Who said that the outback was inaccessible? During my six months travelling around the Sunshine State, I visited some of its biggest attractions, which I realised were mainly along the coast. But I also realised, sometimes you don’t need to travel very far to see true natural gems that not so many people know about.
Here are 5 of of my top outback road trips for those who want to go off the beaten track, but not spend all day in the car to get there!
1. Undara Volcanic National Park (4 1/2 hours from Cairns)
It’s where you can explore the largest lava tubes in the world and enjoy cheese and wine, while watching one of the most beautiful sunsets over the Savannah. I loved walking through the tubes with a torch, listening to the passionate guide – nothing else in the world compares to what this place looks like. I especially remember when she asked us to switch off our lights. We were all pretty impressed to find ourselves in the complete obscurity in the middle of the day. Watching the bats flying out of tubes as the sun went down was also very special!
I made the most of my visit by staying at Undara Experience. I just loved the idea of sleeping in an ancient railway carriage. I like finding quirky accommodation! The brekkie in the bush was something to remember as well. We cooked our toast in the campfire, while the kookaburas were waiting up in the trees for any opportunity to steal a piece of food!
Character? This place has it by the truckload.
2. Hidden Valley (2 hours from Townsville)
Hidden Valley is a peaceful place and a true ‘bush experience’ while being just two hours from the coast. Surrounded by the gum trees, I enjoyed listening to the bird calls while reading a book in the garden of Hidden Valley Cabins, the first solar-powered resort in Australia.
Ian, the owner, is particularly proud of its solar panels and is happy to take you through the facilities. It’s fascinating to see the behind the scenes and learn about this sustainable installation.
When you come to Hidden Valley, meeting the locals is something not to be missed. So, I followed Ian for a platypus safari in the late afternoon. He is the expert and knows where they love to swim and feed. They are such curious creatures, but also very shy. Better be quiet!
If you prefer to spot possums, again, you’re at the right place. Enjoy a home-cooked dinner with Ian, his nice wife Bonny and the other guests first then grab a torch for a night tour. Up in the gum trees, their eyes shine in the direct light. If you’re lucky you might see a glider flying from tree to tree – it’s a pretty cool thing to witness!
3. Myella Farm Stay at Baralaba (2 hours from Rockhampton)
The couple of days I spent in this beautiful country with down to earth locals at Myella Farm Stay is one of my best souvenirs. Lyn and her parents have created a genuine farm for the tourists to enjoy and discover lots of activities.
They make everything accessible from horse riding to milking a cow or bottle feeding a rescued baby kangaroo. There are motorbikes available also to go watch the incredibly colourful sunset. Don’t be surprised if you are woken up by Pink Floyd – the curious and talkative galah – while you have a nap in the hammock! He is very friendly and likes to ask for your name.
This is an experience that will make you fall in love with the outback.
4. Bunya Mountains National Park (3 hours from Brisbane)
Bunya Mountains National Park is the home of a rare species of massive trees, called, you guessed it, Bunya Pines. They can be up to 45 metres high and look different to any other trees. The biggest challenge is trying to take a picture. They never fit in my lens! Watch your head while walking in the magical rainforest, a bunya pine cone can weigh up to eight kilograms!
Camping is always an option but why not rent a huge house to take all your family or friends for a weekend? There is a large range to choose from there and they all come with a view over the range. You’ll wake up surrounded by the roos and wallabies hopping in the garden.
5. Girraween National Park (3 hours from Brisbane)
Girraween is one of my favourite national parks in Queensland with no hesitation. I felt like I was in another world while bushwalking in the area. The landscape is lunar and dramatic, the granite is everywhere and often you walk past huge boulders balancing in the air. Mother Nature really does amazing things!
I loved the serenity in this special place and I could have stayed hours at the top of the Pyramid, just watching the clouds passing by and amazed by the view over the region. Photo opportunities are aplenty, especially playing with the Balancing Rock. For those who don’t feel like a challenge, go swimming in boulder creeks. Camping is very popular in this national park and it would be a mistake not to check it out.
So, what do you reckon? Feel like you could take a weekend outback adventure?
*Photography Maxime Coquard