Queensland farmstay: 11 outback experiences for your family
When someone mentions Queensland, you might be like me and instantly imagine the beautiful beaches, stunning islands and glistening coastline. You might think of the lush rainforests and delicious seafood. It’s so beautifully, and typically Queensland. Would you really think about an outback farmstay?
Perched smack-bang in the centre of Queensland, is an area that deserves as much attention as the entire coastline Queensland is loved for – the Outback. My family and I recently returned for a long weekend away at Shandonvale Station farmstay just two hours out of Longreach and it is undoubtedly one of the best trips we’ve experienced as a family.
There’s something about the air out there, in the middle of the outback. The people are kind and warm, the scenery is breathtaking at every turn, the food is so good and wholesome, and there’s a level of relaxation and ease you can only achieve by simply being in the middle of almost nowhere.
Shandonvale Station is a working sheep farm that also has a little side gig that is taking off with much enthusiasm – a luxury farmhouse where they host guests and let them experience real farm life. The owners behind the farm, Deon and Lane, told us that they’d had back-to-back guests for months, including some pretty high-profile people staying the week before us.
You might ask, what does one do on a farm?
I will tell you, there is so much to do that we could barely fit it into the short three-day stay we had on the property. Here are 11 farmstay experiences you can have with your family.
1. Feed the animals
Each morning the animals need to be fed, and if you’re up to it, you can be the helping hand that gets to do just that. Lane met us each morning and we followed her around the farm feeding all the animals; pigs, chickens, lambs, Coco the camel, the cows and even the emu who thinks he’s a sheep.
Some of the baby lambs need milk, which means bottle-feeding them. It’s absolutely as cute as it sounds.
2. Catch yourself some yabbies
Everything on the farm has a purpose, which I really respected. The camels eat the acacia trees (a pest in the outback), the donkeys scare off the wild dogs which are a problem with the lambs, and the lamb off-cuts are used in the yabbie traps.
My daughter, Lacey, loved setting the traps and checking them regularly to see how many yabbies she could capture for dinner. FYI: They’re delicious in garlic butter.
3. Witness the perfect sunsets
An outback sunset is like an artist has taken to the sky, there are so many beautiful hues of pink, purples and oranges. Deon and Lane set us up each afternoon with wine, beers and a cheese platter so that we could unwind and enjoy the sunset.
The first night we sat on the pier at the boatshed and watched the sky light up before inky blackness of the night set in.
4. Cook up a delicious farm-style breakfast
A basket of goodies was delivered to our farmhouse the night before so we could cook up a big breakfast for the family, ensuring we were fully fueled to do our farm work in the morning.
The bread was still warm, after being freshly baked in the main house. The eggs are straight from the chicken shed, and the milk from Daisy, the cow.
5. Let the kids get dirty
It took me a while to adjust to being at ease with letting the kids explore, and by a while, I mean around 30 minutes.
The kids loved that they could go off, collect bones, sticks and other bits and pieces from around the property. Their shoes got dirty, their hair went wild and they have never been happier. They definitely found their happy place.
6. Roast marshmallows by the fire
One thing my daughters wanted to do on our trip was to make that famous American treat, s’mores (a roasted marshmallow and piece of chocolate sandwiched between two biscuits).
Deon, our farmer host, had never heard of them so we invited him back to our fire one night to try them out. It was such a treat to sit around the fire, share stories and roast sweet marshmallows.
7. Try your hand at shooting
I was hesitant to try my hand at shooting, but being a competitive person I had to give it a go and challenge my husband at hitting the targets. Deon put out some paper targets, and we had a go at hitting the bulls-eye.
I’m happy to say that I won a round of the target shooting, beating my police officer husband (no easy task!).
8. Relax and totally unwind
Before my trip to Shandonvale, I was struggling to remember the last time I felt really relaxed but I certainly did during our stay. We were free from television, internet and even text messages. Our phones were forgotten and we took a deep breath and relaxed into outback life.
(If you really need internet or phone service, you can use it at the main house – I quite liked not using it as much as possible).
9. Learn where your food comes from
Deon was really passionate about sharing with us, and particularly the kids, where our food comes from. We watched on as he cut up meat and explained what each part is.
We also got to explore their vegetable garden and see it turn up on our dinner plate at night. Each morning the girls checked the chicken coup for eggs as well. I thought the kids might be scared off but they loved learning more about what they eat each day.
10. Be wined and dined
Let me tell you something; Deon and Lane know good food, and they make good food. On our first night at Shandonvale, we were guided to the jetty where we were greeted with this platter and then invited to their home for a spread of delicious goodies, including roast lamb, halloumi salad, roast vegetables and more delights.
11. Chat to some really good Aussie folk
The sum of everything we did over at our stay at Shandonvale Station made for one of the best family trips we’ve ever done, but the highlight had to be Deon and Lane. We loved getting to know them, and enjoying their hospitality, but also just basking in their down-to-earth nature, and passion for their property.
It felt like such an honour to experience life on their farm, an honour we hope to experience again one day soon.