20 ways to captivate the kids in the Australian Outback
The quintessential family holiday…
What people WITHOUT kids think: Loads of fun for mum and dad, spending quality time with their bundles of joy, road trips filled with games of eye-spy and smiling snapshots the entire way.
What people WITH kids KNOW: Countless toilet stops, back seat bickering, and more iPods than eye-spy.
But in Outback Queensland, a family holiday is a holiday for every member of the family, and there are so many towns and attractions where the kids will be entertained while mum and dad can sneak a little ‘me time’.
Venturing into the Australian Outback? Here are the top 20 things to do with kids while you’re there.
1. Sit around a crackling campfire
How’s the serenity? Get back to basics by setting up camp with your family, swap stories, sing a few songs, and just sit back, relax, and take in the sunsets and the stars.
There’s no TV show on earth more entertaining and mesmerising than an old-fashioned campfire. Cook a loaf of damper, BBQ a snag or two, boil the billy, toast marshmallows and enjoy some quality family time. The best memories are created around a campfire.
2. Emboss your names in stone at Stonehenge
Situated 151kms from Longreach, Stonehenge is an ideal spot to relax for a few days. Just don’t forget to sign the visitor’s book Stonehenge-style: by writing your name in stone directly beside the main road not far from town – a tradition started years ago.
3. Outback surfing
Boogie boards, pieces of cardboard or whatever you can get your hands on… why not take the Esky lid for a surf down the Big Red sand dune at Birdsville or down the natural dunes at Cunnamulla! Sand boarding is bound to appeal to the young kids and the young at heart.
True outback folk know you don’t need an ocean to surf. Be game, have a laugh and be ready to capture that wipeout with a photo. #gnarlydude
4. Kayaking at Lara Wetlands
Make a pit-stop to Lara Wetlands on your family Outback road trip between Blackall and Barcaldine. Play in the cool pool of the wetlands, watch for birdlife or hire a kayak to explore more. If you’re having too much fun to continue your road trip, stay overnight in the campgrounds with a view over the water.
5. Camp on a working farm at Bonus Downs
If you’re looking for a special place to get away from the day-to-day, Bonus Downs is for you.
Unplug and reconnect, pitch a tent (or two, one for the kids and one for you), and take in the beauty and historical wonder of this working station.
The kids can help round up sheep and learn to crack a whip while mum and dad enjoy country hospitality and delicious home cooking without having to lift a finger.
6. Ride a camel in the desert at the Big Red Bash
Birdsville is Australia’s most iconic outback town and home to one of Queensland’s most epic music festivals.
The Big Red Bash has topped the bucket list for many families and travellers, and with some big Aussie names (the legendary Jimmy Barnes and Troy Cassar Daley) playing at this year’s event (4-6 July 2017), you have the perfect excuse to head west.
Take in the red dirt, big blue sky, wide-open spaces and distant horizons all from the back of a camel while you’re there!
7. The dinosaur trail
Who knew Australia had such a rich prehistoric history? So rich in fact, that they’ve dedicated a whole trail to it through the Outback Queensland towns of Richmond, Hughenden and Winton.
Kronosaurus Korner in Richmond has a huge range of marine fossils, plus the best-preserved dinosaur skeletons in Oz, and the kids will be vying for who will become an archaeologist when they grow up after a visit to the Eromanga Natural History Museum.
Let them get lost in their own Jurassic Park (minus the child-chomping raptors) in Winton. Lark Quarry National Park is home to the remains of the only known dinosaur stampede in the world. With both pram and wheelchair access, no one has to miss out on this exciting chase!
8. Go on a stagecoach ride in Longreach
On this authentic stagecoach experience you’ll travel in a restored Cobb & Co stagecoach at a leisurely pace through the town… but hang onto your hats, along the original Longreach-Windorah mail route the pace steps up a notch (or 10).
Throwing up dirt, with the sound of hooves pounding beneath you, it’s the closest you’ll get to feeling like you’re back in the early pioneer days.
When your heartbeat returns to normal, there’s time for photos, a delicious ‘smoko’, and a classic Australian movie in retro cinema seats, featuring the Harry Redford Old Time Tent Show.
9. Qantas Founders Museum
Longreach is the home of Qantas, and the Qantas Founders Museum is a spectacular showcase of genuine artefacts and exhibits that tell the story of the Qantas and Australian aviation history.
The museum offers tours ranging from jet tours to wing walks, but for those who want to be more hands-on you can indulge in a 30-minute F-35 simulator experience – who wouldn’t want to be a pilot for a day?
10. A river cruise
The guys at Outback Aussie Tours offer a full range of cruise options that will allow you and your family to explore the Thomson River near Longreach, from day cruises to sunset cruise, dinner and a show.
Whichever you choose, it’ll be a unique outback experience to remember! So sit back, relax and admire the spectacular scenery pass you by.
11. A trip on the Spirit of the Outback train
All aboard the perfect family holiday – an impressive journey through rugged terrain and changing scenery on the Spirit of the Outback.
This traditional train trip offers plenty of time to relax, and if you’re after a bit more privacy, you can now enjoy your own private cabin! The trip is approximately 26 hours and runs between Longreach and Brisbane.
12. Meet a bilby at Charleville
Charleville is the bilby capital of Australia, and the shows at the Charleville Bilby Experience are a must for any family (even just to prove they’re not really made of chocolate!).
While you’re there, book in for the up-close-and-personal encounter (runs April to October). You get to meet a bilby in the keeper’s arms and have a guided tour of the cuter-than-cute marsupial’s home.
13. Cuddle up to a Tambo Teddy
If the kids thought the bilbies were cute, introduce them to Australia’s most iconic teddy. For every family, destination Tambo is a must!
Stitched with love, these teddy bears are created from 100% Australian sheepskin. The kids can watch their new friends come to life in the workshop, each with their own unique number and personality.
14. Take a dip at the Eulo Mud Baths
After family holidaying your way around Outback Queensland, it’s time to relax your body and mind, clean, tone and revitalise your skin with nature’s own unique formula – bathe in milky grey artesian mud bath drawn fresh from the ancient springs…. ahhhhhh!
The spa has a bathing area complete with three baths and they now also have a sunset viewing area with four single tubs available. Mum and dad can soak separately to the kids, guaranteeing a relaxing, muddy good time for all.
If you don’t know your Milky Way from your Big Dipper or your Mars from your Mercury, then head to the Cosmos Centre and Observatory in Charleville. The staff will reel off plenty of facts to impress the kids while you immerse yourself in the beauty of the outback’s night sky, the star clusters, planets, and of course, the Moon. You can even view the sun during the day through their special solar scope.
Of course, you can star gaze anywhere in Outback Queensland, just tuck the kids in bed, grab a blanket, pack a romantic hamper for two, lay back and look up.
16. Canoe Lawn Hill Gorge at Boodjamulla National Park
Paddle your way through the still waters of Lawn Hill Gorge – an ideal way to explore the picturesque gorges. In fact, let the kids do the hard work while you marvel at the beautiful surroundings of sandstone cliffs, emerald waters and lush vegetation. This is a perfect outback oasis and beware, you may never want to leave.
Don’t have a canoe? No problem! Canoes can be hired on an hourly basis from the canoe hire area at the eastern end of the camping area.
17. Dig for opals in Yowah
Welcome to Yowah – population 142, and a gem of a town that is popular with travellers and fossickers alike.
Yowah is known for its opal mining and has countless opal fields. It’s also the home of the ‘Yowah Nut’ (not for human consumption) – a local type of opal distinctive to the area.
Tell them to start digging for their pocket money.
18. Undara Lava Tubes
Quick science lesson boys and girls! Lava tubes are a type of cave formed when a lava stream builds a hard outside crust. When the lava stream clears, you’re left with an incredible natural cave where you can walk the path of a volcano.
These tubes are great fun for kids, and for parents too.
19. Drive-in movies
When travelling through Barcaldine, head to the nearby town of Jericho to discover the world’s smallest drive-in theatre.
The theatre holds 36 cars plus walk-ins, and with movies held only one a month, it’s a unique way to entertain the whole family.
20. SUP at Cobbold Gorge
A hidden outback oasis can be found in the heart of the Gulf Savannah region of Outback Queensland.
Take in the gorge-ous (pardon the pun) scenery on a local tour, exploring the gorge by foot, aboard an electric powered boat, or on a stand-up paddleboard (available for the first time this year).