Longreach is Queensland’s quintessential outback destination.
Located in the vast heart of the state — seven hours’ drive west of Rockhampton, and right on the Tropic of Capricorn (where the temperate southern and torrid tropical climate zones meet) — Longreach is a destination that has forged a place for itself in Australian folklore. Packed with historical attractions and imbued with a pioneering spirit of adventure, the town of just under 4,000 people is a tourist magnet.
First Cobb & Co coaches, then trains, and finally air transport opened Longreach up to the rest of the country. Flying time from the Queensland capital Brisbane is a little over two hours. The Spirit of the Outback train service from Brisbane is also a popular way to travel to and from the region.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Longreach.
1. Discover the story of Qantas
The Qantas Founders Museum is Longreach’s top tourist attraction, and has just undergone a $14 million upgrade. The museum has a great mix of historical photos and memorabilia, as well as a number of aircraft — which now reside under a sweeping new roof, designed to ensure a more comfortable visitor experience whatever the weather.
Learn how Qantas grew from a tiny outfit of bush-based pilots carrying the mail to arguably Australia’s greatest company, and join a tour that explores a DC-3, a Boeing 707 (that at one time served as a luxury private jet), and a Boeing 747. The flight deck of the 747, at three storeys, is the tallest ‘building’ in Longreach. The aircraft becomes a giant canvas for the new nightly Luminescent Longreach light and sound experience, which brings the 100-year history of Qantas to life.
2. Hoof it in a Cobb & Co stagecoach
Long before outback Queensland had Qantas, Cobb & Co stagecoaches were the mode of transport. You can relive this classic style of pioneer travel with Outback Pioneers’ Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience. You’ll ride sedately through the streets of Longreach before getting a gallop up on part of the old Longreach-Windorah mail route. The ride — the only one of its kind in Australia — is a dusty hoot. It’s followed by a ‘smoko’ of fluffy scones with jam and cream, and a generous dollop of outback humor in the Harry Redford Old Time Tent Show (included in your Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience ticket).
3. Cruise the Thomson River in a traditional paddle wheeler
Longreach was established by the Thomson River in the late 1800s, and the town got its name from the river’s ‘long reach’. Visitors can sit back and relax on a gentle sunset cruise along the waterway on board the Thomson Belle paddle wheeler — operated by Outback Pioneers. Following the cruise, you’ll enjoy a stockman’s style campfire dinner while listening to some hilarious bush poetry. You definitely won’t leave hungry thanks to a spread of fresh-baked damper smeared with ‘Cocky’s Joy’ (golden syrup to us city slickers), a hearty beef stew and a delicious dessert. After dinner there’s an outdoor cinema presentation that tells the story of famous stockman and renowned cattle thief Harry Redford — better known as Captain Starlight.
4. Visit the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018 (it was opened by the Queen in 1988), the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame is another of Longreach’s most popular attractions. Galleries depict the stories of the pioneers that settled this part of Queensland, including stockmen, bush pilots and graziers. There’s a gallery dedicated to Indigenous stockmen, and another that celebrates the legendary Royal Flying Doctor Service. Stockman Lochie Cosser presents an entertaining live show — demonstrating his horsemanship and singing skills, and the role of man’s best friend in keeping the flock in line.
5. Do a tour of Camden Park Station
With that backstory in place, a visit to a working sheep and cattle station during your stay in Longreach is a must. The Walker family has been farming at Camden Park Station for three generations. On a tour of the station, you’ll visit the 100-year-old shearing shed, see the family’s homestead (built in 1922), and hear how Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip once dropped by.
6. Explore the town centre
With so many amazing experiences available to visitors it’s easy to overlook the Longreach town centre itself, but make sure you leave some time to explore. The charming township has retained much of its original feel, complete with the heritage-listed railway station and various period buildings. Try one of the local delicacies known as a peach blossom from the Merino Bakery. The little pink lamington/cupcake mash-up is delicious. A marker at the Council Chambers designates where the Tropic of Capricorn lies, and is a popular spot for a selfie.
7. Step back in time at the Powerhouse Museum
Longreach’s original power station has been repurposed as a museum. It still houses the town’s original power generators, along with a growing, eclectic collection of objects that reflect the social history of Longreach. There’s a locomotive, a 1960s-era fire engine, a recreated classroom and an array of vintage typewriters and the like. Two whole rooms, complete with furniture, were taken from the 1918 homestead at Nogo station and relocated to the museum to document the lives of pioneering families living on the outskirts of outback Queensland towns.
8. Get a bird’s eye view of Longreach
The best way to appreciate the vastness of the region around Longreach is on a scenic flight. Treat yourself to a River and Heartland Scenic Flight with Queensland Helicopters, which provides a bird’s eye view of the town before scooting off to follow a section of the Thomson River. Flights of 10, 20 or 90 minutes are available.
9. Tuck into some hearty outback tucker
The fare in Longreach is generally hearty and satisfying. Harry’s Restaurant and Bar at the Longreach Motor Inn is regarded as one of the finest dining establishments in town, and offers an extensive menu of outback classics. If you’re game to try something a bit different, order salt and pepper crocodile (it doesn’t taste like chicken). There’s a good selection of wines, and the attentive staff will see to your every whim.
10. Meet the characters that shaped Longreach
A fascinating way to unravel the history of Longreach and ‘meet’ the people who shaped it is on a walking tour of Longreach Cemetery with Ghost Tours Australia. You’ll hear stories of the interred heroes and villains who each left their mark on the town.
Louise travelled as a guest of Outback Pioneers, Harry’s Restaurant at Longreach Motor Inn, and Camden Park Station.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Longreach? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Cover image courtesy of Outback Pioneers
About the writer
Louise Reynolds made up her mind at the age of about four that she would one day travel the world — and has so far visited around 30 countries across five continents and the Pacific. A hopeless Francophile, she has a particular love for France, its language and pretty much all things French. Louise’s favourite way to see the world is on foot and her boots have taken her walking on famous trails in Europe, South America and New Zealand. She also has a passion for her home state of Victoria and loves exploring its diverse regions.