Look Mummy – there’s a nose coming through the fence! It snorts and sniffs, and my youngest child is concerned. I reassure him, “He’s just checking you are friendly and safe.” Unfortunately, I’ve had no time to investigate this sniffing beast and prepare to answer my son’s next question, “How do you know it’s a ‘he’ Mummy?”
I grew up on the land, some of my children did not. And that’s one of the reasons why an Outback farm stay is such a wonderful and rewarding experience for families. It’s a chance to experience life on the land, find out where our food and fibres come from and learn about science, history, astronomy, nature and more. Farmstays also provide the chance to experience authentic Outback hospitality, have plenty space to roam, enjoy the outdoors, fresh air, and blue skies, and enjoy the stunning sunsets and starry nights.
Here are seven fabulous farm stays on stations in Outback Queensland for families.
1. Wallaroo Outback Retreat
Protected by the Carnarvon Ranges and their magnificent sandstone cliffs, this 72,000-acre property is a mere 100 kilometres north of Roma.
Glamp in one of eight luxury tents scattered amongst the towering eucalypts and enjoy relaxing in the authentic lodge built with timbers milled from the property. This shared space features an open plan kitchen, six individual bathrooms and, we’re told, a couple of resident green frogs. Your hosts Pauline and Justin MacDonnell will help you discover campfire cooking, bushwalking, fishing, spotlighting and even whipcracking! Share a yarn around the campfire then tuck into the crisp white sheets and watch the stars cross the sky – this is Outback camping at its best.
2. Charlotte Plains, Cunnamulla
It’s time to explore this family-owned and operated sheep station, just 60km from Cunnamulla. At 29,000 hectares, it’s half the size of Singapore!
Several thousand sheep roam the plains and come into the historical woolshed for shearing. Look around the woolshed and take in a deep breath – that’s natural lanolin you can smell, literally straight from the sheep’s back. The campground at the artesian bore is the perfect place to pitch a tent or pull up the van. Or book a bed in the Shearers’ Quarters. Join Robyn for a property tour – it’s a great way to understand the property and landscape. Don’t forget time to soak in the outdoor porcelain baths filled with warm mineralised waters from the Great Artesian Basin – a perfect place for the family to relax and reconnect.
3. Moble Homestead, Quilpie
Not far from Quilpie is Moble Homestead, a working station offering a range of accommodation options from hosted camping to fully catered accommodation in the Homestead. You can even fly in as they have a private airstrip!
The Rutledge family has called Moble home for five generations and today this magnificent property is open for others to explore. There’s a little of everything here: fishing, birdwatching, walking, cookery masterclasses and even a spot of tennis! Raise a glass to the setting sun from the edge of the Grey Range, dine on freshly prepared fine food or be inspired by the glorious country garden. Book to stay in Bill’s Hut and soak under open skies in the antique French galvanised bathtub as the relaxing water from the sub-artesian basin gently nurtures your mind, body and soul. If you are wanting to stretch your legs and really get a sense of the unique landscape, book into one of their new, catered walking packages, fully guided by Kylie. Trek to the private waterhole and enjoy evening drinks and a superb camp dinner before overnighting on a shearer’s stretcher under the stars. There’s even a hot shower and flushing loo.
4. The Lake, Quilpie
Also just near Quilpie, The Lake is a working sheep and cattle property offering a range of accommodation options from lakeside unpowered camping sites, to powered sites and self-contained accommodation in the old Shearers Quarters and Outback Cottage.
Lake Houdraman itself is a beautiful natural expanse of water set amongst shady gum trees, fringed with water lilies growing around the edges – the perfect spot to spend the afternoon, and watch the glorious outback sunset. Activities include swimming, fishing, and walking around the property. The lake is home to a large variety of bird species and native animals, making it an ideal location to birdwatch and photograph wildlife. Children also enjoy visiting the farm animals located in pens next to the old shearing shed – including sheep, and Marilyn the bush pig.
The bush track access road is suitable for caravans and trailers, but only in good weather.
5. Kilkowera, Hungerford
This organic cattle property in south west Queensland is an Outback farm stay drenched in natural sciences. Within the boundaries of this station the mulga meets the wetlands.
Wildflowers bloom and animals of all types thrive. In fact, more than 180 bird species have been identified within the array of ecosystems here. The vegetation is equally diverse and hosts Greg and Toni have attached signs to many shrubs and trees to give visitors a true appreciation of the Outback landscape. There’s accommodation in the Shearers’ Quarters or experience bush camping by Cardenyabba Lagoon, a well-known wetland home to many birds. Take a guided station tour (pre- booking is recommended as it’s a working station) or try your hand at yabbying, canoeing or camp oven cooking. Kilcowera also borders Currawinya National Park, the largest national park in Queensland.
6. Shandonvale Station, Barcaldine
Image courtesy of Shandonvale Station and Courtney AtkinsonJust 45 minutes from Barcaldine – home to the famous Tree of Knowledge and the reputed birthplace of Australia’s labour movement – is this magical station stay.
Shandonvale encompasses 15,000 acres and supports prime merino sheep, donkeys, deer, camels and a menagerie of other farm animals carefully cared for by the Stent-Smith family. Hosts Lane and Deon are passionate about living and working on the land and guests will enjoy a hands-on insight into station life and sustainable farming, gourmet “paddock to plate” cuisine and luxurious accommodation. When you come to Shandonvale, it’s an exclusive experience as only one booking is accepted at a time. Explore the bush, herd sheep in a buggy, feed the animals, fly in a chopper, throw in a line at the waterhole or relax in the mineral-rich waters of the treetop artesian bath. As they say – when you stay at Shandonvale, you’re part of the family.
7. Noonbah Station, Longreach
Ridges, flats and ancient hills cover Channel Country’s Noonbah Station, south west of Longreach. On Noonbah, you can camp under a million stars beside a tranquil waterhole or enjoy rustic, comfortable accommodation in the renovated Old Schoolhouse, where generations of station children tuned into lessons with the Mount Isa School of the Air.
The Emmott family has been part of Noonbah for over a century and their love for the land and its treasures is evident in the experiences on offer here. Host Angus Emmott has been described as ‘Australia’s answer to David Attenborough’ and offers personal, guided natural history tours tailored to suit, whether you’re interested in birds, mammals, plants, geology or photography. Or enjoy the stunning surrounds at your own pace, with a walk, swim or shared story around the night-time fire. Noonbah is also a registered wildlife carer and funds raised go to caring for orphaned or injured wildlife.