Outback Station Stays
Charlotte Plains Station, Charlotte Plains, QLD
When you think of Outback you tend to think of dry land, vast open landscapes, dirt roads and lots of dust. Bring yourself to South Central Queensland and you’ll be amazed by what you can find. Just an hour past the town of Cunnamulla, there is this little hidden gem…. I suppose I can’t really call it little because Charlotte Plains is actually half the size of Singapore.
Nestled within the 70,000 acre sheep station you will find the most authentic experience. A real outback treat. See back in 1892, Turnworth sunk and established Charlotte Plains 561m deep bore pipes bringing to the surface an incredible flow of 40 degree crystal clear water. So pure and untainted having never seen the light of day until it pours out the end of the intricate pipe system.
Sole owner and host of this incredible Station Stay, Robyn Nagal shares her unique land with us and invites campers to enjoy the incredible artisian bore as a part of their stay. When we spent a few days at Charlotte Plains Station, all I can say is the outdoor ‘Hot Tubs’ with the sensational backdrop were just the start of our incredible time there.
What topped our stay was the 1am kidless dip where we floated in 40degree temperature water, whilst the winter chill created a beautiful atmosphere of rising steam. While soaking up the quiet time, we were blown away by the 6 shooting stars and the glowing meteor that we saw that night. It reminded us of why we do what we do and why it is so important to take time out for ourselves…. Why 1am- because we have young kids and seriously how relaxing is a bath with 1 kid, let alone 3. What truly captured our heart, was the hidden soul behind the personal history of the Station.
Find out more about Charlotte Plains Station here.
Website - Trekking Downunder
HOME VALLEY STATION, KUNUNURRA, WA
Situated on 700,000 acres along the iconic Gibb River Road is Home Valley Station. Nestled next to the base of the stunning Cockburn Ranges HV8 (its nickname) offers tourists a range of outback experiences & accommodation options, while maintaining a touch of outback luxury. HV8 are very proud of their achievements on becoming not only a premium tourist destination but also quite recently - an Indigenous training facility.
From the moment we drove into Home Valley Station we got a sense of how grand this place was. As you drive up the driveway you pass through large iron gates, where you then begin to see a touch of true Gibb luxury – green grass! We camped up on the station for a total of two nights, we loved it. Fishing the Pentecost River, walking the numerous trails, dining at ‘Dustys Bar’ and soaking up the sun by the onsite swimming pool.
The staff were all super friendly and nothing was too much trouble, plus we should mention the station is dog friendly.
Home Valley Station is the perfect place to park up and relax for a night or even a couple of days. Even though it’s not as popular as its neighbour down the road, Home Valley Station is a real hidden gem in the Kimberley and a well worthy detour if you are in the area.
Website - Sparkys on the Loose
CARINYA STATION, LIGHTNING RIDGE, NSW
Some farm stays are really just a caravan park in disguise. But if you’re looking for an authentic experience on a working farm, run by an awesome family then you can’t go past Carinya Station.
What started as a way to get their minds off the drought, get some help around the property, and meet some new people, has turned into a bit of an institution and a ‘must see’ for families on their big lap itineraries. Joe & Jacinda Barry, along with their 3 gorgeous kids own a sheep station just a short drive from Lightning Ridge, NSW. A few years back they had a couple of grey nomads come to stay on their property for free, in exchange for a bit of work about the place. This work/accommodation exchange was so mutually beneficial they decided to add themselves to Wikicamps and open up to any campers passing through and the camping experience on their property has simply grown authentically from that time on.
If you want to visit, here’s what you need to know:
- They’ve become rather popular (for good reason) so all bookings are now taken via Youcamp, and it will set you back a grand total of $11 per vehicle, per night (yes, irrespective of how many people you have). They’re open for camping from April to November.
- You’ll need to be self-sufficient. They do have a toilet available but prefer you use your own. And due to the drought water is limited. There is a free hot bore bath in town at Lightning Ridge with showers if needed. Power is not available.
- Don’t come here just because it’s cheaper than town. This is not a caravan park. Come because you want an authentic experience meeting people, learning about farming, and because you want to be involved.
So, what can you expect from a visit to Carinya? Well that all depends on what’s happening around the property when you happen to be there. For us we met some awesome fellow campers, had some amazing communal dinners around the campsite, got to help with egg collection, pig feeding, sheep mustering and crutching, and we had an all-round fantastic experience. These days they also run a farm tour every morning that’s free if you’re staying with them, and if you’re interested in staying longer term get in touch with them to ask about their volunteer caretaker positions.
We spent 3 years travelling Australia as a family, and I can safely say that Carinya Station is up there among our all-time faves!
Website - The Great Escape Australia
BANKA BANKA STATION, TENNANT CREEK, NT
Banka Banka is a historical cattle station a bit over an hoursdrive North of Tennant Creek, which has been a place for travellers to stop for many years. The Ward family ran the station as a supply camp during World War II and Mary helped to open a school for Aboriginal children on the property.
We stayed at the station for four nights on our way between Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles) and the Daly Waters Pub.
When we arrived, our kids were impressed when the Manager’s son Michael gave them each a free Zooper Dooper. As soon as we were led to our campsite by Bob and Marie, our two year old was out of the car, had her shoes off and was sitting in the grass. After travelling through the middle we all had a new appreciation for green!
Banka Banka has great ammenities and the spring fed water is still the best we have tasted in our six and half months of travelling Australia.
While we were there, the children enjoyed feeding the donkeys and Betty the cow. We also drove the 5km round trip to the Banka Banka Waterhole. It was a very pretty spot, though this time of year there was not a lot of water.
Each night at 6pm they had a communal camp fire, where everyone gathered and had a chat to other travellers. We met some interesting people and really enjoyed finding out where everyone was from and where they were going. It is also a great way to get tips on good places to stay. The kids were again impressed when they were given free marshmallows to toast on the fire. The original mudbrick homestead is now used as a small kiosk/bar, where there is information and memorabilia about the stations past. We had a fantastic time staying at Banka Banka Station and would recommend it to everyone.
Facebook - Riordons on the Road
WARRAWEENA CONSERVATION RESERVE - FLINDERS RANGES, SA
When you think of the Flinders Ranges your mind instantly wanders to the famed natural ampitheatre of Wilpena Pound and all the beauty that the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park offers. However heading north of here into the Northern Flinders Ranges also offers the stunning rugged beauty of the South Australian Outback with perhaps a little less of the tourist trappings.
As with many of our stops through the outback, on our journey into the Northern Flinders Ranges we were headed for a campsite within an old sheep station turned conservation reserve. Warraweena Conservation Reserve, a 355 sq km property, is located in the highlands of the Flinders Ranges, south of Leigh Creek and accessed via Beltana.
Whilst the advice on various websites suggests the homestead is 2WD accessible, the road in from Beltana is a rocky dirt track with some corrugations and dips. You’d want to have a pretty robust 2WD that you have plenty of confidence in!
Closer to the homestead, the track passes by a number of old stone ruins, belonging to the Sliding Rock mine site, a bustling copper mine from 1870 until 1901. Looking at the now crumbling, sandstone remains of the buildings, it’s possible to imagine the hardship the miners and their families endured in such harsh, dry and remote conditions.
Camping at Warraweena is a treat with individual sites nestled along a dry, rocky riverbed lined with beautiful big, shady River Red Gums. You could be forgiven for thinking you were miles from anywhere or anyone.
There are flushing toilets and donkey hot water showers up at the homestead and even a washing machine to catch up on the mounds of washing that inevitably pile up.
Stony, who leases and manages Warraweena, is quite the outback character. Friendly and helpful, he did everything he could to make our stay memorable. One of the highlights of Warraweena is the number of 4x4 tracks located within it. Most incur a small fee to drive along, but Stony provides a key, maps, waypoints and excellent track notes. The Gill track was an absolute standout for us. A high clearance 4x4 is essential, along with 4wdriving experience as the one way, 36km loop winds its way through rough, dry, narrow creek beds and up steep rocky slopes to a height of 900m and breathtaking views over Lake Torrens and the Flinders Ranges.
Bookings and fees apply for camping at Warraweena.
Website - The Intolerant Traveller
HALE RIVER HOMESTEAD, EAST MACDONNELL RANGES, NT
At some point during our travels someone said to us “tourists go to the West Macdonnell Ranges, locals to the East Macs”. Of course that meant I instantly added the East MacdonnellRanges to our bucket list of places to visit.
The East Macdonnell Ranges hold a number of stunning gorges and waterholes. Sheer red cliffs, sandy riverbeds, shaded by beautiful old River Red and Ghost Gums. Arltunga, now a ghost town located in the East Macs and en-route to our next overnight destination, is a wonderful historical site showing the gold mining history of the area.
Taking the turn along the Arltunga Tourist Drive, a part of the iconic Binns Track, the road turns to gravel and the scenery gives way to flatter, wide-open spaces and low scrubby bushes. Whilst not a designated 4wd only track, the road is rough and corrugated in true outback style. Located along this road between Arltunga and the Plenty Highway is a little oasis for campers looking to break up their drive and enjoy true outback hospitality.
Hale River Homestead, a working cattle station, offers both powered and unpowered camping on a lovely green lawn at the homestead. Somewhat of a major feat (and definitely atreat!), having quite lush grass when surrounded by the infamous red dust of Central Australia. Camping here offers toilets and hot showers – rustic in their look but clean and a welcome break from bush camping. When we arrived they had also just put in a washing machine for campers to use and were working on a fence around a pool. Impressively, the station has recently converted to a fully solar powered set up.
The managers were lovely, friendly people, happy to help outand always up for a chat up at the kiosk. A converted hut, now dubbed “The Workshop” is the licensed and well-stocked kiosk, they also offer some snacks and light meals too. Given it was my birthday when we arrived, a cold glass of white went down very well, particularly as the kids were entertained with the board games and farm memorabilia they had scattered around. There are a few bush walks around the station and one reasonably long walk or short drive through the paddocks up to Fredericks Lookout, which offers stunning, sweeping views of the property and surrounding ranges.
If you are up for adventure, then on leaving Hale River Homestead you can continue your way along the Binns on the 4WD only, rough, sandy track up to the Plenty Highway – just be prepared for plenty of bulldust along the way!
Website - The Intollerant Traveller
TRILBY STATION, LOUTH, NSW
After buying our first 4wd, we were really eager for our first outback trip. After a lot of research we had finally decided on the Darling River run. One of the main choices for picking the Darling River Run was the fact that we could bring our dogs along and we also couldn’t wait to see this station that everyone had been raving about.
Once we had arrived at Trilby Station we were met by our host Liz. Liz and her husband Gary run the station along with their sons. One of the first things you notice is how dry it is out there. You read about it, but until you see it with your own eyes it’s a shock. Even though they’re doing it tough, it’s not something they really show and just get on with the job at hand of running a 320,000 acre sheep station.
Driving from the homestead down to the river bank and being able to pick your own spot was fantastic. Depending on which way you drive down to the river, you may pass their air strip which they run a little Cessna 172. They use this for checking the stations bores, the 17,000 merino sheep and the rather large amount of feral goats.
Up at the homestead you can grab some yabby pots and try your luck, behind the workshop you can grab a life jacket and jump into the canoes and float down the river. While up at the homestead the girls saw the “pool”, starting the non-stop question “can we go to the pool yet?”, it was a bit of a godsend with the heat and river being so low.
Then there are the mud map tours. There are two to do and you get to take in a lot of the station, driving around the original homestead and lot of the old shearing machines, boilers etc. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see the original homestead as that area had all the new lambs, so it was kept closed to the public for their wellbeing.
That afternoon, we enjoyed an incredible camp oven meal, topped by sitting around the camp fire and staring off into the moon light reflecting on what little water remained in the river. Of a night we loved walking up onto the airstrip, laying on our backs and take in the million star view. It’s amazing just how bright the night sky is out there and something we just don’t get to see at home.
Trilby station is definitely a place we will be going back to.
Instagram – Our Old Jack and Camper
MUNGERANNIE STATION, BIRDSVILLE TRACK, QLD
The Birdsville track is an iconic outback route which we have travelled on a few times & although it is well maintained travelling through this area requires some planning.
The track starts in Maree SA crossing the QLD Border into Birdsville, a tiny remote town which in recent years has become a hype of excitment for music lovers and 4WD adrenalin junkies who also love the challenge of driving Big Red, I know we sure had a lot of fun.
Mungerannie Station is a cattle station on the Birdsville track. It stands on the edge of the Simpson Desert and Strzelecki Desert and was once part of the Cowerie and Kanowa run.
The Mungerannie Hotel was first opened back in 1886, along with a store, eating house for drovers and local stations to gather their daily supplies. Mungerannie is located approximately 200km from Maree, it’s a great stop over to fuel up, rest nd restore. The now famous Mungerannie hotel is on adjacent freehold land and is owned by Phil, a friendly chap who enjoys a chat with all walks of life.
Phil’s casual manner had us instantly feeling relaxed and ecited, ready to enjoy a cold beer plus indulge in a hearty home cooked meal. There is a real sense of nostalgia at this quirky remote pub and the sound of our young fella cracking his stockwhip adds a true Aussie feel to the Outback ambience.
The campgrounds are dry and dusty, the surrounds are barronbut somehow it’s easy to find ourselves immersed in the serenity of our great Australian Outback, especially whilst watching the bright colours of the evening sunset slowly fade.
Facebook - Hitting the Tracks