While most tourists flock to Queensland’s idyllic coasts in winter, there are just as many fantastic inland sights to explore.
Emerald to Alpha
Emerald is the mecca of industry in Queensland; a trading point for coal, gemstones, cotton, wheat, cattle, maize, sorghum, sunflowers and more. Spend the afternoon at Lake Maraboon, Queensland’s second largest lake, where anglers can try for barramundi, perch, bass, saratoga and red claw crayfish; or visit the Emerald Botanical Gardens on the banks of the Nogoa River. The gardens are spread across both sides of the river and include a rose garden, maze, wedding chapel, sculptures, rainforest and walking tracks across their 42 hectares.
Emerald is a great place to base yourself, while you explore the region. If you’re there this August, don’t miss the annual Gemfest in Anakie – an opportunity to be bedazzled by large and rare gems! On display are diamonds, pearls, zircons, opals as well as gold, crystals, fossils and minerals. The sapphires at Gemfest will put Titanic’s Heart of the Ocean blue diamond to shame.
The sapphire fields are open all-year round, and with more than 900 square kilometres to explore, you’ll be hard-pressed to cover it all in one trip. To go fossicking yourself, make sure you get the required permits.
A short drive away from Emerald, the towns of Alpha and Jericho are teeming with outback quirks. Both towns suffered from serious flooding in 1950 and again in 2011 (making the dry season a much safer time to visit!). Take in the Drummond Range at the lookout point (a short detour from the Capricorn Highway), or spend the night at one of the free camping sites – you might even find a piece of fossilised wood on your travels!
For those who don’t mind a pint, Barcaldine is your haven. With just 1300 people here, the town is flush with pubs: five of them actually. If you do stop in at one (or all) of the pubs, you’ll quickly realise that locals call their town ‘Barky’ and soon after, that every street is named after a tree. Should you be running on low on conversation topics, it’s always worth asking the locals about the dog fences in the area – you’ll get a comprehensive lesson in shepherding out of that one.
Barcaldine is a lush little outback town, and it’s got plenty to offer those who visit. It’s also got plenty of historical significance: Barcaldine is famously known as the birthplace of the Labour Party. It was in Barcaldine that the first ever shearer’s strike took place. The perfect site to soak in this history is the Tree of Knowledge, which is surrounded by a protective structure made from timber and recycled telephone poles. The tree is most glorious in the morning or late afternoon sun.
The Lara Wetlands, a 28-kilometre drive south from Barcaldine, is a gorgeous outback oasis and photographer’s dreamscape. Dead ghost gums sway and protrude from the water, their silhouettes caught by the sunset glow. The wetlands are a perfect stargazing spot too, if you dabble in long exposure photography at all then this scenery will really excite you!