A Day Trip to Toompine, Outback Queensland

Last Updated on February 17, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ

Toompine Tractor, Queensland
Toompine Tractor, Queensland

With an official population of two, tiny Toompine is barely a blip on the radar!

And yet, all roads seem to lead there in the western Queensland Outback. A simple distance measurement between the outback towns of Eulo, Thargomindah and Quilpie yields Toompine’s coordinates almost exactly.

Is that enough reason to visit? Of course not!

But finding out why the local cemetery is called a ‘cemery’ surely is! To our regret, we had failed to give in to this tempting drawcard on our first visit to the Quilpie Shire. So the intriguing ‘cemery’ question was still in the back of my mind when we returned to the region a couple of years later.

The drive south from Quilpie to Toompine follows the historic ‘Dowling Track’.  En route, it passes a turnoff to the Duck Creek opal field – site of ‘Pride of the Hills, the first opal mine in Australia registered in 1871. And home of the ‘Huns Head’ opal – at 15.75 kg (35 lb) Queensland’s largest find!

Toompine Pub, Outback Queensland
Toompine Pub, Outback Queensland

But … giant opals being absent from the roadside, or at least not visible from the car, we were free to continue our 80km drive south to the Toompine pub.

The settlement of Toompine isn’t a town though.  This onetime Cobb & Co changing post and overnight stop built in 1893 proudly proclaims itself as ‘the pub with no town’!  There’s another good reason to visit right there.

Toompine Terraces Accomodation, Outback Queensland
Toompine Terraces Accomodation, Outback Queensland

Still maintaining its reputation for hospitality, the Toompine pub draws a steady stream of visitors with the offer of free camping (including power and hot showers), alternative accommodation at the ‘Toompine Terraces’, or drinks and meals for those just passing through!

But there’s more.

Australian Bustard at Quobba, Western Australia
Australian Bustard at Quobba, Western Australia

Out on the road, we’d swerved to avoid an errant Bustard (that’s the heaviest flying bird in Australia, not a misspelling) wandering along the road. It could have done a lot of damage to the car (and itself) if we’d hit it at speed.

To soothe our shattered nerves we entered the pub in search of refreshment. Urbanites please note – this isn’t the place to order a skinny-soy-decaf-latte unless you want to provide some amusement to the bar staff. But if you can, time your visit to coincide with a bus tour at morning tea time. Then, for $7 you can pig out on sample a s**tload variety of delicacies straight from the Country Womens Association cookbook. Trust me. Fancy coffee is not relevant here.

Morning Tea at the Toompine Pub, Outback Queensland
Morning Tea at the Toompine Pub, Outback Queensland

And you won’t need lunch – you’ll be so full it’ll feel like you’re going to have a food baby!  That’s because the Country Women’s Association is comprised, as far as I can tell, of extraordinarily good cooks devoted to resurrecting the lost art of taking tea. Something they do extraordinarily well.

Behind the bar, Toompine Hotel, Queensland
Behind the bar, Toompine Hotel, Queensland

So after sampling at least one of everything, admiring the pub’s historic displays, chatting with Stacey and Amelia (I can’t guarantee they’ll still be there for your visit) and admiring the pub’s exterior and campground, we returned to Quilpie, never to eat again.

Sign in the Toompine Pub
Sign in the Toompine Pub

Or at least not that day …

But damned if I didn’t forget to find out why the cemetery is called a ‘cemery’!  Luckily, after putting out a call for help, I got the explanation.  Apparently, on the wall of the pub where I was so busy eating like there was no tomorrow, there’s some information about the ‘cemery’.

So here’s what I now know.

Toompine’s ten-grave cemetery contains the graves of two young children.  One of them, a young boy, died from strychnine poisoning after playing on some kangaroo skins that had been treated with arsenic.  When this child’s sister visited the cemetery, she carved a sign saying ‘Cemery’ from a piece of Mulga wood to mark the spot.  The Quilpie Shire has now fenced the cemetery and used her sign to mark the spot.

After staggering back to the car, we returned to Quilpie to relax in the artesian spa.  Toompine makes a great day trip, even without the morning tea.  But take my advice and find out when the next one is before you go!

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30 comments

  1. @25BAR – For sure – especially with such great food as a reward!!
    @Jeremy Branham – Welcome! Children’s accidental deaths all too common in colonial days downunder, sadly. I’m glad they left the sign there.
    @Diane – you SHOULD be!!

  2. @Beach Bum – you mean a pub also serving killer morning tea appeals to you?? HHMMmm, yes, I see what you mean …
    @Lesley – even if a skinny s/l was on the menu, I still wouldn’t order it!!! And thanx for the pic!
    @Halcyon – Well, actually a huge mass of cakes beats a cuppa!!!
    @Raymond – they’re what I live for too!! Thanx for dropping by!!
    @Lilly – Thanx so much! Mystery solved!! I Googled, but didn’t get anything – maybe I need some search tips!!! That’ll teach me to pig out at the expense of finding information …
    @Barbara – It’s ALL good, but the pumpkin scones are my faves too!!

  3. HERE’S YOUR INFO RED – ANOTHER GREAT POST AND THANKS. Lilly

    The Toompine cemetery consists of a handful of graves, all dated during the first two decades of the 20th century. Tourist information posted at the Toompine pub includes the following details:

    “Some distance to the west of the hotel is a small cemetery in which there are ten graves. Only three of these have headstones. Two young children (3 years) are buried there with one dying from gastroenteritis and the other from strychnine poisoning. The strychnine poisoning was caused by the young lad playing on some kangaroo skins that had been treated with arsenic.
    “The sister of this young lad travelled to the Toompine area and found the graveyard in disrepair. She carved a sign “Cemery” in a piece of Mulga to mark the graveyard. Quilpie Shire Council has since fenced this cemetery and has used this sign “Cemery” so lovingly placed to mark her brother’s final resting place.

  4. Who really needs a skinny soy latte anyway?
    That “cemery” sounds a little like our down east version of “slippy”. Why waste breath on excess letters and syllables when there is good food to be had in its place.

    Thanks for your visit – I’ve posted a colour version just for you (and a few others, but mostly for you!)

  5. @Manzanita – Lots of small towns have PO agencies so outlying properties can get their mail. Even I was surprised to see a 2nd tractor on a pole – the first was earlier this year in Wentworth, NSW!
    @Jayne – Well … OK! I’ll try – but it won’t be easy!! And in confession – don’t know if the CWA cookbook was used here or not – morning tea just had that feel to it!
    @River – Haha, you’re right! Only trouble with taking pix of food is by the time I remember it, my plate is empty!! Does anyone else have that problem??

  6. So if just one couple decided to settle there the population would double instantly!
    I agree with Jayne, you must sample every delicacy you possibly can from the CWA on your travels. and write about it. With photos.

  7. Cool place! Be a great place to camp– hookups and you wouldn’t have to pull out to go get a good meal.

    I love my lattes but there are still plenty of places — even here in the coffee-loving Pacific Northwest — where you would get laughed out of the restaurant if you tried to order one!

  8. Red, I charge you with your mission, if you choose to take it, to sample Every.Single.Goodie cooked by the CWA on your travels.
    For me.
    Just to sample them for me.
    Cos I know you’ll take one for the team 😉

  9. Everything looks so fresh and clean in the Toompine hotel. I didn’t even know 2 people could qualify for a post office, which constitutes a town, I guess. I’ve noticed a lot of your pictures where they seem to favor putting large machinery up on posts. There must be a humorous quip in that line but I can’t find it so I’ll just sign off with have a very restful weekend.

    Manzanita@Wannabuyaduck

  10. @Cathy – Just take the ‘bustard’ link in the post! There’s a pic of a bustard at the other end …
    @EGWow – I’ve never hit one yet, and aim to keep it that way! And one day I’ll find out what ‘cemery’ REALLY means!
    @Betty – yeah, I’ve been standing firmly on shifting sand with my blog title! This’ll be it – for awhile …
    @Sallie – I’m generally not a big coffee drinker. But it was too early for alcohol, and the bustard near-miss had left us shattered!
    @Magsx2 – The ladies couldn’t have been nicer! Sallie (comment above yours) was nice enough to explain the whole comment format thing – so thank her!!
    @Windsmoke – what happened to small towns with the demise of Cobb & Co many years ago is now happening with the railway demise!
    @Carolyn – No need for a camp oven with THAT morning tea array!!

  11. @Rubye Jack – Yes, what to do indeed? If only the world knew of my suffering! Although the vast array of baked goods alleviated the pain somewhat …
    @FruitCake – And I’d SO rather the CWA stuck to baking rather than becoming the spelling police!
    @SFlaGUY – I shall count the minutes!! And people/water are SO overrated …
    @Kath – Oh lucky, LUCKY YOU!!! But how would she cope in baking-powderless Switzerland??!!
    @PDP – Haha! I never got to the bottom of who the two actually were …

  12. Bonza photos, i especially the “Pub with no town” i suspect this can only happen in OZ. Like Mags i’m glad you changed to a pop up comments window as i’ve been having the same trouble, maybe everyone should change to a pop up window :-).

  13. Hi,
    Some of these out of the way places are amazing, so are the people that you meet, always very friendly, and full of information.

    Oh it is good that you changed your comment section to the pop up window. The blogs with the pop up window are the only one’s I can comment on. Sorry I didn’t comment on your last post.

    There are a lot of complaints in the forums, but I think it may be an issue with blogspot and IE8. Very frustrating.

  14. nice blog title! i was surprised at first to see a new(?) blog in my blog roll.
    and then… i was just transported here!

    a beautiful story with beautiful photos!
    big hugs
    betty xx

    p.s.
    oh and i’ve heard of a bustard before.

  15. I’ve never heard of a bustard before but it sounds like it would be terrible to hit indeed. Cemery? Hmmm. That sure is a curious word.

  16. Another interesting place to visit, OZ. You make a good story out of any situation. I’m going to try to find a picture of a bustard because I’m conjuring up some pretty weird pictures in my mind of what one might look like.

  17. Haha! Red does that mean that the two lovely ladies behind the bar ARE the population of two in Toompine??

    Also now I’m worrying about the ‘virtual tree’, I heard recently that more than half the fires in Australia are started by arsonist, isn’t that an amazing and also horrifying statistic!!

  18. Decent coffee can only – ONLY – be alleviated by the fantastic offerings from CWA ladies. Yes, my very own mother is a member!

  19. Your postings have an unusual lack of people and water…. unlike my own this week for which you were so kind to comment on. My number of hits from Australia are climbing each day no doubt from the fact you post in every little tiny town with a hook up. Hopefully my sudden, newfound, and fleeting fame will drive untold 10’s of new fans to your site as well.

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