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How Longreach, 600km from the ocean, became state's newest cruise hub

Statewide

It’s not the place you typically think of when the subject turns to cruising – but the western Queensland centre of Longreach is set to become the state’s latest cruising hub for 28,000 travellers setting sail on a century-old paddle-steamer.

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After an arduous, logistically challenging 1750km road journey from Echuca to Longreach, the 25-metre, 100 tonne Pride of the Murray has undergone a major refurbishment to get ready for its “second life” on the Thompson River.

The project has been funded by grazier, outback ambassador and co-founder of Outback Pioneers, Richard Kinnon, whose  “fleet” will welcome aboard the equivalent of 14 P&O cruise ships full of passengers this year alone.

“If you’d said to me a year ago that dusty, old Longreach would become a cruising hub in Australia, I would have laughed, but after all the coverage and people seeing her on the way up from Echuca we’ve been overwhelmed with bookings,” Kinnon said.

“It feels as though everyone who saw her on the road wants to come up to see how she looks back in the water after some restoration work.

“The response has been record-breaking. We’ve taken bookings this week for two years out!”

The Pride of the Murray ‘Lido’ deck might not have a spa like bigger cruise ships, but she makes up for that in stories and history, sunset and river views.

“With every cruise we throw in a memorable sunset, a million stars, Australian wildlife, bush poetry, the swaying Coolabah trees, a stockman’s dinner and loads of laughs.”

Preparing the Pride of the Murray for its first cruise this weekend has involved the efforts of nearly 30 boat specialists in Longreach working on the vessel.

The team painstakingly re-corked and tarred the giant hull by hand using a 2000-year-old boat technique still used today.

“The Pride of the Murray now looks as good as the day she was first launched,” Kinnon said. “She has undergone full safety checks; the paint has been touched up and she’s had a clean and polish throughout.

“The team has worked from dawn to dusk and in ten days it ensured the Pride of the Murray was ship-shape to welcome her first passengers aboard.”

Longreach Mayor, Tony Rayner said the Pride of the Murray’s journey to the region had ignited everyone’s interest with many wanting to hop on board.

“I think the whole town has bought a ticket to welcome the Pride of the Murray,” he said. “I have to admit, when Richard first floated his dream of bringing it Longreach, I thought he was mad.

“To give some perspective – Richard managed to move a 26 metre long, nearly 9 metre wide, 106 wheel trailer, truck and an antique, 100-year-old timber boat from the tip of England to the top of Scotland and almost back again.”

Councillor Rayner said many businesses in Longreach had already reported an upswing in bookings since the Pride of the Murray left Echuca.

“In western Queensland, attracting more tourists is akin to good rain, it makes things grow, and the Pride of the Murray will attract potentially an extra 100 guests per day over the course of a season. This means, over the next five years, it will generate jobs and potentially inject an estimated extra $82 million into the region.”

He said it was another significant addition to Longreach’s impressive collection of Australia’s outback pioneering historical artefacts.
“Funding to preserve and protect beautiful, historical boats like this is not viable apart from in a tourism setting. It is the only industry that can lawfully keep these old boats working to fund their conservation,” he said. “Now, thanks to the support of outback Queensland travellers, the Pride of the Murray will go on for another century.”

 

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