100 things to do in Outback Queensland
I challenge you to find a more diverse destination than Outback Queensland. It’s where you can dig for dinosaurs one minute and inspect cutting-edge aerospace technology the next.
It’s no surprise that Outback Queensland can fit so much activity and history within its borders. The region’s geographical footprint is six percent larger than Italy, and has a prehistoric history that makes Rome look like it was built yesterday.
If you like your road trips epic, beers cold and characters warm, I think you’re ready to open Pandora’s outback box.
Before you set off, check out these 100 must-dos in Outback Queensland and see how many you can tick off.
1. Do the locomotion across the great western plains in the luxury of a private sleeper on board the Spirit of the Outback train, which stations in Longreach.
2. Delve into the engine room of a coal mine with the Mount Isa Hard Mines Tour. The Orange is the New Black-jumpsuit you’ll have to wear is only just the start of the fun you’ll have underground.
3. Cast off into Charleville’s Warrego River, rich with yellow belly, Murray cod, silver and spangled perch.
4. Outback Queensland is Country Women’s Association (CWA) cooking-territory, so don’t be shy trying the sweets out west. My pick is Charleville Bakery’s vanilla slice – think pink icing, a soft biscuit base and fresh cream on the side (and yes, the cream is essential).
5. Put some red sand between your tyre treads and conquer Big Red, the first sand dune in the Simpson Desert, 40 clicks out of Birdsville. It’s incidentally one of the best spots for sunset out west.
6. You’ve heard of the Big Banana, Big Apple and Big Prawn in this post, but have you heard of the Big Ant? And not just any ant I might add – a meat ant. Visit Augathella and learn more about this interesting insect who can lift 100 times its own weight.
7. Step back in time at the Morven Museum and improve your Trivial Pursuit knowledge with fun facts about pioneer life. The miniature building display is not to be missed – it’s been painstakingly recreated over 15 years and accurately replicates the pioneering township.
8. Strike it lucky and visit Yowah to fossick for one of Australia’s most precious opals, the Yowah Opal Nut.
9. Complete an epic outback road trip – whether it’s The Warrego Way (Brisbane to Birdsville), The Savannah Way (Cairns to Lawn Hill), the Overlanders Way (Townsville to Mt Isa) or the Matilda Way (Charleville to Normanton) – all roads lead to outback epicentres.
10. Pay homage to Burke and Wills at the Dig Tree on the bank of Cooper Creek, where the boys buried their supplies before walking to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
11. Fancy yourself a bit of a cowboy? Saddle up for the ride of your life at the Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo School where cowboys and girls come from all around Australia to learn the basics of bronco and bull riding.
12. Kronosaurus Korner at Richmond is Queensland’s answer to Jurassic Park – and if you dig dinos, this is a must-visit destination. Here you can meet Penny the plesiosaur and Australia’s largest fossilised fish, aptly named, Wanda.
13. Shake hands with the entire population of Cheepie. Don’t worry, you won’t be at it all day – it’s a population of two.
14. What say you to a therapeutic spa for 22 people in Bedourie? This all-natural spa treatment is fed by the artesian basin and promises a relaxing temperature all year round.
15. Shake your derriere in tight denim at Australia’s Best Butt Competition, which kicks off the Julia Creek Dirt ‘n’ Dust Festival each April.
16. Princess Mary isn’t our only Australian-born royal. Get yourself to Eulo to meet a Queen of another sort. Isabel Grey, aka The Eulo Queen, is legendary in this neck of the woods – just ask a few locals how she earned her title.
17. They build them bigger in the outback and Cubbie Station near Dirranbandi is no different. Pay a visit to the largest irrigated cotton farm in the southern hemisphere and check out cotton production on a mass scale.
18. Get to know the humble beginnings of Qantas in Cloncurry with a visit to their original aerodrome, which marks where the first passenger flew from Longreach to Cloncurry in 1922.
19. Move over Cannes, there’s a new film festival in town and The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival is Outback Queensland’s best movie marathon. Walk the Winton red carpet and watch films over nine days.
20. Kick up your heels at the Birdsville Races and see what causes the tiny town of Birdsville to explode to a population of 10,000 each year during race week.
21. Rouse the cattle and crack the whip by joining the Harry Redford Cattle Drive, a 19-day journey which follows the footsteps of cattle duffer Harry Redford through the dusty plains of Aramac.
22. Check out the Cunnamulla Fella in all his bronzed, buff glory to see why this Aussie larrikin has been immortalised on the town’s main street.
23. Any tourist worth their selfie stick, should stop in at the Walkabout Creek Hotel in McKinlay for the ultimate holiday photo. This hotel was made famous 30 years ago for its role in Crocodile Dundee. While you won’t see Paul Hogan sauntering around the pub now, it’s as good a place as any for lunch and a coldie.
24. Pay a visit to Thargomindah to pick up a bumper sticker that reads “London, Paris, Thargomindah”. You too will want to celebrate that this little town was the third town in the world to produce hydro-electric street lighting after London and Paris in 1893.
25. Play spotto with the local wildlife in Cunnamulla. Did you know this town has the largest population of kangaroos and wallabies in Outback Queensland? You’re bound to see a shy echidna or two in this neck of the woods too.
26. Dying to visit Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales all at once? It’s NBD in Outback Queensland – just pop down to Cameron Corner and put your feet in three states without stepping foot on a plane.
27. Don’t like beach holidays? You won’t feel alone if you take a vacay in Eromanga – Australia’s furthest town from the coastline.
28. Move over ‘pub with no beer’. Outback Queensland raises you the pub with no town at Toompine.
29. Stand in the very spot where the Australian Labor Party first formed after the Shearing Strike of 1891 – The Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine. Sure, the real tree may have met a poisonous demise, but the memorial replacement is well worth the Barcaldine detour.
30. Everyone needs a ‘Hughie‘ in their life – especially when he’s a seven-metre-tall Muttaburrasaurus dinosaur. Come face to face with this impressive fossil at the Flinders Discovery Centre in Hughenden.
31. Cuddle up to a Tambo Teddy – made by the local Tambo ladies. More than just a pretty, cuddly face, these little bundles of 100% wool are handmade and come with their own personality and name.
32. Lay low on the banks of the Barcoo River and enjoys hours of unbelievable bird watching.
33. Back a winner and prepare for a giggle as long-legged, big-footed but ever graceful camels take to the track at the Winton Camel Races.
34. If you like big bones, then get yourself to Eromanga where Australia’s largest dinosaur – a Titanasaur – can be found in all its skeletal glory.
35. Go surfing in the outback, and by that I mean sand surfing the dunes in Cunnamulla.
36. Head across the desert country and find an oasis of fun at Lake Dunn.
37. Fancy yourself a bit of an Adam Scott? Then tee off at the Bedourie Outback Golf Course. Not surprisingly, the course has plenty of sand traps to bunker you down.
38. You’ve seen a horse race, you’ve seen a camel race, but have you seen a goat race? Get yourself to Barcaldine for the annual Goat Races and watch these cute kids (pun intended) hoof it down the track.
39. Check out Queensland’s answer to the Grand Canyon – Cobbold Gorge. This majestic sandstone wilderness is the very definition of beautiful, with cliff walls that stretch 30m above the narrow creek running below. The best way to soak up the scenery is to join Cobbold Gorge Tours for a boat tour through the gorge.
40. Pack your rod and fisherman pants and head north to the Gulf Savannah, affectionately known as the outback by the sea, for some of the best fishing in Australia.
41. Have a flutter at the Roma picnic races. It’s an annual pilgrimage as city slickers make the 475km drive west for a taste of country racing at its finest.
42. Stop, revive and relax in Mitchell’s therapeutic artesian spas – you’re guaranteed to come away with relaxed muscles and eased tension.
43. Join the outback postman for the ultimate tour, as he makes his 400km mail run out of Quilpie.
44. Shout out a “cooee” across Cawnpore Lookout’s awe-inspiring flat-topped hills.
45. Join Scotty the barefoot poet at Kinnon & Co in Longreach for the legendary reading of Australian bush classics.
46. Forget the Caulfield Cup and put on your best duds for the running of Outback Queensland’s answer, the Corfield Cup.
47. If a form guide full of horses doesn’t get you excited, the weekly guinea pig races at the Charleville Hotel will. Watch these tiny fluffballs waddle down a custom-built track where the high-stake prizes are a carrot stick and celery stalk for the winner.
48. Make your own mind up if Min Min lights are a phenomenon or not in Boulia. If you don’t see them in the wild, swing by the Min Min Encounter for the fibre optic show.
49. See for yourself the lifesaving works of the Royal Flying Doctor Service at their interactive museum in Charleville.
50. Enjoy a spa treatment with an outback difference at the Eulo Mud Baths, where you soak in artesian mud that’s rich with 20 million years’ worth of magnesium, potassium and calcium.
51. Unearth a slice of WWII history at Mount Isa’s Underground Hospital and Beth Anderson Museum.
52. Travel the world’s longest main street – 188 kilometres from Mount Isa to Camooweal.
53. Hope to make new discoveries at Ernest Henry copper-gold mine outside of Cloncurry.
54. Visit Quilpie, the mecca for opal miners and tourists alike who visit the public fossicking area in the hope of uncovering a priceless boulder opal. BYO hand tools, picks, shovels and sieves – you’ll be looking for a speck of colour on top of the ground that catches your attention.
55. Shake up what you know about fossils with a visit to the Riversleigh Fossil Centre, where you can come face-to-face with the prehistoric inhabitants of Outback Australia.
56. Walk on the wing of a plane and stand inside its propeller at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach.
57. See what all the fuss is about at the Poddy Dodgers Festival at Croydon. The event hosts eyebrow-raising events like the ’World Title Wild Cow Milking’ and ‘Greasy Pig Chase’.
58. The Birdsville Races might be the race that stops the outback, but there is certainly a pre-show performance that’s not to be missed – the Windorah Yabby Races. Join the part-ay on the main street of Windorah and watch yabbies go head-to-head in a race to the finish line.
59. Admire the majestic sandstone cliffs at Porcupine Gorge National Park and, if you’re up to it, complete the pyramid walk or have a go at the Gorge Challenge.
60. If the only bilby you’ve ever seen was made of chocolate, you’re probably not alone. To see one in the flesh, make a beeline for Charleville to check out their intricate burrows, long ears and little paws as they scurry around the Charleville Bilby Experience, which is working to protect this endangered species.
62. Have a strum of the world’s only musical fence – you’ll find it in Winton.
63. Pitch camp at Rangelands where the sun puts on a spectacular show as it sinks beyond the horizon.
64. Settle down for an ale or two at the bar of the Clancy of the Overflow Hotel, Isisford.
65. Check out the world’s only dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry Conservation Park and see more than 3,300 fossilised dinosaur footprints.
66. Speaking of music, have you been to the Big Red Bash? Like Coachella, the Big Red Bash is set in a desert and draws thousands of music lovers who head west for a weekend of great tunes – albeit with less headbands, fringed jackets and Hollywood celebrities rocking out in the crowd.
67. Have a Jackaroo or Jillaroo experience at Bonus Downs Farm Stay in Mitchell.
68. Could this be the best place in the world to look at the stars? With barely any light pollution in Outback Queensland, the stars are magnificent in this part of the world. For those really into their astronomy, munch on a Mars bar at the Cosmos Centre in Charleville.
69. Book into the Club Boutique Motel, Cunnamulla for a dinner that wouldn’t look out of place in an inner-city restaurant – think pork belly, lamb ribs, and porterhouse so good that you’d seriously consider going round two if you weren’t already so full.
70. Get your RM Williams boots out of the office and put some dirt on them with Outback Aussie Tours – packaged tours that take you to all corners of the outback.
71. As if regular outback events weren’t hard enough, Big Red Run gives new meaning to an endurance event. In this multi-day race, the fittest of the fit will run 250kms through the Simpson Desert raising money for Diabetes.
72. How many people can say they’ve put their wheels in four deserts? Join the hordes who tick the Birdsville Track off their driving bucket list as it connects Marree in South Australia to Birdsville in Queensland.
73. Brush up on Australian history with a visit to the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which pays tribute to life on the land. Their Outback Stockman’s Show is not to be missed with trick horses, dogs and sheep, all part of the A-list act.
74. Check out the world’s biggest classroom which spans 420,000 square kilometres at the School of Distance Education in Charleville. Join the tour for a first-hand encounter of how lessons take place for the 260 students who live on remote stations and can’t attend regular schools.
75. If you haven’t tried one of Dusty Miller’s curried camel pies at the Birdsville Bakery, you haven’t truly been to the outback. Give them a go… just try not to look at the camel rides just in front of the bakery.
76. Check out Australia’s last remaining wool washing plant in Australia – the Blackall Woolscour.
77. It’s the last stop before the Simpson Desert, so be sure to grab a coldie at the Birdsville Hotel. The airstrip is just next to the pub, and you wouldn’t be out of place if you decided to take a plane rather than a car.
78. Ghost towns do exist outside of country and western movies and Betoota is just one of them in Outback Queensland. As you roll into town, the sign reads ’Welcome to Betoota, Population 0‘. Of course, that all changes in the last weekend in August when it plays host to the Beetoota Races, the precursor to the Birdsville Races.
79. If you haven’t seen a Dunny Derby, you haven’t lived. Make tracks to the Outback Winton Festival (a biennial event) to see over 20 teams go head-to-head, dragging an outhouse behind them.
80. If you’re a bit nervous to drive the outback alone, join the Outback Trailblazer, a 4WD adventure showcasing Outback Queensland wonders, all whilst raising money for Angel Flight.
81. Check out the town murals at Alpha, which are one of the brightest form of community spirit I’ve ever seen.
82. For cowboy or cowgirl 101, take a tour of the Australian Agricultural College in Longreach where you can watch students learn practical rural industries first hand.
83. Meet the Innamincka dozen and stay overnight at the Innamincka Hotel – which employs the 12 people who call this outback town (admittedly just over the SA border) home. Their bar and restaurant, ironically called the Outamincka, serves the best pub grub that side of the Queensland border.
84. Hire a trail master like Australian Offroad Academy to plan your road trip across the outback to an event.
85. Chat to the man who discovered Australia’s first dinosaur, David Elliot, at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs before getting your Indiana Jones on in a sand pit digging for dinosaur relics.
86. Check into outback luxury at Gilberton Outback Retreat nestled on the edge of Gilberton Nature Refuge.
87. The famous Waltzing Matilda Centre may be closed at the moment, but the spirit of Banjo Patterson lives on at the Winton Visitor Information Centre, where you can see artefacts dedicated to the song.
88. Tuck into a pub dinner at one of the outback’s quintessential pubs like the Tattersalls Hotel or the North Gregory Hotel in Winton.
89. Said to rival a full solar eclipse in terms of celestial WOW-factor, get yourself to Burketown in September/October to witness the Morning Glory cloud formation roll over the coastline.
90. Take in a golden outback sunset. We reckon the banks of the Thomson River is one of the best spots to catch the orange and red hues of the sun going down.
91. Hear all about the legendary Jack Howe in Blackall, whose record for blade shearing still stands today: 230 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes. Reckon you could do it? I didn’t think so.
92. Did someone say cook off? Get yourself down to the Bedourie Camel and Pig Races and camp oven cook-off for a day of family fun.
94. Learn how to play the didgeridoo at Cully Fest, Cunnamulla’s annual Aboriginal folk festival.
95. Learn to rock an Akubra in Outback Queensland. Don’t worry, you won’t look hipster when you wear one in their spiritual home.
96. Gymkhana is not just a funny word – it’s the festival that brings the outback town of Betoota to life (literally) as bushmen and women compete in horsemanship and dirt bike riding.
97. Cast off at the Lake Moondarra Fishing Classic for the chance to bag the tagged barra and take home a cash prize. Your odds are better than Lotto, so what’s to lose?
98. Saving the best til’ last, be sure to meet an outback mate. After all, it’s the characters with their big smiles, warm hearts and gentle souls that really make this destination so loveable.
99. Get your dose of cattle dog cuteness – the outback is working-dog territory and you’ll see ’em in the back of ute trays all over the place.
100. Flock Ewe. It’s not an insult, it’s a festival. Get yourself to the Muttaburra race course for the annual Landsborough Flock Ewe Show.