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A Trip Outback in the Whitsundays

The Whitsundays is a diverse region. Famous for sailing through pristine waters and offshore islands, the region also has laid-back beachside communities, rainforest trekking and even a taste of the quintessential outback. Join our Bowen Information Team Member Glenn, as she discovers our own backyard on a day-trip to Collinsville:

We started our adventure inland with a quick visit to a local organic mango farm, just one of the many farms on the way to Collinsville. We were greeted by the hard-working owner operator Jenn, who treated us to a tour through the plantation in the 4x4. Some trees are over 20 years old but still producing delicious organic mangoes. Jenn explained to us how they can monitor how and when their trees drink via an app that they can check from their offices at the house!

Continuing our way west the peaks of the ranges dominate the horizon, including beautiful Mt Aberdeen, as farm lands give way to cattle stations.

The first stop for all visitors should be to meet Brett Murphy at the Collinsville Info Centre. Situated at the showgrounds, I'm blown away by how cool his work place is - he even has his very own JAIL! Still to this day the scratching of the prisoners on the wooden walls is visible, counting down the days, as are the not so subtle messages left behind for future inmates. There’s so much history in one space, and I’m sure many a story has been shared in the sitting area featuring a beautifully made solid looking coffee table. Rustic old-style buildings are a great asset to the area. The 72-hour free camp onsite looks great, with a modern shower and toilet block and local pub just across the road.


Having a yarn - tea and bikkies on the verandah at the Collinsville VIC

Next, we head out of town to check out the beautiful Bowen River with Brett as our very own special guide. The day we visit some much-needed rainfall had flooded the river, so although unable to continue to the historic Bowen River Hotel, we're happy to witness the river in it's natural glory. The river’s waters trickling softly, the sun beating down on us and the quiet of the bush surrounding was a peaceful moment. The few cows watching us take photos of the unusual layered rocks and picturesque river bank were the only eyes upon us. That is, until a 4X4 drives up for a chat with Brett, whom they have know forever. It’s like that in the bush, you never know who’ll you’ll meet, but you can guarantee they’ll be friendly!

After a chat we jump back in to the much appreciated aircon. While we travel over the bumpy bush road, Brett asks us to read the story of the Bowen River Hotel. The history of the region has been passed down in stories through the many generations of country people, and Brett has a great collection of local yarns printed and available at the info centre. We learn that in 1905 the Bowen River Hotel was the overnight spot for 3 mail services, from Bowen, Clermont and Rockhampton. As we were not able to make it over to see the old pub, hearing many interesting stories of drunks, shoot-outs, murders and ghosts (all the things that movies are made from!) certainly has whet our appetite for another trip.


History and cold beer - Bowen River Hotel

Driving back into town Brett tells us about the 2 different style solar farms recently built, with different designs for protection from weather and to increase efficiency. One viewing spot was eye opening to me, with an old coal mine just metres from a new age solar farm, sitting below the huge ‘mountain’ of dirt spoil from past miners. Just a 5-minute drive up the road, we come across a huge working mine for all to see – what an experience to see all those big trucks! It really tells a full story of industry and progression for this little outback town and I can’t wait to find out more.

Our bellies are grumbling, and it was time a late lunch – we’d spent too much time talking! In we walk to the local ‘Workers Club’ and it seems we’re with the local celebrity, as ‘G’Day mate’ was heard several times from patrons behind their cold beers. Refuelled and satisfied with our ‘Workers’ burger, we headed off upstairs to the Coal Face Experience.

My idea of what I thought we were about to experience was far from fact. Expecting to see a few old tools behind some glass cabinets and lots of old newspapers stuck into endless folders, I can honestly say I was gob-smacked. There are short movies, statues, audio stories, recorded life experiences from the actual miners and their families… what an ACTUAL experience it was. Watching those life stories of real locals was quite emotional. So much history and community is still alive and well in this little country mining town. ‘Watch ya mate’ is what miners have had to do for a life time; if everyone had the qualities of an old miner the world would be a happier place.

Fun facts:

  • All horses were named PIT ponies if they had been down a working mine
  • Old miners like to wear women’s undies to work (they have their reasons)
  • Pit Ponies were actually made union members for their protection
  • Don’t try to get a photo on the bronze statue on a very hot sunny day
  • To make a barrel of spirits ‘stretch’ further it’s not really a good idea to add opium or metho to the mix, as your patrons may die hence no more customers
  • DRIVE THROUGH COFFEE at the local café, just stop order and collect, innovation at its best!


Tribute to Collinsville's Pit Ponies

Getting there:

Collinsville is an easy and scenic 87km / 1-hour drive via sealed road from Bowen.


You can meet ‘local celebrity’ and all-round good guy Brett Murphy at the Collinsville Info Centre each week day from 8am to 5pm. Pop in to discover even more activities and for the local tips.

Stay overnight:

Caravanners, motorhomes and campers can make use of the 72hr free rest area. Amenities block is available – hot showers incur a small $2 charge for 5 minutes.

Motel accommodation is also available in town – contact the Big Mango Info Team on 07 4786 4222 for more information

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