All About Roma

21 04 2009

Roma marks the western boundary of the Darling Downs and links Western Queensland with the state’s East Coast. Originally home to the Mandandangi People, the Roma region was visited by Ludwig Leichardt, and then by Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1846. Mitchell was impressed by the untouched pastoral lands he saw, and wrote “I ascended an elevated north-eastern extremity of Mount Abundance, and from it beheld the finest country I had ever seen in a primeval state – a champaign region, spotted with wood, stretching as far as human vision or even the telescope could reach.”

A year later in 1847, the first pastoral station of the area was established at this site by Allan McPherson. Named ‘Mt Abundance Station,’ McPherson took up 400 000 acres on which he ran sheep. After constant conflict with the local Aborigines, McPherson withdrew his sheep 1849, leaving it a cattle station. He returned to England and eventually sold the Station in 1856 to Stephen Spencer.

The first signs of a town began to appear in 1861 when a few hastily-built houses were erected close to the Mt Abundance Homestead. The town of Roma was officially settled in 1862, approximately 40km from Mt Abundance. Roma was the first town to be gazetted after Queensland separated from New South Wales to become a colony in its own right, and was named after Lady Roma Diamantina Bowen, the wife of the first Queensland Governor.

Roma was originally settled as an administrative centre to service the growing Western Downs Region. By 1863, Roma had its own Court of Petty Sessions, Police Station, doctor, chemist, several pubs and a Post Office. When the Post Office in Roma opened, the original Post Office at Mt Abundance was closed. By 1880, the railway network had been extended to connect Roma with the rest of Queensland.

In 1857, five years before the town of Roma was established, grapes were grown at Mt Abundance Station. In 1863, Samuel Bassett established the first (and only) winery of the Roma region – the Romavilla Winery. Romavilla sold its first vintage of wine in 1866 and remains Queensland’s oldest winery. It is still operating today and offers wine tasting and sales at its cellar door.

Just over 100 years ago, a work crew drilling for water at Hospital Hill unexpectedly found gas. From this exciting discovery, Roma has grown to be one of the most important gas and oil regions in Australia. The Big Rig, located on the Warrego Highway on the eastern entrance to the town, is a memorial and information centre devoted to the discovery of oil and gas throughout Australia, and in particular the importance of the Roma region. The Big Rig features an interpretive museum as well as a night show that incorporates pyrotechnics and computer simulations that tell the story of Australian gas and oil exploration (with an emphasis on Roma’s involvement). The show also includes the stories of individual characters involved in the development of Australia’s gas and oil industry.

Today, Roma boasts a population of almost 7000, making it one of the largest regional towns in Queensland. It lies at the intersection of the Warrego and Carnarvon Highways and links Brisbane with Western Queensland.  It is also a  major stop on the inland route between Sydney and Cairns (the Great Inland Way).

Things to do and see in Roma:

  • The Big Rig (mentioned above) is a museum dedicated to the discovery and development of Australia’s oil and gas industries (and Roma’s part in the story)
  • Visit the Romavilla to sample some (or all) of the region’s wine products
  • The Roma Saleyards are the biggest inland Saleyards in the country. Sales are held every Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Today, the Mount Abundance Station is open to visitors by appointment only. The station itself has been subdivided into smaller pastoral allotments, but the Homestead built by Spencer from which the town of Roma was created can be visited.
  • Roma is considered the gateway to Carnarvon National Park. The Park is divided into four sections: Carnarvon Gorge, Ka Ka Mundi, Salvator Rosa and Mt Moffat. The Carnarvon Gorge section is the most popular section as it is easily accessed by two-wheel drive vehicles (check road conditions prior to departure) and offers accommodation of all types. Camping is restricted in Carnarvon Gorge itself, however camping is allowed during certain school holidays (visit the EPA website for details). Alternative accommodation (including camping) is available at Takarakka Bush Resort. For those that prefer a little more comfort, the Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge offers a more ‘luxurious’ experience for those that would prefer it.
  • Visitors to Roma will be impressed with the bottle trees that line the streets. The Avenue of Heroes down Wyndham Street features a bottle tree for each local life lost during the First World War – each tree feature its own individual Remembrance Plaque to honour each respective fallen Servicemen.
  • Roma’s largest bottle tree can be found at the intersection of Edwardes and McDowell streets – it measures an amazing 8.9m in diameter and was transplanted from a local property to its current position in 1927.
  • The Meadowbank Museum is located 12km west of Roma and offers ‘on-farm’ camping at a low cost. The Museum itself features an interesting collection of early farming implements, machinery and memorabilia and is open for guided tours by appointment. Camping is available all year round.
  • There are many other historical, cultural and architectural features to Roma. These can all be explored on foot via self-guided walking tours. Tours include the Roma Heritage Trail, the Adungadoo Pathway, the Roma Bush Gardens Walk and the Hospital Hill Walk. Brochures can be collected from the Visitor Information Centre at the Big Rig or downloaded here.


When in Roma Website:

Roma Regional Council:



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