Most grey nomads travelling deep into the Queensland Outback along the iconic Adventure Way will stop at the tiny town of Thargomindah … and all will be glad they did.
The settlement with a population of just a couple of hundred is the administrative centre of the Bulloo Shire and punches well above its weight in terms of its history and the wealth of attractions it boasts.
Situated approximately 1,100 kilometres west of Brisbane, Thargomindah was first settled in the 1860s and prospered after a telegraph line connected the town to Cunnamulla.
Of course, it was Burke and Wills and their epic expedition here in 1860 that really paved the way for settlement. Today, the Burke and Wills ‘Dig Tree’ on Cooper Creek, some 275 kilometres to the west draws many adventurous grey nomads, and Thargomindah can also be a launching pad for a trip to remote Cameron Corner, where the borders of Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales meet.
However, before rushing off to explore further afield, travellers should take a day or two to fish in the Bulloo River or stroll along its scenic banks. It’s also worth having a look at the Hydro Power Plant demonstration at 4.30pm every day from April-October. In 1891, an artesian bore was drilled about two kilometres out of town and, when it reached a depth of 808 metres, the water came to the surface at a temperature of 84°C. The pressure of the bore water was then used to drive generators coupled to a water turbine which supplied the town’s electricity. It was one of the first towns in Australia to produce hydroelectric power, and the system operated until 1951.
Another fascinating place to peek in to the past is the old stone Cobb & Co river crossing on the eastern entrance to town. During the 1890s, this was the home for Cobb & Co Coaches servicing distant settlements such as Hungerford and Toompine. It was rough going though, and the 200- kilometre trip to Cunnamulla, for example, would typically take five days or so … in good conditions! The stone crossing was used up until late 1929, when the current bridge was built.
Other local places well worth a look are Leahy Historic House which was built in 1885 from local mud bricks. The house is now owned by the historical society and visitors can tour, and admire the large collection of historic memorabilia.
The Post Office, which opened in 1870, is another of the town’s four remaining mud brick houses and, having been destroyed by a storm in 1877 and its interior destroyed by fire in 1952 could be said to have had an interesting life. The old hospital on the outskirts of town was built in 1888 and served as a hospital for 55 years. It now houses the visitor information centre and a small museum.
Today, Thargomindah is a modern country town providing the facilities and services expected by grey nomads, including a couple of good caravan parks. It also makes a great base for exploring other fascinating places in the area. These include; the walking trails and the three lakes of Lake Bindegolly National Park 35 kilometres to the east; the heritage-listed stone hotel at Noccundra on the banks of the Wilson river 145 kilometres to the west.
The truly adventurous may even be tempted to head south along the Dowling Track to Hungerford on the Queensland/New South Wales border and the nearby wetlands of Currawinya National Park which offer superb birdwatching opportunities.