Ten great Queensland outback station stays

Release your inner jillaroo and jackaroo with an outback Queensland station stay

Domestic travel
Who needs a swimming pool when you have an artesian bore?

Who needs a swimming pool when you have an artesian bore?

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Outback Queensland has much to offer anyone looking for a fair dinkum holiday.

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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 support the graziers, the small business and the tourism industry impacted by the drought and then the big wet, here are 10 great outback station stays to try during Queensland's Year of Outback Tourism.

Noonbah Station, via Longreach: Fiery sunsets, dazzling stars and breathtaking peace is how owners Angus and Karen Emmott describe the 52000-hectare beef cattle station that's been in their family for four generations. 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. 

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.

Bonus Downs Farmstay, Maranoa: Get a true taste of station life and hear about farming practices straight from 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. 

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).

Shandonvale Station, via Barcaldine: Dust off your stereotypes (and your city clothes) because 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 freshwater yabbie, and do 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. 

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

Mustering the sheep at Shandonvale Station by helicopter and bike.

Mustering the sheep at Shandonvale Station by helicopter and bike.

Moble Homestead, Quilpie: Join proud wool producers the Rutledge family at their 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, starting from $150 per person including dinner and breakfast.

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

Gilberton Outback Retreat: A pimped-up tin shed on a property that's almost the size of Laos is what you'll find at this 88,000 sq km station that's home to 1200 head of cattle and one incredible guest cabin. The station was started in 1869 and has been passed down through seven generations. Guests can relax, get involved in station life, fossick for gold or explore indigenous rock art around the property. The retreat is four hours' drive south west of Cairns. 

Wallaroo Outback Retreat, near Carnarvon: It's a huge 28,000-hectare cattle farm but that's where the farm experience stops. Guests trade shearers' sheds for eight tepee tents (with crisp linen and posturepedic beds), six bathrooms, two rustic firepits and an incredible timber lodge built from wood milled on the land. The retreat is the brainchild of farmers Pauline and Justin MacDonnell, 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. 

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. 

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

Charlotte Plains Farm Stay: Situated 54km from Cunnamulla, this sheep station 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 or the shearing shed (open air).

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

Kilcowera Station: Halfway between Thargomindah and Hungerford, this 49,000-hectare working cattle station has a pretty shearers' quarters campground with barbecues, fireplaces stocked with wood, picnic tables and a basic camp kitchen set among green lawns and shady trees. Take the 60km self-drive tour around the station past lagoons, creeks and waterholes and then stay in the comfortable shearers' quarters or one of three separate campgrounds, one on the edge of Cardenyabba Lagoon. 

Myella Station: The station's first owners hit the jackpot, literally, when they bought 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 around the world, setting up informal 4WD farm tours and teaching visitors about wildlife, bush tucker, conservation and farming practices. A two-day package at $270 per person includes bus transfers from Rockhampton (125km north east of Myella), all meals, two horse rides and farm tours. 

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.

Rustle up the grandchildren for an outback adventure at Charlotte Plains. Photo: TEQ

Rustle up the grandchildren for an outback adventure at Charlotte Plains. Photo: TEQ

Closer to coast

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

Spicers Hidden Vale, near Ipswich: Situated on a 4800-hectare farm in South East Queensland just an hour's drive from Brisbane, Spicers is centred around a 1920s grand old homestead with Homage Restaurant, a dining experience that proudly shows off the best in local produce.

Event tip: It's within driving distance of CMC Rocks, held at Willowbank every March (watch out for the 2020 line-up, tickets sell out fast).

Mount Mulligan Lodge, Tropical North Queensland: About 170km west of Cairns in the shadow of Mount Mulligan's spectacular 18km sandstone ridge (incidentally, 10 times larger than Uluru), this station is a 28,000-hectare outback cattle property. Revamped by the hospitality kings behind Daintree Eco Lodge and Orpheus Island Lodge, its eight villas come with majestic views and a personal all-terrain vehicle to explore the land. 

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

Mount Louis Station, Bloomfield, Tropical North Queensland: Time your holiday to join the station's stockmen as they muster some 1500 head of Brahmin cattle over a 1200-hectare lush landscape. Located in pretty Bloomfield just north of the world's oldest (Daintree) rainforest near Cooktown, the station has quick access to stunning waterfalls, a rich Indigenous community and remote and secluded sections of the Great Barrier Reef. 

Event tip: Close to the bi-annual Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival at Laura and the annual Captain Cook Discovery Festival at Cooktown, to be 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 168,000-hectare 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. 

Event tip: Drive your pride and joy around 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 tortuously long boat trip from England, little did he know that more than 150 years later the dairy farm he 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. 

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.

Find more great Queensland holiday ideas HERE

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