Cast your mind back to the 1880’s when a lot of Australia was still being explored and settled, well for one little community 1200 km west of Brisbane the Cobb & Co stage coach would make this a new stop over, and as a stock route for pastoralists heading further west towards Adavale. Once called Stoney Point, then renamed Windorah meaning place of Big fish deriving from the local Aboriginal people, Kulumali, although easy settlers named it for being a high and stoney place.
These days its a stop over for tourists heading somewhere else but after a few days exploring the area I know we will be back. The first school was setup back in 1888 and over the next few years the population really never expanded so the local school had a history of being open then closing depending on the population.
Windorah is surrounded by black soil plains with the Cooper Creek cutting a path through nearby. It was back in 1845 When explorer Charles Sturt came across the Cooper that he named it after a judge in South Australia, Mr Cooper. But because it wasn’t flowing at the time he could not name it as a river, only a measly creek. Little did he know how prominent and significant on what this floodplain holds for the area when in flood. Today Cooper Creek is very important for the array of waterbirds that flock here during good times and has been identified by Birdlife International who protect waterways to prevent extinction of birdlife and to safeguard areas for the future. In some years the river can flood multiple times where it covers the land for as for as you can see, filling low spots for when the river near drys up, and at times the Cooper can be up to 10 metres deep.
Reports say that back in 1949 Windorah was totally isolated for weeks and had to have RAAF air drops for food and supplies and the water would not recede. Yet in the dry times the whole system is made up of lonely waterholes - sometimes miles apart, leaving only the tough to survive. For nature lovers there’s a 12km loop along the river where trees are named and plenty of great views onto the waterway.
Today Windorah’s economy not only come from the travelling tourist but also from sheep and cattle graziers. For those not in a hurry to race through the area, there’s about a weeks worth of exploring to be done in the area. A few miles east of town there’s a sign of desert areas where out of the blue, huge rich red sand dunes appear that cross the flood plain for miles and look like something out of the Simpson desert some 500km away. The fine red sand dune holds stunning colours against the dusty plains and is a great stop over to climb and to feel the smooth dune sand between your toes.
Using the Campermate app, we found free camping at the Cooper Creek bridge, just 12km from town. Totally supported by the local council who have installed toilets and rubbish bins around the camps it is a top spot. With over 1 km of designated camping sites along the river there’s a spot for all. Just near the main bridge you can walk the low level stone crossing named Mcphellamy’s which is heritage listed.
Sitting by the water you can watch Pelicans glide gracefully on the water, watch and hear Whistling Kites hunt high above scouring the ground below. Then there’s the Spoonbill’s ( both black and golden billed ), Shags and the ever cute Willy Wag tails darting around. If you're a keen fisher person the Creek is full of Yellow Bellow, Cod and Yabbies ( apparently, as I must of missed the memo from the fishing gods ). Speaking of Yabbies, every year the town hols an annual Yabbie racing event to raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service ( just remember this is outback QLD ).
The town itself has some great inventions where they have installed 5 mirrored dishes to catch the outbacks sunshine and to generate it into working power for the town. On warm unfilled days they produce enough power for the whole town, then diesel generators kicks in for a top up. At a cost of nearly 4.5 million dollars, this project saves the town over 100,000 litres of diesel a year from having the generators running 24/7.
In town itself, there’s only a handful of shops but with beautiful green traffic islands and park lands, the best port of call is the local info centre. Here you can grab a free coffee and spend and hour or two just in the info centre which doubles as the museum. Inside its packed with local folk law, aboriginal relics and quirky gifts. Outside there’s the bigger stuff like a the 1906 slab hut that was moved from the banks of Whitula Creek. Inside the hut its like a step back in time, just how tough the pioneers lived and raised their family in the harsh conditions of the Australian outback. Also around the grounds there’s iron boats that were pot riverted together by hand, old machinery plus interesting rocks from the outer regions of Windorah. It is like a step back to the old days.
The information centre will also provide you with a history walk around town exploring the old court house which is now a private residence and was moved from the original police station a few miles away. Then there’s the unique and beautify kept cemetery, walk around the narrow leafed bottle trees, and the world sign where anyone passing through can nail on their home town with milage marker on.
So in a nutshell, Windorah could be seen as a town just to shoot through, but there’s plenty to see and do in the area. If you’ve made the effort to head deep into the Queensland outback and your travels put you within cooee of Windorah, stop for a few days, you’ll be pleasantly surprised just like we were.