Which Thomson River sunset cruise to choose?

Most people who come to Longreach want to do the photogenic Thomson River sunset cruise. What many travellers don’t realise is that there are two different companies doing cruises and that the two cruises are very different. We know some visitors (and travel agents) are confused and some people have been disappointed that they didn’t get the cruise they thought they were getting – so here’s a quick overview to help you choose the one that suits you best.

The names
Outback Pioneers cruise is called the ‘Starlight’s Cruise Experience’ (after local legend Captain Starlight). It’s run by the Kinnon family and was previously the Kinnon & Co Sunset Cruise before the company rebranded in 2016. Outback Aussie Tours cruise is called the ‘Drover’s Sunset Cruise’ (cruise only) or ‘Drover’s Sunset Cruise with Smithy’s Outback Dinner & Show’ (‘Smithy’ is company-head, Alan Smith).

The boats
The first big difference is the boats themselves. Outback Pioneers run the Thomson Belle paddlewheeler and the historic Thomson Princess riverboat. Outback Aussie Tours have the Longreach Explorer, a modern catamaran.

Which of these you prefer, is a matter of taste and each boat has different seating configurations and potential advantages.

At Outback Pioneers, we believe in doing things in the spirit of Australian outback cultural heritage so we’ve chosen traditional boats but we understand some people prefer modern style even in the bush!

The food and drinks on board
Both cruise companies supply some ‘nibbles’ to enjoy while you glide along the river. Outback Pioneers is BYO alcohol with soft drinks for sale on board. Outback Aussie Tours has a cash bar for alcohol and soft drinks.

Along the river
Both cruises have commentary. Both will give you a chance to see the amazing bird and animal life, and to take spectacular outback sunset photos.

Dinner on the riverbank
The biggest difference between the cruises is the dinner and entertainment on the riverbank.

With Outback Pioneers, guests sits around the campfire on rustic seating (quite comfortable) and enjoy a traditional stockman’s campfire stew, followed by dessert, tea and damper. Food and drink is served in enamel tableware, the way it used to be. Vegetarian and other dietary needs are catered for.

With Outback Aussie Tours the setting is more ‘restaurant in the bush’ with tables, chairs, china and a contemporary set menu (meat or fish). They also have two courses followed by tea and damper.

Entertainment
At Outback Pioneers, your Kinnon family host will entertain you and give you insights into bush life and culture. It’s hilarious as well as educational. A highlight is poetry by local treasure ‘Scotty’ the barefoot bush poet, who inspires and moves people with his heartfelt presentation.

This is followed by the ‘Starlight’s Spectacular Sound & Light Picture Show’ – in a tiered, outdoor, riverbank amphitheatre with cushions and blankets, you’ll see an exclusive short movie, commissioned by the Kinnon family, to celebrate the life and bushmanship of Captain Starlight, the cattle duffer (thief) who roamed these parts.

Finally your host will point out the Southern Cross in the night sky and share what it means to live here in the harsh but beautiful Australian outback.

The Outback Aussie Tours dinner includes entertainment by guest musicians on a rustic stage.

The price?
Both cruises with dinner are $119 per person (2019 price), with child prices and concessions available. Both include coach pick-up and drop-off at your accommodation. You can get a 10% discount with Outback Pioneers by combining it with the Nogo Station Experience as a ‘Pathfinder Pass’.

The original?
Outback Pioneers cruise was the original Thomson sunset river cruise and has been running since 2009 (then known as Kinnon & Co’s Sunset Cruise before the company rebranded in 2016).

Still not sure?
Why not do both cruises? The river and sky are different every day and are always stunning, while the dinner and entertainment of the two cruises gives you a different experience.

 If you don’t have the time or budget to do both and would like more information, see the Outback Pioneers website or call the friendly crew on 07 4658 1776.

Recommended Posts