Off the beaten track and with a population of 25 people, Yaraka is nevertheless a hidden gem that is worth seeking.
Longreach, the administrative centre of the region, is 220km and little more than two hours away by car on a mostly sealed road, but seems a lifetime away. Yaraka can also be accessed from Blackall (165km; only 7km is unsealed) and Jundah (144km; 40km sealed but the rest is a good gravel road).
It is easy to imagine that this land looked much the same in earlier times. Indeed, this is a place where memories of the past are strong - Cobb and Co is still remembered as if it were yesterday and if someone decides to recite some poetry it’s likely that Banjo Paterson verses will come tripping off the lips. It is the home of dramatic landscape and glorious sunsets.
The Yaraka Hotel is the town’s central meeting place. Custodians of this warm and welcoming social hub are the Gimbletts, who manage to keep the hotel up with current expectations of guests and visitors while honouring its bush pub personality.
You mightn’t think much would be happening this far from the madding crowd, but it’s surprising just how much they manage to fit into their days in Yaraka. For the bravehearted, there’s a pool (it can be pretty chilly!), golf amongst the gibber rocks for those who love a challenge (a small quantity of clubs and balls can be supplied for this lighthearted exercise) and you can even play croquet and bocce, just without the grass.
The hotel’s 14-seater bus makes the trip to the top of Yaraka’s famous Mt Slowcombe every evening to take in the sunset. This is definitely one of the great photos to include in your holiday album and the only cost for getting on the bus is a donation to the RFDS.
Hotel manager Nick Gimblett also takes people in an all-terrain vehicle on a three-hour trip to the hills to fossick for opal. At other times you can catch a tour to Welford, the site of Magee’s shanty from The Bush Christening, Boomerang Waterhole and some important historic sites. For anyone who wants to do some off-road driving or motorbike riding but would like a guide, Nick does tagalong tours.
Birdwatchers can expect some rewarding sightings, while photographic opportunities abound. Cyclists and runners like to take on Mt Slowcombe for hill-climbing time trials.
Longreach Visitor Information Centre
Phone (within Australia) 07 4658 4150