Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Ranch in the Rainforest


Recently enjoying fame as a location for several popular reality television series, the idyllic El Rancho del Rey is better remembered as the site of one of the tropical north's most successful pioneering cattle stations an odder recent past.

Tucked away in the luxuriant Tully River valley, just 30 kilometres south-west of the tropical sugar town of Tully in Far North Queensland, is the Queenslander-on-the-hill, El Rancho del Rey, and its proud hosts Neil and Mary Alderman.Now run as a combination of an executive retreat, ecotourism lodge and welcoming B&B, El Rancho del Rey was recently thrust into the world media spotlight as the setting for several international television blockbusters. It was used as the base station for the mass-rating original American Survivor series, when contestants evicted from their bush camp on Goshen Station up in the wilds of the Herbert River's source were sent down the mountain escarpment and out of the show. There, they were pampered by Mary at El Rancho del Rey with its cool bedrooms and hot showers and her famous cooking and shoulder to cry on, before flying back to the US and their newfound stardom.

The hideaway, ringed in a spectacular vista by flowering tropical trees, towering misty mountains, tumbling creeks and cool rock pools, was also featured in the top-rating Australian Big Brother II (it was where the six 'intruders' were hidden). And Kooroomool Falls down the road was the location for the British live-cross hit I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here! when several actors, models, sportsmen and society girls were filmed trying to survive in the rainforest for two weeks amid leeches, orb spiders, wild pigs, crocodiles and stinging trees.

But despite its idyllic beauty, El Rancho del Rey is much more than just a film location. Known locally as 'The Ranch', it also holds a unique place in Australia's pastoral history.

The elegant airy homestead where the Aldermans now run their tropical retreat was once the hub of vast Tully River Station, the pride of the US King Ranch cattle empire in Australia during the 1960s and '70s and the most productive cattle station in the tropical north. Story end

Full story: OUTBACK, February/March 2003

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