On the road again we hit the largest town in South West Queensland, Charleville which houses a population of approximately 3500 and is a rich pastoral area. With a history dating back as far as 1847 Charleville has prospered despite many a drought and flood, as well as having played a significant part in Australia’s early pioneer history. Today Charleville is a vibrant town with good shopping, restaurants and medical facilities. A trip through the West will not be complete without spending a few days sight seeing and getting to know our many local characters. Did you know that it was in Charleville that Cobb and Co had their largest and longest running coach making factory and it was also in Charleville that the famous rainmaking experiment, the Vortex Gun was carried out?
You can still see the vortex guns, or maybe you may like to visit the Bureau of Meteorology, explore the secrets of WWII held at the Charleville Airport, take a scenic flight over the beautiful mulga and gidgea country or perhaps just relax and take a heritage drive or walk. Conveniently located in town and within walking distance to shops, pubs and restaurants we stayed at Bailey’s Caravan Park. This was going to be a 3 night stay.
After getting our bearings we headed to the Charleville Cosmos Centre Observatory. On the way we stopped for a look at Vortex Guns. In 1902 Queensland was in the grip of a terrible drought, the desperation to produce rain was about to take a unique turn. Six vertical Vortex Guns were built and placed strategically throughout Charelville. They were charged with gunpowder in the hope the blast would change the atmospheric pressure and produce rain. Today two guns are on display in the Graham Andrews Parklands.
We then kept going to the Cosmos Centre and booked in for the following night. We headed back to the caravan park and got ready for legendary camp oven meals of Beef and Red Wine Stew, Damper, Hot Apple Crumble and Billy tea. When we purchased two yummy camp oven dinners, we were allocated one Yabby which competed in the famous Charleville Yabby Race. All great fun sitting around the camp fire and chatting will other travelers. The next day we headied for a tour of the Historic Hotel Corones Scones. Kim then looked around a couple of shops while I went for a look at the Historic House Museum, which began life in 1888 and is one of the few ‘Queenslanders’ left in Charleville. Originally built as the National Bank and Manager’s Residence, it has since been a boarding house and private residence. The building retains many original features, including the marble fireplaces. The historic collections include working gramophones, clothing and tools from the town and surrounding stations. The machinery collection includes a Dennis Fire Engine, Rail Ambulance, and a replica Cob & Co Coach.
That night we head to Comos Centre for Astronomy by Night. The evening presentation at the Cosmos Centre was a delight. Our tour was with an experienced guide of the Outback Night Sky and a look through powerful Meade Telescopes. We saw things as star clusters, planets, nebulae and learned about the Milky Way and how we fit into the Solar System. Special highlight was seeing the rings around Saturn. I shit you no lie, we did see the rings. The next morning we chilled by the river and did a spot of fishing. Kim caught a couple of Murray Cod, but too small to keep. Quiet afternoon chatting to neighbors in the caravan park, we started getting ready to hit the road again.
Up and early for the long trip to Blackall. We first had a look at Augathella. Nestled on the bank of the Warrego River, 760km west of Brisbane, Augathella holds quite a few nice surprises. The noteriety of Augathella would undoubtedly be its claim to fame as ‘Home of the Meat Ant’, a large ant which can carry 100 times its own weight. Meaning ‘waterhole’, traditionally the town was a popular stopover for passing bullock teams resting their teams. These days there is no sign of the bullock teams, having been replaced by the constant flow of ‘Grey Nomads’ discovering the delights of this unassuming little town.
On the road again we hit Tambo. Tambo is a living museum of cultural history and a place for the visitor to gain insight into the lifestyle and heritage of Australia’s forebears. There are the sites of the early European settlement that was to lead pastoralists in the 1860s to flock to Tambo taking up land for grazing. The pastoral industry still remains the basis of Tambo’s economy today. Kim had to visit the Tambo Teddies Workshop and see the sheep skin teddy bears being created and sold. Each bear is named after a property in the Tambo district, giving them claim to some of the oldest settled country in Queensland.
Back on the road, and late afternoon we hit Blackall. Blackall is located on the Matilda Highway and is named after Sir Samuel Blackall, the second Governor of Queensland. The town was founded in 1846 by explorer Major Thomas Mitchell. Famous for many reasons, blade shearer Jack Howe put Blackall on the map in 1892 at ‘Alice Downs’ when he set a world record by shearing 321 sheep in seven hours and 40 minutes. It actually took another 58 years before anyone could match this feat and that was by machine shears. Blackall was also the first Outback town to start drilling an artesian bore back in 1885. It is also the home of the Black Stump which was used for surveying purposes and permanently marks the original Astro Station established in 1887. Anything west of this point is said to be ‘beyond the black stump’. We headed to the visitor centre and paid for camping in the rest area park.
The next day we explored The Blackall Woolscour. The Woolscore is the last remaining steam operated wool washing plant in Australia. The complex is a living museum with a direct link to Australia’s pioneering era. Building of the Woolscour started in 1906 and the Woolscour commenced operation in 1908 and operated until 1978. The complex consists of a the wool washing and drying tanks, 20 stand shearing shed, large sheep yards, shearer’s quarters, cook house, toilet and shower blocks. In 2002 the Blackall Woolscour once again started using steam to run the steam engine and the machinery.
On the road again for a late arrival to Barcaldine Homestead Caravan Park. Barcaldine’s charming facade, one that has earned it the tag of ‘Garden City of the West’, hides tumultuous tales of a controversial past.
In 1891, five years after the railway push into the outback helped to establish the township, Barcaldine became the headquarters of the great shearers’ strike. One thousand shearers laid down their blades in a defiant protest that reverberated around the nation and resulted in the formation of the Australia Labor Party and a graziers’ group that later evolved into the National Party. An enduring symbol of the strike lives on today in the Tree of Knowledge, the imposing memorial to the famous ghost gum in the town’s main street where the strike meetings were held. Unfortunately, the gum itself was poisoned in 2006, but the memorial built around the original stump is a wonderful display of modern art and timber workmanship
Setting up the caravan we joined everyone for the practice of boiling up the billy and cooking camp oven damper in the colas of fire, which started on this exact same spot 30 years ago, and is ever popular with visitors to the Barcaldine Homestead Caravan and Tourist Park. The great Aussie tradition has always been a hit with guests, who reckon this park has the best damper in the west. We had an early sleep because he next day we were waking up early for the Anzac Day dawn service in town. Early morning rise we headed to the Memorial Clock in the centre of the town then went back after breakfast for the marching of the diggers down the main street.
The next day we headed to Australian Workers Heritage Centre – a place of reflection, within the museum styled complex, we took a journey through exhibition space which celebrates the extraordinary legacy of working Australians telling a vitally important part of our nation’s history through its working life via interactive displays, film, photographs, artefacts and recreated historical work settings.
Home of the “Young-Un’ an enduring legacy – this offspring is the only direct descendant of the Heritage listed ‘Tree of Knowledge’ – symbolic of the Shearers Strike of 1891.
Set in over two hectares, the Workers Heritage Centre has been designed with the weary traveller in mind. Beautifully landscaped gardens and shady trees surround a sparkling bore fed billabong creating a cool outback oasis, with the convenience of picnic, barbecue and playground facilities. After lunch we took a drive to Aramac. Described as ‘an oasis in the dry of the Central West’, Aramac has undergone a recent transformation with the launch of the nationally recognized, Harry Redford Cattle Drive Re-enactment. In the main street of Aramac Stands the White Bull replica which tells the story of the most historically significant cattle stealing case ever recorded in Australia.
Henry ‘Harry’ Redford (better known as Captain Starlight) commenced this daring cattle ‘duffing’ feat on a property called Bowen Downs. As part of the recognition of this feat, you are able to browse through the Harry Redford Interpretive Centre in the main street of Aramac. Another Billy tea and Damper late afternoon and a chat with fellow travelers we hit the hay early.
Up bright and early for the road to Longreach. Longreach itself is the quintessential outback metropolis and a tribute to life on the land. We saw pastoralists wandering the streets in search of saddlery, stock feed and machinery in the large range of stores selling rural items. The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame is a tribute to these country folk past and present. Its diverse and enormous collection of memorabilia and informative displays deserve at least a few hours of attention, if not a full day. We stopped in at the Longreach Top Tourist Park and parked the caravan near the spa pools
We headed in town and checked out the shops and watched the Harry Redford Old Time Tent Show out back of the Kinnon & Co Shop. This is Aussie outback humour and ingenuity at its best! It’s a hilarious hour of entertainment featuring animals, stockmen and improvised live theatre with a laugh a minute. Kids love it and so do adults. Based on the traditional outback travelling shows, it’s hard not to be charmed by the simple delights of bush theatre.
That night we boarded the Longreach Explorer. We relaxed on top the deck with 360 degree views of the majestic Thomson River. Our captain captivated us with stories about the river, its wildlife and indigenous links. We stopped at Sunset Bend to toast the sunset and take in the stunning colours of the outback sky. As the colours faded into starlight, we docked at Outback Dinner & Show. We relaxed under the stars with table-service dining featuring camp-oven themed modern cuisine. Live on stage, was quality guest artists that entertained us with their songs and stories.
The next day we headed to The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre, Australia’s premier outback heritage institution. Since its opening in 1988, the Hall of Fame has played host to over one million interstate and international visitors – providing each one with a spectacular outback experience.
Situated in Queensland’s central western town of Longreach, the museum, stunningly constructed from timber, stone and corrugated iron, is truly reminiscent of the outback. With its unique design, the Hall of Fame stands comfortably amongst the rugged yet vibrant rural landscape. Inside, the Centre’s five themed galleries proudly display the history behind some of Australia’s greatest and bravest explorers, stock workers, pastoralist, and Aborigines. The exhibits comprising an eclectic mix of objects, images, touch screens, audiovisual presentations and open displays, allowing visitors to interpret the outback story in their own unique way.
The museum also houses a vast reserve collection which forms a unique work-in-progress display. From behind a glass wall, visitors can view archival material, photographs, artworks and various other items used for research and in new display development.
That night we took in the live Outback Stockman’s Show; which is a tribute to the skills of past and present stockmen – a true depiction of the unique quintessential Australian character.
Entertainer, Lachie Cossor, formally from Yackandandah, is a third generation horse breaker and stockman, and has been in the entertainment business for 10 years. Lachie has worked with Jack Bragg around Julia Creek, won open campdrafts, has a state Saddle Bronc title and has won both the King of the Ranges and Snowy Stockmans Challenges. Lachie delivers a highly professional show featuring trick horses and dogs, a one tonne bull and so much more. It was a laugh a minute. One of Kim’s highlights.
The next morning we headed to the QANTAS Founders museum.This was the highlight of my visit to the region. We thoroughly enjoyed our day at the museum and would recommend it to everyone. Firstly the whole venue is very well presented and maintained. Staff were friendly, helpful and actually care about their visitors. The exhibits were attractively and thoughtfully displayed, and the history of the iconic QANTAS airline is presented in a highly engaging and effective manner.
The 90 minute jet tour was awesome, made all the more enjoyable by the passion, knowledge and enthusiasm of our guide Tom, who is also the museum curator. The museum also has a great cafe and gift shop – we had the best lunch here of the whole trip. The Nancy Bird Burger was to die for! In conclusion, there are so many fascinating exhibits and truly inspirational stories at the QANTAS Founders Museum – it is a must for all Australians. That afternoon we started to pack up and utilized the pool and spas.
Back on the road, and back to Bardcaldine Homestead Caravan Park. We arrived in time for the Tree Of Knowledge Festival. The next day we took the opportunity to have watched the Tree of Knowledge parade in the main street then followed a punt at the Barcaldine Cup race meeting.
That night we headed to the showgrounds for markets and goat races.
The next day we took the best tour in the outback. Exclusive to Artesian Country tours we learnt the real history of Aboriginal and European contact around the first town on the wild frontier. We traveled through ancient lava flows to one of Australia’s oldest Dreamtime carving sites, over 10,000 years old.
We then visited the lava blow holes, gorges, caves, the first pioneers’ cutting into the outback, old grey rock, Settlers and Cobb & Co. campsite. The next day after saying our goodbye’s to a couple we meet in the park, and Kim could say her goodbye’s to their Kelpie puppy she’s been play with for the last couple of days we were on the road again.
On the road we hit Alpha. We were going to have a couple of hours here, but being early and Sunday, nothing was open, so we made the move to Emerald. We hit Lake Maraboon Holiday Village for the home away from home experience. You get to relax and take in the tranquil surrounds of the lake, and put your feet up and admire the beautiful wildlife or for the thrill seekers enjoy some water sports. We parked the caravan and explored the dam. Up early the next day we took a drive to Rubyvale and Sapphire. Rubyvale is a town in the Australian state of Queensland, approximately 61 kilometres west of Emerald. Situated in a region called the Gemfields, sapphires are mined extensively in the area.
We went to the Miner’s Heritage – Australia’s Largest Walk-In Underground Sapphire Mine Tour. Miners Heritage was established in 1982 as a working mine , it was then decided to run Mine Tours , after the mine entry & underground showroom were completed Miners Heritage was officially opened for its first Tour in 1984.
All the guides are underground miners so their knowledge is first hand. The mine tour takes in a tunnel section, Monkey Drive, that was dug in 1906 by Charles Hagan, we then learnt about the wonderful history of the Gemfields and much more.
After the Tour spend some time in the underground museum. The ‘Heritage Room’ is full of stories about famous sapphires and the characters of the Gemfields. We then headed back for a look around Emerald. Some of my history comes from Emerald.
My uncle was a well know footballer. I went in the Emerald library and found some history of my uncle in the Emerald School Book. The next day we took a drive to Springure, the area was where my Great Grand Mother lived in the early 1920’s. We heading back to the caravan park for dinner with a couple we meet in Bardcaldine. We spotted them in Alpha and found out that we were heading in the same direction.
On the road again we headed thorough Springsure again and onto Rolleston. Rolleston was the area of my Great Great Grandfather, who worked on a cattle station early 1900’s. We did and overnighter in the caravan park and had a nice cold drink at the Rolleston Hotel. We then hit the road for and overnighter in Miles Caravan Park. We already looked around miles so we just went into town and had a look at a couple of shops.
We then hit the road for another overnighter in Dalby. We parked and checked out the cemetery and the grave of my Great Grandmother. We looked around at some shops in town and had dinner at the local pub, before heading back to Brisbane the next morning.
Some things we learnt.
More things to do in Longreach.
Do more free overnighters.
Zero phone coverage unless you are in Dalby, Miles, Charleville, Bardcaldine, Longreach.
Pub meals are cheaper than buying food to cook up.
Watch fuel station distance.
Take a better camera, the sunrises and sunsets are a must.
You meet great people in all the caravan parks on the way.
We are so looking for at our next outback trip.