3 days of Outback Queensland adventure
If you think Outback Queensland is just a one-trick pony of sunburnt dirt, long roads and sweeping plains, you’ve got another thing coming.
There’s plenty of #trueoutback fodder to flood your Insta feed with but spend a few days traipsing through Queensland’s back country, and you’ll discover untold treasures to add to your travel swag.
Forget spending the whole time on the road too; three towns in three days is as easy as A-B-C, if you know where to go.
From action-packed adventure-time in Cunamulla to Quilpie’s glittering gemfields, stopping to stargaze in Charleville on the way, here’s how to make the most of three days in Outback Queensland.
7AM: BE A CUNNAMULLA FELLA
Kickstart your outback odyssey in Cunnamulla, home to the Slim Dusty-immortalised, ‘Cunnamulla fella’. The larrikin spirit is strong here; visit the Cunnamulla Fella Visitor Centre to find out why and make your plan of attack.
Head to Out The Back Australia Tours, masters at Cunnamulla adventuring. From fishing to river kayaking and sandboarding, entertainment = sorted no matter how long you are staying.
(The day-long guided Warrego River kayaking tours kick off at 8am, so make sure you book in the day before.)
9.30AM: FREE WHEELIN’
Escape the hottest part of the day down by the Warrego River. The lifeblood of this desert region, the mighty Warrego winds its way through south-western Queensland, bringing with it plenty of water-based fun.
The picturesque Warrego Riverwalk is a great way to see a huge variety of wildlife and take in the sights while staying high and dry.
Adrenalin junkie? Grab a board and hit the dunes for some downhill action. Similar to snowboarding, it’s the perfect way to get your heart rate up and feel the wind in your face!
- Splish splash in an Artesian Mud Bath in Eulo. Kick back with a glass of vino while the mineral-rich, clay mud soaks its way into your skin and works its revitalising magic.
- Birds of a feather may flock together, but birdwatchers in the know will hit up the Bowra Sanctuary, just 16km west of Cunnamulla; with more than 200 species of birds to peep at, it’s a birdwatcher’s heaven.
12PM: CAMPFIRE TALES
Ever seen a drover in action? While sitting around a campfire? We bet you haven’t! Which means the campfire lunch and show is made for you.
Gather ‘round the Gidyea coal campfire, in the grounds of the historic Club Boutique Hotel (your digs for the evening), where real-life drover Les Capewell entertains tourists with animated and witty tales from droving days, while cracking the whip in true outback style.
2.30PM: HISTORY REPEATING
Book the three-hour Town and Industry Tour to go behind-the-scenes on this historic town. Your local guide will let you in on all the insider info as you cruise past historically significant sites like Allan Tannock Weir, the local cemetery that tells a thousand stories, the old sawmill housing and the Darby Land Bridge.
Don’t forget to snap a selfie with the bronze statue of the Cunnamulla Fella himself, erected in tribute to the bush folk and ‘stringers’ that call Paroo Shire home, as you cruise back into town.
All those history lessons work up an appetite; smoko will be waiting at the renovated heritage Club Boutique Hotel before you make tracks on the Heritage Trail for more #history.
4PM: AS THE SUN SETS…
Slow down the pace with a languid river cruise up the glass-still waters of the Warrego River as the sun sets.
BYO cold beers and wine, Out The Back Tours will take care of the rest (including nibbles). How romantic!
6AM: ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Time to hit the road, Jack. You’ve got 200km (2 hrs and 12 mins) of red dust to leave behind before you pull into south-west Queensland’s largest town, Charleville.
Home to many a road trip pit-stop, it’s got a healthy dose of charm mixed with classic outback experiences; a worthy destination in its own right.
8.15AM: ROCK ON
Roll into town and make your way to modern-cool, The Rocks Motel, where you’ll rest your weary head tonight.
Fill your belly and grab a cup of joe at On the Rocks Restaurant before you head out to explore.
10AM: WHAT’S UP, WEATHERMAN
Predicting the weather is not all sunshine and lollipops. Get a firsthand look at where the art of being a weatherman meets the science at the Charleville Bureau of Meteorology, and just watch the automated balloon release.
The bureau is open Monday to Thursdays with guided tours from 8.45am.
Leave time before lunch to check out the Royal Flying Doctors Service Visitor Centre, which opened in 2014. The iconic flying ambulance continues to provide vital services to the most remote parts of Queensland, while the interactive displays give a great insight into its history and continued operations.
(If you happen to be in town on a Wednesday evening, you can contribute to the RFDS by heading to the Bailey Bar Caravan Park and having a flutter on the Charleville Yabby Races. It’s high-stakes stuff so make sure you’re there by 6pm and each ticket includes a hearty camp oven dinner to boot.)
A quick stroll next door is the cute-as-a-button Bilby Experience run by the Save the Bilby Foundation. As far as marsupials go, the bilby is one endangered little critter. Catch quick glimpses of their cuteness as they run to and fro in enclosed burrows; the Bilby Experience only runs from April to October, but it’s the perfect way to help out
Catch quick glimpses of their cuteness as they run to and fro in enclosed burrows; the Bilby Experience only runs from April to October, but it’s the perfect way to help out and get your furry Australian fauna fix at the same time.
Head to the Milky Way (seriously, it’s a street name), and discover the HQ of some of the US Military’s most top-secret operations during WWII.
Part of the Charleville Airport became the good ol’ US of A in 1940, and it’s now the Top Secret United State Airbase History Convoy Tour. All you need is your own car and a small fee to recreate Mission: Impossible, outback Queensland style.
Get a taste of what it’s like to be in a classroom of one at the School of Distance Education, where 260 outback children get their daily learning on, via correspondence. School’s out on public holidays and weekends, so plan accordingly.
Play the ultimate game of eye-spy with star clusters 17,000 light years away, solar flares or the craters on the moon, at the Cosmos Centre.
Count your lucky stars with an Introduction to the Night Sky (night experience), or peek through the solar scope as part of a day observatory session.
8AM: THE WIDE OPEN ROAD
Say ciao to Charleville as you hit the tar again on the road west to opalescent, quirky Quilpie (just 210km, or 3 hours 36 minutes drive) for a day of fossicking, and relaxed sightseeing.
MIDDAY: OPAL DREAMS
You’ve hit peak outback level now, it’s time to hit the jackpot… fingers crossed. Quilpie is home to the impressive boulder opal; try your hand at fossicking at the free fossicking area in town, or head to Toompine opal field (between Quilpie and Yowah), which includes Duck Creek and Sheep Creek opal mines.
If you’re between a rock and boulder finding ‘The Jewel of the Outback’, there are plenty of shops and specialty sellers in Quilpie who’ve done the hard yards for you.
AFTER LUNCH: DOWN BY THE RIVER
The outback isn’t all red dirt and desert, and Quilpie has Bulloo Riverwalk to prove it. Brimming with greenery and native species, everything is conveniently signed so you know what you’re looking at.
Feeling a little lethargic? Grab a shady spot under a tree and drop a line in, or head to Lake Houdraman for a quick picnic-style afternoon tea.
6PM: SUNSETS ARE TOPS
Oh, what a shame, this is the last sunset of the trip. Better make the most of it! Baldy Top is only 7.4km out of Quilpie on Toompine Road, and excuse me while I get a little excited, this sunset is TO DIE FOR.
A quick scramble to the top of Baldy Top Lookout, the fire-in-the-sky style light show is always at the top of its game.
Sun’s down, head back to town for some classic country pub grub at the Imperial Quilpie Hotel Motel, before hitting the hay at Channel Country Tourist Park.