Top 10 outback station stays
Cattle station stays are among the most authentic Australian experiences. Here are 10 of the best.
THE CONCEPT OF GOING back to basics and living off the land is a growing fantasy for over-worked Australians. Unfortunately, it’s not always practical to quit your job and move to your own farm. But over the last 100 years the desire to escape the stress of the city, if only temporarily, has led to the creation of unique accommodation options – station stays.
Station stays are a largely unknown concept to most Australians, but an increasing number of working farms are beginning to open up their land to visitors looking for a change of scenery. There’s an array of accommodation styles available, from basic camping to more luxurious lodgings (usually meaning air-conditioning is available), and all offer a refreshing contrast to the cookie-cutter modern weekend getaway.
Stations are located throughout Australia, from coastal areas to the middle of the outback. While some are still operational, many have left their livelihoods in the past, and continue on as hobby farms, tourism accommodation or simply as places of residence.
1. Bullo River Station, Northern Territory
Situated on a whopping half a million acres (the size of the Republic of Mauritius) and developed in the 1950s, this station fits the Aussie image of a genuine cattle station. Vast, grassy plains teeming with cattle, rivers infested with crocodiles and jagged hills dotted with Aboriginal rock art, the station is open to guests in the dry season (March to October).
2. Hamelin Station, Western Australia
Hamelin Station, on the doorstep of the Shark Bay World Heritage Region, prides itself on being an environmentally sustainable property. Offering amazing scenery and collection of wildlife, the station is also a bird-watcher’s paradise.
3. Home Valley Station, Western Australia
Located within the Kimberley region and owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation, Home Valley Station is one of three properties purchased on behalf of the local Balanggarra people to provide jobs and a cultural future for the area. Set on a total of 1.5 million hectares (the area of Rhode Island and West Sussex in England combined), there is no lack of space here. The movie Australia was shot in several parts of Home Valley Station.
4. Merna Mora Station, South Australia
Merna Mora has been running since 1886 and now flourishes in the hands of the 5th consecutive generation to call the station home. Contributing a vital supply of both cattle and sheep, this site was also the original location of the Blinman mine which played a part in the settlement of European people in Australia.
5. Barn Hill Station, Western Australia
One of the unique cattle stations overlooking the Indian Ocean, this is a perfect property for those looking for the country feel with beach access. Offering the unique alternative of staying in self-contained rammed earth huts, Barn Hill is an interesting twist on the outback station.
6. Kings Creek Station, Northern Territory
This renowned station has been the subject of at least 36 documentaries, and holds the title of largest exporter in Australia for wild camels. Situated near Kings Canyon and surrounded by stunning desert oaks, visitors are also able to appreciate the property from the air with helicopter rides available.
7. Mt Ive Station, South Australia
Mt Ive Station is the only property situated within the vast Grawler Ranges, offering an inspiring backdrop. Originally opened in 1864, the property boasts Lake Gairdner, a white salt lake that offers a stark contrast to the red dirt surrounding it, and is famous for being the location of many successful land-speed record attempts.
8. Willow Springs Station, South Australia
This station has been going since 1924. Initially purchased by two Irish migrants, it is now run by two generations of the Reynolds family who have managed to expand the client base remarkably, offering activities such as great 4WD treks around their 70,000 acre property.
9. Morapoi Station Stay, Western Australia
Less than a two hour drive north of Kalgoorlie, Morapoi Station stay sits on the edge of Australia’s Red Centre. The land has been home to the Wangkatha people for thousands of years, who developed the station stay as a place to share their rich heritage with visitors. There’s plenty of outback experiences to enjoy and a vast array of tours that run from the station including desert trips, wildflower tours and fossicking.
10. Curtin Springs Station, Northern Territory
The Severin family, who purchased the land back in 1956, originally planned to turn Curtin Springs Station into a key stop for tourists heading into the Red Centre. For those looking for a more physical challenge, there’s an opportunity to hike Mount Connor.