Longreach is open for business. It’s important you know that.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I love the area and my heart feels for the farmers of this region who have been hit hard by a severe drought that has just ticked over into it’s third year. It just breaks your heart.
Every time it rains here in Burleigh (on the coast of Queensland, it can be torrential) I think of them and hope it can be carried to their farms.
But, just because they are in drought, and most of the farms are now quiet and empty of stock, does not mean there is nothing for you as a traveller to go and see. Longreach has history, culture and beauty and is a worthy place to visit. They need you to visit now more than ever.
Outback Queensland will amaze and surprise you. We thoroughly enjoyed, dry or not. Just because it’s dry does not mean you as a traveller will go without water. We certainly didn’t.
Many of the towns in Outback Queensland are on the artesian bore, so you won’t go without a shower and you won’t impact the town’s water supply. They need you to come visit!
Apart from seeing the dry as a bone earth, the drought did not affect our trip at all. We still saw plenty of kangaroos and emus, beautiful scenery and met many wonderful locals.
Things to do in Longreach
I first heard of Longreach when one of my oldest friends from Uni moved there. She grew up on the coast and then moved to Mackay for years, so I found it strange when she told me how much she loved Longreach.
As I’d had no real experience of the Outback, I couldn’t understand why anyone from the coast would love living in the dry, dusty Outback.
I was keen to check this out. Of course, as Murphy’s Law would have it, Val moved back to the Coast (as her husband was opening a new school in Mackay) not all that long before we arrived! She really misses Longreach and I could see how living in the Outback can create that kind of longing when you leave.
1. The Qantas Founders Museum
In case you didn’t know, Longreach was where Qantas began back in 1920. We have been Qantas frequent flyers forever, and are big fans of the airline so it was a treat to learn more about how this great Australian company was started here in the Outback heartland.
Back in the early 1900s Outback communities were truly isolated and any contact with the outside world was limited and took days of traveling on wild outback roads. Hudson Fysch and Paul McGinness both pilots during World War I had realised how needed an airline service was when they made an arduous fifty-one day, 2179km road trip in a Ford Model T.
It nearly failed many times, but the founders dug deep into their creative and entrepreneurial sides to innovate and find the funding they needed to grow it into the company it is today.
Visiting this museum helps you to get to know the soul of this iconic Aussie brand and to see the Australian grit behind it that has been part of our culture since white people arrived to try and tame this harsh and unforgiving land. A grit many in Longreach are currently digging down to find and use for innovation.
I loved it.
You can take a guided tour of the aircraft outside, which lets you know the significance of each plane and how each part of the plane helps keep the plane up and safe.
The Jet Tour is 90 minutes and takes you behind the scenes on their two jet aircraft, the Boeing 747 and 707
Since I’ve travelled in plenty of Qantas planes including business class, and hung in the cockpit before, this wasn’t so exciting to me. But, I did really enjoy walking through the old Boeing 707, which was turned into a private jet and once owned by Michael Jackson.
Standing within the casing of a jet engine was also pretty cool (never do this elsewhere!).
The Qantas Founders Museum is not affiliated with Qantas, but was established in 1996 by a not-for-profit community organisation to tell the story of the airline and preserve its heritage.
Museum only: Adult $26, Child $16, Family $70 (children under 5 free)
Museum and 1.5 hr guided jet tour: Adult $60, child $40, Family $175
2. Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame
What I really connected to in this museum was how much the culture of White Australia grew from the Outback and the stockman. The jackeroos and jillaroos and how they tried their best to tame a wild land.
This region has been the backbone of growth in Australia for over a hundred years.
It was fascinating to learn more of the story as you wandered through the exhibits. I recommend first watching the movie to give you a great perspective and overview of the stockman’s story.
The girls had fun moving from exhibit to exhibit and learning as best they could through the interactive displays. Their incessant questioning (a good thing) made it difficult for me to concentrate and get the most out of it as I could. But I still enjoyed it and loved their enthusiasm.
There is a lot of reading here so be prepared for that. It can get a little tiring by the end of it. We were out of season for the dinner and show, but it’s a noted experience at the museum.
The Stockman’s Hall of Fame is a little on the expensive side and I’d say overpriced for what you get. But, if you’re mad on this sort of thing, it might just be worth it to you.
Adults: $32.00 Children/Students: $15.50 (under 5 free) Family pass: $80
3. Camden Park Station sunset tour
This was our favourite thing to do in Longreach. I loved this experience of visiting a cattle station, which seems bizarre as there were no cattle or sheep. It was awesome to meet James Walker and his family to learn about resilience, hope, and innovation.
The spirit that shaped so many incredible things about our country and culture.
Camden Park Station is 15km out of Longreach and is one of the older cattle stations in the area. It’s quite well-known having had the Prince of Wales and Camilla visit in 2012. Queen Elizabeth also visited and enjoyed tea and scones with James’ grandfather in 1970.
James is only in his early thirties and has taken over management of the 80,000 acres of their sheep and cattle station. Understanding the issue farmers face out here, he works in creative ways to ensure has farm stays afloat during drought and destocking.
James has attended farming seminars in London to learn innovative ways to irrigate and farm so he can return and implement and teach to the farmer’s in this region.
He’s also diving into the online world to create programs to sell, and now runs the cattle station sunset tours.
Even though the livestock was missing, we still got a tour of the property and he explained how everything works. We all even got to pretend to be cows and he mustered us so we could see how they did it! Our girls had a ball because his girls came out to play with them. Which meant we could enjoy our selves a little more.
At the end of the tour we went to sit up near the Artesian bore for sunset. It was so still and quiet. James told me of his plans to build a luxury farm stay overlooking the water to make use of the stunning sunset views and serenity. I confirmed that his plans were a winner!
It was so tranquil. I felt like I was back in Africa, with the endless plains in front of me and a fiery red setting sun. We enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and some nibbles as part of the tour, whilst the kids enjoyed time with their new friends.
Sitting in my home now in Burleigh writing this I have a longing to see that sunset again with a glass of wine and the sweet taste of freedom on the open road. Oh dear. Settled for three weeks and the itch starts to return!
Jump on the Camden Park sunset station tour with Outback Aussie Tours and visit James and his family. Adult $89, Concession $79, Child $59 (Validity 01 Apr – 31 Oct 2015). Smithy, the tour owner was very friendly and informative. He also gets many rave reviews on Trip Advisor.
We also heard the Cobb & Co tours and River Cruise with Kinnon and Co were good value.
Have you visited Longreach?
Please share any tips in the comments below.