tyre on the camper 
🔸Kangaroo splatter incident 

WHAT WE LEARNT
—————————
🔸It’s really exciting when you initially hear and see someone whip cracking …. it gets really annoying when that’s all you hear all day and night for a few days!
🔸‘Shelly GPS’ has nearly 100% accuracy, ‘George GPS’ is crap!
🔸It’s a game of luck when driving in Longreach …. cross streets have no ‘Give Way’ or ‘Stop’ signs! Oh and to it make it even harder to navigate, the power poles are situated right in the middle of street!
🔸Baby wipes really are your best friend when showers are few and far between (well we knew this one already!)
🔸If you look at a tyre before you leave home and think ‘we really should change that before we go’ ….. you probably should!!
🔸Be very wary of all dead kangaroos on the road! 
🔸You very quickly learn to be open about your toilet trips at the bash …. more on this later, but ‘one scoop per poop’ is the saying in Bashville!💩 
🔸We already knew it, but WikiCamps is awesome! We always find the best free camps using this app … if you aren’t already using it, you really should be!