How to have a bucking good time in Queensland’s wild west
Outback Queensland is cherished for its star-studded night skies and cascading landscapes, but don’t mistake its beauty for weakness. The Outback is an inimitable place of true grit and hard yakka where sweat, heat and dust are standard in everyday life.
This may ring true for 362 days in the mining township of Mount Isa. But, for 3 glorious days in August, the excitement ramps up when man meets beast and the locals let loose for the largest rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere.
So, if the words bull riding, whip cracking and tent boxing perks your ears, muster your mates, mount your horses (or 4WD) and trek your way into Queensland’s wild west.
Wait! Before you scoot off, here are a few things you should know about the Oasis of the Outback a.k.a Mount Isa.
What to see and do
Bag a trophy fish in Lake Moondarra
Carry your collapsable rod and make space in your saddle bag for a few lures because you wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to cast a line in Lake Moondarra, home to one of Queensland’s best in land Fishing Classics. Consider yourself more of a tactical angler? Bring your fly rod and flick along the edge for Barra.
Roll up your sleeves
Mount Isa’s mining heritage is clearly evident with a huge 236-metre high chimney identifying the working mine. However, visitors aren’t allowed on site. Instead, you and your mates can experience the miner’s life at the Hard Times Mine; a site replica and museum.
Entry to the mine is via a lift that will descend 20 feet into a network of tunnels. It’s dark and eerie, just like a real mine and after exploring the shafts, machinery and listening to your guide and ex-miner explain the process, you’ll appreciate the complexity of a working mine.
What to bring
You’re going into rugged terrain so pack smart. Swap your thongs (flip flops) for a pair of R.M. Williams boots and ditch your favourite baseball cap for a wide brim Akubra to protect you from the sun.
Cool long sleeved shirts (checkers optional) and pants or jeans are essential out here. Also, be sure to bring a pair of polarised sunnies. Check out this helpful guide to going country in Queensland.
If you’re driving, bring the essentials including water, a first-aid-kit and appropriate tools and spare parts. Most importantly, remember to build a Spotify playlist of road trip bangers.
Psst! Remember to download your Spotify playlist as you’ll most likely drop out of reception on the road.
How to get there (Fly, Drive or Rail)
Qantas, Virgin Australia and REX airlines service the Outback and you can fly directly into Mount Isa Airport. If you prefer to drive, follow Matilda Way from Melbourne or Overlander’s Way from Townsville. Or kick back and take in the scenery on board The Inlander train which departs from Townsville every Sunday and Thursday.
Here’s where you can find more travel information.
When to visit Mount Isa
The best time to visit Mount Isa is in August when the Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo action kicks off.
The small town more than doubles in size and crowds flood the red-dirt arena to watch bulls and horses bust in with their mad riders firmly attached… until they are thrown off. You’ll think the riders are totally nuts/brave/stupid to mount monster one tonne bulls but you’ll applaud the bravery and be amazed by their flamboyant performances.
The rodeo opening ceremony is an iconic street party and this year, Australian pop superstar Jessica Mauboy will grace the stage and get the party started.
Rodeo Events to Look out for:
Made famous by Outback legend Fred Brophy, Tent Boxing is a feature highlight of the rodeo, especially if you think you’ve got the skills to take on the touring calibre of boxers.
It’s held in a very professional and lighthearted manner, so don’t expect to see the likes of Tyler Durden from Fight Club. It’s all for fun and the worst injury you could incur is a dent in your pride (if you lose).
Are you tough enough to lace up your gloves and hop in the ring?
The rodeo’s all about having a bucking good time!
The ‘School of Hard Knocks’ a.k.a. the Isa Rodeo School gives students the opportunity to learn about the sport, animal welfare and safety procedures.
With practical lessons taught by Australian rodeo champions, you’ll learn how to mount, grip and balance on bucking bulls and horses. And believe it or not, your technique training will start on a barrel.
Where to stay
If you’re in town for the rodeo, it’s best to camp on site to be near all the action. So, be sure to pack a swag and your camp gear.
If you’d rather stay at a hotel or motel, enjoy the hospitality of the Isa, check out these accommodation options.