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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bmag June 4th 2013 - Outback adventures and more on that LBD!

I could happily take a driving holiday in western Queensland every year. The clean air, the big skies, the open roads, the small towns, the big pubs with their iconic architecture. Even the limited phone reception. It all adds up to the ultimate escape from the drudgery of the big smoke. With the Australian dollar starting to drop, and overseas holidays getting just a little bit more expensive every day, now could be the perfect time for you to head west for your next trip. It’s easier than you might think.

In 2009, I took wife Nikki and then-nine-year-old Jack to Winton. We did the trip in just 10 days during the September school holidays. I’m going to show you how and point out some of the highlights along the way so that you might consider doing the same. The reward when you get to Winton is the Outback Festival with its famous dunny races! First stop for us (Monday night) was Toowoomba. Just a couple of hours from Brisbane, it broke the back of the holiday.

Next day, after viewing the winning Carnival of Flowers display, we drove the four hours to Mitchell to experience the wonderfullyrelaxing Great Artesian Spa. Floating in the naturally-heated spa is where we met a number of fellow travellers who we would keep bumping into over the next week or so. Just a two-hour drive on the Wednesday saw us in Charleville, where the must-see attractions are the Bilby Experience by day, the Skydome by night and a steak at the Charleville RSL in-between! Charleville to Longreach on the Thursday was one of our longest drives (515km) but stops include the famous Tambo Teddies and the Black Stump at Blackall.

Friday morning we reached Winton (180km from Longreach) and then totally immersed ourselves in the town and its Outback Festival! Exhausted after two full days in and around Winton (Waltzing Matilda Centre, Royal Open Air Theatre, Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum) and with dust in our teeth and nostrils, we headed back to Longreach (Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Qantas Museum, where you can tour every nook and cranny of a 747).

On the Monday, it was time to think about heading home. We stayed a couple of nights at a beach resort in Yeppoon – what a contrast after a week in the west – and arrived back in Brisbane on the Thursday. And that’s when you pinch yourself. It’s hard to believe the distance you’ve travelled and landscapes you’ve seen in just 10 days!

You might think it a challenge to take children but, remember, you don’t drive long distances every day. And for the days you do, a portable DVD player or movies on a computer will easily kill a couple of hours. That said, you don’t want them staring at a screen all day. Space out the movies and allow time for the children to get out and touch the dirt. Encourage them to take their own photos to show teachers and friends. I think children are far more patient and interested in the world around them than we give them credit for.

As for the adults getting bored, there’s always the pleasure of calculating distances and estimating the time of arrival at the next town (or is that just me? Another obscure Spencer hobby perhaps?!) In a few weeks, I’ll be giving away a trip to the 2013 Winton Outback Festival so stay tuned to my breakfast radio show for details.

I’m still receiving mail about that little black dress I bought Nikki for her birthday. Men and women alike will enjoy this email from Jackie Jones: “We are in our 50s and 60s and still go through the same scenario every time he passes a mannequin wearing little shorts, skirts and dresses. Even shirts he thinks would look great as a dress.

“I’ve found the best compromise (especially when I don’t know what to buy him for his birthday) is to buy one of these little numbers, do a dinner date at home and wear it for him. “So the next time your wife doesn’t know what to buy you just tell her to whiz by that shop and pick up that little black dress!”

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