Longreach to Winton

There must have been over 200 campers at the Apex Riverside Park overnight. Many were quick to move out in the morning. The park is provided by the Longreach Council as a camping ground. There is a self registration box and it costs $5 per night per vehicle or $25 for 7 nights. I think there is a toilet block somewhere but we don’t need to use that as we have our own on board.

The park is right beside the muddy brown Thomson River. Sally and I walked up there last night and guessed that the river wasn’t very deep. Sure enough we came to a marker and the river is only 0.5m deep. No wonder it is so brown.

Apparently there is a paddle boat that does regular cruises on the river including a popular sunset cruise. This was not on our to do list as we’d just spent time on the PS Murray Princess not long ago.

We spent a few hours doing some washing (the chores still have to get done) before heading back into Longreach to top up with water. A quick stop at the IGA and the servo to buy a couple of bags of wood and we were leaving Longreach behind. The land along this stretch of the journey was not quite flat, just low rolling plains covered in tough grass and scrubby trees. The paddocks are huge and we saw mobs of Brahman cattle and freshly shorn sheep.

The only other sign of life was the magnificent Fork-tail Hawks. These huge majestic birds swoop and glide above the road searching for game and eating the odd bit of road kill. I tried so many times to catch one in a photo but they are too quick for me. We also saw a couple of pairs of Brolgas. I wonder if they are always in pairs. Maybe they mate for life like some other birds.

In the far distance was a low line of hills that shimmer blue as they break the wide horizon.

There was a lot of traffic, mostly RV’s of all descriptions and the occasional road train. Sadly we saw a caravan left on the side of the road and missing a wheel. It looked like the bearings had failed and the y needed a whole new wheel. No sign of the tow vehicle so they’ve probably gone back to Longreach to see if they can get a replacement wheel.

It’s 180km from Longreach to Winton and the countryside was pretty much the same all the way. It’s a big sky out this way. The road is long and mostly straight with the occasional floodways reminding us that we are in the Lake Eyre catchment.

The road to Winton is alongside the railway line on the right. It looks like the railway line is still in use as there were piles of old sleepers along a long stretch of line where the old sleepers had been replaced.

We came into Winton, the Dinosaur Capital of Australia around lunchtime and, after a quick drive down the Main Street to orient ourselves, we drove out to Long Waterhole, about 2km south of town, to check out whether it would make a good camp spot for the night and to have some lunch. You know how I like a water view.

Long Waterhole is clearly signposted on the Jundah Road and we turned off onto a dry dusty track that goes for 1.5km to the man-made waterhole. This is the community water hole used for swimming and even water skiing.

What a gorgeous spot. Quite a few campers were already set up around the edge of the waterhole. We enjoyed our lunch with water views and decided we’d come back and camp here for the night.

Our first stop back in town was the Waltzing Matilda Centre. We spent the afternoon there exploring this wonderful museum of all things outback and in particular the Waltzing Matilda story. The museum was burnt down in a devastating fire in 2015 and completely rebuilt. The new museum opened in 2018 and it an interesting piece of architecture with it’s earth coloured concrete and rusty steel. I really liked their rusty steel down pipes that have a chain hanging down for the water to run down into the gardens below. My dad would have liked those!

The Waltzing Matilda centre is the first museum in the world dedicated to a song and first opened in 1998. Banjo Paterson penned the ballad of Waltzing Matilda whilst staying at Dagworth Station near Winton in 1895. No one at the time could have foreseen what a special place this song has in most Australians nor how popular it would become. It has been sung by soldiers, sporting teams and their supporters and has been recorded in over 500 different versions and numerous languages.

We spent a good couple of hours exploring the museum, checked out the photography exhibit in the Art Gallery and wandered the outdoor exhibits that include a steam train, carriages and a railway station, old horse drawn vehicles, a display of medical memorabilia, a shearing shed with blacksmiths and saddlers tools, an extensive glass bottle display a complete old cottage full of items showing how people once lived, anda huge machinery shed full of more memorabilia. If visiting Winton you need to allow at least a couple of hours to see all of this.

There is a large flat paved car park behind the Waltzing Matilda Centre for RV’s and it has rubbish bins and a dump point.

We had a wander along the Main Street with its historic buildings and interesting street art in the middle island. The North Gregory Hotel is a part of Winton history as it was the very first place that a live performance of Waltzing Matilda was held in 1895. The building next to it the heritage listed Corfield & Fitzmaurice Building, a perfectly preserved old style general store. The Australian Hotel on the other side of the road has seen better days. The floor is up and down all over the place.

There are a few shops selling opals and opal jewellery and we had a bit of a browse in those.

One fascinating building is the Royal Theatre, one of only two remaining outdoor theatres in Australia. The other is in Broome. The theatre was built in 1918 and in 1938 the Evert Family purchased it. The theatre is still owned by the same family and is now run by a non-profit organisation and we met one of the family members who explained how they are really working hard to preserve the old theatre and all its memorabilia. The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival was on while we were there and there are two feature films being shown each night as well as classic films during the day. We thought we might try and catch one while we were here.

We headed back out to Long Waterhole and set up camp. There were many more campers there since lunchtime and although we couldn’t be right on the water we still had water views. It cools down rapidly once the sun goes down and I’m glad we were able to buy a couple of bags of wood in Longreach before we left. As I wrote we were sitting around a lovely little fire waiting for the Farrells to turn up from Longreach where they’d spent the morning at the Qantas Founders Museum.


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