Stopping All Stations

Julia D'Orazio — 1 July 2021
Stopping All Stations

Western Australia’s station stays are something special: rustic, raw and nothing short of outback realness. A vast number of working sheep and cattle stations — some over 100 years old — are situated in far-flung coastal and inland locations across the state, opening their farm gates to those who yearn for a change of pace and scenery. And what a change awaits.

Behind those gates are some of the most unique, genuine travel experiences to be had. There’s no holiday fluff here. These stations offer a glimpse into rural living in lands that can sometimes be unforgiving — dry climatic temperatures, sheer remoteness, and the need to accessorise with a fly net.

The harshness is met with kindness from true-blue hospitality, and mateship received in a serene outback setting that is simply matchless. Sweeping plains, rugged lands, shrub here, shrub there and, if lucky, a gorgeous shoreline. Sprawling thousands of hectares, the stations seem boundless and blessed with natural splendour, with some the size of small countries. 



There are few activities to get involved in — 4WD adventures, camp oven cooking lessons, bushwalking, birdwatching, walk trails, and voluntarily getting your hands dirty with station tasks. In a constant world of beeps, rings, and distractions, station stays are the safe haven to appreciate the simple things in life and connect with the land and, most needed, the present. 

WetlandsYewlands Pool from above

Daytime itineraries may change from day to day but rest assured, when the sun begins to set station guests make their way around the campfire, drinks in tow, to lap up an atmosphere that couldn’t be more authentic. As fire burns, bonds grow deeper, and so does the colour of the sky, slowly morphing from pastel lilacs, pinks, and blues to a silver sequined blanket of stars. It’s simply magical out there — and don’t the country folk who run them know it.

A newly established collective of nine station stays has banded together to form West Australian Station Stays in the Gascoyne Murchison region. Geraldton, 420km north of Perth, acts as the springboard to these stations that stretch as far as 500km north near Carnarvon and 400km east from the coastal city. Each station stay offers a range of accommodation options in historical homesteads and shearers quarters — the original Airbnbs of the day — alongside camping grounds to park the caravan. After all, there’s plenty of room out in the mid-west.

 MURCHISON HOUSE STATION

If only Murchison House Station’s homestead walls could talk. Dating back to 1858, the greenlit pastoral station is one of the oldest in Western Australia and offers an outback-meets-ocean experience.

Less than a 15 minute drive from the coastal town of Kalbarri, 575km north of Perth, the working cattle and rangeland goat station is vast, covering a whopping 350,000 acres, with 60km hugging the Indian Ocean coastline and over 30km fringing Murchison River flood plains. If you are up to it, you can go from one extreme embarking on topsy-turvy 4WD adventures along coastal sands to having more of a chilled-out aquatic session in river gorge country. Alternatively, you can find your own slice of paradise as the station has plenty of natural beauty spots to uncover.

Two people walking in a fieldHosts David and Frances Pollock

Steeped with history, the original homestead ‘von Bibra’s Cottage’ was constructed using flaming red Tumblagooda sandstone and built by Charles von Bibra and convict helpers. Its so-called ‘Depreciation Row’ offers a glimpse into the state’s wartime past, with a collection of military vehicles positioned beside earthmoving farm machinery and vintage cars.

Sandwiched by water bodies, the station is abundant with wildlife and birdlife, and the shady gum tree scenery pops with colour when wildflowers bloom from late July to early October. Self-guided walking tours, quad bike tours, and canoe safaris are available to soak up the best of its landscape.

The station welcomes visitors from April to October with camping and caravan sites, homestead sites, and self-contained 4WD bush camping sites available.

HAMELIN OUTBACK STATION STAY

A station that isn’t really in the middle of nowhere is Hamelin Outback Station Stay. 

The former sheep and goat station is owned and operated by the not-for-profit environmental organisation Bush Heritage Australia and is deemed a nature reserve. Located 1km off sealed Shark Bay Road, the 202,000ha property sits on the doorstep of Shark Bay — a UNESCO World Heritage site. In other words, the 1884-built station is a convenient starting block to some of the state’s most renowned natural splendours.

A rock formation with treesEverlastings on Wooleen Station

There’s Monkey Mia, home to dugongs and over-friendly dolphins; Francios Peron National Park, a 4WD playground with its French-flag scenery (think beautiful blue beaches, white sands, and red cliffs); and Dirk Hartog Island, an unspoilt eco-destination.

The station also has direct access to Australia’s most westerly point — Steep Point. It’s a renowned spot for fishing and catching the mainland’s final sunset.

Back at the station, there is still much to see and do. Explore the station’s lake and wetlands to play bird bingo with over 125 bird species spotted in the area. Drive five minutes across the station to closely inspect Hamelin Pool stromatolites, the oldest living fossils on Earth, along a boardwalk trail, or go on a self-guided tour to learn the pastoral station’s past by visiting the historic Shell Quarry and Old Telegraph Station.

The station offers accommodation in its renovated shearers quarters and has plenty of unpowered camping and caravan sites, varying in sizes and shielded by natural bush. Communal amenities include a large shower and toilet block, a fully equipped kitchen, barbecue area, and the old woodshed as a multi-purpose area with historical artefacts.

Two buildings with a flag pole in the middleHamelin Station is another popular spot to stay

MELLENBYE STATION

Far from the coast is working cattle station Mellenbye Station. 

Lying between Morawa and Yalgoo just 6.5km from sealed roads, Mellenbye Station is 430km northeast of Perth. If coming from the coast, it’s 221km east of Geraldton.

The 1895-established station receives very little phone reception, so it is the ideal place to well and truly switch off and make the most of its vivid surroundings. With good rainfall, the station bursts with colour in wildflower season with endless fields of flowers. The sight of everlastings, orchids, bottlebrushes, and the stunning wreath flower Lechenaultia macrantha is a cause for natural celebration. You can also follow the drive trail or join a tag-along tour to check out other natural attractions including its salt lake chain.

You are invited to tap into your creative side with the station’s painters’ easels free to use, with canvas and paints available to purchase if you didn’t think you’d be channelling an outback van Gogh on the go.

A woman patting donkeysEnjoying Mellenbye Station

When it comes to retiring for the day, guests can mingle in the historic stone shearing shed and enjoy activities such as movies or games or, if wanting to scare the local wildlife away, karaoke nights.

There is a range of accommodation with self-contained cottages, ‘Donga style’ rooms, and the station’s historical shearers quarters. Caravan and camping sites are unpowered, though power can be accessed in the communal kitchen.

Mellenbye Station is open from July to October.

GABYON STATION

Two hours’ drive north of Mellenbye is Gabyon Station, the second-largest station in the shire of Yalgoo — the historical mining town is just 54km away.

Covering over 271,500 hectares of red earth country, the sheep station offers various activities to make it more than just a nightly pitstop: horse-riding, prospecting, shooting, self-drive trails, mustering on a motorbike (seasonal), and wildflower spotting to name a few. The big station is not short of jobs and welcomes volunteers. It’s perfect if you are keen to don an Akubra and immerse yourself in outback living a little longer.

A lake surrounded by rock formationsWooleen Station displays some of the best of Australia's landscape

Station owners Gemma, Mike and Helen Cripps also offer a restaurant in the outback experience, flaring up the kitchen of the 1891-built homestead to prepare home-cooked meals and woodfired pizzas in an old ‘donkey heater.’

Gabyon Station offers accommodation in its homestead cottage with shearers quarters alongside unpowered camping and caravan sites.

MELANGATA STATION

Melangata Station manages to crisscross two continents without the long travel slog. 

Situated 69km north of Yalgoo, the working pastoral station is small compared to the stations listed, covering 125,000 hectares. Still, it packs a punch with unique experiences, with owner Jo Clews proclaiming it “the outback experience you can have without having to go right into the outback.”

But is it the outback? The sight of its postcard-perfect homestead may catapult you to the streets of Europe instead with its century-old stone structure designed by celebrated architect and priest, Monsignor John Hawes. The architect adopted inter-war Romanesque with Spanish influences into his one-off outback design, and it has remained iconic ever since.

A rock formation with treesGlenburgh is a popular spot to visit

Grand architecture aside, guests can connect to the outback by taking part in camp oven cooking classes, tag-along tours to stunning locations, birdwatching, and bushwalking activities. For a half-day trip head to Walga Rock, an open-air art gallery to, the most extensive collection of Indigenous rock art in the state with nearly 1000 preserved drawings on its massive overhang.

The station’s accommodation ranges from budget to luxe with homestead rooms, shearers quarters, and offbeat bell tent stays. Unpowered caravan and camping sites are also available.

WOOLEEN STATION

Ah the serenity!

At the heart of the Murchison is a naturalist’s dream off-grid escape, Wooleen Station. Part of Wooleen Station’s mission is to dig deeper into land preservation and restoration across its 153,000 hectares, aiming to play a vital role in conserving the region’s unique ecology.

“The goal is to never jeopardise the integrity of the land through tourism and cattle,” states owner Frances Pollock of balancing nature-based tourism with sustainable practices.

The premier eco-tourism destination offers guided tours covering Wooleen Lake, seasonal wildflowers, and Indigenous and colonial heritage. Mountain bike hire, bushwalking, and self-drive trails are also available. A memorable must do is to find your groove along its granite outcrops and watch the sunset over red plains. 

A house with a caravan out the frontNalbarra Station has shaded spots

The station’s homestead, built in 1918, is listed by the Australian National Trust. It offers a glimpse into the Murchison’s golden era with the homestead characterised by wide colonial verandahs and landscaped gardens and surrounded by heritage buildings. 

Wooleen Station offers homestead rooms with meals included, self-contained guesthouses, and unpowered remote camping.

Wooleen Station is open from April to October.

Two people standing on a rock formationWooleen Lake at sunset

GLENBURGH STATION 

A relative newcomer to the outback station stays scene is Glenburgh Station, and out here the outback life just rocks.

The Collins family opened their backyard to tourism in 2020, and what an impressive backyard — naturally and historically — it is. Sitting 270km east of Carnarvon, the station is located on the banks of Geeranoo Creek and is dotted with rocky terrains. Fittingly, the world’s largest rock, Mount Augustus, is a close neighbour (in outback terms), just 210km away.

The usual outback activities are on offer: stargazing, birdwatching, bushwalking, and photography. It’s recommended grabbing a $5 map to go on a self-drive tour to see the secret side of the rugged Gascoyne region.

Guests can expect an authentic outback experience with unpowered camping sites next to Geeranoo Creek with several fire pits. Communal toilets and shearers bathroom showers are also available.

Glenburgh Station is opened from April to October.

KIRKALOCKA STATION 

If all roads lead to Rome, then all outback roads lead to Kirkalocka Station.

Located just off Great Northern Highway, the station is accessible from all angles: 500km north of Perth, 58km south of mining town Mount Magnet, and a 858km journey north to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Karijini National Park. Its proximity to all makes it a favoured pitstop to break up a long trip — not that it’s just a place to sleep and go to. Head to the famous ‘The Kirkalocka Creek’ waterhole to spot local birdlife, or visit its mud hut museum to see trinkets of the past. Kids can also have fun at ‘Little Locka Farm’ petting zoo.

The station offers accommodation in homestead rooms and shearers quarters with the usual communal amenities and social spaces. Camping and caravan sites are available, and caravan owners can charge up next to the verandah with a 240-volt power available 24/7.

A tractor and trees at sunsetMellenbye Station approx 50km north of Morawa

NALBARRA STATION 

A short 27km drive from Kirkalocka is Mount Magnet’s other go-to station stay, Nalbarra Station. 

Unlike the former, it’s a 3.5km journey down its unsealed dirt road runway to arrive at the working sheep station and feel far away from it all. Keeping in theme with the area’s golden origins, guests can go prospecting along the station’s bush tracks or find their natural gold in discovering breakaway country.

The focal point of the 161,000-hectare station is its shearers quarters. Its quadrangle gives off a cosy feeling, with the firepit acting as the centrepiece of its U-shaped formation, making it a lovely area to meet with fellow guests.

A rarity in the area, the station receives Telstra service, so you don’t have to feel completely left out of the world or, if that's what you're afterm, turn your phone to silent and let stargazing steal your stare.

Accommodation comes in the form of the quarters, self-contained cottages, camping, and caravan sites are available alongside communal toilets, showers, and a kitchen. 


FAST FACTS

WEST AUSTRALIAN STATION STAYS 

E: info@outbackpathways.com

W: wastationstays.com.au

MURCHISON HOUSE STATION

P: (08) 9937 1998

E: mhsbookings@outlook.com

W: murchisonhousestation.com.au

HAMELIN OUTBACK STATION STAY

P: (08) 9948 5145

E: hamelinoutbackstay@bushhertiage.org.au

W: hamelinstationstay.com.au

MELLENBYE STATION

P: (08) 9972 3072

E: stationstaymellenbye@gmail.com

W: mellenbye.com.au

GABYON STATION

P: (08) 9963 7993

E: gabyonstationstay@gmail.com

W: gabyon.com.au

MELANGATA STATION

P: (08) 9963 7777

E: melangatastationstay@gmail.com

W: joclewscooking.com

WOOLEEN STATION

P: (08) 9963 7973

E: info@wooleen.com.com.au

W: wooleen.com.au

GLENBURGH STATION

P: 0447 173 287

E: glenburghstationstay@gmail.com

W: glenburghstationstay.com

KIRKALOCKA STATION

P: (08) 9963 5827

E: bookings@kirkalocka.com.au

W: kirkalocka.com

NALBARRA STATION

P: (08) 9963 5829

E: nalbarrastationstays@gmail.com

W: nalbarra.com.au

Tags

Travel Destinations Western Australia Station Stays ooutback Travelling

Photographer

Woolen Station, Tourism WA, WA Station Stays and Julia D'Orazio