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Top 5 Things to do in Ilfracombe

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by Gayle Beveridge (subscribe)
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 28th 2021
One of Outback Queensland's Hidden Gems

We had passed through Ilfracombe on our way to Longreach. Just short of twenty minutes drive from Longreach, it is a small highway town of fewer than 200 people. There was a working windmill in the main street, feeding a small pond. We have no doubt kangaroos came there to drink. It was surrounded by a veritable roo-poo carpet. Like many small towns in the Australian Outback, it punches above its weight for things to see and do. We only had a day there and had to prioritise our time. We missed the Wellshot Centre, the Folk Museum and Romani Hall but chose what we hoped were the top five attractions, one of which was quite unexpected.

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Just some of the hats at the Wellshot Hotel - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

The Historic Wellshot Hotel

On arrival, we had cappuccinos at the Wellshot Hotel, built in 1890. We sat out in the beer garden that was, and could again be a rodeo arena. Whistling kites circled overhead and there was a kangaroo grazing in a side street.

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The Wellshot Hotel built in 1890 - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

Inside the hotel, hats were fixed to the top of the walls and part of the roof. There was all manner of hats, some labelled with the names of those who wore them, some signed. There was a hat there from country singer Lee Kernaghan and another from Quentin Bryce, once our Governor-General. There were peak caps and akubras, pilot caps and police caps. Some were new, but most showed the signs of a long life. It was quite a display. We cast our eyes to the ceiling and pinned there in a haphazard manner are five-dollar notes.

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Inside the Wellshot Hotel - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

The Wellshot Hotel is at 20 Main Avenue, on the corner of Main Avenue (the Landsborough Highway) and Wellshot Street. They can be contacted on (07) 4658 2106, by email on thewellshothotel@gmail.com or click here to visit their website.

The Jackson Collections

We headed off to a bottle collection we had heard about. It is the lifetime collection of brothers Hilton and Ike Jackson. All manner and age of bottles were on show. There are reported to be over 30,000 bottles here. The light was shining through some of the coloured bottles. They made quite a show with the sun behind them.

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Colourful bottles in the Jackson Collection - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

A large tin was filled with glass bottle stoppers. A collection of hand shears hung from the ceiling. There were old papers and magazines, horseshoe art, a collection of scissors, buttons (more than 40,000 of them) tins, tools and more.

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Just some of the scissors in the Jackson Collections - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

The collection and all manner of stuff used to be a Steptoe and Son style set up but in 2009 the Council purchased the bottle and war memorabilia collections to ensure it lived on in perpetuity. The War memorabilia includes firearms, flags, uniforms and more.

The Jackson Collections are on Main Avenue (the Landsborough Highway) in Ilfracombe.

The Great Machinery Mile

We walked along the Great Machinery Mile, a significant and well-labelled collection of machinery lining the main street. Formally called the Ilfracombe Machinery and Heritage Museum, this extensive collection displays the evolution of the pastoral and transport industries. Information plates on the sides of the machines not only identify the machine but also detail its history; when it was made, what it was used for, and who owned it.

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A 1949 Austin Truck at the Ilfracombe Great Machinery Mile - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

Here you will see tractors, graders, bulldozers, trucks and excavators, including Ilfracombe Council's first Caterpillar Grader purchased from Army Disposals in 1947, and a Massey Harris kerosene tractor/grader made in Canada in 1943. There are some 1930s Allis Chalmers crawlers amongst them and I couldn't help but think of a gentleman I know, a collector of tractors, who would really enjoy this.

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Allis Chalmers K Series Hayfield Crawler circa 1934 - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

The Great Machinery Mile is an outdoor display along Main Avenue (the Landsborough Highway) beside the railway line in Ilfracombe.

The 12 Mile

After lunch at the Wellshot Hotel, we headed off to The 12 Mile, a leak-proof reservoir made from naturally formed flagstones in the 1800s, possibly 1892, by Chinese workers. We drove along the Isisford Road to The 12 Mile. The road is bitumen but seemed to narrow the further we went. We were on kangaroo watch and just as well. We spotted one standing in the shade of a roadside sign and as we slowly drew near, it hopped across the road in front of us. Four hundred metres of dirt track at the end and we were there.

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Precision work - stone pitching at The 12 Mile near Ilfracombe - Photo copyright Gayle Beverodge

The 12 Mile is awe-inspiring. Stones wedged in place on their ends create an erosion proof facing to an embankment that served as a bye-wash, causing water to flow into an adjacent dam. The dam was located along the stock route from Isisford to Ilfracombe.

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The 12 Mile - a stone pitched dam on the Isisford Road from Ilfracombe - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

The creek bed was dry and we noticed it was dotted with shells. There are some shaded picnic tables, and information boards at the site give a wealth of information on 'The Art of Stone Pitching' and 'The Twelve Mile Hotel.' The Royal Mail Hotel operated between 1893 and around 1916 and is no longer standing.

The 12 Mile is on Ilfracombe-Isisford Road, Ilfracombe.

Looking for Fossils and Gidyea Stones on Aramac Road

We noticed a lot of round stones, many painted white as decorative edgings. We saw a couple that were split in half and appeared to have a core with rings around it. We were told there are sometimes fossilized crabs and shrimps inside. These rocks are called gidyea stones. They get their name because they are most often found where gidyea trees grow or used to grow. We were told we could fossick for them in creek beds along the Aramac Road, and although we didn't know it in that moment, they would become our next little adventure.

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Gidyea Stones at Ilfracombe - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

After our stroll around The 12 Mile, we had returned to Ilfracombe for a cold drink. We had ice-cold milkshakes served in the metal cups they're made in, just like when I was a kid. A chap wandered up to the table, asked where we were from and sat down. He was a farmer whose station is off the Aramac Road. We chatted for a while and told him we were headed off the look for the gidyea stones. He was a fount of information. Fossils from broken stones can be found at the side of Aramac Road. The road graders break them apart and he said he often saw people fossicking at Brutus Creek at the end of the bitumen.

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The very flat terrain around Ilfracombe - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

He was taking cattle home, so we followed behind his truck. We drove through flat grass plains that seemed to go on forever. The farmer stopped, quite unexpectedly, and we pulled up behind him. We were just short of the creek and he walked back to show us where to look for the fossils. Outback hospitality is amazing.

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A fossil found on the Aramac Road near Brutus Creek - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

My husband found fossils on the first stone he picked up. We wandered along, turning over stones. We had only an hour if we were to return to Longreach, where we were staying, before dusk. In all, we left with ten small rocks. Some have a number of fossils, mostly shells, but a couple have larger fossils which we think may be parts of ancient fish. Exciting stuff.

Getting There, Accommodation and Visitor Information

Getting There: Ilfracombe is 27 kilometres or around twenty minutes drive from Longreach on the Landsborough Highway. We drove up from Barcaldine as part of a much longer road trip. Longreach is around 1,200 kilometres from Brisbane and around and between 600 and 700 kilometres from each of Rockhampton, Mount Isa and Townsville. 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.

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The Great Machinery Mile just keeps on going - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

Accommodation in Ilfracombe is available at the Wellshot Hotel which offers rooms and self-contained options. We stayed in nearby Longreach, where there is 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.

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1930 Bedford at the Ilfracombe Great Machinery Mile - 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 on experience@longreach.qld.gov.au or click here to visit their website.

For additional information specific to Ilfracombe click here to visit the Ilfracombe page on the Longreach Region website.
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Why? These places are Australian treasures, add them to your bucket list, you won’t regret it.
When: Whenever you can
Phone: (07) 4658 4141 or (07) 4658 4142
Where: Ilfracombe is 27 kms or around twenty minutes’ drive from Longreach on the Landsborough Highway. Longreach is around 1,200 kms from Brisbane and around and between 600 and 700 kms from each of Rockhampton, Mount Isa and Townsville.
Your Comment
Great meal there too Gayle at the pub
by Susan J Bowes (score: 3|2590) 274 days ago
I love the thought of fossicking for fossils. I keep getting fascinated with all the beauty of our country.
by Roger (score: 2|783) 276 days ago
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