Heritage tours


Please note: If your school has not travelled to Wanpa-rda by bus then alternative arrangements for bus hire may be able to be organised for your students to participate in the heritage tours.

Gray Rock / Sculpture Trail Heritage Tour

Gray Rock is situated on a spur of the Great Dividing Range approximately 100km from Barcaldine. Students will experience a unique and fun filled day tour to Gray Rock which was once the location of the Wayside Hotel where Cobb and Co coaches would call for the night en route from Clermont to Aramac before the railway line was completed.

On the way to Gray Rock students will travel through Aramac and visit the replica of the White Bull and learn about the infamous story of Harry Redford aka ‘Captain Starlight’. In March 1870, Redford and four others stole approximately 1000 head of cattle, including an imported white bull belonging to the Scottish Australian Company, Bowen Downs, which stretched along the Thomson River and tributaries. The Bull was sold at a station in South Australia to help pay for supplies for the remainder of the journey. The bull was later shipped back to Queensland as evidence against Redford at his trial.

Continuing on to Gray Rock, students will engage in a game of ‘Where’s Wally’ as they travel through what is arguably the largest permanent outdoor sculpture trail in the world. The Lake Dunn Sculpture Trail, which commences at Aramac and does a 220km loop through Gray Rock and Lake Dunn, has been designed by local artist Milynda Rogers who uses scrap metal to create her amazing sculptures. The Gray Rock section of the trail includes brolgas, eagles, possum, deer, a motorbike musterer and some thirsty cockies.

Morning tea will be at Gray Rock which is approximately 125 million years old and is part of the Wallumbilla formation laid down in the lower Cretaceous period on a marine shelf. Plesiosaur and Muttaburrasauras remains are among the fossils that have been recovered from this strata.

Students will then travel to Horsetailers Gorge which was used by drovers to camp at night. An impressive sculpture of a Returned Soldier sits atop of the entrance to the gorge. The horseshoe shape of the gorge meant that horsetailers could drive horses into the gorge where they could be watered and mustered and not stray at night. Students can explore the weathered caves and blowholes within the gorge which show visible signs of when this area was a marine shelf.

Returning to Gray Rock for lunch, students will be able to explore the site of the Wayside Hotel and examine the names of past travellers at the base of Gray Rock. These names have been carved into the sandstone dating as far back as the late 1800s when the Wayside Hotel was open for the Cobb and Co coach passengers.  They will also be given the opportunity to explore the area for ochre, and learn about the ways in which Aboriginal people use the different colour ochre for painting.

Before returning to Wanpa-rda for dinner, students will continue further on the sculpture trail and count how many sculptures they can see.

Lake Dunn / Sculpture Trail Heritage Tour

Lake Dunn is a freshwater lake situated approximately 68km northeast of Aramac (approximately 130km from Barcaldine). Lake Dunn’s Aboriginal name is pajingo bola, meaning “Big Fella Waterhole” and is over 3km long and over 1.5km wide. It was named after James Dunn, who was a head stockman at Mt Cornish Station, and discovered the lake when he tracked a mob of cattle there.

On the way to Lake Dunn, students will travel through Aramac, one of the oldest towns in the central west, which was originally called Marathon until a carving on a tree was discovered in 1875 by the explorer William Landsborough which read ‘R. R. Mac’. These initials belonged to Robert Ramsay Mackenzie, the first explorer to the area. Hence the name Aramac was born.

Continuing on to Lake Dunn, students will engage in a game of ‘Where’s Wally’ as they travel through the Lake Dunn Sculpture Trail. This section of the trail includes a rainbow serpent, Harry Redford, an echidna, a goanna and kangaroos riding a pushbike, a lobster, as well the latest sculpture of ex Cowboys NRL star Johnathon Thurston located at Lake Dunn erected in March 2019.

Morning Tea will be at the Healing Circle located approximately halfway between Aramac and Lake Dunn. This modern healing circle is reputedly connected to other healing circles in Japan, Tibet, Madagascar, Peru, Turkey and the USA. Students can experience stepping into the centre of the circle which is supposed to be connected to the energies of all seven circles across the globe. The circle was designed for prayer, meditation and the healing of the mind, body and soul.

Students will then continue on to Lake Dunn which is a birdwatchers paradise and home to over 80 different species of birds including the fascinating royal spoonbills that wade constantly across the edges of the lake. Lunch at the lake will include students exploring the natural beauty of the surrounds amongst the red river gums and coolibahs. Students will then travel past an impressive sculpture of a horse and rider at the Ballyneety Rodeo to enjoy a game of cricket at the Lake Dunn activities park.

Travelling back to Aramac for afternoon tea, students will be given an opportunity to learn the history of the infamous Harry Redford at the site of the White Bull. They will then return to Wanpa-rda for dinner.

Barcaldine Heritage Tour

Barcaldine is the birthplace of Wanpa-rda Matilda Outback Education Centre. It is also the birthplace of the Tree of Knowledge, the Australian Labour Party and the Australian Workers Heritage Centre. The Great Shearers’ Strike of 1891 which almost led to a civil war in Australia earned Barcaldine its place in history. Since the early 1900s, Barcaldine has become known as ‘The Garden City of the West’ which is evident in the beautiful surrounds of the Tree of Knowledge and the Workers Heritage Centre.

Students will begin their heritage tour at the Workers Heritage Centre where they will engage in a quiz tour amongst the shaded trees and billabong. A variety of fun activities will be incorporated into the quiz including comparing and contrasting the one teacher school to their own classroom, and learning how to write their name in Morse code at the post office. Students will be given the opportunity to enter a replica of a prison cell and experience what it was like for the leaders of the Great Strike of 1891 who were sentenced to three years imprisonment for their part in the strike.

After morning tea students will embark on a walking trail of the Barcaldine Township via the Tree of Knowledge. This tree is arguably the most famous tree in Australia and gained its name because of the important meetings that took place under the shade of this Ghost Gum. The political history of the tree began in 1886 with teamsters and then shearers sitting under its shade to hold discussions about low wages and working conditions. The tree was subsequently used as a canopy for potential politicians to hold addresses. As students venture along the walking trail they will learn the many stories of the heritage listed buildings and attractions including the original windmill that was used to pump the first free flowing bore in Queensland in 1886. Students will finish the trail at a leisure park before returning to the billabong at the Workers Heritage Centre for lunch.

After lunch students will travel to the Red Shed, a cultural centre and arts workshop hosted by the Central West Aboriginal Corporation. Here students will learn about the culture and stories surrounding ochre and Aboriginal art and will be given the unique opportunity to create and design their own clap sticks.  Students will sand the wood to smooth the clap sticks ready for painting. Once finished the clap sticks will be lacquered and dried in order for students to take their very own uniquely designed sticks home. They will then have afternoon tea at the Red Shed.

Following afternoon tea, students will walk to the Barcaldine District and Folk Museum to view the vast array of memorabilia and artefacts on display providing some fascinating insights into the history of Barcaldine. Students will then return to Wanpa-rda to prepare for dinner.

The evening activity is a visit to the Radio Theatre where students will experience movie watching with a difference. This theatre dates back to 1926 and initially screened silent movies with music supplied by a piano, violin and cornet. Movies with sound were introduced at Radio Theatre in the 1930s and continued until the 1970s when television arrived in Barcaldine and the theatre was converted into an indoor cricket centre. The Arts Council reopened the theatre for movie goers in 1995 who continue to be treated to an old style theatre experience with reclining deck chairs set out on the old wooden floor. Radio Theatre will open exclusively to the students and accompanying adults staying at Wanpa-rda. After the movie students will return to Wanpa-rda and prepare for bed.

Blackall Heritage Tour

Blackall is situated 106km South of Barcaldine and was put on the map by blade shearer Jackie Howe who, in 1892, set a world record by shearing 321 sheep in seven hours and 40 minutes at the nearby Alice Downs Sheep Station. Blackall is said to have grown on a sheep’s back where the first artesian bore in the outback was drilled in 1885.

Students will travel to Blackall and visit a bronze sculpture of Jackie Howe whose world sheep shearing record took 50 years to break. They will also visit the ‘Black Stump’, a petrified wood memorial stump situated at the back of Blackall State School. Surveyors in 1888 used the stump for the placement of their transit to gain latitude and longitude observations for the drafting of maps of Queensland. As time passed any country to the west of Blackall was considered to be 'beyond the Black Stump'.  

Students will then travel to the Blackall Woolscour and have morning tea at the beautiful surrounds of the only known surviving example of an early 20th century mechanised woolscour in Australia. The Blackall Woolscour was built in 1908 and given a Queensland heritage listing in 1992 because of its importance in demonstrating rare aspects of Queensland cultural heritage, as well as its aesthetic significance and its ability to demonstrate the pattern and evolution of Queenslands history. Students will discover the magic of steam at work and gain a fascinating insight into how and why this wool washing plant operated. Following their tour of the Woolscour, students will continue on a self-guided tour of the old shearers’ quarters and cookhouse, and then feed the animals in the animal shed.

Leaving the Woolscour, students will travel to Ram Park for lunch. Symbolising the importance of the sheep and wool industry, a big white ram sits in front of a historical museum complex filled with stories about this regions colourful bush craft and stockmanship. After lunch students will explore the station homestead, railway station and school situated within Ram Park to experience what life was like in the late 1800s. Wandering through the park, students will be able to visualise how early pioneers used an array of machinery in their attempts to tame the outback.

Departing Ram Park, students will then visit the Blackall Aquatic Centre and Artesian Spa where they can enjoy both the therapeutic qualities of the natural artesian spa and the Olympic size swimming pool. After a swim students will have afternoon tea at the aquatic centre before driving back to Wanpa-rda to prepare for dinner and their night time activity.

Last reviewed 21 January 2020
Last updated 21 January 2020