48 hours of outback adventure in Charleville
Cue the Pet Shop Boys and get ready to go west. Central mid-west that is, to the town of Charleville, approximately 750 kilometres west of Brisbane, on the banks of the Warrego River.
Geographically speaking, Charleville is the centre of the Outback Queensland universe, at the crossroads of the Mitchell and Warrego Highways, the two arteries of western Queensland. Sitting between Longreach, Roma and Quilpie, and en route to Birdsville, Charleville is a convenient pitstop for those making the pilgrimage to the Birdsville races in September.
More than just a stopover destination though, there’s plenty to see and do to make a weekend of it. Here’s how we recommend spending 48 hours in this outback town.
12noon: Arrive in town
Depending on how you like to travel, you can drive to Charleville if you’ve got 10 hours to put rubber on the road from Brisbane. You can also wing it in under two hours with Qantas Link. The daily flight will get you into Charleville just in time for an afternoon of adventure.
3.30pm: Check out the architecture
Make a beeline for Willis and Alfred Streets, to kick off an architecture tour of Charleville’s pretty centre. The finest architecture is found in the pubs, so be sure to enjoy a coldie as you soak up the old-world design.
Hotel Charleville fires up on a Saturday afternoon with weekly guinea pig races. Join the locals who huddle to watch the little fluffballs waddle down a custom-made track.
From Hotel Charleville, it’s only a block to the iconic Hotel Corones where you can see original architecture at its finest. Head upstairs to check out the antique collections.
6.00pm: Chase the sunset
One of the best ways to acquaint yourself with the town is to meander along the Warrego River Walk, which takes you along the banks of the river, across the floodplains and through channels. Time your walk for sunset to soak up all the colours of the outback from the viewing deck about halfway along. The outback comes to life at sunset in a sea of red and orange.
7 pm: A place to lay your head
If you want a place that’s just far enough out of town to feel like the country, but close enough that you can still see the neighbours, we’d suggest Cobb & Co Caravan Park on Ridgeway Street.
Like most accommodation in the outback, it’s motel-style with ice-cold air-conditioning and friendly staff. The only surprise is the sulphuric water, which runs hot 24 hours, casting a pungent aroma, which ironically leaves your hair fragrance free and soft.
10am: Tick off the sites
Save the morning to discover the Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Centre, which opened to the public in October 2014. The interactive displays show how the RFDS has grown from humble beginnings in Cloncurry in 1928 to a network of health car for remote Australians.
Then head next door to the Bilby Experience to get your cute Aussie animal fix. The centre only opens April to October, so you need to time your trip wisely if you want to see these little creatures scurry around their burrows.
After lunch: Cool off
It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit the outback, it’s always warmer here than the coast. As the mercury rises, take the afternoon to cool off at the local pool.
8pm: Aim for the stars
Charleville Cosmos Centre is an astronomer’s dream and every night the roof rolls back to expose three Meade telescopes, which can spot a globular cluster light-years away.
The sky-guides explain what you can see – a scattering of planets, open clusters, globular clusters and coloured stars. Even with the naked eye, prepare to be blown away by the brightness of the night sky.
10am: Take the road less travelled
Make the most of your central location and visit Cunnamulla and Eulo, 200 kilometers south of Charleville. It’s unexpected to find a spa in the middle of the outback, especially not one so highly praised for its age-defying and rejuvenating qualities.
Enter the artesian mud baths in Eulo, where you can rub 20,000-year-old mud all over yourself and feel the benefits of silica, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and zinc soaking into your pores whilst sitting under the outback sun. Hydrate with a glass of white, replenish yourself with a cheese plate and walk away feeling 10 years younger… this writer did.