To say I was excited about finally seeing Longreach and Winton would have to be the understatement of the century! It was always something I had hoped for but never thought I would get there. To get to see it with my family made it even more special.
We were spending two days and three nights in the area. We had planned it so that our first full day in Longreach would be ANZAC day. I liked the idea of experiencing such a significant day for our nation in a town which truly epitomises the Australian spirit and our people.
The kids were never bored, with everything from stage coach rides and river cruises to dinosaurs they crashed each night happy and exhausted.
Longreach Main street
It’s so important that people continue to come to these regions and support the communities here. They are doing it pretty tough with the drought and having tourists like us visit and patronise their businesses means not only will they be able to maintain their own lives and properties but it also gives them a lift seeing a new happy face and someone fresh to chat to.
Like all outback towns, the service is always top notch and the quality of tours and experiences are excellent. Aside from maybe the landscape being dry and shades of red and brown, there isn’t any difference in visiting at this time. The water is from the artesian basin so there’s no risk of missing out on a hot shower, the local stores are still open for business and the wildlife and scenery is still as amazing as always.
As I write this Longreach and surrounds have had quite a lot of rain of late and i’ve seen many images of beautiful green paddocks. It doesn’t take a whole lot to change the colours of the bush.
the outback queensland capital
The next morning we set off up the main street for the ANZAC Day march. I’m so glad we did. The cenotaph had the most beautiful wreaths and flower arrangements laid carefully at the base and as we continued to walk down the street you could hear clippity clop, clippity clop of the march participants on horseback. It was a very special morning and really set the tone for the day ahead.
ANZAC Day march
I was chomping at the bit (no pun intended) to see the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame (have I mentioned that before?) and there was no way I was putting it off any longer.
When we drove down the long driveway I felt like a kid at Christmas. I know Trev thinks I’m not quite right in the head when he sees how excited I get over things like this.
I have visualised seeing this building and imagined myself in there looking up at the huge ceilings for such a long time. I felt like I was crossing off another great achievement in my life and each time I did this it made me realise how possible things are with a bit of planning, effort and determination. Everything is within reach if you are focused on your goal and willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
Flags flying at half-mast for ANZAC Day.
The Hall of Fame is like a temple which houses everything relating to the outback and bush. Everything and everyone great who helped carve our country into what it is today is on display and honoured. People like Australia’s ‘Cattle King’ Sir Sidney Kidman, Organisations such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, huge cattle properties and wonderful ingenious innovations, but also the everyday Aussies – our stockmen and women, our farmers, our workers, the equipment they used, the way they lived their lives, irreplaceable documents and items that give us a peek into our history.
Royal Flying Doctor Service plane flying high.
This experience is a must for ALL Australians. If you want your children to understand their heritage, their country and their people this is where you should bring them. Take the time to read, listen and watch the exhibits. It makes you so proud to be an Aussie and gives you so much respect for those who lived here before us.
I could have stayed there looking around, reading every little plaque and display all day long (yep, my family must hate me) but luckily for them we had also planned to go to the Kinnon and Co. building and booking in on their Cobb and Co. Stagecoach ride and Starlight Dinner Cruise. So on the promise of me being able to come back later that afternoon (admission allows re-entry) I reluctantly did what I was told.
Admission is $32 for adults, $15.50 for children (under 5 yrs free) and families (2 adults and 2 children) are $80
The Kinnon and Co. Station Store is an experience in itself. It has tea rooms, a heritage gallery, and outfitters and even a theatre. The attention to detail was superb. I loved looking at all the country bits and pieces they have scattered throughout the building and could have spent a small fortune in their store.
Kinnon and Co. Station Store
I was a little unsure how Charlie would go on the stagecoach ride as he’s a very over-cautious little boy and tends to get very anxious about anything loud, fast or high. After having our old time photo taken (where we donned old style bonnets and hats) we jumped on board. I popped Charlie in between Seth and Mikayla who held his hands and hoped for the best.
It was everything that was promised and more. The sound and feel of the power of the horses, their hooves galloping along the hard ground and the wind in our faces all while listening to commentary from Mr. Kinnon up front.
At one point we broke into a fast gallop which was so thrilling. I turned to see how Charlie was holding up only to find him sound asleep on Mikayla’s shoulder! The rocking of the stagecoach and the sound of the horse’s hooves must have lulled him off to sleep. I couldn’t believe it!
The ride finished with a trot down the main street (you can do that in Longreach!) where we were told about the buildings, a bit of history and interesting facts. After doing this I couldn’t wait for the cruise.
Cost: $74 Adults , $49 Children (5 – 14 yrs), $20 (3 – 4 yrs), $221 Families (2 Adults and 2 Children).
Later that evening we were collected from our accommodation by the Kinnon and Co. bus which took us to the site of the Starlight river cruise on the Thomson River.
This was another wonderful experience with fantastic service and value for money. The experiences they provide really are a credit to the Kinnon family.
A Thomson River sunset
Cruising up the Thomson on twilight, taking in the beautiful scenery and wildlife while enjoying some snacks that were provided was so relaxing … well for us adults anyway, the kids, not so much. They were buzzing with excitement at being on a paddlewheeler, especially when the driver let them have a turn at honking the horn and steering the wheel. Then add to that spotting the resident possum in the loo and they were in heaven. Charlie, being Charlie found a little friend to play hide and go seek with under the chairs.
Following our gorgeous cruise, we disembarked and were treated to a great camp-fire dinner while we listened to Scotty who recited some bush poetry and funny stories. After dinner we all sat in the outdoor theatre and watched the fabulous Starlight’s Spectacular Sound and Light Picture Show on the big screen with the Thomson river in the background. We wrapped the night up by enjoying some billy tea and damper around the fire. I was so glad we got to do this.
Cost: $94 Adults, $64 Children (5-14yrs) and $25 (3-4yrs), $284 Family (2 Adults and 2 Children). Experience is 4 hours duration.
Our hosts for the evening.
Waltzing into Winton
Our next day saw us venturing to Winton to check out some dinosaurs. It’s so hard to believe this land out here was once a lush rainforest where dinosaurs used to roam. How lucky are we that we have such precious fossils and remains in our country to share with our children and future generations.
Banjo and I getting aquainted
We started our tour at The Australian Age of Dinosaur in the main museum building where we watched a film and learned about their impressive fossil collection, their two most famous dinosaurs Banjo and Matilda and the discoveries they have had in the area.
Australian Age of Dinosaurs
We then drove the small distance to the collection room where we were able to see and touch real fossilised bones and see staff cleaning and preparing bones using tiny tools. I used to watch ‘Beauty and the Geek’ on TV when it was on and got the surprise of my life when ‘George’ one of the geeks from the show was our tour guide! He was wonderful and the passion he has for his profession is inspirational. He is definitely the Steve Irwin of paleontology.
George, our famous guide!
It was a great morning. Seeing the size of those bones really put into perspective how huge and intimidating these animals were.
If you’re in Winton, make sure you drop in. The view alone up on top of a large mesa called The Jump -Up’ is worth it.
Admission is $33 for Adults (17 yrs and over) and $18 for Children (5 -16yrs) 4 yrs and under are free.
Hollywood In The Outback
Winton is a gorgeous town. It’s so quiet and sleepy but is quite famous for many different things. Yes, it is the dinosaur capital but did you know it also is the birthplace of Banjo Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda? It is said to have been written by Banjo at Dagworth Station in Winton and first performed at the North Gregory Hotel in Winton’s main street.
One thing I am forever grateful for on our visit to Winton is that we were able to visit prior to the devastating fire they had at the Waltzing Matilda Centre. My heart breaks for the people of Winton, the staff and volunteers who created and maintained this fantastic centre. It was such a highlight for us. Our children loved it as much as we did.
In true outback community spirit, Winton has come together and rebuilt an amazing new $22 million Waltzing Matilda Centre. It will re-open in April 2018.
North Gregory Hotel, Winton.
Waltzing Matilda isn’t the only famous thing to come out of Winton, the other is QANTAS. The saying goes that QANTAS was conceived in Cloncurry, born in Winton and grew up in Longreach.
Talking of famous things, Winton is nowadays somewhat of a celebrity in their own right. Many Hollywood producers and film crews travel here to shoot films such as Nick Cave’s “The Proposition” and Ivan Sen’s “Mystery Road”.
Winton has so much to offer, from the beautiful wide, open streets to the warm and friendly people who live here it’s just such a lovely place to spend time. I look forward to our next visit.
We stayed at Longreach Tourist Park. This park ticked all the boxes for us while in Longreach. There was plenty of space, our cabin was comfortable and tidy, there was a great pool and spa area for the kids and an on-site restaurant too. It was also so nice and central to the local attractions. Powered sites start from $37 and ensuited cabins $115 per night.