Longreach is a town in Western Queensland and the whole area is currently in drought. It was similar when I passed through 5 years ago – life on the land is certainly tough!
If you’ve been following my travels you’ll know that I don’t do the tourist scene as a rule, but I broke that rule in Longreach, and I’m glad I did! On my first visit to the area in 2013 I went to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame but I also noticed a couple of tours run by Kinnon & Co, so this visit I shouted myself the Dinner Cruise and Stagecoach Run. Both were worth every cent!
What an entrepreneurial family! The story goes that a few years ago Dad and the boys were driving into town from their cattle station and Dad passed the comment that if they had a couple of dollars for every caravan and motorhome that went past then they would be able to ride out the tough times of drought, low cattle prices etc. So they set to work to see what they could do to get their hands on the tourist dollars – and they came up with some winners!
1. Starlight’s Cruise Experience
The Cruise experience was enhanced by some great commentary by the skipper and when we disembarked we enjoyed a camp oven dinner around the campfire, a movie about Captain Starlight, billy tea and damper drizzled with golden syrup and a very funny show that included some bush poetry and a lot of belly laughing humour provided by younger members of the family.
The Thomson River Cruise revolves around the story of Captain Starlight who was the famous cattle duffer (cattle thief), Harry Readford, back in the 1870’s. This summary of his exploits is from Wikipedia…
In 1870, Readford was working as a stockman on Bowen Downs Station near Longreach in Queensland. Realising that remote parts of the property, which stretched some 228 km (142 mi) along the Thomson River, were seldom visited by station workers, he devised a plan to steal some of the station’s cattle. With two associates, George Dewdney and William Rooke, he built stockyards in an outlying part of the property, and gradually assembled a mob of about 1,000 cattle, which he then took from the property, all without any of the station workers realizing what was going on.
Readford knew the cattle would be recognized from their brands as being stolen if he tried to sell them in Queensland, so he headed for South Australia through the Channel Country and the Strzelecki Desert. Only ten years earlier, explorers Burke and Wills had set out to cross the continent along the same track, and died in the attempt. As a droving exercise, it was a remarkable achievement, as anyone who has travelled the present-day Strzelecki Track will know. Three months and 1,287 km (800 mi) later he exchanged two cows and a white bull for rations at Artracoona Native Well near Wallelderdine Station. They then moved the remainder of the mob via Mt Hopeless, and sold them for £5,000 (2009:A$250,000) at Blanchewater Station, east of Marree.
So Harry became a legend for his amazing droving experience and is still regarded as a bit of a hero for his exploits. He got caught because he also stole a famous, and easily recognizable white bull, that he also sold, and the long arm of the law reached out and dragged him back to Roma in Queensland where he was notoriously acquitted by the jury. The Australian classic novel, Robbery Under Arms, by Rolf Boldrewood is said to be based in part on Harry’s exploits.
An annual Harry Redford Cattle Drive commemorates Readford’s exploits as a drover. A range of riders from the city and country participate in this droving expedition, taking part for three days or up to three weeks, at their choice.
2. Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience
What a ride!
Our morning started with Smoko – morning tea – of scones, jam and cream and then we were taken to the yard to board our coach. There were 2 stage coaches leaving this day so we were loaded up and made our way to the Town Common for a gallop – a very dusty gallop I might add! On our return we watched a great old movie called Smiley Gets a Gun which suited the bulk of the audience who probably saw it when they were kids (like I did), so it was a competition to recognise the Australian actors who had gone on to bigger and better things many years later. These included Leonard Teale, Chips Rafferty and Ruth Cracknell.
Then it was out to be entertained once again by the young Kinnon boys. They are so naturally funny with a great sense of dry Aussie humour.
I’m glad I stretched my budget to go to both these experiences and would highly recommend them to anyone passing through the area. Not only will you be well fed and entertained it’s a way to leave some money behind in these towns that struggle to survive in times like this.
There is a massive camp about 5kms out of town on the Thomson River called Apex Riverside Park. It is provided by the Longreach Regional Council for $3 per night
Self-sufficient campers can stay at this site, toilets are available but be aware that there is no power, potable water or showers.
$3.00 per night, per vehicle, payable at the Longreach Visitor Information Centre, Eagle Street, Longreach QLD
Hot showers available at the CWA building in QANTAS park. Potable water is also available at the back of the Visitor Information Centre, Showgrounds, Kite Street Caravan Day parking area.
There are a couple of caravan parks in Longreach but unless you are desperate I would avoid them. I stayed at the Longreach Caravan Park in Ibis Street for one night and although friendly it was extremely crowded with vans crammed in together and facilities old but clean. $30 is an expensive shower!
I knew I had to give Longreach a second chance after my 2013 visit and I’m so glad I did!