Wow, Queensland is a fantastic state. It’s got so much diversity – from white sands, to red dust. From deep gorges to huge waterfalls. Opals, dinosaurs, wildlife, wide open skies, and some of the best pubs in the country. There’s something for everyone in Queensland, yet for some reason it’s the coast that draws in the most visitors. But head inland a little, get off the beaten track, and you’ll find yourself in some of the very best parts – read on for some of our favourites.
1. Survey the Simpson Desert from the top of Big Red
A bit of a Mecca for four-wheel-drivers, Big Red, as it’s appropriately named, is a huge red sand dune approximately 30 metres tall that lives about half an hour outside of Birdsville at the start of the Simpson Desert.
Getting your 4×4 up to the top is a bit of a rite of passage, and tonnes of fun. But even if that’s not your thing, watching others attempt it is very entertaining, and the view from the top (you can go up by foot if your car is not up to the challenge) is absolutely stunning. Big Red is also the site of the yearly Big Red Bash music festival – a fantastic outback experience that should be on everyone’s bucket lists.
2. Dig for dinosaur bones
Who knew Australia had such a rich prehistoric history? We certainly didn’t, until we started exploring Outback Queensland, and quickly realised there are pieces of ancient history to be found almost everywhere!
Winton is probably the main dinosaur capital of the Outback, with it’s fantastic Natural History Museum and excellent Dinosaur Stampede, a huge collection of extremely well preserved dinosaur footprints. But other equally-interesting dinosaur collections can be found at Eromanga, Richmond, and Hughenden. We’ve been to them all, and we recommend you do, too!
3. Soak in a Hot Artesian Spa
We absolutely love soaking in a piping hot pool, and Outback Queensland, with access to the huge underwater Artesian Basin, is absolutely full of them.
Our favourites include Charlotte Plains, near Cunnamulla, and Lara Wetlands, near Barcaldine, both of which also have great campgrounds right by the pools, as well as the little towns of Yowah and Julia Creek. There’s nothing better than a nice hot soak to wash all that outback red dust away!
4. Explore a gorge or four
For some reason Queensland’s gorges seem to be less well known than other states, despite being equally as impressive. But the flip side to that is they’re also less touristed, meaning you’re more likely to find a quiet place all to yourself.
Carnarvon and Lawn Hill gorges are our two favourite picks, but others like Cobbold or Porcupine gorge are also well worth a visit. Get your walking boots on, and go exploring (and don’t forgot to pack your swimmers for a quick dip).
5. Check out the stars
Anywhere in Outback Australia is great for stargazing – clear open skies with very little light pollution give stunning views of the Milky Way. But if you’re not really sure what your looking at then heading along to a stargazing evening with some experts is a great way to orientate you to our place in the universe and learn a little more about the skies above us.
We particularly enjoyed the Cosmos Centre and Observatory in Charleville – even our then 4 year-old loved looking through their huge telescopes and learning about the moon and stars, so it’s fantastic for adults and kids alike.
6. Meet a bilby
And while you’re in Charleville checking out the stars, don’t forget to also pop in to the Charleville Bilby Experience, run by the Save the Bilby Fund.
Here you can get up close and personal with a bilby or two, and all proceeds go back towards bilby conservation, including helping maintain the large predator free fenced off wildlife area nearby (which cannot be visited by tourists). Bilbies are such unique Australian creatures, and getting to meet one up close is a very special experience.
7. Stand in three states at once
There’s only one place in Australia where three states intersect – the little corner of the world known as Cameron Corner. Here NSW, SA and Qld meet, in the middle of the Outback, and you can go visit it and enjoy the novelty of being in three places at once.
Cameron’s Corner has a permanent population of roughly five people, a pub, a campsite, and not really all that much else. But once a year it’s also the home of the most rocking New Years Eve Party in Australia, where you not only get to countdown to the New Year in Qld’s time zone, but in NSW & SA’s as well, making it one of the few places in the world where you can legitimately celebrate the New Year three times over.
8. Go to the races
Now you may think the Melbourne Cup is Australia’s biggest horse race, but I can tell you now, in our experience it’s certainly not the best. Outback races give a whole new level of atmosphere and experience that just can’t be found in the big smoke at Flemington. And fortunately, there’s plenty of places in Outback Qld to watch a race – and not always of the equine kind.
You can watch the horses at the famous Birdsville races, or the camel races at Boulia. And if that’s not enough excitement for you, you can even watch chickens race in Tambo (formerly in Winton). No matter what type of races take your fancy, you’ll find somewhere to get your glam on and have a flutter in Outback Qld.
9. Fossick for precious gems
Just as we weren’t aware that Outback Qld was full of dinosaur bones until we visited, neither did we realise how rich the earth is. We knew Australia had plenty of opal (some might say, the best opal in the world!), but we didn’t know about the other precious gems like sapphires and emeralds (hence the towns named after them).
Fortunately there’s plenty of ways to learn more about Queensland’s gem industry by visiting towns along the Gemfields like Sapphire, Emerald, and Rubyvale, then exploring the local museums, taking a mine tour, or even going for a fossick yourself. And if opal is more your thing then Queensland has you covered there too, with towns like Quilpie and Yowah to explore. You just might get lucky and strike it rich yourself!
10. Wind down with a cold beer
An Australian Outback Town is not really an outback town unless it has an awesome little pub full of cold beers, friendly locals, and often a strange collection of memorabilia and knick knacks coating the walls. And Outback Queensland is of course no exception. In fact, some might argue their Outback pubs are the best of the lot!
With such famous establishments as the Birdsville Hotel, the Noccundra Hotel, the Walkabout Creek Hotel (made famous by Crocodile Dundee), and the Nindigully Pub (to name just a few) you’ll be absolutely spoiled for choice. But no matter where you find yourself in Outback Qld, pull in to your local watering hole, grab yourself a hearty pub meal, have a chat with a local personality, and wash away the red dust with a nice cold beer. Now this is living!