Cunnamulla is a good 800km drive west of Brisbane, and could be called the gateway to the ‘real’ outback, with several major highways intersecting the town. The locals all say their town is ‘’appealing naturally!!’’ but for me it was never meant to be more than another pass-through town. I was heading further west when (as fortune would have it) several very hot days saw me grounded in the area, giving me the perfect chance to explore Cunnamulla and everything it has to offer.
A bit of history
The town goes back to 1846 when Sir Thomas Mitchell explored the floodplains of the Warrego River. Being so far away from the goldfields and other favourable areas, growth was initially slow. But by 1860 there was an influx of settlers and graziers, a courthouse was built and the Cobb & Co coach came to town.
As Cunnamulla became a hub for several intersecting stock routes the population grew. Next came the railway line and shops (including a soap maker and a cordial factory), a school was built and the community spread as new areas were being discovered.
Over time Cunnamulla has seen fortunes in wool and grazing with several large pastoral stations. Now it’s a sleepy town but not without its secrets. Cunnamulla has had a chequered past and one reminder of it still stands today. In 1880 Joseph Wells attempted to rob the local bank, but it all went wrong and he was wounded in a struggle. He fled the bank and hid up a tree where the local dogs soon found him. Wells was eventually found guilty and was sentenced to death. Known as the Robbers Tree, it now has a heritage listing and is less than 1km from town.
Basing yourself at Cunnamulla, there are a few options to explore the town and the outer reaches of the shire. A great source of history and local knowledge can be found right in the heart of town beside Centenary Park at the tourist information centre. Here you can pick up maps and wander the displays that include the Paroo Pioneer Pathway, the Artesian Time Tunnel, and visit the Cunnamulla Fella out front. This double life-size statue was commissioned after Slim Dusty released a song by the same name and is the centrepiece to the yearly festival.
A history trail has been set up around town where you can spend a few hours driving around town and taking several walkways to points of interest. The heritage trail lets you discover the town’s heritage buildings, the river walk has a superb sunset viewing platform above the river, there’s a magnificent old covered railway platform, and for the kids don’t forget to visit the dunes just out of town for a little fun in the sand.
Five kilometres south of town is the Allan Tannock weir, the perfect place to sit by the water and watch the birds come and go, or if you brought your tinnie there is also a boat ramp. Gas bbqs and picnic tables are here for all to use.
Eulo and Yowah
Exploring further afield, a 64km drive west brings you to Eulo (pronounced U low). It’s only a small town but during the month of September believe it or not, they hold Lizard Racing on a specially designed Lizard Racing track!!
Eulo is also known for its artesian mud springs, date farms and ‘Kenny’. Discovered in 2011, Kenny is a Diprotodon, which is very similar to our current wombat. The only difference is that Kenny is some 7 foot high, 15 foot long and weighs around 500kg. Roaming the earth up until 46,000 years ago, Kenny is regarded as one of the best preserved prehistoric skeletons ever found.
A short drive out of Eulo is the Paroo River. This is a great area for a picnic or camp with plenty of room for even the biggest of trailers. A must do here is the walking trail around the wetland that highlights significant areas on the river bank.
If opal fossicking is more your thing, continue further north of Eulo to Yowah. There are several opal fields here where you can take a tour and try your luck scratching around. Because there’s no such thing as town water out here, the locals have sunk a bore nearly 1km deep to tap into the hot artesian water. One of the quirky highlights of a visit to this remote community is soaking in this artesian water, either in the community pool or the bath tubs just near the shop.
Where to stay
There’s some great caravan parks in Cunnamulla and far west Queensland. For those wanting to experience life on a true working outback station, there are several in the area where accommodation is available, from camping to bunking down in shearers’ quarters. They also offer bush cooking, sheep shearing and day-to-day station life.
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