On the 16th November 1920 in Winton, Qld, Paul McGinness and Hudson Fysh founded what is now one of the world’s best known, and oldest, airlines – the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd.
From humble beginnings with a fleet of just 2 biplanes carrying 2 passengers each, Qantas now carries millions of travellers each month to destinations across the globe – becoming an Aussie icon in the process (who can forget the classic TV ad they made a few years ago…)
In 1922, after winning a lucrative mail contract, Qantas needed new digs and that’s when the long history of Longreach and the airline began.
Driving into the town of Longreach in Central West Queensland we spotted the signature kangaroo emblazoned tails of several huge aeroplanes next to the main highway and mistakenly thought we were looking at Longreach airport. On checking in to our accommodation we soon found out that this was in fact part of a huge collection of exhibits that were part of the Qantas Founders Museum – an award winning attraction celebrating and documenting the history of the airline and telling the story of the people, machines and country that has made Qantas so great.
The thing I loved the most about the museum was how it catered to all ages. It’s very hard to find attractions that all the family can appreciate – yet my aeroplane obsessed father in law would have been just as happy exploring all the exhibits, display cases, documentaries and engine parts as our 3 year old was climbing up into a fighter plane to pretend to shoot the gun and take the controls on the flight simulator.
There were loads of interactive things for the kids to do which kept them interested the whole time we were there – we got to climb up into planes, get up close to giant engines, hear what it would have been like to take off in a Catalina Flying Boat during the War, and step back in time in the original hangar. There is also a fab kids’ area which was perfect for our young kids – where there were a variety of toys, a chalk board and lots of paper and instructions on how to make paper aeroplanes – genius!
The museum also had lots of wow moments – the first being when we pushed through the big double doors on arrival and walked into a huge hall full of exhibits – with model planes flying on a track overhead. Everything here is well maintained and state of the art – so much care and attention has gone into the presentation of the exhibits you feel instantly immersed in the QANTAS story and it’s people.
Our general admission tickets included access to the main exhibition hall, the Catalina Flying Boat and National Heritage Listed Qantas Hangar containing the DH-50 and DH-61 aircraft. If you want to access the Boeing 747, 707 and DC-3 aircraft you need to upgrade to a guided tour (we didn’t choose this option as our boys are still too young to enjoy guided experiences – we will definitely do it on our next visit back to Longreach though!) Optional extras are the 747 Wing Walk Tour (the only place in the world you can experience it), the Jet Tour and the F35 Flight Simulator Experience. You can see all the options and prices on the Qantas Founders Museum website here.
When you visit be sure to stop for lunch or a snack at the McGinness restaurant – we had fish and chips and it was delicious!
The museum often holds events, lectures and guest exhibits – currently you can see the National Archives Exhibition – a Place to Call Home – documenting the story of migrants to Australia. If you are visiting during August make sure you pop in to enjoy the free morning tea on August 18th to celebrate the 95th birthday of the Longreach hangar. You can find more info on all the upcoming events on their website here.
Longreach has been one of the best surprises on our trip so far – so much so that we extended our stay to get the most out of it – and the QANTAS Founder museum was definitely one of the highlights.
The museum is open daily from 9am – 5pm (every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day).