The winning Birdsville trifecta: 3 must-dos in this outback town
The sign you see as you arrive into Birdsville reveals a lot about this town, which sits 1200km from its nearest ocean, The Great Australian Bight. “Population 100, except for one weekend of the year.”
Arguably the sign could be changed to two weekends of the year, as now both the Big Red Bash and Birdsville Races transform the most south-western town in Queensland into a bustling metropolis (at least by remote Outback Queensland standards).
Every July and September, you can expect 6000-plus people to arrive into town, bringing with them 4WDs, camper trailers, caravans and camping equipment – aka the accessories for a good time.
For a town that’s really only three streets long – Birdsville packs plenty of “first, only and lasts” into its trio of town blocks. It’s got the last pub before you reach the Northern Territory, the only licensed bakery in Australia and first dune of the Simpson Desert – and that’s without seeing the other things to do on this list.
If you’re heading west, don’t just save your flutter for the track – try this trifecta of must-dos in Birdsville. We promise it will pay dividends in memories that last a lifetime.
1. Visit the Birdsville Hotel
Strap your drinking boots on, because if you’re heading to the Birdsville Hotel there are three reasons why you’ll need them.
First, if you’re taking the highway, it’s a long parched drive between outback towns and this oasis of beer (est. 1884) is no mirage. There’re four beers on tap and a wine list to satisfy a city-palette.
Second, it’s the last watering hole before the desert, making it the most western bar in Queensland, and therefore on every beer swiller’s bucket list, or at least, it should be.
And finally, because the walls are plastered with history – think hats, ornaments and number plates across every surface of its stone walls.
Don’t think you can just toss your hat onto the wall though. You have to earn your hat-status in this outback town. You must have given 12 months of continuous service to postcode 4482 as a resident before being awarded the honour.
Street parking is no problem at this outback waterhole. In fact, you can drive your car, ride your horse or hell, even park your plane, out the front of this Aussie-icon.
Aside from serving a bevvy of beverages, you’ll find lunch and dinner service with a fab a la carte menu packed with local produce. And in case you overindulge, which has been known to happen, there are 27 onsite rooms to work off your food coma too.
2. Taste pie-fection at the Birdsville Bakery
You’ll want to make a beeline for the bakery at breakfast time over race weekend. It’s one of the only spots to get a real coffee, and it’s got the line up to prove it. Being the only bakery for 400km has some perks.
But people don’t just come here for caffeinated beverages – they come here for the rite of passage – to try Birdsville’s own curried camel pie.
Three hundred and sixty days of the year, the Birdsville Baker spends his time stockpiling pies that he’ll sell in the days surrounding the race meet. In fact, over race weekend alone, the bakery sees 15,000 pies fly into hungry hands. That’s enough pastry to fill four football fields to give you some carby-context.
Aside from pies worthy of awards and accolades, it’s also Queensland’s (if not Australia’s) only licensed bakery, which makes this bakery bucket-list-worthy for more than just pastry parcels. You’re looking at a bakery with beer.
Even though Dusty Miller may have hung up his baker’s cap after 12 long years in Queensland’s most western bakery in 2017, his legacy and recipes to Queensland’s best meat pies live on in Birdsville.
Their curried camel pie is a crust above the rest, but for less adventurous taste buds there’s no shortage of flavoursome options like kangaroo & claret and pepper steak.
What’s more, earlier this year the bakery swung open its doors for dinner, so if you’re stumped for places to eat at night, try their meal service Wednesday to Saturday, which rotates cuisines depending on what day of the week it is. Word has it, their Birdsville Fried Chicken is Birdsville’s answer to the Kernel’s own. Try it, and let us know what you think.
3. Catch sunset at Big Red
Bring your camera and set it to pano to capture sunset on top of Big Red, overlooking Australia’s fourth largest desert.
This dune’s sunset game is strong – promising outback auburn colours which light up the sand, making its name seem like a very literal interpretation by the people who named it.
Big Red is the first of over 1000 dunes in the Simpson Desert, and a four-wheel-driver’s sand pit and playground, measuring 40m from bottom to top.
You’ll need to BYO Maxtrax, camera and sundowners, as all three are essential Big Red requirements.
During race weekend you can expect to share the hill with other revellers who escape 35km out of town for unparalleled views and the only elevation in town.
You’re guaranteed to meet a few local characters atop the hill each night – who prove why the Outback is so well known for its hospitality.
Time your visit
Considering Birdsville is blessed with warm day temperatures all year round there is truly no bad time to tick it off your bucket list… it just really depends on how hot you like your holidays.
Winter is hot, summer is hotter – with some temps clocking into the VERY high 40s, promising the kind of conditions that can fry an egg on the tarmac or melt your rubber thongs to the road.
All roads lead to Birdsville, at least if you’re coming from South Australia, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane – it’s a straightforward drive. You can take the stress out of planning by following this itinerary from Brisbane or our self-guide drive eBook, which covers this route out west.
You can fly from just about anywhere with your own private plane to land at the airport, which is mere steps from the bar stools at the Birdsville Hotel. Talk about an airport lounge with a difference!
REX Airlines is the only commercial airline to fly into town, and their mail run flight returns from Birdsville to Brisbane a couple of times each week, making short work of the drive-miles between the two.