Travel: Beauty and history in Longreach, Qld
From planes to pioneers, Longreach is a top tour stop in the north.
Normally we stay at one of the two caravan parks in town. During the winter tourist season they are usually full and can be quite crowded, so this time we stayed at Ilfracombe Caravan Park, 20 minutes east of Longreach.
If you are coming from the east, this little town where all the attractions are free is a good base to explore Longreach and the surrounding area.
The Ilfracombe Caravan Park’s friendly owners Jesse and Cathy Hitson and their children provide free entertainment most evenings, and nearby attractions include the free heated pool and the old Wellshot Hotel, which serves meals. The Wellshot Centre is the former site of the Wellshot Station, once the largest stocked sheep station in the world. The centre commemorates its history with memorabilia and a free short film. The Hilton’s Gun and Bottle museum (which has over 15,000 bottles) and the pioneer Langenbaker House are also of interest.
There is a great display of historic farming machinery and vehicles along the side of the highway known as Machinery Mile that goes on for over a kilometre.
All these attractions are free, but donation boxes are available to enable the owners to keep up with maintenance.
This town on the Tropic of Capricorn is named after the "long reach" of the Thomson River, on the banks of which it resides. Longreach’s main industries are sheep, cattle and tourism.
Longreach was gazetted in 1887, and in 1892 the railway reached the town, opening it up for vast agricultural purposes. The RFDS commenced its flying surgeon service here in 1958, the first of its kind in the world.
Interestingly, the streets are named after birds, and the main street is called Eagle Street.
Longreach is the main administrative centre for the district and you will find a well supplied shopping centre, with supermarkets, doctors, a hospital, vehicle sales and service, tyre distributors and the usual commercial outlets for a town of 3000 people. It is an important education centre and is the home of the Australian Agricultural College, which has a large enrolment, and adjacent is the Longreach School of Distance Education. Lawn bowls and golf are popular activities with tourists.
However, the Hall of Fame and the Qantas Museum are the magnets that draw RVers to Longreach.
AUSTRALIAN STOCKMAN’S HALL OF FAME AND OUTBACK HERITAGE CENTRE
This attraction is very visible as you approach the town from the east on the Matilda Highway.
It is a must see. You can spend a couple of hours or a couple of days there, depending on your degree of interest in the history of the Australian outback.
The building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on April 29, 1988 and is a memorial to Australia’s pioneer men and women. Several local well-known Aborigines are also featured.
Artist, Hugh Sawrey was the founder, while other famous Australians including RM Williams had a hand in establishing the Hall of Fame.
The complex features many displays, a theatre, a historical library and a souvenir shop and cafe.
During the tourist season you can see a demonstration of whip cracking and other interactive displays.
The Hall of Fame is open from 9am to 5pm.
QANTAS FOUNDERS OUTBACK MUSEUM
Longreach is known as one of the founding centres for our national airline, Qantas. The original hangar may still be seen at the airport.
The Qantas Founders Outback Museum includes a Boeing 747-200 plus Qantas’ first jet aircraft, a Boeing 707. The planes are open for inspection by the public, and tours are available including the popular Wing Walk tour, where you get to walk on the wing of the 747. Qantas originally assembled its own aircraft on site here in the early days. You can’t miss this attraction, as the large aircraft and museum are right on the Matilda Highway just east of the town.
Fishing is a popular pastime, and we have caught yellowbelly (golden perch) in the Thomson River. River cruises are also a great attraction to the traveller. We found we had to book well in advance for the dinner cruise.
The Diamond Shears, a major shearing event, is usually held in July and is very exciting if you happen to be there at that time.
If approaching Longreach from Blackall, an interesting route is via Isisford and Ilfracombe. This route is now a bitumen single lane road. Despite this, because it is black soil country, it is wise to not attempt it with a caravan if rain’s expected.
Longreach is a major crossroads: you can travel south to Stonehenge, Jundah and Windorah via the Thomson Developmental Road (aka Channel Country Byway); or detour north to Muttaburra on your way to Barcaldine via the Muttaburrasaurus Byway.
Muttaburra, a 123km drive to the north, is where the first (and near complete) skeletal remains of the muttaburrasaurus Langdoni dinosaur were found. This historic place has a couple of very interesting old shops, one now a museum. We brought lunch and ate it in the park opposite the pub, in company with hundreds of little corellas and a statue of the muttaburrasaurus.
Just a few kilometres from town is the Thomson River, with many secluded camping spots that are quite accessible to a normal caravan in dry weather. Locals tell us that the fish and red-claw crayfish (a local variety) are still quite plentiful.
On the way up we spotted bustards (plains turkeys) and brolgas at the side of the road, plus the occasional wedge-tailed eagle.
Although Longreach is known for the Hall of Fame and the Qantas Museum,
there is much to see in the surrounding area; allow enough time to explore it
Source: Caravan World Apr 2010