If 'to travel is to live', as Hans Christian Andersen famously wrote, then to travel to Outback Queensland is to live and breathe Australia's story. Barcaldine, Longreach and Winton may be tiny towns but their heart and history is huge, making a trip out west not just a holiday, but a homecoming.
Located 440 kilometres west of Rockhampton, Barcy (as it's affectionately called) is described by the town's colourful mayor, Rob Chandler, as 'the place where you fall over into the Outback’.
The Tree of Knowledge memorial, the reputed birthplace of the Australian Labor Party, will be your first stop. Located in the main street, the magnificent memorial is spectacularly lit at night. You 'll also find several grand old hotels along this stretch.
Well worth a visit is The Australian Workers Heritage Centre in Ash Street. Set around beautifully landscaped gardens, the exhibits pay particular homage to the unsung pioneers of our recent past.
When you've worked up an appetite, head to Cheryl Thompson's Ridgee Didge Cafe in Oak Street for her signature-blend coffee. Just down the road, you'll discover the mouthwatering Yeast 2 West Bakery. Hot tips are the bushman's beef pie and apple turnovers.
Lara Wetlands and Homestead
For a beautiful Outback dip, only 40 minutes’ drive from Barcaldine, travel to Lara Wetlands. Located on Lara Station, the wetlands were opened by owner Jo Wills to the public in 2014, and have become very popular with day-trippers and campers. Don't miss the lovely thermal and cool pools.
Country fun: Outback Queensland Festivals to Thrill the Kids
Named after the long reach of the Thomson River, on which the town lies, Longreach is best explored over a couple of days.
First stop is the Cobb and Co Stagecoach Experience. It is run by the local Kinnon family (Kinnon and Co), and brothers Jeremy and Lane will have you galloping along a stretch of the original Longreach-Windorah mail route in a restored stage coach. Fantastic fun for all the family! Catch your breath afterward with deliciously light scones and tea at the Kinnon and Co. General Store.
Conveniently located opposite each other, the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and Qantas Founders Museum are two unmissable icons of the Outback. While at Stockman's, roll up for Lachie Cossor's Outback Stockman Show. The kids will love it, too.
For some classic Longreach history, let the Walker family tour you through their famous Camden Park Station. Less than 10 minutes’ drive from town, the grand Camden Park homestead was visited by the Queen and Prince Philip in 1970. There are even photos to prove it.
Two hours west of Longreach, you'll enter dinosaur country. With its awe-inspiring landscapes, fascinating history and friendly-town feel, Winton is definitely worth a two-day stop.
Base yourself at the birthplace of Waltzing Matilda, the historic North Gregory Hotel (est. 1879).
From here it's only a 24-kilometre drive southeast of Winton to the incredible Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum. Located on a spectacular jump-up, the museum holds the world's largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils. All ages will love the AAOD.
Continue the journey back in time with the Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackways. Situated along the Jundah Road, about 110 kilometres from Winton, the site contains evidence of the world's only ever recorded dinosaur stampede.
About 85 kilometres southwest of Winton, Carisbrooke Station boasts some of the most spectacular vistas in Outback Queensland.