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Down on the Farm
If you live on the land you know it's a lot of hard work: but for the curious city slicker, getting your hands dirty in the country can be a refreshing break.
Words and Images by: Chris Maher

It’s a sensory experience: the hustle of cows ambling to the dawn milking; yellow fields of wheat waving in the wind; the hunger-inducing smell of eggs frying in a pan, collected only minutes before.

It’s the little things you’re likely to remember from your time down on the farm.

We’ve looked at a wide variety of experiences from staying at sheep stations to droving cattle and enjoying the sweet life in an orchard.

Sheep and sheepdogs at the Toobrack Station south-west of Longreach. Tourism QLD

Hard yakka

Queensland has a great number of farm stays and stations stays in all areas of the state, some pride themselves on making sure the guests get down and dirty, while others focus more on a relaxing time.

Glassford Creek Farmstay is a true Outback retreat situated on a 1,700 hectare working cattle property near Gladstone. Be prepared for some hard yakka – everything at Glassford Creek is ‘hands-on’, so once visitors enter the gate you can get involved in just about everything that happens on the property. Enjoy a worker’s lunch in the smoko shed, saddle up for a ride, milk cows, check water troughs and fences, and feast on camp-oven roast dinners by the fire. (www.gcfarmstay.com.au)

Similarly, Myella Farmstay near Gladstone offers to leave you ‘stiff, sore and dirty – but happy’. Peter and Olive Eather have been running Myella since 1993. Great horse and motorbike riding, 4WD farm tours,  home cooking, campfires and feeding animals are just some of the activities. (www.myella.com).

Taabinga Homestead near Kingaroy is part of the National Estate and is central to the history of South Burnett. The homestead was built in 1846 and is one of Queensland’s oldest continuously inhabited rural homes. It is a working cattle property and accommodation includes self-contained cottages set amongst its gardens. Other outbuildings include the stables, a dairy, blacksmiths and butcher’s shops. (www.taabingastation.com.au)

Getting the water going at Carisbrooke Station. Tourism QLD

Bunyip Springs Farmstay provides visitors with genuine farm experiences on its 251-hectare grazing property, including feeding, milking, egg collecting and horse rides. Nearby attractions include the astronomical observatory, country hotel for good hearty meals and Coomba Waterhole in and around Maidenwell, five kilometres from the Farmstay. The beautiful Bunya Mountains National Park is a natural wonderland just 23 kilometres away from the farm’s location in the foothills. (www.bunyipsprings.com.au)

Horses are the main form of transport around some of the farmstays. Tourism QLD

Cedar Glen has been in the Stephens family since 1882, and they’ve been hosting visitors to the farm for nearly 30 years. Located 90 minutes from Brisbane or the Gold Coast in the beautiful Lost World Valley, this spectacular 400 hectare property is home to beef cattle, Arabian horses, milking cows, sheep, pigs, kangaroos and poultry. You can learn how to throw a returning boomerang and crack the stock whip while enjoying a cup of billy tea and freshly made damper. Guests can stay in the original homestead or choose one of three historic cottages. (www.cedarglen.com.au)

Carisbrooke Station and Farmstay is 85 kilometres southwest of Winton in ‘red mesa country’. Guests can choose to stay in clean, comfortable, self-contained station accommodation or make use of the camping facilities. You can unwind by bushwalking, birdwatching, painting, photography or just relaxing in tranquil surroundings. Tours run to Aboriginal sites, an opal mine, sheep and cattle grazing, wildlife and spectacular sunsets. (www.carisbrookestation.com.au)

Wittacork is a modern working dairy farm on 120 hectares with more than 40 hectares of pristine rainforest. The farm adjoins Lake Baroon Conservation Area and National Park and is a Land for Wildlife registered property. The selfcontained cottages are set on a ridge overlooking Lake Baroon and the Obi Obi  Gorge National Park and are surrounded by rainforest. Guests can watch the cows being milked, feed the calves, collect eggs, bushwalk or laze on the deck soaking in the peace and the views. The property has two kilometres of walking tracks in the rainforest with bridges across creeks and waterfall viewing areas. (www.wittacork.com.au)

Getting the cattle across the river at Belltrees. Tourism NSW

Alkoomie Station is a 7,500 hectare working cattle station near historic Cooktown on Cape York Peninsula. The homestead is built on Mt Dixon 500 metres above sea level with spectacular views to the Coral Sea. There are plenty of activities and adventures for all the family including feeding the farm animals, horse riding, working cattle dogs and swimming in rock pools. Dinner is cooked in a camp oven and eaten around the camp fire, (www.alkoomie.com.au)

These sheep seem to have rounded up the tourists. Tourism Tasmania

You can saddle up and experience all the adventure of a working cattle property at Mount Mulligan Station, three hours north of Cairns. Home to 2,300 head of cattle, birdwatching, bushwalking, horse riding, quad biking and crystal clear waterholes, the 28,000 hectare property is set at the foot of the majestic Mount Mulligan, an 18 kilometre long sandstone escarpment around 10 times the size of Uluru. Mount Mulligan is also known by indigenous people as the birthplace of the Rainbow Serpent and is regarded as one or the most sacred sites in North Queensland. Choose from the Outback Overnighter and chopper in for a snooze at the charming homestead or harness your inner cowboy and take on the five-day Mt. Mulligan Cattle Drive package for a true Australian outback experience. (www.mountmulligan.com)

Other great farm and station stays include: Lee Farmstay, 15 kilometres north-east of Kingaroy (www.leefarmstay.com.au); Brockhurst Cabins Farmstay and Retreat (www.brockhurstcabins.com); Spicers Hidden Vale in South East Queensland (spicersgroup.com.au); Kroombit Tourist Park at Lochenbar Station (www.kroombit.com.au); Henderson Park, north of Rockhampton (www.hendersonpark.com.au); Robin Hood Stations at Cobbold Gorge (www.cobboldgorge.com.au); Rossmount Rural Retreat, half way between Fraser Island and Noosa (www.rossmountruralretreat.com.au); Susan River Homestead Adventure Resort (www.susanriver.com); The Quilter’s Rest nine kilometres from Kingaroy (www.quiltersrest.com.au); and the Lillydale beef cattle station, 90 minutes from Brisbane and the Gold Coast (www.lillydale.com.au).

An honorary roustabout sweeping up after the shearer. Tourism NSW

Playing the farmer

Learn how give a bottle of milk to a baby lamb, collect chicken eggs, and help catch, groom and saddle horses before enjoying a ride. Ba Mack Homestead is a 115-hectare merino farm, located 25 minutes from Mudgee. It offers a great experience for couples, families and groups to stay on a working farm with luxury farm stay accommodation. On top of all the other activities, you can pick fresh fruit from the orchard, learn how to make preserves or bake something delicious in the homestead kitchen. In winter, you can toast marshmallows by the bonfire while sipping a port under the starry night sky. (www.bamackhomestead.com)

If you really want to taste the rough and ready of the real outback Australia, head out to the back of Bourke. Cameroo is a working sheep and cattle station that has been in the Sharpe family since 1919. It also provides a complete outback experience for the whole family. The station covers a vast area of more than 40,000 hectares of Australia’s red and black soil, north-west of Bourke. But it’s not all rough and tough out here: Comeroo also has its own artesian spa with natural therapeutic and healing mineral waters coming up from deep underground. (www.comeroo.com)

Mowbray Park Farm is one of the most popular holiday farms in NSW, where you can experience hands-on country life and be part of a real farming experience. You get to help feed farm animals, milk cows, collect chicken eggs and cuddle nursery  animals. There are a lot of other activities such as horse riding, whip-cracking, boomerang throwing and billy tea and damper sessions. It’s only 90 minutes from Sydney at Picton. (www.farmstayholidays.com.au)

Tobruk Sheep Station is a fun, family farm experience. Also not far from Sydney, it is billed as the most authentic rural and outback experience in the region. Set on more than 70 hectares of land on a high plateau above the Hawkesbury River, Tobruk is surrounded by State Forests and bushland, with amazing views to the Blue Mountains. It has an authentic, rustic charm combined with a scenic backdrop of bush,  beautiful paddocks and dams. It is also home to the famous Tobruk Australian Outback show featuring a sheep muster, sheep shearing, stockmen on horseback, working dog display, whip cracking, boomerang throwing, billy tea and damper. (www.tobruksheepstation.com.au)

One farmstay activity is experiencing the sights, smells and sounds of shearing. Tourism NSW

Turlee Station Stay is a working sheep, cattle and wheat station located next to Mungo National Park in outback NSW. The family owned and operated 60,000 hectare station stay is situated within the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, one hours drive from Mildura. Visitors can enjoy bush camping under the stars, budget and four-star accommodation, tours and activities. Turlee Station is also a great place to use as a base to explore the ancient region of Mungo. (www.turleestationstay.com.au)

For a different type of farm experience, you can stay on a trout farm. Although herding trout is not on the agenda, catching and eating them is. The Billabong Trout Fishing Farmstay offers escape from the pressures of city living to the seclusion of your own private cottage on a 500 hectare, cattle and sheep property at Oberon. You can enjoy fishing in your own trout stream or the spring fed trout dam. Join in seasonal farm activities, or just relax while reading by the slow-combustion wood heater. (www.oberonaustralia.com.au)

Belltrees at Scone has been home to the White family since 1831 and is one of Australia’s most famous rural properties along the Hunter River. Couples, families and even small conference groups wanting to escape the city life come to Belltrees to enjoy a leisurely farm stay break and to soak up the early pioneering history and rural atmosphere. (www.belltrees.com)

Down on Macka’s Farm

One of the most popular farmstays in Victoria is Macka’s Farm. Although it is geared largely for kids and overseas tourists, it also represents a good stopover for a romantic weekend away – especially as it’s only a few hours from Melbourne, amongst the rolling hills just above the Port Campbell National Park.

It offers a real rural experience, where you can share a few days on the busy farm with a large indoor animal nursery including ponies, rabbits, chickens, ducklings, piglets and more.

Milking of the 160 cows can be observed morning and evening and fresh milk is always available, as are the farmyard eggs that you can find yourself. Baby is the local maremma sheepdog that can lead you around the farm or down to fish for rainbow trout in the dam.

Features include log fires, verandahs with ocean views, spectacular starry skies, campfires and the fabulous 12 Apostles only six kilometres down the road. (www.mackasfarm.com.au)

Heritage experience

The Brickendon Estate, owned by the Archer family since 1842, is one of the Tasmanian World Heritage Listed sites with a strong convict past. Brickendon is a working farm and has 20 convict-built buildings (both timber and brick) as well as convict built roadways over the current 420 hectare estate. You can stay in one of five cottages. (www.brickendon.com.au)

Curringa Farm is a genuine 500 hectare, award winning, sheep and cropping farm, one hour from Hobart and close to Mt Field National Park. Curringa Farm offers fourstar secluded accommodation and guests can enjoy organised farm tours or cook their own barbe-pack beside beautiful Lake Meadowbank, which is also ideal for fishing and swimming. (curringafarm.com.au)

The Beachside Retreat West Inlet is on a working cattle farm near Stanley. The property is a grazing enterprise and breeds Maine Anjou cattle. It was formerly part of the historic Van Diemens Land Royal Charter. The owners are committed to preserving the environment and are recipients of several Natural Heritage Grants. (www.beachsideretreat.com)

Red Rooster Host Farm is nestled under Mount Arthur in the beautiful North/East of Tasmania approximately 35 minutes from Launceston. Red Rooster Host Farm is a hobby farm set on seven hectares, in a peaceful valley at Wyena, with plenty of wildlife and forest walks. They offer a number of family friendly farm based activities. (www.redroosterhostfarm.com)

Harvest Moon – one of Tasmania’s most prolific fresh vegetable producers – has branched out into luxury accommodation. The Harvest House is a 100-year-old renovated homestead set on a working vegetable farm called Kinburn in the northern midlands of Tasmania. This stylish self-contained homestead offers a unique holiday option for visitors who might be interested in the farm stay option for peace and tranquillity near historic Longford. (www.harvesthousetasmania.com.au)

A dusty muster in the Kimberley. Tourism WA

Go west

Farmstay options in Western Australia range from charming self-contained cottages to bed and breakfast at station homesteads and can be found in every corner of the state.  Some of these options include places such as Harvey Hills Farmstay, one-anda- half hours south of Perth. Here you can stay on a 205 hectare farm with stunning views over the Harvey Dam in one of four self-catered air-conditioned chalets. Highlights include animal feeding, a swimming pool and play area. (www.harveyhillsfarmstay.com.au)

Burnside Organic Farm in WA’s premier wine region, Margaret River, offers a complete farm experience staying in private bungalows and learning about animals, crops and wine. (www.burnsideorganicfarm.com.au)

At Lucieville Farm Chalets near Bridgetown you can milk a cow, bottle feed lambs and collect fresh eggs. Lucieville is surrounded by many quaint country towns and local wineries. (sites. google.com/site/lucievillefarm)

Home Valley Station is in the epic Kimberley region where guests can experience the exhilaration of an authentic cattle muster, soak in the unforgettable scenery (including towering gorges, sparkling waterholes and ancient landforms) and be inspired by the region’s Indigenous people. (www.hvstation.com.au)

Warroora Station is on the picturesque Coral Coast, stretching along 50 kilometres of pristine coastline beside the Ningaloo Reef. A true coastal outback station stay, Waroora has a range of accommodation around their old homestead and you can also enjoy the white sand beach to swim, snorkel and fish. (www.warroora.com)

For something different, there is the Morapoi Indigenous Station Stay, offering an inspiring cross-cultural experience in  a fascinating part of Australia. Two hours north of Kalgoorlie, this ancient land has been home to Wangkatha people for thousands of years. Learn about traditional bush tucker, go on an indigenous cultural tour or try your luck prospecting. (www.morapoi.com.au)

Meat is always on the menu at Curringa Farm. Tourism Tasmania

Territory stations

Coodardie Station Stay is set in a native savannah woodlands near Mataranka (400 kilometres south of Darwin). Coodardie Station Stay is a working cattle station boasting true outback hospitality. Guests can enjoy home cooked meals using fresh produce, sit around the outdoor fireplace and make a traditional billy tea and damper – all surrounded by an abundance of local birdlife and the station’s horses and Brahman cattle. Activities range from touring to the thermal springs and walking trails at nearby Elsey National Park, a cruise down the Roper River or a guided four-wheel drive journey of the property. (www.coodardie.com.au)

Mount Bundy Station is set on the banks of the Adelaide River (famous for crocodiles) and is a working cattle property with accommodation options to provide a unique farm stay experience. Activities include barramundi fishing, horse trekking and tours of the property to watch the wildlife at sunset. It’s enroute to Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park, Douglas Daly (Tjuwaliyn) Hot Springs, Daly River and Nitmiluk at Katherine. (www.mtbundy.com.au)

Bullo River Station is a remote working cattle station bounded by the Bullo and Victoria Rivers. Bullo offers a range of experiences such as world class fishing and big crocodile watching, as well as observing the day-to-day activities of a 1,600-square-kilometre Top End cattle station. The station contains a range of different landscapes including spectacular river gorges and a beautiful waterfall accessible only by the station’s helicopter. Most guests arrive by charter flight from Darwin or Kununurra. (bulloriver.com)

Tags: Farm Country City Animals Longreach Queensland Gladstone South Burnett Kingaroy Brisbane Gold Coast Belltrees Cooktown Cape York Peninsula Rockhampton
Category: Features
Written: Fri 01 Nov 2013
Printed: November, 2013
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Chris Maher, Tourism QLD, Tourism NSW, Tourism TAS, Tourism WA,