10 Outstanding Stays to Station for Queensland's Year of Outback Tourism

4 April, 2019

When the Queensland government announced 2019 as the Year of the Outback Tourism with the aim to grow the state's calendar of remote events, all eyes turned to our big wide country for inspiration. After all, Outback Queensland is the birthplace of Australian legends (Waltzing Matilda was first performed in Winton), it's a place that shaped a 'fair go' attitude (Australia's first worker's strike was in Barcaldine), and it launched some of the nation's most impressive events (cue Birdsville Races and Winton Vision Splendid). It's also home to the best station stays in the land.

To help celebrate Year of the Outback Tourism and support the graziers, the small business and the tourism industry impacted by the drought and then the big wet, here's 10 places to station yourself around an event.

1. Noonbah Station, via Longreach: Fiery sunsets, dazzling stars, and breath-taking peace is how owners Angus and Karen Emmott describe the 52000-hectare beef cattle station that's been in their family for four generations and is now a popular station getaway. Guests can camp at a secluded waterhole, or, sleep peacefully at the Old Schoolhouse, a renovated corrugated iron cottage where Angus and his siblings were schooled by Air. http://www.noonbahstation.com.au/

Event Tip: Stop here on the way to Winton's Way out West Fest (April 25-28, 2019), just ask Angus and Karen about the secret back road to get to there faster.  

2. Bonus Downs Farmstay, Maranoa: Get a true taste of station life and hear about farming practices straight from the owners Lyle and Madonna Connolly.  A tour of the quintessential grand homestead is a must-do before hitting a swag, the shearer's shed or the Jackaroo's cottage for the night. http://bonusdownsfarmstay.com.au/

Event tip: Just 'down the road' (120km) is Roma's Easter in the Country from April 18-22, 2019 and the Cobb & Co Festival in Surat in August (150km). 

3. Shandonvale Station, via Barcaldine: Dust off your stereotypes (and your city clothes), this century-old station gets the gong as the fun capital of the farm scene thanks to the chance to go heli-mustering, catch a fresh water yabbie, and a little bit of old-fashioned butchering.  The four bedrooms in the 100-year old Shearer's Quarters offer queen beds, 1000-thread count sheets, a fully-functioning kitchen and a classic claw-foot bath. W: http://shandonvalestation.com.au/

Event Tip: Close to Barcaldine and the Tree of Knowledge Festival, held in May 3-6. Make sure you hit the traditional May Day parade. 

4. Moble Homestead, Quilpie: Join proud wool producers, the Rutledge family, at their home in Quilpie on a property which has been passed down through five generations. Choose from two huts, a homestead garden room, and a Governess' quarters-come-cottage that literally floats above the waterhole, staring from $150 per person including dinner and breakfast.

Event Tip: Spend a day at the Quilpie Diggers Races (May and September).

5. Gilberton Outback Retreat: A pimped up tin shed on a property that's almost the size of Laos is what you'll find at Gilberton Outback Retreat, an 88,000 square kilometre station that is home to 1200 head of cattle and one incredible guest cabin. This station was started in 1869 and has been passed down through seven generations. Guests can relax, get involved in station life, fossick for gold (hello good fortune!) or explore indigenous rock art located around the property. Gilberton Outback Retreat is four hours' drive south west of Cairns. W: http://www.gilbertonoutbackretreat.com/

6. Wallaroo Outback Retreat, near Carnarvon: It's a huge 71,000 acre cattle farm but that's where the farm experience stops. At Wallaroo Outback Retreat guests trade shearer's sheds for eight tepee tents (with real crisp linen and posturepedic beds) six bathrooms, two rustic firepits and an incredible timber lodge built from wood milled straight from the land. The retreat is the brainchild of farmers Pauline and Justin MacDonnell, a couple who grew up in the region and fell in love with cattle country dotted with cycad-filled gorges and Aboriginal Rock Art. Tents start from $120 per night. http://www.wallaroooutbackretreat.com.au/about/

7. Herbertvale Station: Follow station owner Shelley Hawkins as she leads a five-day, 66km trek across the north western pocket of Outback Queensland – on foot - and mostly on her Herbertvale Station. Small group tours depart from Mt Isa and continue to the limestone gorges of the Boodjamulla National Park. Hikers enjoy guided trekking, sunset refreshments, chef-prepared meals and an already-pitched tent and sleeping mat for $3150 per person. https://trekwesthiking.com.au/

Event tip: Herbertvale Station is just a few 'klicks' driving distance from Mt Isa Mines Rodeo (8 – 11 August, 2019) and the Drover's Camp Festival, Camouweal (23 – 25 August 2019).

8. Charlotte Plains Farm Stay: Fifty-four kilometres from Cunnamulla is a sheep station that once pushed 60,000 animals through its huge shearing shed every year. Take the three hour tour and find out more about the history and jump in the artesian bore and mineral rich baths. Stay in self-catering shearers quarters, the shearing shed (open air) http://charlotteplains.com.au/#sthash.HlphuPgV.dpbs

Event Tip: On Friday August 30, 2019 cowboys, bull riders, shearers and stockmen will descend on the Cunnamulla for the Cunnamulla Fella Festival.

9. Kilcowera Station: Halfway between Thargomindah and Hungerford is Kilcowera, a 49,000-hectare working cattle station with a pretty Shearer's Quarters campground with BBQ's, fireplaces stocked with wood, picnic tables and a basic camp kitchen set amongst green lawns and shady trees. Take the 60 km self-drive tour around the station past lagoons, creeks, waterholes then stay in the comfortable Shearers' Quarters or one of three separate campgrounds, one on the edge of Cardenyabba Lagoon. http://kilcowera.com.au/

Event Tip: Join the cowboys, bull riders, shearers and stockmen at the Cunnamulla Fella Festival on Friday August 30, 2019

10. Myella Station: The first owners of Myella Station hit the jackpot, literally, when they purchased their farm as part of a 1935 land lottery. Today their descendants' main job is to fatten cattle into prime beef exports, by buying males at two years old and feeding them quality grass.  Their other job is sharing their home with guests from all around the world, setting up informal 4WD farm tours and teaching visitors about wildlife, bush tucker, conservation, and farming practices. A 2-day package at $270 per person includes bus transfers from Rockhampton (125km north east of Myella), all meals, two horse rides and farm tours. https://myella.weebly.com/

Event Tip: Continue the horse theme and check out Paradise Lagoons Campdraft on May 2 – 5 or the Rockhampton River Festival from July 12 -14, 2019

Need a station stay a bit closer to the coast? Here are some other station stays in Queensland worth thinking about.

Spicers Hidden Vale, near Ipswich: Situated on a 12,000-acre farm in South East Queensland just an hour's drive from Brisbane, Spicers Hidden Vale is centred around a 1920's grand old homestead with Homage Restaurant, a dining experience that proudly shows off the best in local produce.www.spicersgroup.com.au/property/spicers-hidden-vale-grandchester-qld

Event Tip: Driving distance from CMC Rocks, held March 14 – 17 at Willowbank each March (watch out for the 2020 line-up, tickets sell out fast)

Mount Mulligan Lodge, Tropical North Queensland (Opening April 1, 2019): Around 170kms west of Cairns in the shadow of Mount Mulligan's spectacular 18-kilometre sandstone ridge (incidentally, ten times larger than Uluru) lies Mount Mulligan Station, a 28,000-hectare outback cattle property. Revamped by the hospitality kings behind Daintree Eco Lodge and Orpheus Island Lodge, the station's eight villas come with majestic views and a personal ATV to explore the land. www.mountmulligan.com

Event tip: Take a 35 minute scenic helicopter flight from the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (July 12 - 14) to the cattle station.

Mount Louis Station, Bloomfield, Tropical North Queensland: Time your holiday to join Mount Louis Station's stockmen as they muster some 1500 head of Brahmin cattle over a 3000-acre lush landscape. Located in pretty Bloomfield just north of the world's oldest (Daintree) Rainforest near Cooktown, this station has quick access to stunning waterfalls, a rich indigenous community and remote and secluded sections of the Great Barrier Reef. http://www.mountlouis.com.au/see-and-do

Event Tip: Close to the bi-annual Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival at Laura and the annual Captain Cook Discovery Festival at Cooktown, held June 16 this year.   

Merluna Station, Cape York: At 1.5 times the size of Hong Kong and a (human) population that maxes out at around 100 guests, vast is the one word to describe Cameron and Michelle MacLean's 416,000-acre cattle station on Cape York Peninsula.  Accommodation is set in cool, shady surrounds and ranges from camping grounds and single donga rooms (starting at $90 per person) to a spacious family unit. http://www.merlunastation.com.au/index.html

Event Tip: Drive your pride and joy round mountainous roads on the Targa Great Barrier Reef Tour (August 30) and rub shoulders with legends

Henderson Park Farm Retreat, Capricorn: When Ben Barrett landed at Rockhampton Wharf in 1865 following what was likely a torturously long boat trip from England, little did he know that more than 150 years later the dairy farm he first established would become a commercial beef cattle property owned by his descendants. Today, Henderson Park is one of the most popular farm stays in the state, with accommodation for up to 33 people and educational property tours for city slickers. https://www.hendersonpark.com.au/

Event Tip: Continue the horse theme and check out Paradise Lagoons Campdraft on May 2 – 5 or the Rockhampton River Festival from July 12 -14, 2019



Author: Shelley Winkel