When it comes to attractions in Charleville, the large and small of it is that the universe, the Top Secret and a quaint little creature called the bilby are the starring acts. Pretty much every visitor who comes here has them numbered one, two and three on their must see list.
Charleville is justly famed for the star-viewing opportunities at the Cosmos Centre and Observatory, but it’s not only when the stars come out that people can get an out-of-this-world experience. There’s nearly as much there to fascinate you during the daytime! Open from 12:00pm – 9:00pm, the Cosmos Centre has something for you.
You won’t be baffled with science but your guides at the Cosmos Centre will enable you to experience the wonder of the universe in plain English. ‘Ooohs, Aaahs and Wows!’ break the evening quiet as the night sky is revealed in all its splendour. This is truly a never to be forgotten journey. Travelling thousands of light years into space is an exhilarating experience!
On moonless nights, visitors at the Cosmos Observatory marvel at the sheer beauty of the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon. As your eyes adjust, you can see the soft colours emitted by the stars then suddenly the universe is an unbelievable palette of colours—red, orange, blue and white stars. When the Meade telescope brings one fuzzy star into focus and you discover that it isn’t one star at all. It is actually a star cluster with hundreds, or even thousands of stars suspended in space. Globular clusters look like diamonds in the sky well and people can identify binary star systems, nebulae and planets. And once you’ve seen the depth and size of the craters on the moon, you’ll never look at the Old Cheese in quite the same way again.
Winter evenings are just perfect for stargazing, so wrap up warmly and prepare
to be fascinated. Bookings are essential for the evening observatory. Book early, as the observatory sessions are popular and places fill quickly.
Astronomy by Day
In the daytime, most stars might be out of sight, but they still get a ‘star’ billing at the Cosmos Centre. Involve yourself in fun activities, listen to short talks delivered by the Cosmos guides and do everything from holding a shooting star or meteorite in your hand (you’ll be surprised by their beauty) to learning what there is to know about falling and shooting stars.
If your knowledge of the Solar System dates back a decade or more, you might not know about the new dwarf planets that have been discovered. In 2006 a new category for dwarf planets was established for the Solar System and since then a couple of new dwarf planets have been added to the list.
Learn how time, light and gravity fit together and immerse yourself in the ‘Stargazing in the Outback’ Theatre.
An exciting new interactive area opened last year as part of the astronomy by day experience. With a focus on people in space, the area is designed to appeal to visitors of all ages. Enjoy the Cosmos Shuttle and pretend you too are an astronaut. The new immersive theatre promises to get you totally involved in stargazing in the outback. The whole experience will leave you spell-bound.
Of course, stargazing has been around for millennia. Greeks, Egyptians, Mayans, Babylonians, Celts and the Chinese studied and read the stars. Find out what astrology, astronomy, Nostradamus and the Bible all have in common.
While most stars aren’t visible by day, the most important star in our Solar System is of course visible only by day. Do some ‘Sun Viewing’ with the help of one of the telescopes fitted with a sun filter. This experience is best experienced during the cooler months of April to September.
The whole Cosmos Centre visit, whether you’re there by day or by night, is an out-of-this-world experience. Most people spend an hour and a half or more. You’ll probably need a coffee break, so enjoy a cosmic cappuccino or light-year latte at the Cosmos Café.
Top Secret Tales
Imagine having 3,500 American servicemen living in your quiet outback town, most in tents. Not only did they work in 101 buildings hastily constructed at the town airport, but they flew planes – big ones – you’ve been sworn to secrecy, shhh!
This is the story of a top secret American base set up in Charleville during WWII as part of the response to the war in the Pacific.
In 1942, Flying Fortresses were being marshalled for the Battle of the Coral Sea. Something else was there too; something so top secret that all personnel on the site were required to take the Bombardiers Oath.
This startling story could have been lost forever, had it not been for a proposed industrial estate unwittingly unearthing the secret. Other remnants of the canvas camps are still being uncovered as the town pieces together what happened over 70 years ago.
The Top Secret World War II Tour runs twice daily at 10:30am and 2:30pm from April to October, Monday to Friday and 10:30am on Saturdays and Sundays. Temperatures can be a little hot in the summer months, so phone and check what’s happening. This is a great tour and you certainly won’t be disappointed. It takes approximately one and a half hours and you follow the guide in your own vehicle.
In addition to the Top Secret Tour, 2019 will see the development of ‘The Brisbane Line’. A purpose built building that will display the story of the USAAF base. It will be constructed at the airport in the ‘Top Secret Precinct’. So many secrets to be discovered in Charleville and so many of them are located at the Top Secret Precinct at the Charleville Airport.
A Bilby Experience
After visiting the Cosmos Centre, it’s a real change of pace and focus to have a Bilby Experience and learn the heart-warming story of this cute little marsupial’s return from the edge of extinction. The Bilby Experience is located in the town’s Railway Station next door to the Visitor Information Centre.
More than a decade ago, its very existence was in danger. But these days the future seems assured for the cute little bandicoot known as the bilby.
Bilbies are desert-dwelling bandicoots about the size of a rabbit. They have large ears, a coat of soft, light grey-andtan fur and a very distinctive black-and-white tail. Of the six bandicoot species that once lived in the arid/semi-arid areas of Australia, bilbies are the only species remaining and even their numbers became dangerously low in the 1990s. The genetically distinct Queensland population is
the most vulnerable.
The species was saved from almost certain extinction by a movement that started right here in Charleville by two Parks and Wildlife Service men who became known as the Bilby Brothers. These days bilby numbers, though low in the wild, are being helped along with a captive bilby breeding programme in Charleville. A predator-proof fence at Currawinya National Park works in conjunction with the breeding program for the re-introduction of bilbies into the wild. Released bilbies are monitored inside the enclosure using radio transmitter tracking devices.
During your stay in Charleville, enjoy a Bilby Experience. Shows are operated from the Railway Station and will run from April to mid-October this year. Bookings can be made online or by calling the centre on 07 4654 3681.
National Bilby Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in September every year. Many celebrations happen over the weekend starting on the Friday evening with street parades, markets and don’t forget to bring a frock or outfit of some sort and join the festivities at the Fur Ball on Saturday night the 7th September. As always, this promises to be a fun evening.
Graham Andrews Parklands
Relax at the Graham Andrews Parklands. Constructed after the 1990 flood, it is an outback oasis with a lake, working windmill, adventure playground, picnic shelters, free barbecues and don’t forget the disc golf. Discs are available from a number of locations around town but if you call into the Visitor Centre, they will be able to help you out. The park has a collection of many species of Australian native trees. Stroll along the Outback Native Timber Walk where plaques identify the trees (grab a mud map from the Visitor Information Centre located at the Railway Station). If you’re there early in the day or near dusk, you’ll probably be treated to bird and wildlife sightings.
Also situated within the parklands are two Vortex Guns, which remain from a 1902 experiment to try to make it rain during a devastating drought. Six rainmaking guns, designed in Italy to break up hail above vineyards, were strategically placed at various locations then charged with gunpowder and fired into the sky where the explosion would change the atmospheric pressure and rain would fall… well that was the theory. It was an epic failure, unfortunately.
Freshwater fishing can be a rewarding pastime in this region. The town’s fishing and restocking club has for many years made sure that there are plenty of fi sh to catch in the rivers. Throw in a line and see if you can pull in a Yellow Belly (Golden Perch) or a giant Murray Cod.
Outback golf is often appealing to visitors. The Charleville Golf Club has nine grass greens and nine sand greens, so pull out your clubs if you’ve brought them. No doubt you’ll see some ‘golf groupies’ (otherwise known as kangaroos) on the course. There is always a game of golf happening but if you’re in the area come June 22 and 23, you’ll be treated to an even bigger event, an Outback Golf Series.
Daily Weather Balloon
Where would we be without the weather to talk about? You can view the automated release of the Bureau of Meteorology’s weather balloon daily at 9.15am, located on the corner between the Cosmos Centre and the airport.
When it comes to things to see and do, you’re spoilt for choice in Charleville. The best place to find out about the smorgasbord of options is the Visitor Information Centre located in the Charleville Railway Station. The friendly staff can even help you design a tour package just for you – specially tailored to suit your interests and needs.
You’ve heard of Checkpoint Charlie, well, this tour is Check out Charleville, that is, and you won’t need your passport! It’s a brilliant mix that gives an insight into outback living and how the people of Charleville have coped with droughts and floods and even fire. See the folk at the Charleville Bush Caravan Park to make a booking or call 0428 545 200 to book.
Explore how the other half used to live with ‘Scones and Stories’ at the Corones Hotel, a magnificent hotel in its day and definitely worth a look. Bookings can be made by calling the hotel on 07 4654 1022.
Old World Charm
Step back in time at the famous Hotel Corones, the Grand Icon of the outback, operating seven days a week. The hotel proudly stands in the heart of town and it boasts what was the longest bar in the Southern hemisphere when the hotel was built.
The hotel has a variety of rooms that are all air conditioned and have a
TV. These clean and comfortable rooms are perfect to rest your head, and at the right price. The motel rooms are on ground level, with the newly refurbished modern executive style rooms available with all the essentials, including Wi-Fi, fridge, microwave, iron, hair dryer and parking at the door. The motel rooms have been individually personalised, depicting historic wall art.
If you love a great story, then boy, is there a great one to be told here for you!
A true Charleville pioneer, Harry (Poppa) Corones has a story like no other. Arriving in Australia penniless, Harry went on to make Australian history, not once, but several times throughout his life. He was granted permission to use the royal insignia on the hotel’s crockery, hosting many famous guests, and much more.
To fully explore this great building, take a tour April to September. On display are beautifully furnished heritage rooms where many well and known and famous guests have relaxed and unwound, including the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Gough Whitlam, Brian Brown, Johnny O’Keefe and Gracie Fields.
Wholesome country pub meals are available in the dining room daily. The generous servings are great value for money.
Historic House began life as a bank in 1888. These days it holds a position perfectly suited to its mature age—that of a museum! One of the few Queenslanders left in Charleville, Historic House has for many years been the home of historic furniture, working gramophones, bric-a-brac, clothing and tools. The machinery collection includes a Dennis fire engine, rail ambulance, and a 10hp Marshall steam engine used to power about 40 shearers’ stands at a local station from 1909 to 1972. There’s a replica Cobb and Co coach and even a big old cast iron tyring plate (used for assembling wheels) that belonged to Cobb and Co. The Charleville and District Historical Society have been cataloguing old Cobb and Co changing stations in the southwest. President George Balsillie is particularly passionate about the project because he says the information needs to be captured before it disappears into oblivion. “Even now, it’s going back a long way. The last Cobb and Co coach travelled the Yuleba to Surat road in 1923, and many of the services had ceased years before that,” he said. The plan is to place a permanent plaque at each changing station, situated 12 to 15 miles apart so the horses could be changed. A groomsman and his family lived at each place to feed and tend the horses in their care. Bronze plaques have already been placed at the three stations between Charleville and Augathella and the plan is to continue with routes to Tambo, then Adavale and Windorah. A map of the changing stations and a booklet telling their stories are available from Historic House.
Royal Flying Doctor Service
The Royal Flying Doctor Service is one of Australia’s truly iconic organisations. This wonderful service manages to get doctors where they’re needed even when isolation and a lack of infrastructure would seem insurmountable obstacles. The answer, of course, is to fly them in with all the required equipment on board.
As well as being an emergency response organisation, the RFDS principally has an ongoing role in providing health care to people who live in rural and remote areas.
The RFDS Charleville Visitor Centre is well worth a visit. Located adjacent to the RFDS Base and Hangar on the appropriately named John Flynn Way, and just a short walk through the mulga from the popular Charleville Cosmos Centre and Observatory, this modern facility celebrates the historical links between the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Charleville, home to the longest-serving RFDS base in Queensland.
A self-guided tour takes you on a journey from the humble beginnings of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and its association with the Australian Inland Mission to the present day operations of this vital outback medical service. Walk around the museum and explore a range of historical radio and medical artefacts used by Flying Doctors of the past. There are interactive and audio-visual features as well, including a theatrette where you can watch a short film showcasing the modern Flying Doctor’s operations.
The free attraction is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm and on weekends and public holidays from 10.00am to 4.30pm (closed on weekends and public holidays from October to February.)
The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides vital health care to anyone living, working or travelling in rural and remote Australia. Across Queensland, the RFDS operates from nine bases including Charleville, Brisbane, Bundaberg, Cairns, Longreach, Mount Isa, Rockhampton, Roma and Townsville. The RFDS is a not-for-profit organisation. While supported by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, the Flying Doctor relies heavily on fundraising and donations from the community to buy medical equipment for its aircraft.
Charleville Visitor Information Centre
Phone (within Australia) 07 4654 3057