14 wacky Queensland town names (and how to pronounce them)
If you’ve ever tried to learn a foreign language, you’ll know there’s always exceptions to the rule when it comes to spelling and grammar and English is no exception.
Between the silent letters, vowels that are far from phonetic and multiple spellings of the same word, it’s easy to get confused. And that’s just conversational English – wait ’til you see a map of Queensland.
Our map can sometimes feel like it’s running its own dialect with more vowels and double letters than a loser’s Scrabble hand.
Everything your English teacher ever taught you is about to go out the window, with this list of 14 weird town names, along with your guide on how to pronounce them.
Biloela [Billow-wheel-ah]: Believed to be the Aboriginal word for black or white cockatoo, the jury is still out on the meaning of Biloela. Locals abbreviate the town to Bilo [Billow], although no one can agree if it’s spelt Bilo or Billo, so both are totally acceptable.
Find it: In the Banana Shire, ironically, a shire not known for growing Bananas (this is cotton, sorghum and wheat territory), 120km inland from Gladstone.
Famous for: Lumps of coal. The black stuff was discovered in Callide Creek in 1891 and has been mined ever since via the open-cut mining station. Not into your mining history? The fishing is famous too – and Lake Callide is where you’ll find the fish always biting.
Fun fact: The Banana Shire got its name from a prized local bullock called Banana.
Find it: On the outskirts of the Garden City best spotted by all the tourist signs pointing to The Woolshed at Jondaryan.
Famous for: The world’s oldest and longest operating woolshed in the world, with 150 years of history contained within its corrugated iron walls.
Fun fact: This 300,000-acre sheep station has all the makings of an ABC mini-series. Think four counts of gruesome murder, grappling poverty and a prickly pear plague – and then there’s the shearing stories. The Woolshed at Jondaryan has it all!
Barcaldine [Bar-call-din]: Forget what your grade two teacher taught you, the ‘e’ at the end of Barcaldine doesn’t make the ‘i’ say its own name. And you will be corrected if you say BarcalDINE within coo-ee of this Outback town.
Find it: Smack bang in the middle of the Outback Queensland map, an hour east of Longreach. All roads lead to Barcaldine, or at least the Capricorn and Landsborough Highways do. You can also take the Matilda Way on this road trip to find the Garden City of the west.
Famous for: Its foliage; The Tree of Knowledge marks the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party when Australia’s first shearers strike took place in 1891. The ghost gum sadly met its match in 2006 when it was poisoned, however, it’s been replaced with a timber structure, which whether you love it or hate it, captures the eye.
Fun fact: There is no chance of going dry at this Outback town. The main street has five operational pubs – not bad for a population of approximately 1300 people.
Kaimkillenbun [Kam-killen-bun]: Not so tricky on the tongue, but damn hard to spell, this 13-letter name earns this Western Downs town the crown for Queensland’s longest weird town name.
Find it: Perched between Dalby and Bell en route to the Bunya Mountains, this small country town of 293 people is as rich in history as it is syllables. Locals call it The Bun, which we think gives us reason too as well. You can easily pay a visit on this Big Sky drive to see what the fuss is about.
Famous for: The Bun Pub, originally built in 1912 it’s one part bar one part museum, packed with artefacts the owner, Bud, has collected over the years. Expect everything from World War One photos to vintage signage, all under this corrugated iron roof.
Fun fact: In the 1980s, the town was the setting of a five-part television mini-series called Chase in the Night starring Nicole Kidman.
Eulo [Yule-oh]: This opal mining town with a population of 108 people is home to one of the most unlikely outback experiences, a spa treatment with a difference.
Find it: Follow the Paroo River and The Adventure Way from Cunnamulla to Eulo in the Paroo Shire. Alternatively, if you find yourself in Charleville following this 48-hour guide, it’s just a quick 200km down the road.
Famous for: Its artesian mud baths which are packed with 20,000-year-old silica, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and zinc. You can soak in these outdoor tubs, covering yourself from head to toe in pure, unadulterated mud.
Fun fact: Move over her majesty, there’s a new Queen worthy of her own Netflix documentary, The Eulo Queen. Isabel Gray was a publican, storekeeper and prostitute, who died in 1929 with a raft of charges to her name including disorderly conduct, assaulting police and purchasing sheep illegally.
Find it: Nestled on the edge of the Clarke Range and Pioneer Valley in Mackay’s hinterland, Eungella rises to 1259m which provides the context to its translation. Its human population is only 194, but Eungella has another population that draws a crowd – platypus.
Famous for: Try platypus spotting anywhere else in Queensland and you might as well be watching paint dry, but not at Broken River. It’s practically the theme park for platypus to play and you can watch them duck dive and cruise along the surface.
Fun fact: Rainforest junkies take note, Eungella is home to the longest continuous stretch of sub-tropical rainforest in Australia, and there is a Great Walk right through it.
Eromanga [Erro-man-gah]: It might lay claim to being the furthest town from the sea, but the town of Eromanga is built upon the Inland Sea and has a collection of fossils and bones to prove it.
Famous for: Dinosaurs! This part of channel country is home to Australia’s largest fossil discoveries dating back 95-98 million years. The discoveries include Cooper, the Titanosaur who is said to be Australia’s largest dinosaur at 30m tall. You can come face-to-funny bone with Cooper via a 3D printed replica at the Eromanga Natural History Museum.
Fun fact: It’s not just dinos here. Eromanga is home to Australia’s largest onshore oil and gas development too.
Weipa [Weep-a]: With the kind of spelling that proves the “i before e rule” is useless in Queensland, Weipa comes from the Aboriginal word “Waypa” which means “fighting ground”.
Find it: On the western side of Cape York Peninsula, right at the pointy end if you’re doing a trip to the tip.
Famous for: Bauxite – the red rocky part that is the primary ore of aluminium. Australia just happens to be the largest producer of bauxite in the world and in 1955, Weipa was named the largest bauxite deposit in the world.
Fun fact: This is a town not run by a government but a company. The Bauxite mine company Cornaico is actually in charge of the roads, rates and rubbish in these parts.
1770 [Seventeen Seventy]: Introducing a town that breaks all the rules with a numerical rather than alphabetical name (except for official purposes when it’s made to be spelt out).
Find it: On the coastline of Gladstone, built on the spot of the second landing of James Cook in 1770 (duh!). Getting there is easy and you can even do it as a road trip from Brisbane in less than a week.
Famous for: There’s plenty of things for 1770 to crow about, but none more so than their Captain Cook 1770 festival, which each May includes a reenactment of the landing of the historical Endeavour on the shoreline.
Fun fact: This isn’t the only town in the world with a number for a name. If you find yourself in the USA, you might want to check out Fifty-Six, Eighty-Eight or Hundred.
Eumundi [You-mun-dee]: This vowel-heavy name is said to be derived from the name of an Aboriginal warrior who adopted convict Bracefield as his son in 1831.
Find it: You’ll find Eumundi in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, 21km or an easy day trip south of Noosa if you find yourself in Noosa for a weekend.
Famous for: The Eumundi Markets held every Wednesday and Saturday, stocking furniture, homeware, artworks and fashion and you can almost always meet the maker.
Fun fact: From small things, big things grow. Starting in 1979 when two friends set up the first markets with a whopping turn over of $30, today, the Eumundi Markets operate to the tune of 600 stalls and hosts 1.6million people annually.
Goondiwindi [Gund-a-windy]: With a loose Aboriginal translation, the name is said to mean duck droppings, which is connected with their roosting place near the MacIntyre River.
Find it: Two and a half hours south-west from Toowoomba, right on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. Goondiwindi is one of those Queensland towns divided come State of Origin night.
Famous for: A champion racehorse, Gunsynd, the Goondiwindi Grey, who won 29 races and in his seven starts was only defeated once. There’s a statue to honour the Phar Lap of the Outback.
Fun fact: In Goondiwindi, you’ll find the Border Bridge which connects Queensland with New South Wales. If you were around prior to federation you would have had to pay duties to cross. Thankfully, not anymore.
Ravenshoe [Ravens-hoe]: Whatever you do, do not call Australia’s tallest town RavenSHOE.
Famous for: A bunch of highest, longest and tallest. First up – The Ravenshoe Hotel (Queensland’s highest pub), Ravenshoe Station (Queensland’s highest railway station) and Millstream Falls (the widest waterfall in Australia).
Fun fact: This was a timber town, but since the late 1980s when the government banned logging the rainforest (following World Heritage listing) the town diversified into tourism, beef and dairy farming.
Mooloolaba [Mool-ool-aba]: If you’re looking for a chuckle, turn on Google Maps and listen to the voice-over get her tongue around this one. There’s about a thousand too many o’s and suddenly a four-syllable word becomes about eight.
Famous for: Mooloolaba Prawns are the signature dish of this coastline. Christmas is the peak season for the delicacy with the Mooloolaba Fish Market selling around 20,000kg of the crustaceans ahead of the big day.
Famous for: Everyone knows you can swim at the beach at Mooloolaba, but did you know you can swim with a whale too? With Sunreef, you can share the swimming space with all 36,000kgs of humpback whales in the area.
Ayr [Air]: Believed to be named after the Scottish town of Ayr, this is the birthplace of a former Queensland premier.
Find it: On the banks of the Burdekin River, 85km south of Townsville.
Famous for: Producing the most sugarcane per square-kilometre in Australia. With 80,000 hectares of sugar cane growing land, Ayr produces about 1.25 million tonnes of raw sugar each year.
Fun fact: It’s not just sugar Ayr puts into our supermarkets. Ayr contributes one-third of the nation’s mango harvest, a blip compared to mango capital Bowen, 115km south.
Other honourable mentions: