REACH FOR THE SKY
A spirit of adventure is easy to muster in western Queensland
The ultimate outback adrenaline rush would have to be zipping above the treetops in a helicopter, hovering 10 metres above a herd of camels. As it turns out, heli-mustering is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the eyeopening experiences on offer around Longreach in western Queensland.
The drought has been tough and locals have had to get innovative to survive. Luckily, there’s a strong pioneering spirit within the people who live in this harsh environment. As a way to combat the economic hardships of recent years, the communities here have been working hard to attract tourists, proudly turning the dusty old preconceptions people have of the Outback on their head and providing one-of-a-kind experiences that showcase the best of outback Australia.
Deon and Lane Stent-Smith are a classic example of the entrepreneurs in this region and they operate Shandonvale Station, a working property two hours from Longreach. Down to earth and keen to give you a taste of the real Australia, the enterprising couple delivers this in spades. Shandonvale Station caters for a wide audience. For the adventurous there’s heli-mustering, herding sheep in buggies, a gun range and bush tours. Young families will love the chance to get back to nature, getting up close and even feeding the animals. Sheep, pigs, geese, emus, goats, camels, horses, pelicans, deer and kangaroos are all on hand.
If you’re after a slower pace and want to disconnect and relax in a unique setting, there’s the treetop artesian spa that’s perfect with a bottle of bubbly at sunset or you can just sit back on the veranda of the 100year-old Shearer’s Quarters and enjoy the serenity of the wide open space. It’s not unusual to be surprised at how quiet it is out here and often the only noises you’ll hear are the birds or the wind whistling through the paddocks.
To top all this off, Shandonvale provides luxury accommodation and delicious home-cooked meals. The Shearer’s Quarters have been recently renovated, with interior styling by Deon. From the outside, the quarters have retained their rustic charm while inside has all the creature comforts you’d expect from upmarket accommodation and it can sleep up to eight people.
If you don’t have a couple of days to immerse yourself in a working outback station, but still want a sample of life on a property, there are alternatives closer to Longreach. Camden Park Station is set on 7300ha and just a couple of minutes’ drive from Longreach. Home to Outback Dan and his brother James, winner of the 2017 Australian Farmer of the Year award for Excellence in Diversification, the brothers treat guests to country station tours of the historic homestead and property. The station is so famous it has even hosted the Queen and Prince Philip.
This isn’t Camden Park’s only claim to fame though. Longreach’s highest lookout is also here and Australia’s first Outback Yacht Club. The brainchild of Dan and James, the unique yacht club is yet another example of stirring entrepreneurial spirit that becomes more infectious the longer you spend here.
An open-top, double-decker bus isn’t what you’d expect to see on an outback station either but this isn’t your typical rural town. Nogo Station is another working station operator close to town and proudly uses this bus on its safari tours of the property.
The bus is an ingenious way for visitors to take in the panoramic views of the country and wildlife and is a hit with guests. Sheep shearing demonstrations, a tour of the homestead and a visit to Captain Starlight’s stockyards are included in the visit, about 15km from Longreach.
SHANDONVALESTATION.COM.AU CAMDENPARKSTATION.COM.AU OUTBACKPIONEERS.COM.AU
Australia isn’t famous for dinosaur bones but discoveries two hours from Longreach are slowly changing that notion. About 20 years ago, David Elliot was mustering sheep on his property near Winton when he discovered a fossil that would change his life. Fast forward to today and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum is an exhibit developed by David and his wife, Judy, showcasing dinosaur bones and Australia’s natural history. Many museums are pretty stuffy and strictly no touching but the AAOD is no ordinary museum. Not only can you see the dinosaur bones on display but you can take part in the process of digging the bones up in their Dig-A-Dino experience. The Fossil Preparation Laboratory is another exceptional attraction and gives participants the chance to see fossil technicians prepare dinosaur bones for display as well as touch a 95-million-year-old dinosaur bone.
In Longreach, the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame is a fantastic tribute to Australia’s pioneering history and the Outback Stockman’s Show is an entertaining display of life as a modern stockman with fascinating stories of the early days.
With such a strong entrepreneurial spirit in outback Queensland, it should come as no surprise that one of Australia’s most famous icons, Qantas, was founded here too.
The Qantas Founders Museum is just across the road from the Stockman’s Hall of Fame and was established to pay tribute to the people who started Qantas and the interactive experiences are breathtaking. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to walk on the wing of a Boeing 747 then wonder no more as you can do that here along with standing in the engine of the jet.
Walk through the cockpit and then fly the world’s only Bristol Fighter simulator to really get a feel for the early days of flight in this amazing airline museum.
AUSTRALIANAGEOFDINOSAURS.COM OUTBACKHERITAGE.COM.AU QFOM.COM.AU
THE AUTHOR WAS A GUEST OF TOURISM AND EVENTS QUEENSLAND
Camden Park Station has hosted the Queen and Prince Philip; dig up bones at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, and stand in the engine of a Boeing 747 at the Qantas Founders Museum.