There’s No Water In Longreach!

When you’re on a coastal passage and the weather turns bad, what do you do? Find a safe harbour and wait it out is the solution for most. But for three couples on a passage from the Gold Coast in southern Queensland to the Whitsunday Islands, there had to be a better way.

“We weren’t going to sit a round for four or five days and wait,” said Geoff Simmons. “We were sitting in the restaurant on the first evening and simply decided to head for Longreach.”

There’s no water in Longreach. In fact, the town is about 700 kilometers inland in the Australian desert. But it has two attractions – the Stockman’s Hall of Fame and the Qantas Founders Outback Museum. That was enough for Geoff and wife Jenny, John and Janet Freestone and Stephen and Anna Hardy.

The three couples had a strong and important bond: they are all Riviera owners and they love coastal cruising. They had met several times at Riviera functions and Experience events.

“We all enjoy being a part of the Riviera family and that is how we got to know one another,” said John Freestone. “Surprisingly we all get on very well – all six of us.”

The little fleet reached Keppel Bay and the Rosslyn Bay marina, north of Fraser Island and about half way through their voyage with a weather front closing in fast. They would have to wait at least four days for the seas to abate.

That’s where they decided to head inland to Longreach on a different adventure.

They picked up two cars from the local rental company, a family sedan and a small Hyundai Getz. Geoff and the ladies took the big car, leaving John and Stephen with the Getz.

First stop was the town of Emerald, about 300 kilometres inland. They decided to try their luck with the riches of the "The Gemfields" area a short drive further west. Small towns such as Sapphire and Rubyvale give an indication of the type of gems found there. The Sapphire fields are in fact the largest in the southern hemisphere. They toured the sapphire mine at Miners Heritage, Australia's largest walk-in tourist mine.

Then the girls decided to hunt for gemstones at the small Fossicking Park.

“We blokes sat in the shade and laughed at them,” said Geoff.

“I turned the tables when I found a gem worth keeping,” Janet Freestone riposted.

The next stop was Longreach and the museums, about 350 kilometres further west.

“John and I were alone in that little Getz,” said Stephen. “All we had for entertainment was a single Beatles CD. You’ve got to like Beatles music to listen for four days!”

The Qantas Founders Outback Museum in Longreach includes a giant Boeing 747, the company’s first jet passenger plane, a 707 and an early DC3 as well as the original QANTAS hangar from the 1920s.

John and Stephen commandeered the cockpit of the 747 and the three men ventured out on the wing of the giant aircraft.

“We jumped up and down on the wing, trying to break it,” said Geoff. “Oddly, it barely flexed.”

At the Stockman’s Hall of Fame across the road from the Qantas museum they explored the five themed galleries that display the history behind some of Australia's greatest explorers, stock workers, pastoralist, and Aborigines. ??Next stop was the massive Carnarvon Gorge a rugged 16,000 hectares and the most popular tourist destination in Queensland’s central highlands. Rainforest flourishes in the sheltered side-gorges while cabbage tree palms, ancient cycads, ferns and big eucalypt trees are a feature of the main gorge.

Heading north again from the Carnarvon Gorge, the tourists stopped for lunch at the massive Fairbairn Dam. When full, it holds more water than Sydney Harbour.

From the dam, it was a straight run back to Rockhampton and then Rosslyn Bay where they rejoined their boats and headed north, the front gone and the weather now fine again.

John Freestone summed up the adventure: “It was a great excursion. But if you had told me it was a good idea to take a diversion inland to Longreach on the way to the Whitsundays I would have thought you were mad!”


Miner’s Heritage Fossicking Park

Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame

QANTAS Founders Outback Museum

Carnarvon Gorge



Click to enlarge image: Jenny, Janet and Anna at the Stockman's Hall Of Fame.

Jenny, Janet and Anna at the Stockman's Hall Of Fame.

John and Stephen pilot.

John and Stephen pilot.

At Carnarvon Gorge.

At Carnarvon Gorge.

At Fossicking Park.

At Fossicking Park.

Clowning in hats.

Clowning in hats.