Discover Kinrara: A Gulf Savannah Must-Visit

18 September 2023

Nestled in the heart of Gulf Savannah, Kinrara Expeditions is more than just a cattle grazing property—it’s a testament to family heritage and a deep connection to the land. Owned by Shane and Robyn O’Brien since 2002, the O’Brien family’s roots in this region run deep, tracing back to their settlement at Craig’s Pocket in 1962, right next door.

In partnership with the traditional owners of this sacred land, the Gugu Badhun people, and with the steady support of Shane’s brother, Callum, the O’Briens have undertaken a remarkable transformation. They’ve turned the nature reserve within Kinrara into a stunning wetlands destination, inviting travelers and adventure seekers to embark on a journey of discovery. Here, amidst the lush landscape, you’ll have the chance to view the region’s unique flora and fauna, and forge connections with the extraordinary inhabitants of Australia’s youngest land.

Welcome to Kinrara Cattle Station, where generations of history meet the promise of new adventures, and where the essence of Gulf Savannah comes to life.

Explore the Kinrara Legacy: Today’s Land Transformation

Embracing the rich Kinrara legacy, Shane O’Brien emerges as a respected modern grazier in Far North Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands. Stepping into the lineage of his Grandfather and Father, Shane’s connection to the land is undeniable. Nestled beside Kinrara, the original ancestral settlement site since the early 1960s, known as Craig’s Pocket, this property covers hectares of this stunning region.

As the eldest of four siblings, Shane has devoted his entire life to the family business. Continuing this loved heritage, Shane, alongside his wife Robyn and their sons Angus, Stirling, and Corbett, now oversee Kinrara Station. It is a thriving establishment that includes cattle ranching, ecotourism, and carbon sequestration. With vast herds roaming throughout the Atherton Tablelands, the family perfectly manages the ranch’s operations. Kinrara Nature Reserve, entrusted to Shane and Robyn, is home to the iconic MacEachern’s Camp, the heart of Kinrara Expeditions’ unique glamping experience.

The scenery is a stunning display of ever-changing views, where the landscape transforms with the passage of time. Expansive paddocks provide a serene haven for cattle, grazing peacefully beneath the canopy of ironbark gum trees. Indigenous Australian fauna thrives, creating a living tapestry that brings the ancient land to life before your eyes. In this remarkable realm, the worries of everyday life become insignificant as it transports you far from the ordinary.

Kinrara Station is encircled by Kinrara National Park, a private sanctuary inaccessible to the public. This enclave harbors rare treasures, including a vine thicket rainforest – one of only two remaining – and solidified lava flows, all cradled by seemingly endless artesian water. This water source, flowing from the earth just tens of meters from the Kinrara homestead, completes the circle of life at Kinrara.

Embark on a journey to discover the Kinrara story for yourself – where heritage meets transformation, and the land thrives, firmly rooted in its storied past while embracing the potential of the present.

Facts and figures about Kinrara

Where is Kinrara, Gulf Savannah?

250km south west of Cairns, 120km east of Cardwell, Queensland, Australia.

How do you get to Kinrara?

4WD convoy with Kinrara Expeditions, leaving on a Monday morning at 9:00am from the Cairns CBD, returning back to Cairns 4:30pm Friday.

How much land does Kinrara cover?

Including the Kinrara National Park, approximately 70,000 acres.

Is there an active volcano at Kinrara?

Yes (kind of), the Kinrara volcano is the last volcanic eruption on the continent of Australia. This is estimated to have occurred between 7,000-9,000 years ago. Leaving behind an intact volcano with crater, and a 30km long solidified lava flow that can still be seen from space. A dormant or extinct volcano is considered to be 10,000 years old or more. Given this, Kinrara represents the youngest landscape in Australia. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to witness the formation of Australia.

Was there only one eruption?

No, the science suggests there was upward of 7 major eruptions and lava flow experiences.

How many bird species have been identified at Kinrara?

Our current log suggests that of the possible 220 bird species in the area 195 have been identified at Kinrara. The vast majority have been spotted directly out front of the campsite. Kinrara is the perfect place for birdwatching enthusiasts.

What other animals could you see at Kinrara?

At Kinrara, the captivating biodiversity of the Australian outback unfolds before your eyes. You will glimpse a remarkable array of native wildlife. Among the iconic inhabitants you might encounter are emus, those tall and curious birds that effortlessly traverse the open plains. Their unique presence adds a touch of wild elegance to the landscape.

But that’s not all – the rugged beauty of Kinrara is also home to kangaroos, Australia’s quintessential marsupials. These graceful hoppers can often be spotted bounding across the vast paddocks or lounging in the shade beneath the iconic ironbark gum trees. Their presence serves as a constant reminder of the incredible diversity and unique charm of the Australian outback.

So, while exploring Kinrara in the Gulf Savannah, keep your eyes peeled for these fascinating creatures and other indigenous wildlife that call this pristine land their home. Each encounter adds to the rich tapestry of your Kinrara experience.

How many cattle are on Kinrara?

The number of cattle that call Kinrara home is ever-changing. It is influenced by the ebb and flow of the seasons and the vagaries of weather patterns. Depending on these factors, Kinrara’s sprawling grounds can gracefully accommodate a fluctuating population of cattle. And their numbers can range anywhere from 4,000 to a staggering 10,000 individuals. This flexible approach ensures the well-being and sustainability of the cattle. It allows them access to ample freshwater, lush grazing pastures, and the ability to thrive in harmony with the natural environment that defines Kinrara.

What activities can you take part in at Kinrara Cattle Station?

At Kinrara Cattle Station, you fill your days with exciting adventures and immerse yourself in the heart of the Australian outback. Here are some of the activities you can look forward to:

  1. Kayaking: Glide across the tranquil waters of Kinrara’s freshwater creeks and billabongs on a kayaking expedition. Discover the serene beauty of the wetlands while observing native wildlife in their natural habitat.
  2. Bushwalking: Lace up your hiking boots and embark on guided bushwalks through the station’s diverse landscapes. Explore the rugged terrain, lush rainforests, and ancient lava flows while learning about the flora and fauna that call Kinrara home.
  3. Fossicking: Channel your inner treasure hunter as you try your hand at fossicking for precious gemstones and minerals in Kinrara’s designated fossicking areas. Unearth unique geological wonders and perhaps even a valuable gem.
  4. Camping: Immerse yourself in the outback experience by camping under the vast, star-studded skies. Whether you prefer traditional camping or the luxury of glamping, Kinrara offers various camping options for a truly memorable stay.
  5. Birdwatching: With its rich biodiversity, Kinrara is a paradise for birdwatchers. Grab your binoculars and spot a wide variety of bird species, including colorful parrots, majestic eagles, and unique waterfowl.
  6. Wildlife Photography: Capture the incredible flora and fauna of Kinrara through the lens of your camera. Whether it’s a kangaroo in its natural habitat or a serene landscape, there are endless photo opportunities.
  7. Stargazing: The remote location of Kinrara ensures minimal light pollution, making it an ideal spot for stargazing. Marvel at the Southern Hemisphere’s brilliant night sky and constellations.
  8. Cultural Experiences: Immerse yourself in the rich Indigenous culture of the Gugu Badhun people through cultural activities and storytelling sessions.

These activities offer a diverse range of experiences, ensuring that your time at Kinrara Cattle Station is both adventurous and enriching. Whether you’re seeking outdoor thrills, cultural insights, or moments of tranquility, Kinrara has something for every adventurer to enjoy.

Kinrara Expedition Team

Meet our diverse group of experts at Kinrara Cattle Station! Our dedicated guides bring substantial knowledge across various domains, including agriculture, tourism, animal health, conservation, and, notably, Aboriginal culture. They are always ready to provide answers to your questions and enhance your Kinrara experience.

On each 4WD expedition, you’ll have a dedicated driver/guide who will accompany you throughout your journey. This personalised approach allows you to build a strong rapport with your guide. Gaining a deeper understanding of your interests ensures a tailored and enriching adventure.

Furthermore, Kinrara’s unique and diverse nature grants us access to a vast network of academic and subject matter experts. Among them are the Gugu Badhun, our traditional owners, who boast numerous academic leaders within their community. They bring a forward-thinking and fresh perspective to indigenous education and cultural understanding, adding depth and significance to your Kinrara experience.

Hospitality is the luxury at Kinrara

Comfortable private tents with decks

We’ve thoughtfully designed each tent at Kinrara to cater to your preferences, ensuring campers enjoy a comfortable and personalised experience. Your tent comes fully appointed with deckchairs, providing the perfect spot to relax on the balconies while soaking in the mesmerizing views of the lake and the various wildlife that surrounds it.

Inside the tent, you’ll discover essential amenities such as rechargeable lights and head torches, cozy bedding, soft towels, convenient shelving, and ample space for your belongings.

What truly sets us apart is our commitment to providing campers with the luxury of hot showers. Our shared showers and eco-friendly toilets are a marvel of simplicity and innovative architectural design. The open fire efficiently heats water, while gravity from overhead tanks ensures consistent water pressure, guaranteeing endless hot showers for campers.

Moreover, our eco-conscious approach extends to our waterless, self-composting toilets. These state-of-the-art facilities use natural wood shavings and are powered by solar energy, reducing our environmental footprint and allowing you to relax and enjoy the beauty of Kinrara in the Gulf Savannah, without compromise.

Communal dining and lounge

At Kinrara, we embrace the tradition of dining together as one big family, just like many outback cattle stations. Our communal tables, typically set up in one or two spacious areas, foster an atmosphere of togetherness. With no TV or mobile devices to divert our attention, the air is alive with engaging conversations, heartwarming stories, and contagious laughter.

The central pavilion offers a variety of inviting spaces for relaxation and leisure. You can unwind while taking in the breathtaking views, lose yourself in a good book, engage in a friendly board game, or immerse yourself in the challenge of finishing a puzzle.

No matter where you are on the property, a refreshing beverage is never far away. Whether it’s a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee, a selection of aromatic teas, or a crisp Gin and Tonic, we’ve got you covered, ensuring the perfect partner to witness the Kinrara sunset.

The Food

Our culinary philosophy at Kinrara is deeply rooted in the legacy of our matriarch, Sheena O’Brien. Sheena’s passion for cooking and hospitality was legendary, having effortlessly catered to crowds large and small. With four sons and a bustling household, she frequently hosted gatherings, including birthday parties with over 150 guests and hearty meals for hungry workers. She understood that food was central to the happiness of our crew and family.

This valued ethos continues to shape our dining experience today. We believe in coming together, sharing meals family-style, and savoring the flavors of fresh, locally sourced produce prepared simply and with care. It’s about relishing your favorite beverage and engaging in meaningful conversations while enjoying a delicious meal.

Our culinary offerings are a true reflection of this philosophy. Each meal contains generous portions of crisp, fresh salads, and meticulously prepared vegetables to cater to our vegetarian and vegan guests.

Our commitment to quality extends to our ingredient sourcing. We procure much of our fresh produce from Rusty’s markets in Cairns, where locals flock to find high-quality, regionally sourced fruits and vegetables. The market stalls burst with tropical delights like mangosteins, custard apples, rambutan, durian, luscious mangos, sweet papaya, and exotic Asian citrus. A vast array of herbs from around the world is at your fingertips, alongside avocados and pineapples aplenty.

For our meats, poultry, pork, and seafood, we turn to local sources, ensuring that the flavors on your plate are a true reflection of the region’s bounty. We take pride in accommodating all dietary requests; therefore, please don’t hesitate to let us know your preferences for an optimal dining experience. At Kinrara, no guest leaves hungry, and everyone leaves with a satisfied palate and valued memories of exceptional meals shared in this remarkable setting.

The Drinks Station

Start your mornings at Kinrara with a delightful array of options to kickstart your day. Whether you prefer your coffee black or with your choice of milk, we’ve got freshly brewed coffee that suits your taste. If you’re more of a tea enthusiast, explore our diverse range of teas. For a burst of refreshing flavor, enjoy some freshly squeezed orange juice or a smoothie.

Throughout the day, you’ll find a well-stocked Drinks Station offering an array of non-alcoholic beverages. From timeless soft drinks to invigorating bush lemon and mint iced water, there’s something for every palate to keep you hydrated and refreshed.

As the day transitions into lunch and evening, we invite you to unwind at our bar. Here, we’ve curated a range of Australian wines carefully chosen to complement our ever changing menu. Furthermore, we provide a variety of locally sourced and boutique beers, cocktails, and mocktails that perfectly capture the essence of our surroundings. Additionally, if spirits are your choice, our bar is fully prepared to craft your desired libation, be it a Lime and Frangelico or a classic Gin and Tonic. At Kinrara, we believe that every meal is an opportunity to savor the flavors of the region, and our beverages are no different. Cheers to the memories and moments shared with good company in this extraordinary setting!

What should I bring for my stay on Kinrara Cattle Station?

As you prepare for your Kinrara adventure, please keep in mind that while the camp provides many essentials, it’s important to pack personal items to ensure your comfort during your stay. The closest store is approximately 2.5 hours from Kinrara, so planning ahead is key. Here are ten important considerations to guide your packing:

  1. Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Kinrara experiences a wide temperature range, from high 20s to lows of 3 degrees. Pack clothing that will keep you comfortable outdoors in this variable weather. Bring a rain jacket and a heavier jacket or jumper for cooler evenings.
  2. Sunscreen and Mosquito Repellent: While we provide ample sunscreen and mosquito repellent, feel free to bring your own too.
  3. Swimwear: swimmers are a must, as you’ll have opportunities to cool off in small creeks and watering holes. Be sun-smart and don’t forget water shoes or a similar option for exploring the water’s edge.
  4. Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from the sun’s UV rays with a good pair of sunglasses. We do have spares on hand if needed.
  5. Sun Hat: A broad-brimmed, sun-smart hat is essential for sun protection.
  6. Photography Equipment: If you plan to capture the beauty of Kinrara, bring your photography gear or phones. We have power available at the main camp for charging devices. Please note that only Telstra receives reception in this remote area.
  7. Eco-Friendly Toiletries: While we supply eco-friendly body wash products, if you prefer to use your own, we kindly ask that you bring eco-friendly equivalents whenever possible.
  8. Daypack/Backpack: A daypack or backpack is handy for carrying cameras, drinks, and personal items during your adventures. Don’t forget to pack a torch for nighttime use.
  9. Medications and Medical Supplies: Remember to pack any necessary medications or medical supplies you may require. The camp has a fully equipped first aid kit, and our guides carry emergency first aid kits during all adventures. Please inform us of any medical needs, issues, or dietary requirements in advance.
  10. Footwear: Sturdy walking shoes are a must, along with suitable socks and long pants. The terrain can be rugged, with loose rocks and thick grasslands off established paths. For comfort around the main camp pavilion, a pair of thongs is suggested.

Ensuring you have these essential items, you’ll be well-prepared for your Kinrara experience in the Gulf Savannah, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay amidst the breathtaking Australian outback.

Discover the Wonders of tropical North Queensland from Kinrara Cattle Station!

Nestled in the heart of the Australian outback, Kinrara Cattle Station serves as a gateway to an array of breathtaking destinations that showcase the diverse beauty of Far North Queensland. Here are some nearby destinations that would make for the perfect road trip:

  1. Cobbold Gorge: Embark on an adventure to Cobbold Gorge, a geological wonder featuring towering sandstone cliffs and crystal-clear waters. Take a guided tour through the gorge and discover its intriguing history and unique rock formations.
  2. Undara Lava Tubes: Explore the ancient Undara Lava Tubes, one of the Earth’s most significant geological wonders. These colossal tunnels were formed by volcanic activity and provide a glimpse into the region’s fascinating geological history.
  3. Burdekin: Head to Burdekin, known for its lush farmlands and sugar cane fields. Discover the charm of this agricultural community and perhaps indulge in some locally-produced sweet treats.
  4. Cape York: For the adventurous at heart, a journey to Cape York offers the ultimate outback experience. This remote and rugged peninsula boasts stunning landscapes, Indigenous culture, and unique flora and fauna.
  5. Daintree Rainforest: Immerse yourself in the ancient beauty of the Daintree Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. Explore lush jungles, pristine beaches, and abundant wildlife in this ecological wonderland.
  6. Daintree Rainforest: Immerse yourself in the ancient beauty of the Daintree Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. Explore lush jungles, pristine beaches, and abundant wildlife in this ecological wonderland.
  7. Einasleigh: Visit the historic town of Einasleigh, known for its picturesque landscapes and charming railway bridge. Take a stroll along the Einasleigh River and enjoy the serenity of this tranquil setting.
  8. Ravenshoe: Explore Ravenshoe, Queensland’s highest town, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. Take a scenic drive to admire the rolling hills and waterfalls that dot the landscape.
  9. Waterfalls: Far North Queensland is home to numerous stunning waterfalls, each with its unique charm. Chase waterfalls like Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls, and Ellinjaa Falls for refreshing natural beauty.
  10. Rock Art: Discover ancient Indigenous rock art sites scattered throughout the region, offering a glimpse into the cultural heritage of the local Aboriginal communities.
  11. Cooktown: Discover the rich history of Cooktown, where Captain James Cook once landed. Explore the charming town, visit the James Cook Museum, and soak in the coastal beauty of this historical gem.
  12. Croydon: Step back in time in the gold mining town of Croydon. Explore its well-preserved heritage buildings and learn about the town’s gold rush history.

These remarkable destinations near Kinrara Cattle Station offer a diverse range of experiences. From geological wonders and lush rainforests to cultural heritage and serene waterfalls. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or adventure seeker, you’ll find something to captivate your senses.

As you bid farewell to Kinrara Cattle Station, you carry with you not only cherished memories of exceptional adventures and breathtaking landscapes but also a deeper connection to the land and its rich history. Kinrara is more than a destination; it’s an invitation to explore, to connect, and to savor the beauty of the Australian outback.

And for those seeking the ultimate Kinrara experience, our 5-Day Kinrara Cattle Station tour awaits. Whether you’re an avid adventurer, a nature lover, a history enthusiast, or simply seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, Kinrara welcomes you with open arms to a world where the wonders of Gulf Savannah come to life.

Feature image from Tourism Tropical North Queensland.