Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published September 15th 2021
Is This the Outback or The Tropics?
Barcaldine is a small Queensland town of around 1,400 people. About an hour's drive south of Longreach, the town is on the Tropic of Capricorn, which no doubt accounts for the vegetation in the area. We passed many bottle trees along the way and the main street here is full of exotic flowering trees and shrubs. At the Tourist Park palms and frangipanis grow.
Frangipanni growing at Barcaldine Tourist Park - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
On the trip from Charleville to Barcaldine (pronounced Bar-call-din) which is 409 kms, we saw our first Brolgas since leaving Melbourne and I sighted a Bustard (an Australian Bush Turkey). Notably on this stretch of road we saw more sedans than we did four-wheel drives, more road trains than on any stretch of the trip so far, more live roos than dead, and although the land appeared flat, there was a subtle climb the whole time. We had barely left Charleville when we saw our first wedge-tailed eagle for the day.
Road trains were a common sight - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
We went into town as soon as we arrived to see the famous Tree of Knowledge. It was under this tree in 1891, during the Shearer's Strike, that an organisation was formed which later became the Australian Labour Party. In 2006, some evil and twisted soul poisoned the tree. The remains have been preserved, and a monument has been built around them, a wooden chandelier of thousands of pieces representing the canopy of the tree and to the size the tree was at its best. It is a magnificent thing to see.
The Tree of Light and Monument at Night - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
We went back after dark, the highlight of the day, to view the Tree of Knowledge Monument with all its lights shining bright. From the outside, green lighting gives the appearance of the tree as it might have been. Beneath the monument, we look up at 3,449 hanging timbers highlighted with coloured lights. It is beyond measure and worth every one of the 1,600 kms we have travelled from Melbourne to see it.
The Tree of Knowledge by Day - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
In a park in the main street, Oak Street, we came upon a thong-a-phone and a marimba. The marimba is a wooden xylophone placed over tuned metal resonators. It is the size of a park bench. The sticks to play it were missing, having been cut from the chains that kept them there, so I played it with my hands and it was surprisingly tuneful. The instruments were constructed under a public artworks program. Visitors are encouraged to play them, and you should, it's so much fun.
Come along and play the thong-a-thon - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
Also, in the main street, we came across a really large windmill. Manufactured in 1917 and originally used on the site of the first flowing bore in Queensland, it was installed here as a symbol of the importance of Artesian water to the Queensland people.
The large windmill and some of the beautiful flowers in the main street - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
There are five pubs on the main street. Apparently, there were fourteen in the town's heyday. What can I say, this is Australia! Every one of the pubs is more than one hundred years old. There are other historic structures about town too, it's not all about the pubs (is it?)
Pubs in Barcaldine's main street - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
One outstanding example is the Masonic Lodge at 24 Beech Street. Built in 1901 and still used today is an unusual sight indeed. It was actually built from iron and timber and painted to look like it was made from bricks. (I'm not sure it quite gets there.)
The Masonic Lodge built in 1901 - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge.
I took a walk around and out into the street near a farm; the Tourist Park is on the edge of town, although at walking distance. The birdlife here was awesome and never having seen many of them before, I was glad I had a field guide with me. The list for bird watchers is long. In the space of two days, I saw crowned babblers, yellow-throated miners, kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets (in abundance), crested pigeons, wood swallows, peaceful doves, and galahs.
A Hall's Babbler (I think) - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The Australian Labour Party began in Barcaldine so it was no surprise to find the Australian Workers' Heritage Centre here. We arrived just before 10am and spend about two and a half hours going through the displays, which are a tribute to the workers of Australia.
A theatre and display space at the Australian Workers Heritage Centre - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
There is much here about the 1891 Shearer's Strike and the Tree of Knowledge. Often narrations begin as we enter the rooms and there are puzzles for children. The Australian Workers Heritage Centre is at 94 Ash Street. They can be contacted on (07) 4651 1579 or click here to visit their website.
The Barcaldine Australian Workers Heritage Centre on the way to everywhere - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
We made an afternoon visit to the Barcaldine and District Folk Museum, which has an honesty box at the front door. No matter how many museums we visit, there is always something new. Here is a magpie's nest made from scraps of wire. It was apparently found in a nearby tree.
In the carports of the Barcaldine and District Folk Museum - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
A miniature souvenir bat signed by the 1948 cricket team has Don Bradman's signature at the top. There is a German machine gun, an iron lung, and a 1932 cheque writing machine. The museum is on the corner of Beech and Gidyea Streets. For more details, call the Visitor Information Centre on (07) 4651 1724. The museum is open from 7.00am to 5.00pm every day except on Good Friday and Christmas Day.
The ladies of the past needed muscles to pick up these heavy kettles - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
Our home away from home was a small but very reasonably priced cabin at the Barcaldine Tourist and Caravan Park. It was a little like a hotel room with a sink and microwave. The surprise was a large shower and spacious bathroom, who'd have thought it. The Park itself was quiet and immaculately kept and surrounded by exotic trees and shrubs. There is plenty of open space and the gardens are lovely.
Quaint cut-outs at the Barcaldine Tourist Park - Phot by Gayle Beveridge
My attention was captured by a quaint tin-figure cut-out of a bloke leaning against a pole with his dog. There was free Wi-Fi and we are thankful for it. The Tourist Park is at 51-65 Box Street. They can be contacted on (07) 4651 6066 or click here to visit their website.
At the Barcaldine and District Folk Museum - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
Getting There, Where to Stay and Visitor Information
Barcaldine is on the Matilda Highway, 107 kms and about an hour's drive south of Longreach and on the Capricorn Highway 590 kms west of Rockhampton and can be reached by car on sealed roads. Bus services are available through Bus Queensland - 1300 287 537 or Greyhound Bus Travel - 1300 473 946. The Spirit of the Outback train run by Queensland Rail - 1800 872 467 - passes through Barcaldine twice a week. Air services are available through Qantas and Rex Airlines. For assistance with your travel to Barcaldine, contact the Barcaldine News and travel Agency on (07) 4651 1104, by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
We stayed at the Barcaldine Tourist Park at 51-65 Box Street and I can't recommend them highly enough. The Park is only one of three caravan parks and there are variety hotels and motels. Click here for a Google list of accommodation in Barcaldine.
Bougainvillea was flowering all about town - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
The Visitor Information Centre is at 149 Oak Street, Barcaldine and is open Monday to Friday: 8.30am to 4.00pm. They can be contacted on (07) 4651 1724 or by email on email@example.com or click here to visit the Barcaldine Regional Council Tourism page.