Ilfracombe is a small town just outside of Longreach. Reviews on TripAdvisor and Wikicamps were favourable for the Ilfracombe camp site and I’m glad we decided to stay there. Exploring the little town was a great addition to all that Longreach has to offer.  Krissy if you’re reading this, that IS a Southern Cross windmill.  You’ve started something now!

Walk past the Wellshot Hotel at 9am and the publican sends out a cheery “G’day!”, the post office doubled as a clothing store, the 20m swimming pool was the place to be after school let out and a soak in the heated spa after a few laps in the 20m pool felt super relaxing.  The tour of public pools is back on track!

The camp site happy hour was well attended and as our van doesn’t have an oven, the oven baked veggies with dinner were a real treat. Very tasty! We met a family from Emerald who have left everything behind to hit the road and are not sure if and when they will stop travelling.  Pretty brave!  The kids enjoyed playing together and running off steam around the park.

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Many old trucks, wagons and farm machinery are lined up along the main road of town. Our kids liked pretending to drive these old vehicles. A few small museums are also located along this strip and I’m always amazed at the quality and quantity of items that have been preserved. The bottle collection was a novelty and the 116 gun collection had the kids amazed. Why the Nazi flag was included in the display is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps to represent a time in war history?

Longreach is a large outback country town. I asked Xav to check out the size of the balls on the fake bull positioned in the back of an old time truck.  This had the kids in fits of giggles, so of course we had to take it too far and Amelie started walking down the road imagining that she had a set of balls that size.

No way to segue from bulls balls to planes, so I’ll just move on. The Qantas museum had many interactive exhibits which the kids really enjoyed. Flying in the simulator was a real buzz for them. Craig loved seeing the old hanger where it all began and the kids liked discovering the first on board dunny.  Xavier’s class are currently studying forces and it just so happened that there was an info panel on aerodynamic forces of lift, thrust, weight and drag so he read that and then experimented with roll, pitch and yaw on a interactive display.  Schoolwork done!

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The museum was very informative and I loved that they included some of the antics these pioneers got up to.  They were pretty funny and had me thinking about some old timers that I knew who would have fit right in with their gang!

A QANTAS pilot saw that his two passengers were asleep and took the opportunity to perform a loop.  The passengers awoke at the top of the loop.  They were still screaming when they landed.  The pilot was fired.

Russell Tapp was flying a photographer from Brisbane over Moreton Bay.  Just after take-off, Tap saw a commotion in the front cockpit and yelled to the photographer to sit down.  The photographer shouted, “There’s a snake in the cockpit!”  It had emerged between his legs.  He tried to bash it with his camera which then promptly fell overboard.  The frightened snake went into hiding and on landing, was found coiled tightly inside the guard covering the plane’s front throttle.

Other things I learned from punters back in the day:

  • Bartenders tested their drunk patrons medical need by shouting in their ear “Have a drink!”  If they didn’t stir, the doctor was called to come in by plane.
  • If you write an IOU on paper that had been baked in an oven on low temperature for a time, the paper becomes brittle, turning to dust in pocket of the unwary.
Stockmens Hall
Stockman’s Hall of Fame

The Stockman’s Hall of fame is fascinating with very extensive displays.  While interesting it is not as interactive or geared towards the kid’s interests.  Needless to say, they enjoyed watching some videos, playing in the wool and listening to the Royal Flying Doctor’s emergency calls.

We managed to get a last minute berth on the Outback Sunset Cruise and as we boarded the bus to get out to the river, I thought “Uh-oh! This could be interesting, a bus full of retirees and us.”  I kind of knew that we’d be ‘touristing’ with grey nomads and I don’t know why I expected people from other demographics, but I did.  Just a few at least. The lady at the van park said “get used to it honey, it’s all grey nomads!”  It ended up being a really great night and probably the most representative of Longreach and its people.

Xavier likes to pull statistics out of his butt and thought we had a, and I quote, “0.5% chance of seeing turtles in the river”. By the end of the cruise he counted nine turtles and like the smartarse I am, asked if that now bought the percentage up to 4.5%.  The stubborn little bugger is sticking with his first prediction despite his own evidence to the contrary.  Wonder where he gets that from!

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We were blessed with a glorious sunset and the the captain of the boat was really informative about the history, flora, fauna and indigenous culture. The other guests were welcoming and the couple who joined our table for dinner were interesting, unlike the oStatler-and-Waldorf-2ld curmudgeons camped next door to us at the van park (I swear they were Statler and Waldorf from the muppets).  The captain even let the kids have a go at steering the boat home, which was nice as all the passengers had a good tour of both sides of the bank on the way home.  The captain is probably out of pocket for all the extra fuel we used coming back!

After the cruise we settled in at Smithy’s for dinner and a show. Now while the singer John Hawkes didn’t have the best voice ever, he was super entertaining. His stories and original songs were funny and the kids were having a great time! Might have some explaining to do about B&S balls, backs of utes and finding your dress in the morning, but at the moment that is still pleasantly sailing over their heads.  Billy tea and damper afterwards finished the night off nicely with the kids going back for seconds!  Nearly forgot about the special appearance of Henry the working dog.  The kids are missing our schnauzer, Jake.  Henry got lots of cuddles to the point where he was giving his owner the side eye.  I’m sure he was thinking “Too much! Too much!”

Stockmen's hallWe are outta Ilfracombe, but not before a visit back at the Stockman’s Hall of Fame to finish off the last floor of the museum.  Blow me down, who’s out the front?  Bloody John Hawkes, who entertained us last night at Smithy’s!  He’s brushing the most beautiful, affectionate cow and we got a chance to stop and say gidday.  We left knowing all about the cow, his front garden and the police.  Don’t ask, it’s a long story.

Okay, now we are really hitting the road and are on our way to Winton!