Thomson River – the outback highlight that keeps on giving

It’s 15 years since the Kinnon family launched the original Thomson River sunset cruise in Longreach and, since then, it’s become the highlight of many people’s outback travels.

This award-winning experience has all the ingredients to capture the outback spirit and inspire magical memories. The heritage boats are just the start, whether you are aboard the historic Thomson Belle paddlewheeler or the Thomson Princess riverboat.

It’s impossible not to be awed by the outback sunsets, which create a light-show of colour across the sky and reflected in the water around you. That alone would be enough but Outback Pioneers, the Kinnon family’s travel enterprise, bring much more to nature’s spectacular display.

More stories, more memories, more magic

Outback Pioneers is all about immersing guests in the real outback so this Starlight’s Cruise Experience is more than just a boat ride! You’ll hear about local legends, laugh at the Aussie humour that infiltrates the commentary, and get inspiring insights into riverboat history.

The evening takes you deeper into outback life with an authentic campfire dinner on the riverbank. Smell the crackling gidgee-wood fire and the stockman’s stew slow-cooking over the embers. By now the sky is ablaze with stars and you’ll feel like a real pioneer.

Then, in the rustic open-air auditorium, prepare for the Starlight’s Sound & Light Picture Show – the story of larrikin cattle thief Captain Starlight who passed this way from nearby Bowen Downs Station on his famous journey. With the trees on the riverbank illuminated and night bush-sounds, it’s easy to imagine the ghosts of Captain Starlight’s men nearby.

This memorable evening ends with tea and damper by the campfire.

Another icon, another story

In 2021, the Starlight’s Cruise Experience had become such a bucket-list item that Outback Pioneers needed another paddlewheeler. There started the incredible story of the Pride of the Murray riverboat, brought overland from Victoria by Richard Kinnon and restored to cruise the Thomson.

The vision wasn’t to be after the boat sank at its mooring one night. Disappointed but undaunted, the Kinnons salvaged her and she is now a Longreach landmark on the riverbank, fittingly at rest in wool country after her early days as a wool barge.

See Outback Pioneers website for more details.

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