‘The simple pleasure of taking the long way home through inland Australia’

Sep 14, 2019
Jenny took the road less travelled down through inland Australia and got the full view of the country's drought. Source: Getty Images

I’ve spent several weeks visiting family and friends in south-east Queensland. I decided I would take the lesser known roads of the Warrego and Matilda highways plus the Kidman Way for my return home to Victoria.

Toowoomba, Dalby, Miles, Roma, Charleville, Barringun, Bourke, Cobar, Mount Hope and Goolgowi. These were just some of the towns along the way.

Sweeping plains devoid of any vegetation. Bones of deceased wildlife. Scavenger birds picking at dead animals. Dried up waterholes and towns clinging onto hope that the last drops of precious water will not dry up before the rains come.

Leaving Sandgate early one morning and travelling to Toowoomba there was time for a quick cuppa with my 79-year-old brother. I like to catch up with family whenever possible. Who knows when our number might come up.

Next stop, Dalby, a town that has the dubious reputation of being one of the coldest in the state. It did not disappoint. The temperature was -3C (26.6F) that night. Caravans are not the warmest of abodes and the night saw me getting up and rummaging under the bed for more blankets.

The town of Miles was my next overnight stop. A lovely little town, suffering greatly from the drought. People were generally optimistic about the chances of rain.

Moving along through small towns and locations, still on the Warrego Highway. Muckadilla is a well known small town. Unfortunately the much loved Muckadilla Pub had burnt down the week before I went through. It was the hub of the community.

Arriving at Roma I decided to stop for a couple of nights. I am glad I did.

Roma has the most amazing drapery. Ace Drapers. Enter the store and you go back hundreds of years in time. Shelves stacked floor to ceiling with every imaginable fabric. Kitchenware from bygone eras and other goods not seen anywhere else. Being a keen sewer and crocheter, I thought I had gone to heaven.

It’s a sewist’s dream at Ace Drapers in Roma, say Jenny. Source: Jennifer Lockhart

The following night I wandered over to the park and found an array of food vans and many people mingling. There was a band playing, a little train giving rides, and ducks on the grass.

I asked what the occasion was and a lady told me it was Food Van Friday, even though it was Saturday, did not seem to matter. Anyone who has experienced Brisbane’s Eat Street at Hamilton will understand that this was Roma’s version.

Charleville was next up. This is where my time on Warrego Highway ended and my direction of travel changed from west to south along the Matilda Highway.

Passing through the small town of Wyandra to Barringun, on the border of Queensland and New South Wales where the name changed to the Kidman Way. Barringun has a roadhouse called the Bush Tucker Inn and I can certainly recommend the food. There used to be a pub, owned by an amazing old lady well into her 90s, but she sold it a couple of years ago and shortly after it burned down.

The Kidman Way was named after Sir Sidney Kidman, a man who worked on stations in western NSW and then set up a butcher shop in the copper mining town of Cobar in 1870. In 1886 he bought Owen Downs Station in the Northern Territory. He went on the become the largest landowner in the world. This route is inspired by his passion to exploration and a desire to open up the inland of Australia.

I spent a night in Cobar. Just like many of the rural and regional towns I stopped at along the way, this town was doing it tough.

On to Goolgowi with a stop at Mount Hope for lunch. The pub sits alarmingly close to the highway (right on the edge of it, in fact) and offers great meals. While eating lunch I was almost blown off my chair by a road train hurtling by. That close. Yes, really!

‘Hold on to your lunch!’ Source: Jennifer Lockhart

Goolgowi was my last overnighter on the Kidman Way. It keeps going to Jerilderie, but I turned west again and headed for home, a 4-hour drive.

I was pleased I took that route home. Aside from there being virtually no traffic to contend with, I was able to traverse charming towns, indulge in good food experiences and explore the fascinting heritage. Plus, I passed some of the cutest wild goats along the road throughout my journey!

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Have you travelled Kidman Way? Is a road trip through the heart of Australia on your travel bucket list?

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