STONEHENGE, Australia, has almost nothing in common with the famous standing stones bearing the same name in England. For a start, the far western Queensland settlement doesn’t have a standing stone in sight (although you might like to seek out the stone ‘address book’ on the road from Jundah). Situated just off the Thomson Developmental Road, Stonehenge has a population of 40 people. Its name dates back to when the area was a safe crossing area for bullock teams and their drivers. A stone fortress was built for the bullock drivers to overnight in, and when the building fell into ruins, the area became known as Stonehenge.
The Australian namesake has its own claim to fame as one of only three areas in Australia chosen as a base for an over-the-horizon radar defence initiative. While it is a long way inland, Stonehenge is in a perfect position to be a transceiver in a Department of Defence program to guard the coastline.
Make your headquarters at the Stonehenge Hotel. The hotel has air-conditioned rooms, counter meals and dining room fare. Jeff and Judy Baldry are the friendly hosts at the hotel, which is only 27 years old even though Stonehenge was settled before Longreach. Judy is the honorary tourist officer for the area, so she can give you all sorts of information.
The Thomson River is just behind the hotel, and can be as wide as 7km in flood because the area is part of channel country. The river attracts many bird species including corellas, galahs, white cockatoos, spoonbills and wild budgerigars. A new weir is expected to provide permanent water for people wanting to camp and fish.
The Stonehenge Community Centre is open 20 hours per week (check for opening hours when you arrive). It houses a public library with internet services. The monthly RFDS clinic is also held at the Community Centre.
Many people travelling through with their 4WDs and caravans come up the Birdsville Track or the Strzelecki Track en route to Longreach. If you are towing a van or have brought your tent, stay a while at Stonehenge’s caravan park.
If you have a 4WD vehicle, a great way to appreciate the geographical features of the area is to take the 7km John Egan Pioneer Track, which passes through downs country, scenic Hill View country, spectacular erosions and rocky outcrops, a natural spring and a gorge. The trip is named after one of the local identities whose ancestors were early grazing settlers in the area. The actual driving time is only about 20 minutes, but many people take smoko to eat at the gorge.
Stonehenge is the gateway to the Lochern National Park, 40km away.