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 October 5th 2021
Outback Stage Coaches, Paddle Boats and Airplanes
It was only an hour's drive from Barcaldine to Longreach as we continued our 80-day road trip. Again, we spent much of the trip dodging dead kangaroos and the eagles, kites and crows that gather to feed on them. We were slightly ahead of the peak tourist season and the locals in Longreach told us when the tourist season starts in earnest, the council would clean up the carcasses.
Part of the Royal Flying Doctor Service display at the Stockmans Hall of Fame - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
As we approached Longreach, we could see from a distance the 747 parked at the QANTAS Founders Museum. There was no doubting we had arrived. We arrived for a five-night stay that we extended twice. We ended up spending nine nights here as it was just too good to leave in a hurry.
Up close and personal with a 747 at the QANTAS Founders Museum - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
There is much to do in Longreach. The town and its people have embraced tourism with gusto. Even though we stayed longer, there were still things we did not get to, amongst them cattle station tours, outback dinner and show, and the Powerhouse Museum. Nonetheless, here's what we did and my top seven reasons you should visit Longreach too.
The QANTAS Founders Museum
We started our first full day in Longreach at 8am. We were at the gate of the Bird Cage, the compound in which the QANTAS Founders Museum keeps three of its tourist planes, a 747, a 707 and a Super Constellation. We were commencing our platinum tour, which we had booked in advance.
The underbelly of the 747 at the QANTAS Founders Museum - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
We walked beneath the 747, 'City of Bunbury,' donated to the museum by QANTAS. Originally in service in December 1979, the plane arrived in Longreach on 16th November 2002. We learned about the wheels, the landing gear, the engines, the safety equipment and all other things beneath. We had our photos taken in front of one of the Rolls Royce engines. It was bigger than us. We could have stood inside, but my unease with heights was getting the better of me.
We climbed a set of stairs and peeped into cargo bay two and another set of stairs to enter the rear of the passenger compartment. We saw where the black boxes, which are in fact orange, are kept. A door covering was cut away to show us the escape hatch and raft slide. A roof cutaway revealed a myriad of cables and pulleys, these days largely replaced by digital technology. We sat in the cockpit, which was surprisingly cramped, nothing like the spacious areas of the Hollywood movies.
A replica of the original QANTAS plane, an AVRO 504 in 1921. At QANTAS Founders Museum - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
Then the highlight of the tour, the wing walk. We were harnessed to a line, but were two stories up. I was fine as we stepped out of the plane, but as we walked closer to the edge and the wing got thinner, it was pretty scary for me. My advice to you, if like me, heights are not your thing, is to find the courage to step out there. It is an experience not to be missed. Our guide explained the components of the wing and how each works, took our photos and then thankfully we returned to the plane.
Me in the flight simulator at QANTAS Founders Museum - Photo copyright Roger Marien
After the 747 we went to the 707, which had been, at a time in its life, fitted out as a luxury plane for the rich and famous. It is old now but nonetheless, the interior was rather swish. Polished timber was a highlight of the cabinetry in the lounge and a carved wooden screen separated the bedroom from the rest of the private quarters. The platinum tour provided for a wing walk of this plane too, a little different, as the wings here are much narrower than those of the 747.
After lunch, we devoted the afternoon to the Museum itself. First stop, a biplane flight simulator. We both had a go. I'm pretty sure I crashed a couple of times.
The Model T Ford used to re-enact the trip which inspired the establishment of QANTAS - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The displays tell the story of the men, ex-air force pilots, who started QANTAS in the early 1900s. The founders realised the great need for air services in Western Queensland and the Northern Territory after travelling through the outback to Darwin in a Model T Ford. We watched a documentary of a modern re-enactment of their journey. The Model T Ford used for the re-enactment is on display here. There are many other visuals, audio, and artefact displays. Outside we looked in a DC3 and then wandered through a heritage-listed hangar. By the time we had finished, we had spent over seven and a half hours there. To call this an amazing place would be an understatement.
The QANTAS Founders Museum is at Sir Hudson Fysh Drive in Longreach. They can be contacted on (07) 4658 3737, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to visit their website.
The Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame
They give pass outs at the Stockman's Hall of Fame. They say you need a second day to do it justice and so you would if you stopped to read, listen to and watch all they have on display. There were several galleries on five levels; Songlines and Stock Routes, Gone Drovin', Unsung Heros, Pioneers Hut, Bush Craft, Sheep's Back, Furthest Corner, Living it Up, Poets' Corner, the Outback Kids Adventure and Outback Cinema, a movie theatre where a fifteen-minute movie airs on the hour. All of this was topped off with The Stockman's Live Show and with the Hugh Sawrey Art Gallery. We had allowed the whole day.
Part of the Stockmans Hall of Fame show, Longreach - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
We started with a coffee and then wandered the galleries. In an Explorers exhibit, a large map of Australia on the wall was marked with the routes of our famous explorers–Burke and Wills, Oxley, Leichhardt, Major Mitchell, and Eyre to name but a few. We pressed a button on an explorer's information panel and the routes they took were travelled by lights on the wall map.
An old merchants wagon on display at the Stockmans Hall of Fame - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
Themed videos were dotted amongst artefacts and earphones are provided for audio examples like the four mock-up emergency phone calls to the flying doctor. Information boards detailing the lives of both the famous and the unsung heroes of the outback line the walls. A movie details the different stockmen's jobs, and the roles played by men, women and children.
A chain horse crafted by Sue Tilley and Tom Greer for ARTScape 2011, A Spinal Injuries Association event- Photo copyright Gayel Beveridge
The Stockman's Live Show ran for an hour. We sat in the shade of a grandstand at the Outback arena where we were treated to a display of the riding skills of the stockman, the hilarious antics of a well-trained horse, demonstrations by kelpie sheepdogs, and a song or two. A stockman rode a large bull for his final song and after the show, I got up close to the bull; what a gentle giant.
The Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame is on the Landsborough Highway in Longreach to the east of the Township. They can be contacted on (07) 4658 2166, by email on email@example.com or click here to visit their website.
Cobb & Co Stage Coach Experience
Outback Pioneers (Kinnon & Co) is run by the Kinnons, a family of graziers who diversified into tourism to earn income during drought years so they could maintain their property. They are now a big part of the Longreach tourism industry and I can attest that they do their jobs very well.
Tourists having photos with a Kinnon son before the Cobb and Co Coach Ride - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
We started the day with a ride on a Cobb & Co Coach. The pre-ride spiel, delivered by one of the Kinnon sons, was hilarious. Before we got on the coach, we donned old-time hats and had our photo taken. I got dibs on the fake rifle. The coach accommodates nine passengers inside, three on a seat atop the back and three up-front, including the driver. The ride took us out past the town common along an original coach route. The town common was once a place where the locals could graze their cattle, but that is no longer the case. We were told that horses are grazed there, apparently, most local families have one. The common was also where the locals teach their children to ride motorbikes and drive cars.
Along the trail, we paused alongside a coolabah tree that had been assessed at more than 400 years old. It was, unfortunately, dead. The coach turned then, and they galloped the horses. At speed, dirt and horse dung flick up from the wheels and into the coach. We were warned this could happen and were assured we could keep whatever came in for no extra cost. The horses were only galloped 800 metres so as not to tire them. Our driver narrated the journey with the history of Cobb & Co and then of Longreach as we returned to drive around town. We listened through earplugs. The coach journey was surprisingly smooth, and we learned that the coaches had suspension made from strips of leather.
Two of the four horses that pull the coach - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
After the ride, there was smoko, really Devonshire tea, followed by a screening of the old-time movie, Smiley, starring Chips Rafferty. In the theatre, we sat on low canvas couches, like deck chairs. These were the original chairs from the Clermont theatre.
After the movie, we watched Harry Redford's Old Time Tent Show, a hilarious job interview scenario. Jimmy Johnston, offsider of Harry Redford, better known as the cattle thief Captain Starlight, was interviewing a chap for a job. The interviewee was a stuttering fool named Half Watt. Amidst the jokes were skilled horsemanship, talented animals, and old-time corny cons. This show is an hour of side-splitting laughter.
Penny-farthing bikes - props for the show - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The Cobb and Co. Stage Coach Experience runs Monday to Friday from April to October, inclusive. It departs from the Cobb and Co. courtyard at the rear of the Kinnon & Co's The Station Store at 126 Eagle Street. They can be contacted on (07) 4658 1776, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to visit their website. In all, the experience lasts for four hours.
Starlight's Cruise Experience
We joined Outback Pioneers in the late afternoon for a paddleboat sunset cruise along the Thompson River. The paddleboat headed east until the sun was just above the horizon and the eastern sky faded from blue through pink to mauve, all reflected in the river. Then the boat turned and headed west, where the sky and the river were bathed in gold.
Sunset over the Thompson River, Longreach (looking west) - Photos copyright Gayle Beveridge
The cruise ended where it started and a campfire atop the bank welcomed us. We were served beef stew and buttered bread, followed by apple pie and custard. They brought the dessert out three at a time on a tiered holder and one young lad skillfully swung it like a billy. He explained that actual billy swinging is a no-no these days due to occupational health and safety laws.
Reverse sunset (looking east) - just as pretty - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
An older chap recited bush poetry. It was funny stuff. We then went behind the camp to a grandstand in front of a large picture screen on a river pontoon. We watched a movie about Captain Starlight and were surrounded by the sounds of the bush and treated to amazing light effects across the river. The night finished with billy tea and damper.
A camp setting for dinner - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The trip back to town on the bus highlighted the dangers of driving at night in the outback. Even in town, kangaroos jumped in front of us. We slowed for the roos several times. The key message here folks is if you are driving outback roads after dusk, be ever so careful.
The Starlight's Cruise Experience runs Monday to Friday from April to October, inclusive. Pick up from town accommodation is available. They can be contacted on (07) 4658 1776, by email at email@example.com or click here to visit their website.
Longreach School of The Air
One morning we were off to school at nine o'clock, Longreach School of the Air, that is. A movie, a tour around the campus and a look into the hi-tech classrooms were on the agenda. Unfortunately, there were no live classes the day we toured as the teachers had travelled to Winora for a 'cluster day' when students travel to a central area to meet teachers and fellow students. The campus at Longreach had live-in quarters for the couple of times a year the kids get together.
The library, which was extensive, was more than books. There were puzzles, musical instruments, and teaching aids. Around the walls, in the corridors and in the main foyer, the children's work was on display. As we had found at the School of the Air in Alice Springs, there was a program for visitors to donate books and what could be better than getting a book in front of a child. I chose a book from display. There was a nameplate inside the front cover for me to enter my name and where I live. They told us the children enjoy looking up the places the book donors have come from.
Sculptures from scrap by School of the Air students - family involvement projects - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The Longreach School of the Air is at 10349 Landsborough Highway in Longreach. They can be contacted on 0477 298 104, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to visit their website. The tours run from March through to October and are booked over the website.
Around the Town
In Longreach, a huge flock of corellas flew above the main street. They settled in such numbers they jostled for space in two Moreton Bay Fig trees. These are destructive birds. The path below was littered with leaves and twigs bitten from the tree and cast aside. As if the damage to the trees was not itself enough, the greater tragedy is revealed on plaques below. These trees were planted by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh when they visited Longreach in 1970. We can only hope their recovery was swift.
A huge flock of Corellas over the main street on Longreach - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The tropic of Capricorn runs through Longreach. A globe-like wire sculpture sits on a street corner attesting to this and it points the way. On one side of the sign is the Torrid Zone and on the other, the Temperate Zone.
Longreach is on the Tropic of Capricorn - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
There are plenty of cafes in town and we enjoyed a coffee at The Outback Gallery after checking out the artwork. They have comfy outdoor settings in a back courtyard under the shade of a poinsettia tree, a large tree with fiery red flowers. The canopy of this tree covered the entire courtyard, providing some welcome shade.
The Longreach Botanic Walkway
We were staying at the Longreach Tourist Park on the eastern outskirts near the QANTAS Museum. I walked to town along the Landsborough Highway, which has been turned into a native plants botanic walk.
A small part of the Longreach Botanic Walk - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
Along the way, information boards identify the plants, show a gauge of their water efficiency and flowering quality and how large they grow. The signs, of which there are around 150, help foster an understanding of the values of the plants to the environment and to encourage water-wise gardening techniques.
Interpretive signage on the Longreach Botanic Walk - Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge
This is the Longreach Botanic Walkway, a linear garden featuring native flora which runs for 2.5 kilometres from the civic centre in town and the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame.
Getting There, Accommodation and Visitor Information
Getting There: Longreach is an outback tourist mecca and if you go nowhere else you can fly here from Brisbane and fill a week or more. Longreach is around 1,200 kilometres from Brisbane and around and between 600 and 700 kilometres from each of Rockhampton, Mount Isa and Townsville. We drove up from Barcaldine as part of a much longer road trip. There are air and rail services from Brisbane. In Longreach, we met a number of people who had made the rail trip. For more details on how to get to the area click here to visit the 'How to Get Here' page on the Longreach Region website.
A brolga fluffing out its feathers on a street in Longreach - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
Accommodation: We stayed in a cabin at the Longreach Tourist park which is only one option amongst a staggering range of accommodation options in motels, hotels, caravan, cabin and camping parks and self-contained units and homes. To check out all the options, click here to visit the 'Where to Stay' page of the Longreach Region website.
The Stockmans Hall of Fame, Longreach - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The Longreach Region Visitor Information Centre is at Qantas Park, 99A Eagle Street, Longreach. They can be contacted on (07) 4658 4141 or (07) 4658 4142, by email at email@example.com or click here to visit their website.