Monday, April 21, 2008

Manilla - Oakhampton Farmstay

Photo: That's a whopper. Oakhampton Farm Stay

Oakhampton is a 4,000 acre farmstay near Manilla. Run by Belinda Nixon and her son James, it has been in the family for six generations and is a working sheep and cattle property.

Belinda and James have been hosting visitors to Oakhampton since 1990. They welcome families, couples, aspiring jack and jillaroos, grey nomads and, quite often, groups of American school students as part of the “People to People” program.

James, an earthy, friendly type who unashamedly adores every animal on the farm, talks about the way the farmstay experience can make a difference to people.

“We had a boy with autism who actually smiled for the first time in his life when he held a baby goat,” says James, grinning broadly.

“Then there’s the American city kids who get more than just a lesson in sheep shearing or horse riding – they get a decent idea of life in the bush, of Australian wildlife and the amount of work required to maintain a farm like ours,” he explains.

A major appeal of Oakhampton is the range of accommodation options. You can stay in the main homestead and have all your meals served to you. Belinda and James are excellent caterers who will dish up healthy, traditional dinners in their formal dining room, and big country breakfasts in the more casual sunroom.

Next option is to stay in the “apartment” also located within the homestead, where you can cook for yourself in the small kitchen. There are three bedrooms, a living room and bathroom so a family can be easily accommodated here.

In the neighbouring paddocks are two cottages, where you are completely self- contained but more private, yet still able to access all the farm activities.

A decent two kilometre walk down the track, or a few minutes drive are the bunkhouses, catering to larger groups.

Meals can all be arranged depending on your specific needs. Those who stay in the cottages usually bring their own supplies while those in the homestead usually enjoy their meals served by the hosts.

The abundance of baby animals and native wildlife living in the paddocks close to the main homestead means most guests get the opportunity for some close interaction with the creatures.

On arrival at the back door, you’ll meet George, the sulphur-crested cockatoo who will sing along with you if you’re lucky. Meanwhile the working dogs will gather round and give you a friendly hello and you may also spot the latest batch of kittens roaming around.

Chances are you’ll find an orphaned joey or two wrapped in a blanket in a basket inside the house because Belinda is a member of the wildlife rescues service, WIRES.

Most of the kangaroos that arrive at her door are those whose mothers have been hit by cars. The joeys can be just as demanding as babies in terms of feed times, so guests often get asked to bottle feed them.

Take a stroll around the yard with James who will introduce you to each of the animals as proudly as if they’re his own children.

There are plenty of goats and kids, also deer, chooks, guinea fowl, rabbits and a blind cow. Then there’s Daisy May, the large white pig, a favourite with children at feeding time, because there’s nothing like watching a pig pigging out.

Ask James anything you like about the animals and he’s always happy to share his knowledge. He also takes trail riding tours around the property and will teach you the basics of horse riding if you’re a novice.

It’s a short and pleasant drive to Split Rock Dam, where you can have a picnic overlooking the water. The view is better when the dam is full of course, but sadly this is a rare occurrence these days. Fishing is an option here as well, but you can also fish at the private dam on the property.

Other activities to keep you active include tennis on the clay court, bike riding on the unsealed roads and bird watching.

Belinda and James are a fount of local knowledge and as long as they don’t have a farm job for you, can always suggest other things to see and do in their neighbourhood.

Manilla has a huge reputation internationally with paragliders, hang-gliders and glider pilots. In 2007, it hosted the World Paragliding Championships. Head for Mt Borah – the launch site where you can watch people take flight, or perhaps get adventurous and try a lesson with the Manilla Sky Sailors Club.

Oakhampton is generally fully booked in school holiday periods, so bookings ahead of time are recommended. It’s testament to the fact that this is a farmstay without a hint of holiday pretension about it.


Manilla is approximately 45kms north of Tamworth the Fossickers Way. Oakhampton Homestead is 20km north of Manilla. Website: Phone: 02 67 85 6517.

For general enquiries about Manilla, please phone the Visitor Information Centre on 02 67 851 113.

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