Getting into hot water in Quilpie Queensland

Quilpie is a small town in Western Queensland, just 980 kilometres west of the Queensland Capital, Brisbane.  There’s not much of a town really, just the bare essentials: a couple of pubs, a motel, a police station, a council office, a railway goods yard and a few shops.

Apart from being a local administrative centre for quite a large, but underpopulated region, Quilpie attracts fossickers, those ever-optimistic prospectors who search for boulder opal which, when polished and cut, is a remarkably beautiful gem.

Unlike most outback towns where water is scarce, and you try to catch as much rain as you can in tanks, in Quilpie the don’t need rainwater tanks, instead they have cooling tanks – for the water emerges from the underground artesian bore at a blistering 75 degrees centigrade – and that’s hot enough to leave a pretty bad burn.

Consequently no hot water systems are needed here, as green-fingered locals water their plants only with sprinklers, and from a great distance, so as to avoid burning them to death.

Miners use the cooled water to shower off the sweat built up from busting boulders all day, as they engage in the search of opals. All mines are now open cut and these are trawled with bulldozers, the men breaking open the large rocks with tools, hunting for the precious iridescent boulder opal.

While opal at Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge occurs in clay seams, this opal is attached to rock and has to be ground away from the boulder. You can see it for yourself on a self-drive tour of Deuce’s Opal Mine; where they allow you to try your luck at fossicking.

The opal is put to many uses and the entire altar and font at St Finnbarr’s Catholic Church are faced in the quartz-like mineral.

It seems that there are rocks everywhere. Even the town is named after the stone-curlew, Quilpie being an Aboriginal word for this bird. All the other streets, bar one, are named after birds.

Local tours from the visitor centre take in the nearby opal mines and Grass Castle’s Art Gallery.  Tours run with a minimum of two people.  Visitors can also obtain bird booklets from the visitor centre to take on a self-guided walk along the well sign-posted new Bulloo River Walk

History buffs can look out for the Amy Johnson Landing Site on the western edge of Quilpie. The legendary English aviator and the first woman to fly solo to Australia, in 1930, landed on this spot in May 1930 while flying from Darwin to Brisbane.

According to one of the locals, the best thing about Quilpie is the “fair dinkum people that offer you a fair dinkum experience”. Think about it as you eat a delicious Quilpie pie from the local bakery. For a longer-lasting taste of the Outback, stations such as Colac offer homestay accommodation. About 75 minutes out of town is the historic ‘Ray’ station which is now open to the public. Once owned by pioneers of the district – the Tully and Durack families – it is now a living museum and caters for buses and groups.

A stay in Quilpie can be as busy or as relaxing as you want it to be. Picnic at Lake Houdraman, fish at the river or swim a few lazy laps of the pool. Enjoy the native bottlebrush trees and beautiful gardens around the district, and the stunning wildflowers (in season) throughout the surrounding countryside.

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