Yes, you can milk a cow and collect the eggs but these farmstays offer a whole lot more. Belinda Jackson rounds up some of the country’s best.
Rawnsley Park Station, Flinders Ranges
Kids can learn about wool classing and shearing on this outback station, which runs 2000 head of Merino and Dohne sheep. Explore the property and neighbouring Flinders Ranges on foot or by mountain bike, four-wheel drive or helicopter. Families can book the 1950s two-bedroom Rawnsley Homestead or luxe Eco Villas with views of Wilpena Pound, while those on a budget can opt for a self-contained unit with a shop, swimming pool and the Woolshed Restaurant nearby.
Beltana Station, Flinders Ranges
“We are a real working sheep and cattle station where people can meet real station workers,” says co-owner Laura Ragless. Families are well catered for at Beltana, which has a swimming pool and outdoor cinema during summer. There’s an on-site café and museum, as well as sunset tours to local beauty spot Mount Scott. Large groups (up to nine) can book the tidy four-bedroom Overseer’s Cottage. The old Shearers’ Quarters have been refashioned into rooms with communal facilities.
Chamel Fields, Kyeema
Small is beautiful on the Fleurieu Peninsula, where Chamel Fields breeds miniature horses and Dexter cattle. Adopt a horse for the duration of your stay or bring your own to enjoy 40 kilometres of trails in Kuitpo Forest, located across the way. For lodgings, choose between the 1930s cottage or the renovated American-style timber barn, both with kitchens, aircon and slow-combustion heaters.
Settlers Rest Farmstay, Swan Valley
Get your hands dirty mucking out the chook pen, fishing from the private jetty or preparing the animals’ feed. Pet lambs and rabbits supply the cuteness factor at Settlers Rest. And the three-bedroom self-catering Farm Cottage is thoughtfully appointed, with everything from an open fireplace to a TV, toys and even gumboots.
Wooleen Station, Murchison
“The romance of the Australian outback is part of our identity and Wooleen cattle station is all about its conservation,” says host Frances Jones. Kids will love spotting kangaroos, emus and sand goannas and pedalling through the bush on the two mountain-bike trails. A pair of rammed-earth, self-contained two-bedroom guesthouses sit amid the mulga landscape. Families can also set up tents and caravans on the Murchison River.
Wooramel River Retreat, Carnarvon
Situated between the World Heritage sites of Ningaloo Reef and Shark Bay, 120 kilometres south of Carnarvon, this riverside cattle, sheep and goat station also has 60 kilometres of Indian Ocean coastline. There are fire pits and artesian-bore baths for a family soak. Lodgings include the corrugated-iron Jackeroo Quarters and the Riverside Eco Tents. Or bring your own gear and camp beneath the gums.
Tin Dragon Trail Cottages, Branxholm
Tin Dragon’s five self-contained cottages are made from local stone and named after Chinese miners who worked the area’s tin mines. Tucked away in North East Tasmania, its neighbours include breweries, cheesemakers and cafés. Keen bushwalkers and mountain-bikers can hit the nearby trails, while little ones will enjoy patting the friendly alpacas and picking fresh vegies from the organic garden.
Brickendon Estate, Longford
“Discovering newly hatched ducks, taking in the perfumes of the old roses, being visited by the descendants of convicts on the trail of their family’s past... our family is so lucky to have called Brickendon home for nearly 200 years,” says owner Louise Archer. Just south of Launceston, the estate’s World Heritage-listed colonial Farm Village – which includes a chapel, blacksmith’s shop and cookhouse – dates back to 1824. Stay in the Farm Cottages or convict-built Historic Cottages.
Ratho Farm, Bothwell
You’re in wild trout territory here in Tasmania’s Central Highlands. Even the young or inexperienced can go fly-fishing with a guide in the Clyde River or play a round on the golf course thought to be the Southern Hemisphere’s oldest. Stylish minimalism meets rustic chic in the convict cottages and stables by the river, with camping and homestead rooms available for bigger family gatherings.
Cedar Creek Cottages, Wollombi
“Guests can taste the grapes straight from the vine and are welcome to explore the 550 acres of farm, organic vineyards and hillsides,” says Laura Heslop, fifth-generation owner of the eight-hectare Stonehurst Cedar Creek estate in the Hunter Valley. Each self-contained convict-brick, timber-slab or sandstone cottage has a wood fire and spa bath and the rate includes a hamper with breakfast supplies. Half an hour up the road, the interactive Hunter Valley Zoo will delight the kids with keeper talks and the Meerkat Encounter.
Ba Mack Farmstay, Windeyer
With its motto of “connecting children with animals”, this 115-hectare merino farm near Mudgee gives children the chance to shake off the adults every afternoon at Kids Club. They can feed lambs, groom horses, pick fruit from the orchard and bake goodies in the homestead kitchen with owner Julie McLeod, who includes homemade afternoon tea and on-lead horserides in the tariff. Accommodation is in a two-bedroom cottage or a restored “red rattler” train carriage containing a piano.
Honeycomb Valley Farm, Nabiac
The special thing about Honeycomb Valley Farm, on NSW’s Mid North Coast, is how quickly and completely you get into farm life, says owner Anna Campbell. The farm’s animals include stingless native bees (sign up for the Meet the Bees experience), miniature Galloway cattle, dairy goats and Dorper sheep, plus there’s a heated pool and a dam with pedal boats. Stay in the four-bedroom farmhouse or a two-bedroom cottage.
Kings Creek Station
Families on the big drive around Australia can discover Kings Canyon, in Watarrka National Park, using this nearby camel and cattle station as their base. Sleep under the stars at the Old Drovers’ Camp or stay in the canvas Safari Cabins with solid floors, share bathrooms and a self-catering kitchen (the rate includes a bushman’s breakfast). At the nightly camp fire, kids can toast damper on a stick. Quad-bike safaris and heli rides are also available.
Hale River Homestead at Old Ambalindum, East MacDonnell ranges
Located about 135 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs, this homestead brings families into the fold; they can help feed calves and horses, give it a go as a jackaroo or learn old skills such as rope-making. “It’s living history,” says owner Lynne Leigh. Do a tour with jeweller Dave, who’ll take you fossicking for gems. Guests can take up residence in the century-old Homestead or Cottage.
Bullo River station, East Kimberley
An iconic Australian property, Bullo was made famous by former owner Sara Henderson’s books about life on a remote cattle station. It’s an adventure playground of barra fishing, croc spotting, cattle mustering and horseriding. Okay, so the rate isn’t cheap but it’s all-inclusive and reflects Bullo’s isolation and high-cost activities, which include visiting Aboriginal rock art sites with a guide.
Mango Hill Farm, Sunshine Coast
The Glass House Mountains are the backdrop to this farm in Peachester, where kitchen gardens and fruit trees offer their harvest to guests and children can interact with the horses, goats, sheep and chooks. Bed down in a 100-year-old Queenslander, a two-bedroom workers’ cottage or a former mango packing shed offering accommodation for six people, a kitchen and a barbecue area.
Myella Farm Stay, Baralaba
Ride a horse, crack a stockwhip or toast a great day at the sunset lookout on this 1052-hectare cattle station, 140 kilometres inland from Rockhampton. Stay in the basic rooms (some with ensuites) or camp out. And be sure to gather in the outdoor dining hut for a homemade meal using fresh farm produce.
Imbil Bridge farm, Mary Valley
Spot platypus in the creek when you stay at this restored, three-bedroom 1920s farmhouse – owner Sue Thrower says they see the elusive creatures most days. There are also cows to be fed and eggs to be collected on this 12-hectare horse and beef-cattle property in Imbil, north of Noosa.
Billabong Ranch, Echuca
“It’s all about country hospitality, magic sunsets and camp-fire nights with a huge range of experiences,” say owners Kerri and Richard Acquisto. Billabong offers trail rides alongside the Murray River, which borders this pony-mad ranch. There’s also an animal nursery, archery range, pedal boats, minigolf and more. As well as horses, the 158-hectare farm is home to camels, pigs and sheep. The simple bunkhouse has family rooms and a communal kitchen.
Rivendell Farm Stay Cottages, East Gippsland
Overlooking the Tambo River, Rivendell’s former dairy is now the stylish three-bedroom Arkenstone Cottage, while Bag End cottage started life as a water tank on this Angus beef farm and truffière. Owners Peter and Annette Thomas welcome guests’ horses and dogs or young visitors can play with the animals-in-residence. Fishing gear and bikes are available for snagging bream and hitting the nearby Rail Trail.
ACT AND SURROUNDS
Eaglewood B&B and Alpaca Stud, Murrumbateman
Happiness is hugging a baby alpaca – and this alpaca stud and farmstay obliges. The self-contained cottage sleeps a family of four, the spa on the deck overlooks the beautiful Brindabella mountains and the watering hole is frequented by kangaroos. Breakfast (with eggs from Eaglewood’s free-range chickens) and a farm tour are part of the package.
Brindabella Station, Brindabella
The childhood home of My Brilliant Career author Miles Franklin, this historic homestead has two self-catering cottages on a working farm that runs sheep and Murray Grey cattle. Located 60 kilometres south-west of Canberra, there’s plentiful birdlife, walks in the national parks on its borders and superb trout fishing.
Top image: Ba Mack Farmstay, Windeyer