TOOLS DOWN IN LONGREACH
We start and end our outback adventure in Longreach, in the very centre of Queensland. The night of our arrival it seems the entire town has descended on the amphitheatre behind the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame (outback heritage.com.au) to watch the NRL final on a big screen, then rock into the wee hours to the strains of Lee Kernaghan and his band. (The next night we catch the Queensland Ballet performing in the civic centre, while Troy Cassar-Daley is scheduled two weeks later.)
We return to the Hall of Fame the next day to explore its interactive exhibitions devoted to all aspects of outback life and the contributions of explorers, stockmen, pastoralists and Aboriginal workers. My son, Archie, is fascinated by the Royal Flying Doctor Service display and the recorded conversations between remote stations and the doctors’ radio centre.
It’s unlikely that you’ll visit Longreach as a tourist without interacting in some capacity with the Kinnon family. In a stunning example of diversification, these former graziers have transformed themselves into Longreach’s premier tourism operators, running regular sunset cruises on a restored paddle-steamer along the Thomson River – the “long reach” of the river gives the town its name – tours of a working station with sheep-shearing demonstrations and coach rides on modern-day replicas of the original Cobb & Co stagecoaches, which operated for more than 70 years throughout Australia.
Our short coach ride through the streets of Longreach and onto the town common makes us fully aware of how uncomfortable this form of transport must have been. We’re sitting on what would have been the posh seats – at the top, facing backwards – and when the horses break into a short gallop,
I hang on for dear life (although the kids think it’s great fun).
By the time Cobb & Co had stopped servicing the outback, in 1929, the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, founded by Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, was already carrying mail by air. The fascinating history of the fledgling airline, and by default the development of civil aviation in Australia, is told at the Qantas Founders Museum (qfom.com.au), another Longreach drawcard. Guided tours of a retired Boeing 747 and a customfitted 707 aircraft are among the many highlights here.
A 1959 Boeing 707, now on display at the Qantas Founders Museum