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
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.
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!”