Warrego Way road trip: Brisbane to Charleville and back in 5 days
You’ve cleared your schedule and want to get away for a few days but can’t bear the thought of braving airport crowds. You like the freedom of travelling on your own time, stopping wherever and whenever you like. And you’ve got a cracking playlist of ’90s tunes ready to go.
You need a road trip!
I’ve done quite a few road trips in my time, but I’d never driven into Outback Queensland before. Here’s how I drove 1480 kilometres along the Warrego Way from Brisbane to Charleville and back in 5 days and 4 nights.
Day One: Brisbane to Dalby 208km (2.5 Hours)
Make sure you’re organised and have the car packed the night before, get up at sparrows (meaning insanely early), have breakfast at home and aim to be on the road by 6am. That way you can avoid city traffic and also arrive in Dalby by 8:30am so you have the whole day to explore the region.
Pick up a coffee and stretch your legs with a walk through town or down along the river. Jump back in the car and drive another 27kms out to Jimbour to spend the morning at the historic Jimbour House.
This grand establishment was built in 1876 and while the interior remains closed except for private events including weddings, it is definitely worth making the small donation at the garden entry to gain access to the ‘Living History Walk’ around the grounds.
From Jimbour, make your way through the back roads to Bunya Mountains National Park. Depending on which way your navigation takes you, there might be an unsealed road, but it is well maintained and a regular car can probably handle it.
Alternatively, you have to spend some extra time doubling back through Dalby to get to the Bunyas. Arrive in the Bunya Mountains and have a nice lunch at one of the local cafes or get some snacks from the grocery store before you head to one of the hiking trails.
I recommend the Barker Creek Lookout Track starting at the Paradise car park. This easy trail takes you 5.4kms through the enchanting forest of ancient bunya pines, past some nice little waterfalls and then out over the ridge to Barker Creek Lookout. I can safely guarantee that you are going to see a lot of wallabies along the way. Be on the lookout for some of the spectacular native birds as well.
Allow enough time to drive the 47kms (about 45 minutes drive as the mountain road is winding) back to Dalby before the sun goes down. We stayed at the Motel Myall, which is just across the road from the Criterion Steak House, so we closed out the day with a well-earned meal and an early night.
Day Two: Dalby to Mitchell via Miles and Roma 355km (4 Hours)
There are a few places to stop along the way so it’s best to get up early again, have a nice breakfast at one of the cafes in the main street of Dalby and get going. I loved the cotton fields that line the highway just west of Dalby and had to stop for a photo opportunity.
Another hour down the Warrego Way you’ll come to Chinchilla. Make a pit stop to have a walk down the main street and check out the local shops.
About 1.5hrs from Dalby, you’ll arrive in Miles. There you will find the Miles Historical Village and Museum where you can spend the morning strolling through the region’s past and learn about the history of this quaint country town.
The village is a mix of authentic pieces and replicas and it feels like you really are in a time gone by. You can visit the corner store, the bank, school and car garage to name a few and get a sense of what it would have been like to live in a time free of our modern technologies and luxuries.
Hit the road again and drive approximately 1.5 hrs to Roma where you can stop for lunch. There are a few pubs to choose from or some nice cafes on McDowall Street. We also happened to stumble across the ‘Team Fruit and Veg’ truck and replenished our rapidly depleting road trip snacks with some fresh bananas, apples and strawberries.
Team Fruit and Veg travel back and forward between Roma and Charleville each week, stopping at a different town each day so keep an eye out when passing through each town.
From Roma, you’ll really start to see the landscape open up to the Outback, and another hour down the road and you will make it to your next destination: Mitchell.
Spend the afternoon relaxing in the Great Artesian Spa, or head 7kms out of town to Arrest Creek. Here you’ll find the monuments that commemorate the police officers who caught the last known bushrangers, the Kenniff brothers, in 1902.
Head back into Mitchell and pick up a bottle of wine and nibblies before making your way over to the Neil Turner Weir. This is the perfect spot to enjoy an amazing outback sunset.
Staying at the Major Mitchell Caravan Park, we had the choice of a plot of land to pitch a tent or to park a caravan, but we went with the cabin option complete with kitchenette and ensuite. It was lovely to be greeted on check in by the site’s mascots – two Major Mitchell’s cockatoos (or pink cockatoos) at reception.
Day Three: Mitchell to Charleville 180km (2hrs)
After a morning walk along the misty banks of the Maranoa River and breakfast at the Mitchell Bakery, it’s time to get back on the road towards the end of the line, Charleville. It’s not a very long drive for the final stretch, but you want to get there in time to have lunch at one of the legendary pubs before seeing the sights.
Head to the Cosmos Centre and Observatory for an afternoon learning about the night’s skies. They have a small variety of space rocks on display and if you’re a space nerd like me, you’ll probably freak out when you get to hold an actual meteorite!
Next stop was the Bilby Experience Centre. After watching a short, informative video on the bilby, venture out to see some of the wallabies and kangaroos that have found shelter here after being injured.
Once the sun has set, try to contain your excitement as the super cute little bilbies make an appearance from their burrows. I was lucky enough to see one up close as one of the carers held her. Being nocturnal, though, she wanted to get back to sleep so our encounter was just for a few minutes but special all the same.
Return to the Cosmos Centre to witness the night sky in all its glory. With the nearest major town sitting hundreds of miles away, the sky is clear and free of any light pollution, giving you an absolutely breathtaking view of the stars.
Day Four: Charleville to Roma 268km (3 Hours)
We stayed at the Charleville Bush Caravan Park in a cosy little cottage. We woke up to the sound of wild birds getting a start on their day and the sun bursting through the long grass and trees.
If you have more time on your hands and a vehicle that can handle the challenge of unsealed roads, keep heading out along the Warrego Way to Birdsville. For me, it was the end of the line and time to start the trek back to Brisbane.
My advice is to always pay attention to the road. Even when there is not another car in sight, you still have to keep your wits about you while driving through ‘roo territory.
Also keep your eyes peeled for other friendly locals. I had to come to a screeching halt when I spotted an adorable echidna on the side of the road.
Fun fact: Did you know that the echidna is one of only two mammals in the world that lay eggs. The other one is also Australian. Do you know which one? See there answer here.
We arrived in Roma in time for one last Outback sunset.
And one last Outback Pub meal before heading to our motel for the night, the Best Western Bungil Creek Motel.
Day Five: Roma to Jondaryan 308km (3.5hrs)
If you have timed your trip right and are in Roma on a Tuesday or Thursday morning, pop down and watch the Cattle Sales that start at 8am, before getting back on the road and heading east.
After passing back through Dalby and before you get to Toowoomba, consider a little detour to the Woolshed at Jondaryan just off the Warrego Highway. Spend some time exploring the historic site and visit the farm animals in the nursery such as goats, chickens, roosters and boisterous pigs.
Day Five Continued: Jondaryan to Brisbane via Toowoomba 168km (2hrs)
For stop with a view, head to Picnic Point and Parkland in Toowoomba, which overlooks the highway that winds its way up and down the range. There’s a cafe at the point to have some lunch, along with walking trails that serve up views east towards Brisbane and also lead you to a hidden garden complete with mesmerising waterfall.
If you’d like to do the full Warrego Way trip right out to Birdsville, check out the journey listing for some ideas on what to do from Charleville to Birdsville.
Extra Road Trip Tips:
- Driving time is listed as go to whoa, so allow extra time to stop for photos and exploring other towns along the way.
- Keep in mind that the Bilby Experience is not a daily event, nor are the cattle sales in Roma. So check schedules to plan your road trip accordingly.
- Drive only in daylight hours if you can help it. As the sun sets, the kamikaze kangaroos get on the move and have not been taught to look left, right and left again before crossing the highway.
- We did this trip in 5 days and 4 nights. If you have a list of must do’s on the trip, having extra time up your sleeve to tick them off is ideal. For example, if you get to Charleville and it is overcast, the Cosmos Centre will be a no go as the telescope will give you a fantastic close up of the clouds. Having an extra day as backup to try again the next night would be ideal. Alternatively, if you nailed everything you came to see and still have the extra time, extend the trip with a night in Toowoomba on the way back.
- Most importantly, please drive safely! If you’re stuck behind a campervan or a ridiculously long road train, be patient and only pass when it is safe to do so.
Have you been on a road trip along the Warrego Way? What was your favourite part?
Share your road trip adventures with us by tagging them to @queensland #thisisqueensland.