6 things you’ve got wrong about the Outback
If you thought Outback Queensland was all red dust, meat pies and sleeping on the ground, you’re in for a surprise – there’s more to central Australia than meets the eye.
Lush water holes, quirky events and luxury accommodation prove you can’t judge the Outback by what you’ve seen on Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures.
If you’ve always wanted to tick an Outback Queensland road trip off the bucket list, but you’ve been a little unsure what to expect, this guide should ease your nerves.
Myth 1: There’s no mobile phone reception
If you’re worried about being able to update your Instagram followers with stories from your outback adventure, you’ll be happy to find 3G and the magical rainbow of WiFi follows you most places you go.
Big centres like Longreach, Mount Isa and Charleville have coverage with most mobile phone providers, while smaller towns like Quilpie are really only Telstra-friendly. If you’re heading west, it’s worth swapping providers or grabbing a Telstra pre-paid SIM for the trip to err on the side of connectivity.
If you’re going well off the beaten track, a satellite phone is recommended so you can always phone home.
Myth 2: There’s nothing to eat
Are you kidding? Outback Queensland is the birthplace of paddock-to-plate cuisine with over 901,574km2 of wide open plains for cattle to graze.
Taste the region at a true blue Outback pub like Birdsville Hotel (Australia’s most iconic pub), Wellshot Hotel in Ilfracombe, and North Gregory Hotel in Winton where you’ll encounter friendly locals, cold beer and the age-old question – do you want chips and salad or mash and veggies?
For a deep-fryer-free zone, The Lodge on Hawthorn in Blackall is the lovechild of a cafe, antique shop and art gallery. Inside a heritage-listed Masonic lodge building, you’ll find New York style-bagels with smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers; black forest waffles; and homemade fruit toast with ricotta and lemon butter on the menu.
Plus, the Outback is CWA territory and the country baking game is good. Try it for yourself at the Merino Bakery in Longreach with the region’s signature sweet – the peach blossom.
Myth 3: I’ll only see red dirt for days
Sure, the Outback has been in seven years of drought, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any rivers, lakes or watering holes to break up what Dorothea Mackellar referred to as ‘a land of sweeping plains’.
‘Boodjamulla’ translates to ‘Rainbow Serpent Country’ in the local Indigenous language and if you’re lucky enough to view the area from above, you’ll see how it got its name as the gorge snakes its way around the savannah landscape. Hike it, canoe it, and explore the historical Riversleigh Fossil Site.
Myth 4: There’s nothing on
Wrong! If you’re planning a trip, you’ll run out of space in your diary once you mark it up with the Outback events calendar.
Forget what you know of being shoe-horned into crowded venues at big city events. Out here, the Outback turns its towns into arenas, natural assets into amphitheatres and heritage-listed buildings into sets.
Want proof? Birdsville Big Red Bash turns the largest sand dune in the Simpson Desert into the set for the world’s most remote music festival, with 9000 people make the pilgrimage west.
The spotlight continues further north, when every winter the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival – Australia’s answer to Sundance – takes centre stage. Pssst – our 48-hour itinerary is right here for you to explore the Outback’s own tinseltown, Winton.
Myth 5: I’ll have to sleep in a swag
If camping isn’t your cup of billy tea, no need to worry. While 80% of outback travellers stick to camping and caravanning, the remainder aren’t roughing it.
Lay in the lap of luxury at Gilberton Outback Retreat in Einasleigh. With views of the Gilbert River from your private hut, you’ll be in blissful silence with no mobile phone reception and no TV. Relax by the river, go bushwalking, and make sure to ask your hosts about the Gilberton gold.
Further south and deep within the sandstone cliffs of the Carnarvon Ranges you can shake up your perception of camping at Wallaroo Outback Retreat. You’ll find eight glamping tents with posture pedic mattresses, hot showers and working toilets – aka camping bliss. Wallaroo are so well-primed for guests who know how to travel in style, they even have their own airstrip if you want to, you know, drop in with your own helicopter.
Myth 6: The kids will be bored
If the kids don’t come back full of tales, you’ve done the outback wrong.
The region is a classroom with everything from ancient history dating back to the dinosaurs to modern inventions like world-class telescopes that can see hidden star clusters, coloured stars and planets from the furthest reaches of our solar system.
History isn’t just imparted through interpretive signs and the four walls of a museums – it’s everywhere you turn.
Dinosaur-obsessed kids, can join Australia’s Dinosaur Trail to follow the (very large) footsteps of the dinosaurs that roamed the region millions of years ago. For astronomers in the making, a visit to the Cosmos Centre and Observatory in Charleville will leave the little ones seeing stars. Pair it with this 48-hour guide to make the most of your time in the central-west.
If that’s not enough, the Outback has plenty of space to kick a football around.
Have we whet your appetite for more Outback Queensland exploring?
- Tick off these 100 things to do in the region
- Did you know it’s The Year of Outback Tourism? Here’s 8 reasons to visit
- Drive the Overlander’s Way through the Outback