Country Music At Its Best on The Great Western Play & Stay Musical Tour - Ashley Cook & Peter Salata (Author's Photo)
What makes this tour so different is the inclusion of ten to twelve country artists who travel with the passengers on the coach and provide a concert every night at a pub or club of the night's destination. The Great Western Play & Stay Musical Tour has just completed its ninth year with many passengers returning year after year to meet and enjoy the music from the numerous country artists. At some destinations, passengers and locals were fortunate to also listen to songs from guest country artists who reside in the vicinity of the pubs and clubs where the night's entertainment occurred. CDs from all the artists were for sale at very reasonable prices and it was not hard to want to purchase quite a few to take home.
Each Night a Concert at a different venue was a lot of fun - Doug Alexander, Greg Ross, Noel Pohlmann & Peter Salata (Author's Photo)
This was my first year on the tour, however, I can totally understand the senior population returning not only for the music but for the ability to be taken to these outback towns when travel for them is no longer a car or caravan option. Travellers came from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg, Maryborough, Hervey Bay and the coach made collections at destinations in Maryborough and Hervey Bay.
Painted Silos found in every town - Mundubbera (Author's Photo)
Our first museum stop was the RM Williams Australian Bush Learning Centre near Eidsvold. I was very interested in visiting here and we were fortunate to have a lady tour guide, who not only knew RM but was also his neighbour. She gave a very personal touch to the wealth of knowledge delivered to us on our visit. Self-contained RV Camping is available onsite for $10.00 each night and general entry to the museum is $5.00 per person.
RM Williams Australian Bush Learning Centre (Author's Photo)
Onwards on our journey, we stopped at the Cracow Hotel for a drink. The township of Cracow is quite small, and you would be forgiven to think you have just time-travelled into the past with many shop fronts depicting a time long past. The Cracow Hotel provides meals, accommodation and inside the pub, the walls are covered with signatures from patrons and those who have travelled through. I found my name on the wall from my previous visit there.
Grand Looking Hotel - Hotel Theodore (Author's Photo)
Day two we ventured onto Fairburn Dam,Emerald, Rubyvale for lunch and to check out the opals and other precious gems, before heading to Alpha for the night. It is vastly arid in the west; my thoughts going to the thousands of farmers waiting for even the slightest chance of rain, yet new days begin as the last ended.
Significant Part of Australia's History - Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine (Author's Photo)
Day three took our tour to Barcaldine, which is famous for the Tree of Knowledge and the history behind the beginning of the Australian Labour Party. The Tree of Knowledge was a ghost gum and during the great shearers' strike in 1891 meetings were held under the shade of its umbrella, however, in 2006 the tree was poisoned. Fortunately, the tree was preserved and placed under a timber structure, which is lit with lights during the night. Information plaques are available for visitors to read about the significance of the tree and its history.
Great Idea for a Bar Stool at Wellshot Hotel, Ilfracombe (Author's Photo)
Our next stop was Ilfracombe for lunch at the pub, before continuing onto Longreach for two nights. After lunch, we walked The Great Machinery Mile, which hosts a large range of different forms of old machinery, engines, tractors, even a big excavator, some of the items are very rare and collected within a hundred-mile radius of the town. The display is free, however, there is a donation box along the walk. Again, plaques line the walk so you can read about these machines and what was their use. Having worked in the industry most of my life, I found the display very interesting.
Extremely interesting "Machinery Mile
Longreach started the return of warmer weather and the realisation that summer would not be the season to venture this far out in the state. We stayed in cabins at the Longreach Tourist Park, which were very comfy and about a four-kilometre walk into town. Broglas reside in bushland close to the park and they were seen in the park frequently pecking at what looked like barren earth to my eye, but obviously finding plenty to eat. They were certainly not bothered by the hundreds of caravans or people wandering around.
Broglas found something to eat in the barren earth (Author's Photo)
I have visited Longreach twice and had visited the main attractions such as the Qantas Founders Museum and the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame & Outback Heritage Centre, so my quest this time was to see what the town had to offer. While other folk headed towards these tourist destinations, I decided to walk into town via the Botanic Walkway. This walkway was designed by landscape architect Lawrie Smith and includes one hundred and fifty signs, which allows the visitor to identify and understand the values of the plants along with water-wise gardening tips.
Drovers Monument, Longreach (Author's Photo)
Longreach town is definitely equipped for the tourists and like most towns proud of its history and what it can show visitors. Statues seen on one corner depict the time of the "Drover", when stockmen would move stock over long distances; another silhouette of a cowboy rested against the wall outside the Saddlery Outback Pioneers provides Cobb & Co Stagecoach half-day tours where visitors can experience what it is like to ride in a stagecoach. The Woolshed Bar & Grill is part of the Longreach Tourist Park and provides a scrumptious meal for patrons.
Delicious Ribs Meal @ Woolshed Bar & Grill, Longreach
I was excited to visit Winton, a place I had not been before. Festivities for Winton's Outback Festival were gearing up an exciting atmosphere in the town and our musicians were playing on the stage for everyone's entertainment. Left to our own devices, we had time to explore the town, although not long enough for me as I fell in love with this extraordinary outback place. Market stalls, food vans, machinery displays, horse-drawn coach rides, statues, other entertainers and so much more was lighting up the town with magnetism.
Winton's Outback Festival (Author's Photo)
Visiting the Waltzing Matilda Centre was definitely a highlight of my visit with an impressive display of technology combined with history to portray the words of Banjo Patterson's love of Australia and archives of an enormous sheep business in the West.
Waltzing Matilida Museum, Winton (Author's Photo)
Some other points of interest in Winton which were scheduled on our tour were the Musical Fence and Arno's Wall Park, the latter of which I did not have enough time to see. Winton is definitely a place I hope to return and stay a week or so to soak up more of this town's attractions. There is so much to see.
Digital & Narrative Exhibits, Waltzing Matilda Museum (Author's Photo)
From Winton, we headed towards Hughenden where we stayed overnight with our musicians entertaining at the Great Western Hotel. The next day we visited the Flinders Discovery Centre where dinosaur and fossil remains were of interest. It is hard to imagine any world disaster could wipe out these mighty creatures, yet the proof remains etched in Australia's history.
How could anything so large become extinct? (Author's Photo)
Charters Towers was our next overnight stop and unfortunately our arriving on a weekend, we found the town centre was shut with only a couple of eating venues open. We had lunch at the Stock Exchange Cafe, which also catered for gluten-free patrons.
From Charters Towers we headed for the coast to Townsville, Ayr, Mackay, Rockhampton, Yeppoon and back to Maryborough, each night staying in cabins or pubs along the way and our team of musician's entertaining patrons while guest artists joined in the fun. At the Gordon Hotel in Homebush, local resident and music artist Damien Agius played a few songs. He is definitely one artist to watch as he has an amazing voice.
Guest Artist, Damien Agius plays at Homebush (Author;s Photo)
On the way home, we visited Rockhampton's free Zoo, which had an interesting array of animals – Crocodiles, Meerkats, Monkeys, Dingoes, Birds, Emus, Kangaroos. On the day of our visit, it was school holidays, so the zoo was very popular with families.
Although most of us were glad to see the ocean again, it was also with nostalgia that we had left the outback.
Beautiful Yeppoon (Author's Photo)
What have I loved about the Tour?
Concerts each night at different venues, where getting up for a dance or gig and singing along was all part of the fun
Getting to know great Country Artists
Bushman's Breakfast each morning cooked to perfection and making it easy to get to know others on the tour
Definitely not having to drive the distance myself
Having a taste of the places I may wish to revisit
Making new friends
Falling in love with outback towns
2021 Country Artists (Missing Bob Ovenden) Author's Photo
If this is the type of tour you would like to take, contact Amy, Donna or Greg for more information on pricing by calling 07 4129 7132 or 0427 297 132. The tour price includes breakfast, dinner, shared accommodation, coach travel and of course, concerts each night. Passengers cover lunch requirements and entry to any museums.