Get a lil’ dirt on those boots: a guide to country Queensland
If your playlist is more Dolly Parton than top 40, you prefer riding horses over riding waves, and you know that wagon wheel is more than just a delicious biscuit – it’s time you step into a new side of Queensland.
Instead of sand, you’ll find dust.
Welcome to Australia’s home of country music – where you can be one of the thousands who make the pilgrimage every year to dance under a sky full of stars.
But the country-lovin’ doesn’t end there. From outback races and rodeos to cattle drives and horse-drawn wagon tours, we’ve got a year-round guide to country Queensland that’ll knock the socks right outta your cowboy boots.
Where to party: a guide to country Queensland music festivals
CMC Rocks QLD | 20-21 March 2020
It’s Australia’s biggest international country music festival, so it comes as a no-brainer that CMC Rocks QLD should be numero uno on any Nashville-lover’s bucket list.
Mark it in your calendars, because this multi-day jam-fest west of Brisbane continues to get bigger and better. Miranda Lambert, Kip Moore and Morgan Evans are set to rock 2020.
Birdsville Big Red Bash | 7-9 July 2020
Birdsville’s Big Red Bash invites music lovers to dance under a star-studded sky in Queensland’s remote Simpson Desert next to a massive red sand dune (perfect for sand-surfing on Esky lids just FYI).
Groundwater Country Music Festival | 24-26 July 2020
Gympie Music Muster | 27-30 August 2020
Leg it to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland when the normally peaceful Amamoor State Forest comes alive with thousands of revellers pitching their tents and celebrating the best of blue, roots and country over four glorious days.
If you missed out on your favourite festival, don’t fret. In Brisbane catch sweet tunes of the south all-year round at Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall and Johnny Ringo’s Country Rock Saloon (complete with mechanical bull)
Where to experience Australia’s country heart
It’s hard to imagine a time when Netflix and chill meant sleeping under a sky full of stars next to your faithful horse. Luckily, the following destinations have kept these country memories alive.
The Australian Stockmans Hall of Fame in Longreach is the ultimate tribute to the people of outback Australia. It highlights the history behind some of the country’s greatest and bravest explorers, stock workers, pastoralists, and Indigenous Australians.
And if you’re visiting Longreach between April and October, make sure you catch the live Outback Stockman’s Show. They tell the tale of real-life stockmen and women in an entertaining display of horsemanship and traditional Australian Stockman skills.
Those who learn better by getting hands-on can pick up a traditional skill or two at the Cobb+Co. Museum, near Toowoomba. Workshops covering vintage trades like blacksmithing and leather plaiting are held throughout the year, and the museum is home to the National Carriage Collection of horse-drawn vehicles. (Here’s a 48-hour guide to Toowoomba for while you’re here).
Even better, live the bygone era of transport aboard the last operating Cobb & Co stagecoach in Australia tracing the original mail route between Longreach and Windorah. Your tour with Outback Pioneers also includes a traditional smoko followed by an Australian classic bush movie.
Head to Mick Bradford’s Heavy Horse Day in Yangan as they showcase what farming was like in the olden days (hint: bloody tough) using equipment from the 1800s and 1900s.
Can’t squeeze in enough time for a country escape? You can still school up on our history at the Australian Outback Spectacular. In true Gold Coast-style it’s got a lot more bedazzle than a traditional show, but they tell the tale of our country’s characters and legends magnificently thanks to a star-studded team of stuntmen and women.
Where to see the
fruit stock of our labour
Experience the flurry of excitement that goes down by the hammer during this live auction, with animals worth as much as luxury cars. A record-breaking bull was recently bought for a whopping $145,000!
While you’re here, check out the mighty sight of purebred Texas Longhorn cattle at Leahton Park onboard the property’s horse-drawn wagon tours.
In Southern Queensland Country, discover one of the oldest and largest operating sheep stations in the country at The Woolshed at Jondaryan. It remains a monument to shearers and the old pioneering days.
Digging the country life? Stretch your stay with a few nights in the original Shearer’s Quarters that housed the station’s workers back in the 1800s.
Where to rake in the winnings
Do you need a better excuse for a road trip and new fancy frock than a country race?
Dubbed the ‘Melbourne Cup of the Outback’, the Birdsville Races is the crème de la crème of the country racing calendar. Over 7000 patrons making the 2000km pilgrimage each year to see the 13-race program in Queensland’s far-west. That’s quite a big jump from the town’s usual population of 100!
Even if you’re not into horse racing, the event is an experience itself for the quirky fashions on the field and buzzing atmosphere.
If your pick at the races during the annual Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival flops, you could always try backing a winner in one of the festival’s remaining country events, which include bull riding, bog snorkelling (yep, swimming through mud is a thing) and a competition to find Australia’s best butt.
Follow this link for more country races in Queensland.
Where to watch the pros (AKA, it’s rodeo time)
The Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo is the biggest and baddest in the Southern Hemisphere. That’s four days of non-stop rodeo thrills from bull riding and bareback bronc to barrel racing and steer wrestling.
But the action isn’t limited to the ring. This mining town pulling out all the stops for this long weekend with a pre-rodeo street party plus rock concerts, markets, and their very own street parade.
Where to get in the saddle
First time in the saddle? Cowboy Up in Toowoomba have over 30 years’ experience in the horse training industry. After matching you with your perfect horse, you’ll go on a relaxing ride through their Darling Downs cattle property, with postcard-perfect views of rolling hills and farmlands.
In Cairns, Blazing Saddles Adventures offer half-day trail rides for beginners through to more experienced riders in Tropical North Queensland bush, swapping red dirt for lush rainforest pockets, billabongs, mangrove wetland and sugarcane fields.
At Susan River Homestead Resort in Hervey Bay, you’re spoilt for choice with over 60 gentle horses and 1600 acres-worth of tracks to choose from during their morning, afternoon and moonlight trail rides. When you’re saddle sore, opt for tubing and water skiing on Lake McLean or a whale watching tour of the Fraser Coast.
Skip the trails and head straight for the beach with Rainbow Beach Horse Rides. You’ll get to see the iconic technicolour sands from horseback for a truly only-in-Queensland experience.
Where to become a bonafide jackaroo/jillaroo
So, you’ve had your go in the saddle and want more? Sounds like you need to up your country status, cowboy.
Join some of Australia’s most experienced drovers this month as they guide 600 head of cattle by horseback through the twists of the ragged Redford Trail in Outback Queensland during the Harry Redford Cattle Drive. Choose between four experience packages, ranging from 4 to 5-day rides, where you’ll cover between 10 and 18kms per day before camping out by a fire under a sky-studded star.
On the Sunshine Coast, Equathon’s 7-day beach and bush horse riding tours ticks off a slideshow of landscapes along their varied hinterland trails, which have been hand-picked by your hosts, Australian triple Olympian Alex Watson and his wife, Rebecca.
Winding through the Mary Valley first, you’ll get the chance to muster cattle on their 640-acre cattle and horse property Edenview, before journeying back to Noosa for your last day-ride along Laguna Bay and Teewah Beach.
Don’t want the country mania to end??
Here are some more sights that can’t be missed:
- You’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy, but you are in Oz. Texas, Australia to be precise. While this tiny town is mostly dedicated to the farming industry, it’s a lovely drive worth doing, if only to see how Australia interprets the word.
- In Barcaldine, gain a little country wisdom from the Tree of Knowledge, where shearers first went on strike for better working conditions and sparked the Labor Movement.
- Come a-Waltzing Matilda at the North Gregory Hotel in Winton where the song was first performed.
- Have a beer in what might be the smallest bar in Australia. Vying for the coveted spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, The Lynd Junction Oasis Roadhouse on the outback highway between Cairns and Townsville is so teeny it only just fits two people at the bar at any one time.