Longreach is located in the ‘heart’ of the Queensland Outback and has some of the friendliest locals around. It’s also got more things to do than you can wave an Akubra at, especially when you’re visiting Longreach with kids. Not only is there plenty of space to run around, you can stroll along the wing of a Boeing 747, be shown around a museum by a kelpie, or stay at 15,000 acre Shandonvale Station. It doesn’t matter whether your kids are tots or teens, this trip is one the whole family will enjoy.
One day in Longreach
Nothing is far away in Longreach so you’ll be checking into your accommodation in plenty of time to join an afternoon or evening tour. Located across the road from two of the town’s most famous attractions, the Qantas Founders Museum and Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Saltbush Retreat is one of the best places to stay and immerse yourself in outback charm. Don’t miss the unique Homestead Stable rooms that come with a double bunk and queen size bed and have been modelled on a traditional stable-boy’s room, albeit one that has air con, a fully equipped kitchen, flat screen TV, and wine glasses for sundowners.
After a soak in one of the clawfoot tubs on the outdoor bath terrace or a swim in the on-site pool, it’s time to kick off your outback adventure with a sunset cruise on the Thomson River which is “great for swimming because there’s no P in it” according to the cheeky guides. If your budget won’t stretch to Saltbush Retreat, it’s possible to camp alongside this pretty waterway and go for a dip just a few steps from your tent or caravan.
Once Aussie Outback Tours’ Drover’s Sunset Cruise pulls away from the jetty, relax with a drink on the top deck and watch the sunset as the captain fills you in on all things Longreach. As the last streaks of pink fade from the sky, you’ll pull up alongside the riverbank at an outdoor dining area for a sit down two course dinner accompanied by a guitarist singing easy listening tunes and bush ballads before the bus drops you back to your accommodation.
Two days in Longreach
If you’re travelling with children aged 12 and over, the Platinum Tour at the Qantas Founders Museum is worth every cent if you and your kids love planes. This unique museum is one of only two places in the world where you can get your photo taken inside the engine of a 747 but that’s not the best thing about this behind-the-scenes small group tour. It’s access all areas and first class all the way for the next four hours. You’ll get to climb inside the belly of a 747 to check out the avionics and explore the cargo hold, do two wing walks, and stroll through the planes with your own personal guide. After the tour, you’ve got the rest of the day to check out the indoor museum where you can fly a plane inside a simulator, check out the region’s aviation history and watch movies about how the historic planes outside made it to Longreach.
Once you’ve finished at the museum, head back to your accommodation and freshen up before dinner. BF Savage & Co Butchery, an old-school butcher’s shop in downtown Longreach, has got you sorted with family barbeque packs for a cook up at the barbeque area next to the pool at Saltbush Retreat. Time it right and you’ll have time for a swim before you stroll back to the Qantas Founders Museum for the colourful 20 minute Luminescent Longreach after dark experience. This spectacular sound and light show projects 3D and traditional animations onto the sides of the aircraft and is packed with enough colour, movement, and humour to keep kids of all ages (and their parents) entertained. The first show of the evening is ideal if you’re travelling with little ones who need to be in bed early.
Three days in Longreach
After a breakfast toastie piled high with bacon and an espresso at Casey’s Café, channel your inner jillaroo or jackaroo at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame which has recently gone high-tech. After watching a movie about what it means to be an Australian stockman, you’ll grab a smart device and a headset and embark on an interactive choose-your-own adventure around the museum. It’s like having an outback mate strolling alongside you, whispering tall tales and true in your ear, as you immerse yourself in incredible augmented reality displays which celebrate the culture and characters of the surrounding region.
Adults are shown around by a stockman while kids are befriended by an interactive kelpie which takes them on a treasure hunt, encouraging them to push buttons on their devices to meet some of the characters around the Hall of Fame. This is a museum experience like no other which continues over several levels with everything from travelling salesmen to the Royal Flying Doctor Service and outback pubs covered in the displays.
Keep an eye on the time as the fun isn’t over yet. Once you’ve explored the museum, you’ll hear the call to head outside to the undercover stadium for the Stockman’s Life LIVE Show where the human performers are frequently upstaged by their four legged co-stars. This entertaining show is played for laughs but it’s impossible not to be dazzled by the horsemanship of the stockmen and women who live and work on the land.
A lot of people only spend three days in Longreach but if you have an extra day, grab a pie and a couple of doorstop-sized lamingtons from the Merino Bakery and drive to Shandonvale Station to immerse yourself in station life with owners Deon and Lane Stent-Smith. This property only hosts one family at a time so you’ll have the entire place to yourself plus you’ll get a station experience created especially for you. Do your kids love animals? They’ll get to meet thousands of them. Perhaps they prefer adventure? There’s plenty of that too on this 15,000 acre sheep station. After dinner at the homestead with Deon and Lane, you’ll want to get to bed early in preparation for the day ahead as there’s never a dull moment during this hands-on station stay.
Four days in Longreach
After cooking up a hearty breakfast with fresh milk and butter from the house cow Milly, old style home smoked bacon, and eggs from the station’s hens, it’s time to head out and explore the station on a guided tour. You’ll get to see the sheep and plenty of other animals as well like donkeys, camels, emus, kangaroos, horses, and even deer. With 15,000 acres to explore, there’s loads more to see as well so it’s a good thing you’ve got your own Polaris ATV buggy to go sightseeing around the property. In the afternoon, you could go canoeing in the river, throw in a yabby pot to catch dinner, go swimming at the waterhole, or hop in the outdoor spa bath to soak in the two million year old mineral rich waters of the Great Artesian Basin. Finish your day with sunset drinks at the boatshed down by the waterhole and a toast your fantastic four day family outback adventure.
Disclosure: The writer visited Longreach with her husband and son and had a fantastic time. She highly recommends visiting Longreach with kids.