Lara Station is a 15,000 acre cattle property located 28km south of Barcaldine and 78km north of Blackall. We arrived at the turn to Lara off the Landsborough Highway coming from Blackall. The turn off is well signposted. You follow a well graded (a bit corrugated) road made of red sandy loam for 13km to arrive at the Wetlands Campground. What an oasis in the middle of this arid landscape.
On Mondays and Wednesdays you can do a tour of the Homestead and hear the story of Lara Station, how it was started and the setting up of the wetland camping area. Luckily we were there on Tuesday and Wednesday so we were able to book for the Wednesday tour. Everyone on the tour meets in front of the office and from there you can choose how you will get to the homestead. You can ride in the back of a trailer sitting on hay bales (which we did), be driven in a car or you can take the short walk through the Gidgee scrub.
When you arrive at Lara Homestead the group is met by the current owner of Lara, a young woman named Jodie. Jodie only purchased the property in September 2020 as a home for her and her three young children. Jodie had grown up on the land and she is ably assisted on the property by her parents and her brother who also have properties in the area. The previous owners were the ones who got the Wetlands Campground up and running but tragically the husband was killed whilst flying his own helicopter. The lady ran the property on her own for many years before selling out to Jodie last year.
We learnt that Lara homestead was built in 1914 by Eric Sealy. The house is a Queenslander style built up on tall Gidgee stumps and has a verandah almost all the way around. The house itself was originally a Y shape however the tail of the Y was where the original kitchen, and servants quarters were and this has all been removed as it was falling down. Only the Gidgee stumps remain. A small kitchenette has been built in the verandah that was once the breezeway between the main house and the kitchen.
The remaining house is only one room wide and each room has a set of double doors on both sides. This, as well as the verandah and being raised up on piers, allowed cooling breezes to help beat the summer heat.
The house is constructed of timber and some of the rooms have lovely pressed metal ceilings. A couple of the bedrooms have the original Lino flooring. Sadly all the fine furniture, and even the fixtures and fittings were all sold off in a big clearing sale years ago. Eric Sealy became a very wealthy man at Lara as a wool producer in the time that ‘Australia ran off the sheep’s back’. There were old photographs on display of the homestead in its hey day with a tennis court and gardens. There was even an old photo of the verandah with tables set for a wedding reception.
Following the tour of the house the group was offered tea or coffee and scones with jam and cream on the verandah. The big wide verandah has plenty of chairs for people to sit and enjoy their Devonshire Tea.
Following morning tea Jodie led the group across the house yard and stopped in front of the original bore. She explained the importance of the Artesian water to the property and that open bore drains once led from the original bore off in all directions towards troughs, to the next door neighbours house and down to the wetlands. A new bore has been sunk and the water is now all piped to where it has to go. Jodie’s assistant Amber, one of the farmhands, turned a handle on the new bore and water started to pour out of the old bore at around 25psi and 68 degrees. It’s hot! Water is sent to a cooling dam before being used around the property.
We were then shown to an old shed that the family call ‘The Museum’ and it is really just an old corrugated shed full of old stuff. There was even an identical kerosene fridge to the ones we have up at Mikala although this one was in sad need of some TLC.
The tour ends there and people can either walk back or be driven. I elected to walk back and it’s just a short walk along a dusty red sandy track back to the oasis that is the Wetlands.
The Wetlands was originally a natural depression where water gathered after big rains. The previous owners saw potential in doing some landscaping and setting up the campground. The large roughly circular wetlands is home to many birds and other wildlife. When you arrive at Lara Wetlands you come to the office building. Here you pay your $25 per night for 2 people, the rules are explained, and you are given a map and instructions to drive around and find your spot. If you park on the waters edge you must park straight in or reverse in. Sideways is not acceptable as it limits the number of campers.
There is no power at the Campground but water is available at various taps around the place. Grey water can be let go on trees or the grass and all rubbish must be taken out with you.
There are push bikes and kayaks available from the office and there are three amenities blocks and a dump point. There is a large camp kitchen and a communal fire pit area where every Saturday night they hold 3-course camp oven dinners for $25 per person.
Next to the Camp Kitchen is the Thermal Pool and there is another cool pool not far away. The Thermal Pool is kept at 38 degrees and most campers make use of it. It is recommended not to stay in it for more than 15 minutes. A 15 minute soak in the hot artesian water eases many aches and pains.
On Tuesday nights ‘happy hour’ is held with live Country music and although we didn’t walk around to that we could clearly hear the music from across the water.
Fire drums are scattered around the campground for campers to use and you can buy a trolley load of cut Gidgee wood for $15.
Lara Wetlands is a magic place and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone passing through this area. It is popular though and we reckon there must have been over 100 camps there each night we were there.
I spent the afternoon paddling my inflatable kayak around the lagoon. It was a very relaxing afternoon. Rich was reading a book. We enjoyed a nice hot Indian Curry & Rice for dinner by the fire pit. Magic!