Outback Time in Blackall, Queensland
As I’m lucky enough to be on the Outback Queensland Tourism Board, I have the wonderful opportunity to head ‘into region’ every few months for our board meetings. We have a few mayors on the board, and so this time, Mayor Andrew Martin was our host, in his town of Blackall.
Blackall is a peaceful town in Outback Queensland, and it might only have a population 1,500, but this little hamlet has a lot to draw in the visitors, and the grey nomads in particular head there in droves.
In two days, we not only fitted in a day-long board meeting, but also a lovely dinner at the newly opened The Lodge on Hawthorn, which is a beautifully renovated masonic temple that two local guys have turned into a gorgeous restaurant/café/antique store. We enjoyed a tour of the temple, which was built in 1908, and it still has all of the original furniture and door for the secret knock and handshake.
The meals are bursting with flavour and all made on site from local ingredients. Being cattle country out this way, I had to try the organic beef, and enjoyed it on prepared like a Thai beef salad. I couldn’t resist buying a handmade stubbie cooler created from cowhide as parting memento.
We also fitted in a tour of the historic Blackall Woolscour, which is the only wool-washing plant left fully intact in Australia. It also has one of the few remaining examples of a free flowing artesian bore, and the water is 58 degrees.
You really shouldn’t miss it, as the machinery, which was meticulously restored after locals banded together to save the place, is nothing short of gobsmacking. The whole point of a woolscour is to clean batches of wool as if it is still filled with dirt when transported, it weighs a lot more, and so it’s less costly to first clean the wool.
We met Willow Wilson, who runs the tours, and the man could not be more passionate about his beloved scour. The tours take an hour and you learn so much about the process of shearing sheep and how the wool is treated and packaged before being sent off for export. The machinery all works as it once did, and it’s all powered by one giant wheel. It’s most blokes’ dream day out, poking about checking out what makes what turn and work. It’s completely fascinating and you could spend hours just watching the machines that combs through the wool, or the contraptions that clean the dirt from the wool.
Afterwards we all enjoyed drinks and nibbles at a local gallery where a band called Culture Train performed before an engrossed crowd. The band features six world-renowned artists from ethnically diverse backgrounds, from places such as Nepal, Spain, India and Africa. For Multicultural Month, Culture Train took its show on the road, making its way through Outback Queensland to spread word about how the people of the world can come together as one. It was a wonderful evening, and we were all able to meet many of the locals who love their special town.
While in Blackall, you should also visit The Jack Howe Memorial Statue outside the Universal Garden Centre. Inside there’s a gallery that explains how Jack Howe played such a big part in Blackall’s history.
On the edge of town is Blackall’s Aquatic Centre, which has an artesian bubble-spa and 50m swimming pool. The water is heated all year round, so you can even go for a dip in the winter months. Not that it often gets cold during the day in these parts!
Also visit the site of the famous Black Stump, which was used to survey the boundaries of Queensland. It’s where the saying ‘Beyond the Black Stump’ came from. And if you want to get past the stump and out there under the big blue Outback sky, visit Idalia National Park, which is a 112-kilometres drive from Blackall. Relax among the red river gums and go for a swim in the spring-fed waterholes surrounded by rugged rocky escarpments. Bliss.