By Hayley Hirschfeld
“The Outback should be on everyone’s list. But not just your bucket list – as you don’t want to be waiting and saving this for ‘one day’! As you will read, one trip certainly wasn’t enough for me and now I have so many more things I cant wait to go back and see.”
I should preface this by stating that I didn’t really know what to expect on my first visit! As manager for Flight Centre’s Global Product for much of Queensland, I have been involved with a number of suppliers in the industry to help our agents promote products that could be easily sold to consumers all over Australia. Heading off to Outback Queensland therefore opened my eyes to an extensive number of great experiences that I am so excited to share with my readers!
The opportunity arose to attend a very quick, but very thorough introduction to the Outback with Tourism & Events Queensland, The Outback Queensland Tourism Association, Parker Travel Collection, and our good friends at Helloworld! The rough itinerary was Brisbane > Longreach > Winton > Cobbold Gorge > Mount Isa > Brisbane all in 4 days!
We flew out of Brisbane on Wednesday and landed in Longreach mid afternoon to be collected by Richard Kinnon himself in a 1927 Whippet! Just a short ride down the street (and past a few retro Qantas planes), we entered the welcoming grounds of Kinnon & Co, where we able to check out the Outback Lodges, Pioneer Slab Huts and Homestead Stables.
I was so lucky to be staying in the newly finished Homestead Stables (see above), as every single detail of the room’s features had been carried out with the region in mind! It was thoughtfully styled and I loved it. Walking out of the room I passed a mob of grazing kangaroos who were pretty chilled out as I madly tried to capture everything around me on my phone’s camera. I also noticed the iconic outdoor bathtubs, making a mental note to come back for a lazy luxurious Longreach weekend at sunset with a good Shiraz (and my husband in tow!).
Next stop was the Stations Store and a quick look around the facilities in town, including the Cobb & Co stage coach. We didn’t get to try this with our time-frames (so this too has been added on the the ‘next time’ list) but it sounds like a pretty exhilarating ride. That evening we headed out to the Thomson River for a relaxing sunset cruise before heading ashore to sit around the campfire and listen to tales and legends of the outback. Not only was dinner a hearty stockman’s stew (delicious and comforting), but you are free to take along your beverage of choice to enjoy with your mates! After dinner we enjoyed the Starlight Spectacular Sound & Light Show which is illuminated on a screen over the river, followed by billy tea and damper. The perfect end to day 1, and it was safe to say I slept very well that night.
Photo by Rob & Glendy
We headed off to experience an express version of our ‘Outback Escape Tour’ taking in the Qantas Founders Museum and The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame. Our visit to Qantas Founders Museum allowed us to explore 2 of the planes, including the larger than life jumbo 747. You could only imagine what it would have been like getting them into town and parking them up alongside the museum! No pressure for that poor pilot with the whole town looking down up and all!
Over to Stockman’s and this place is full of interesting characters! We were able to see the impressive new outdoor events venue being built, and I expect this will go off when Lee Kernaghan plays later this year! It was safe to say that I ticked off a few first’s even before lunchtime, including;
– Riding a bull (that may have been wearing a cute straw hat)
– Be gifted with a beautifully hand crafted whip and learn/attempted to crack it
– Discovering that my mate Andrew Dineen really was a country boy and could actually crack a whip!
Meet Jigsaw, the coolest bull in the central west!
Time to wave farewell to Longreach and hit the road for Winton via Morella. We had a super tasty packed billy can lunch from the Kinnon’s, with the best Anzac biscuits you will ever taste! It wasn’t long before we arrived at The Australian Age of Dinosaurs where I soon learnt the meaning of a Jump-Up. We did a quick tour of the Fossil Prep laboratory, watching the many volunteers meticulously working away on their valuable little pieces of history.
The expansion plans sound incredibly exciting here, and this will certainly be another one to revisit on the ‘next time list’. We had just enough time to stop in to Winton, meet a few of the locals, and visit the art deco North Gregory Hotel. These guys are passionate about their property, and full of imaginative ideas that are worth the trip. There is a lot of history in this town, and once the Waltzing Matilda Centre is back up and running, I suppose I will simply have to come back again!
We then flew by private charter over some of the most beautiful landscapes of central Queensland and into Forsayth. This is the closest town to Cobbold Gorge. Greeted by owners Simon and Gaye, we were taken to the Goldfields Hotel for a quick look around, followed by a fantastic walking tour of the town with an interesting twist (wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone!). After yet another delicious dinner, we transferred the 45 min down the road to Cobbold Gorge Village where it was time to hit the hay after another action packed day of discovery.
How great is this view?!
I woke to a glorious outlook over a luxurious looking pool, set over a serene lake where a myriad of native birds had started their daily activities. We had breakfast by the pool and were treated to a 10 min heli flight over the gorge! This gave me a much better idea of the vast surrounds and natural wonder!
The 3-hour guided Gorge walk with Savannah Guide Ian, had that perfect balance of passion, enthusiasm and meaningful informative commentary along the way. Taking the electric boat through Cobbold Gorge itself, was definitely one of those moments that you just had to sit in complete silence and take it all in. It was truly breathtaking, and yes…another place to add to that list! From Cobbold Gorge we drove back to Forsayth where Pilot Luke flew our little charter plane to Mount Isa, ready for The Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo! This was yet another first for me! We got the VIP package including a tour of the rodeo, some behind the scenes tours and great views from the corporate box. The atmosphere was well and truly buzzing here!
And now to the final day of this epic Outback adventure! It feels like we have seen a lot and been literally to every corner of Queensland, but we had one more adventure left in us. We dropped in to Outback at Isa and descended down into the Hard Times Mine Tour – a fully immersive underground replica mine experience complete with all the tools, machines and tunnels of the working mine next door. I think the best part of this experience is that your guide is an ex miner. You aren’t just being shown museum exhibits, you are getting some real-life tales and memories of what it was actually like to work a full day down in one of those mines. It was both hands on and incredibly authentic. Heading back up to the surface there is time to check out the museum and enjoy some morning tea (you cant miss the corn beef sandwiches!) and then it was farewell for now, to Outback Queensland.
And to conclude my adventure……..
We work with some fantastic product in this region, and whether its weekenders, short break, escapes or even extended coach touring – its so exciting to have so much amazing product to deliver to our wholesale and retail staff. The trip has highlighted to me that The Outback is not just a grey nomad’s playground… it works for all market and all travel styles, and I simply cant wait to get back. Thank you yet again to Peter, Matt, Andrew and Chris and all the partners that helped in the background, for making this such a memorable trip!