48 hours in Longreach
If you were looking for the centre of Queensland, if you drew a line your pen would find Longreach on the map pretty quickly.
It’s the home of history – old and new – and from Aboriginal history, stockmen and pioneers to the birthplace of Australia’s most famous airline, Longreach has it all.
Longreach has even attracted the royal family’s attention, hosting Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Camilla on their trips down under, earning this Outback town its crown as the ‘heart of the Queensland’.
If you find yourself in Longreach – here’s how we recommend you discover this outback town in a weekend.
12PM: Arrive into Longreach
All roads lead to Longreach, which is just one benefit of visiting a town that prides itself on being the centre of everywhere.
Serviced by car, bus, train and air – accessibility couldn’t be better for this town named after the long reach (boom-tish!) in the Thomson River.
Given that the town is the spiritual home of Qantas, it makes sense to fly two hours from Brisbane into Longreach on QantasLink on their daily flight which services central-west Queensland or you can board the Spirit of the Outback, Queensland Rail’s bi-weekly service into town.
For roadtrippers, get your playlists ready for these drive routes, which promise plenty of photo ops with red dirt and tufts of spinifex:
No matter how you get here, be sure to soak up the atmosphere of Artesian Country, which although gripped by years of drought, still puts on the best sunrises, sunsets and star trails in the world (although we might be biased).
12:15PM: Check-in to your digs
The closest accommodation to the Longreach Airport, couldn’t be further from the usual Airport Motel expectation. In fact, there’s not a 1980s patterned bedspread or long-life milk sachet in site at Kinnon & Co.
If you can, check into their Homestead Stables, the only 4.5 star accommodation in Outback Queensland that’s worthy of every one of its stars.
Everything about this accommodation blends rustic style with comfort, from the reclaimed stable headboards through to the copper sinks. It’s been done tastefully though – with just the right amount of horseshoes and saddles, so you don’t feel like you should put on a leather apron, call yourself a blacksmith and leave the 21st century at the door.
Hotel amenities aside, Kinnon & Co is all about “position, position, position” – mere steps from the Qantas Founders Museum, the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and just 25 minutes by foot to the centre of town.
You also have the added benefit of having all of Kinnon’s tours at your fingertips when the reception doubles as a tour desk.
7PM: Dinner, tapas style
Taking bar-bites to a whole new level, CCD Restaurant & Beer Garden would be just as at home on Brisbane’s Eagle Street Pier as it is on Longreach’s Eagle Street, dishing up a taste of modern-Australian cuisine.
Snacks like arancini balls, seared scallops and pork belly bites are a far cry from the parmys and crumbed steak the Outback is known for.
If you’re not one to share, CCD serves main dishes like twice-cooked pork belly and crispy skinned salmon on a comprehensive a la carte menu that spoils you with choice.
8AM: Break bread, Outback-style
With a population of just over 3000 people but over 1 million cattle and sheep, Longreach is quite safely a two bakery kind of town. It’s got plenty of mouths to feed and no shortage of supplies for the meat pie making.
Merino Bakery and Yeast2West serve pastry perfection from their Eagle Street base. Play the two off this morning – and see who bakes the best bread in town. Let us know what you think in the comments!
9AM or 10:30AM: Go back to school
How would you like to step foot in the world’s biggest classroom?
Pay a visit to Longreach School of Distance Education to see how students who live too far away to attend their local school receive their education and connect with their teacher and peers.
We promise you’ll come away with a new appreciation for this type of learning, which is conducted by only 16 schools of this kind in Australia.
12PM: Visit the Stockman’s Hall of Fame
Don’t just leave education to the ‘School of the Air’, step it up a notch and get schooled in early Australian history at The Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre.
It’s not all pioneering theory – it’s plenty practical – and you’ll get the opportunity to fine-tune your whip cracking skills. If done correctly, you’ll be able to produce an action faster than the speed of sound – but only if you manage to issue that iconic whip-crack sound.
In case you’re keen to practice at home – here are our tips:
- Method #1: Aim for an object in front of you and try to hit it with the three-metre-long leather whip. The objective is to pull back sharply on the handle forcing the whip back at breakneck speed creating an ear-numbing ‘crack’.
- Method #2: Twirl the whip around your head in a circular motion, suddenly reversing the direction again creating a massive noise.
5PM: Take in sunset from the Thomson
Whether you want to wet a line, take a dip or relax on a cruise, the Thomson River is where sunsets are best soaked.
Choose to spend sunset on the water, or overlooking it, for views of the puffy white outback clouds turning orange like cotton wool balls dipped in dye.
To see the sunset from the water, join Outback Pioneers for their Starlight’s Cruise Experience. This four-hour cruise motors down the river on a historic paddlewheeler, the only paddlewheeler west of the Great Divide. The tour is complete with stockman’s campfire dinner accompanied by bush poetry, a sound and picture show, and transfers to your accommodation.
Alternatively, make your own adventure and pack a few beers to go down to the water’s edge to watch the sun go down from the banks of the river. There’s camping available if you decide to call it a night by the banks of the river.
6AM: Catch sunrise from an outdoor tub
How does an early morning soak in a tub, overlooking the sunrise while kangaroos nibble the grass sound to you?
Make the most of the quiet outback mornings, and set your alarm early for a quiet moment in the tubs available to all Kinnon & Co stable guests.
10AM: Take a Cobb & Co. stagecoach ride
Although the steel-springed suspension offers little in the way of comfort, it’s nothing but smiles and giggles as you race through the bush in this open wagon pulled by five handsome stock horses.
It’s fun for the whole family – and the smoko (morning tea) promises the best country cooking, worth taking the tour just to experience.
12NOON: Enjoy lunch at The Welcome Home
There’s one thing for certain – you’re always guaranteed to meet a Kinnon somewhere in Longreach.
If you haven’t run into one just yet (if you’ve followed this itinerary, you’ve probably met at least three already – they run Outback Pioneers) – get down to The Welcome Home for lunch to meet the family who’ve turned their farming business into a tourism one in response to the drought.
The cafe here, aside from being a beautiful building complete with old world design right down to the bentwood chairs and the menu, which is divided into Smoko, Breakfast, Lunch and Damper, is a delicious change of pace from the carb loading you may have indulged in already in the Outback.
They have an array of biscuits, slices and cakes, right through to more substantial meals in the form of the Bushmans Burger, lamb shanks, or stuffed potatoes with chicken, veggies, parmesan and sour cream.
PM: Visit the Qantas Founders Museum
Pay a visit to the most iconic brand to come out of the Outback, and visit the Qantas Founders Museum.
The museum includes amongst its displays a decommissioned Qantas Boeing 747-200 aircraft, registration VH-EBQ, “The City of Bunbury” and Qantas’s first jet aircraft VH-XBA (formerly VH-EBA), a Boeing 707, “The City of Canberra.”
One of the most remarkable parts of the exhibition is hearing how they flew this full-size Boeing 747 onto the town’s runway back in 2002. When you see the size of the tarmac, which isn’t much longer than a driveway (out here anyway!), you can appreciate the nervousness of the locals watching it bear down on the dead-flat airport, which is less than 3kms from the CBD.
The highlight for most visitors is walking along the wing, going inside into the cockpit and standing inside the engines for photo opportunities to excite any aviation lover. For this wannabe photographer – it was standing underneath the jet to see just how big it really is.
Make sure to take a moment to think about the things this workhorse would have seen in its 23-year career when it flew over 82 million kilometres, before being laid to rest in Longreach.
4-8PM: Catch Sunset on a Station
Coming to the outback and missing a station tour, is a bit like going to London and missing the London Eye. It’s as iconic and famous as that – but unlike the London Eye, you’re guaranteed a cracking sunset with a clear night sky most of the year. In fact, Longreach only gets 23 days of rainfall each year – odds a photographer could set their watch to when it comes to spectacular weather. What are you waiting for? Get to Camden Park Station in time for sunset.
While we’re on the topic of London, did you know Camden Park Station was part of the Prince of Wales and Camilla’s visit in 2012? Queen Elizabeth also visited and enjoyed tea and scones with James’ grandfather in 1970 – making this a place quite literally a tour fit for a Queen.
At Camden Park, you’ll meet James Walker, a young grazier who is now managing 80,000 acres (or 80,000 football fields to put it into perspective) that makes up his family’s sheep and cattle station.
Outback Aussie Tours provide access to the station on their sunset tour which takes in a famous outback sunset, the Tropic of Capricorn and the original shearing shed to name a few highlights.
Add in transfers to and from your accommodation, you’ve got a perfect evening with nibbles and drinks at sunset, followed by a two-course dinner.
You’ll roll into bed very satisfied, we guarantee it. All that’s left to do tonight is to decide where to next?
- Winton – 1 hour 50 minutes
- Barcaldine – 1 hour 8 minutes
- Windorah – 3 hours 40 minutes
- Longreach – Tambo – Blackall – 5 Days
- Matilda Highway – 8 Days