Why you should take a family trip to Outback Queensland
I’m an ex-teacher. I’m also a mother who travels frequently with her kids. Both lives have taught me that school offers a limited textbook view of the world, something kids struggle to connect with. Their inner yearnings and imaginations are drawn to the window, silently begging for the teacher to stop telling them about life and let them live it instead.
I’m 42 and feel I’ve only just learned about dinosaurs, volcanoes and Australian folklore with our recent family trip to Outback Queensland. I read about them in primary school, but the connection wasn’t there. My dreaming was.
Here’s why I think you should travel to Outback Queensland with your kids for a rich and connected learning experience.
Disconnect to reconnect
Take away the gadgets, the routines, the hectic schedules and extracurricular activities and what are you left with? To begin with, boredom. It will be your child’s first resounding cry until they figure it out – I have a choice: boredom or find a way to entertain myself.
Take a family trip to the Outback and they’ll soon experience what it was like for us as kids, pre-WiFi.
Experiencing the openness of the Outback gives them space to breathe, to hear the sound of the ground crunching under their feet, to tune into the soft breeze rustling the weedy bushes, to feel the sun warming their skin, to follow the path of bounding kangaroos and erratic emus, and to just be themselves, walking freely and enjoying the present moment.
Encountering wetlands in the middle of the Outback leads them back to rolling around in the mud, kayaking and playing by the water’s edge at sunset.
Long road trips lead to games and songs and family silliness.
Finding random musical instruments made from scrap metal in the middle of an outback town leads to unencumbered expression that sings more of crazy fun than perfected beats and notes.
Discovering frogs in toilets will awaken their zest and curiosity for life and gives them stories they want to share, rather than talking about their latest Minecraft invention.
Stunning sunsets lead them to a time of quiet reflection and an opportunity to slip into an awe-like state of gratitude.
Learn Australian history
We first visited the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach in 2015. A year later when we told the girls we were returning, they recounted the previous trip remembering their favourite plane and a few interesting facts about Qantas. This mental clarity would not be present if they read about the beginnings of our Australian airline in a textbook in school.
Kalyra was disappointed to arrive in Winton and see the empty lot where the Matilda Centre stood the year before. She reminded me that it burned down and how much she had loved watching the hologram re-enactment of the poem. She understood it was about the squatter on the run who killed himself. It took me a long time at school to break down each line of the poem to understand it, in between the teacher interrupting us with notes about rhyme and rhythm.
I’d never even heard of the town of Winton, let alone know it was where Waltzing Matilda was first written and performed. On this trip, we stayed at the North Gregory Hotel and stood around the piano where it was first played and pretended to sing it. Well, we did really sing it, just not in tune.
Another thing the school lessons failed to teach me – Australia once had volcanoes and dinosaurs! Or perhaps they did but I was too interested in the boys playing basketball outside the classroom window…
At Undara, along the Savannah Way, we walked through lava tubes and around an old volcanic crater. In that short hour, we understood how the path of lava moulds and shapes our planet and leaves behind pockets of thriving rainforest in the middle of an arid landscape.
We stood atop the jump-off near Winton and looked out across the plains below. We allowed our imaginations to turn it into a great inland sea and tropical rainforest where dinosaurs once roamed. We didn’t have to memorise names or dates or logical events. We lived it in that moment and will forever understand about dinosaurs and Australia.
To further enhance that, we stepped inside the Australian Age of Dinosaurs to hear more, but more importantly, stop and touch the bones of Matilda – a real-life dinosaur who’s slowly been dug out of the fossilised ground.
The best school in the world still couldn’t offer a learning experience that would compare.
My four-year-old, Savannah, told me how they are learning about space at pre-school. “Remember that we saw Jupiter, Mummy?” We revisited our experience at the Charleville Cosmos Centre, gazing through powerful telescopes to see Jupiter and her moons, the bright orange sun during the day, and the craters on the moon.
Connect to Australian culture
On one evening in Longreach, after our Starlight’s Cruise Experience with Kinnon & Co, under the stars around a campfire and in front of a big screen by the Thomson River, we learned the story of Harry Redford – otherwise known as Captain Starlight – a hustler who stole over a thousand cattle from Bowen Downs and ran them all the way to South Australia.
It was his insistence on taking the white bull that eventually lead to his arrest.
Early the next morning, we set out for Starlight’s Lookout to capture the sunrise. We took the wrong road and while we caught a spectacular sunrise regardless, we spent the morning driving around trying to find it.
We passed what we thought was the lookout (it was, we were just on the wrong side of it) and just off the side of the road was a white bull.
“Oh look, Mummy. There’s a white bull. The Lookout must be around here then as the White Bull belongs to Captain Starlight.”
I loved how Kalyra connected to that story and was now living it in part. Out here, you’re put inside the stories of history to experience it yourself.
My girls experienced Australian history and culture on a Cobb and Co. stagecoach ride, laughing hysterically at the Harry Redford Tent show, learning about wool scouring, and watching the Outback Stockman’s Show, when their mother pretended to be a cow having to outrun a horse. (We’ve got video evidence.)
They had dinner with two Indigenous boys at Bonus Downs Farmstay after watching them perform a ceremonial dance.
And they spent one evening on a working cattle station. They saw firsthand the effects of a brutal drought, but also the resilience of a people who adapt and reinvent themselves. They played at sunset by the dam with the Walker children of Camden Park Station learning about life with so much open space and a night time sky as cluttered and bright as Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
I’ve travelled to many places with my daughters. Each experience gifts something to our lives from bonding to an educational experience. There has been no other place that’s given us such rich, connected memories and an education like Outback Queensland has.