STEP 1: Seek out stories from the heart of Queensland
Where I’m going today is far from the beach and the rainforests of coastal Queensland. I’m off to the town of Longreach in Outback Queensland, the merino wool capital of Australia, a mere 1175km north west of Brisbane and 650km west of Rockhampton.
Longreach is situated on the "long reach" of the Thomson River and it’s a stretch of water that I’m told has never run dry, an astounding fact when you consider the entire region has been in drought for more years than the locals care to remember.
STEP 2: See it, feel it, smell it, hear it
Hearing the stories of the exceptional people that call the outback home makes my heart sing. One such family is the Kinnon clan. Originally a family of graziers, they have gone from surviving to thriving with their award-winning Outback Pioneers experiences.
I arrive at the Station Store where I’m welcomed by Richard Kinnon. He’s a larger than life character whose warmth and enthusiasm is second to none. “When I started doing this, I wanted to create experiences where people could see it, feel it, smell it and hear it,” says Richard. “And that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
STEP 3: Embrace the style of yesteryear
Richard must have heard I have a thing for horses and history, because he tells me he has an original Cobb & Co Stagecoach ready for departure and I’ll need to be dressed in full period costume before I’ll be allowed aboard! Horses AND dressing up - I’m beside myself with excitement!
When I see my costume, it’s only appropriate to swoon like an old-fashioned lady would. My dress is every bit as flouncy and lacy as I’d hoped it would be, and the icing on the cake is a glorious hat adorned with long, black emu feathers that sway in the breeze.
I meet the five gorgeous horses that are harnessed in the traditional Cobb & Co hitch of three in front and two at the rear and I learn that back in the day when horse and buggy was the primary method of transportation, this configuration of horses was designed to break in new horses.
I’m helped on board (as a lady in this much fabric should be) and we’re off at a trot along the original mail route to Windorah along bush tracks. With a quick warning from the driver, I’m told to hang onto my hat and we’re off at a gallop through the bush! We’re flying along and it’s an incredible feeling! There’s the carriage bouncing along, I can hear the pounding of the horses’ hooves and the jingling of the harnesses and feel the wind in my face and smell the dirt being stirred up beneath us. We’re getting along at a cracking pace and when they pull up the horses, I’m beaming from ear to ear!
STEP 4: Bring the past into the present
There’s simply nothing quite like the Australian outback, and it’s a place that’s always captured my imagination because of its vast, sprawling terrain and exceptional people that dedicate their lives to the land.
Fifth generation farmer with country in his blood, true local Dan was raised and learned the ropes of farming on the family property, Camden Park Station outside of Longreach. A mere 18,000 acres. The Queen and Prince Philip visited Camden Park in 1970 and sat in the very chair that I did!
After 12 years of running his family property, unfortunately, drought struck and stuck around, and Camden Park was destocked.
They’ve been doing it tough out here with many years of drought, which were then followed up by devastating floods. Being the resourceful lot they are, many of the locals like Dan from Camden Park Station have found new ways to diversify their income by promoting the spirit of the region to tourists, making tourism the region’s fastest growing industry.
STEP 5: Toast to the stars
A hard day’s yakka was topped off with a glass of red and a bath under the most stars I’ve ever seen! Plus, you don’t have to share this world-class view with a single soul (maybe a couple of cicadas though!). It gave me a chance to reflect on the amazing people of Longreach and all that they do that makes this part of Queensland truly unique.