3 days of Outback Queensland adventure
If you think Outback Queensland is just a one-trick pony of sunburnt dirt, long roads and sweeping plains, prepare to be plesantly surprised. If you want to mix-up the annual beach holiday, it’s time to turn your focus inland and plan a trip to the Outback.
Sure, with time on your side, you could tackle the Matilda Way, Warrego Way, Great Inland Way, Adventure Way or Savannah Way but if you’re short on time, you’ll want the CliffsNotes of Outback itineraries.
Enter, this three-day itinerary that ticks off Outback Queensland’s south-west pocket, namely the towns of Cunnamulla, Charleville and Quilpie.
Day 1: Cunnamulla
9am: Meet the Cunnamulla Fella
Kickstart your outback adventure by driving or flying into Cunnamulla, 800km west of Brisbane.
Cunnamulla is home to the Slim Dusty-immortalised, ‘Cunnamulla Fella’ and its obsession with the Aussie larrikin extends to the bronze statue in the main street, Visitor Information Centre, and festival entirely dedicated to the icon (Cunnamulla Fella Festival), held in August each year.
Start your adventure by popping into the Cunnamulla Fella Visitor Centre to find out why the larrikin spirit runs so strong in this Outback town. Don’t forget to keep your camera handy for a souvenir photo with the bronze Cunnamulla Fella himself.
10am: Discover the town
Even if you’ve arrived with your own car, it’s worth jumping aboard Out the Back Australia Tours for a Cunnamulla Town and Industry tour, led by long-time local Pieta Mills.
From the comfort of the air-conditioned bus, you’ll find out where to dial up the outdoor activity, with local insights into the best spots for fishing, river kayaking and sandboarding.
You’ll also uncover the past with stops at the historic Allan Tannock Weir, local cemetery, the old sawmill housing and the Darby Land Bridge.
11am: Sit under the shade of a Coolabah Tree
Escape the hottest part of the day down by the banks of the Warrego River with a DIY picnic from the Cunnamulla Bakery.
The Warrego River is the lifeblood of this desert region, with a history book filled with erratic patterns of flood and drought.
If a picnic feels too sedentary for your liking, take a wander along the 1.6km Warrego Riverwalk or try your hand at kayaking, fishing and yabbying here.
Travel tip: If you fancy yourself a twitcher, you’ll want to add Bowra Sanctuary to your Cunnamulla itinerary. Find it 16km west of Cunnamulla, with more than 200 species of birds to tick off your bird book.
If you’ve read this post, you’ll know no Outback Queensland trip is complete without meeting a few outback characters.
Join Out the Back Tours for a river cruise up the still waters of the Warrego River. You can expect cold beers, warm characters and a spectacular sunset show.
Day 2: Cunnamulla to Charleville
6am: Hit the road
In Outback terms, it’s just a short hop, skip and a jump (200km) to south-west Queensland’s largest town, Charleville.
Your first stop? The Charleville Bakery for one of their legendary pastry parcels (read: meat pies).
9am: Discover the history of the docs of the bush
Pay a visit to the Royal Flying Doctors Service Visitor Centre to learn how this flying ambulance service started servicing the most remote parts of Queensland.
Built in 2014, the museum turns back the pages of history without being stuffy or static. Expect interactive displays and hands-on exhibitions that give insight into the RFDS’ history and continued operations.
11AM: See endangered bilbies
Stroll next door to the Bilby Experience, run by the Save the Bilby Foundation, to see these cute endangered Aussie natives.
There’s only one catch to this Australian native experience, you’ll need to time your visit, as the Bilby Experience only runs from April to October.
As the Australian capital of bilbies, Charleville makes waves in the research front for these marsupials, breeding bilbies for their reintroduction to Currawinya National Park.
You’ll be happy to know your visit donates to the Bilby cause, with all tour and souvenir proceeds going back to bilby research and conservation. For more reasons why you should support the bilbies’ cause, hop over here.
2pm: Go undercover
Head to the Milky Way (seriously, it’s a street name in Charleville), to discover the US Military’s most top-secret operations during WWII, which took place here in Outback Queensland.
Did you know, a section of the Charleville Airport became part of the United States of America in 1940?
To learn more about Charleville’s red, white and blue history, you can join the Top Secret United State Airbase History Convoy Tour.
5PM: Dine like a king
If you thought all outback food has seen the inside of a deep fryer, you need to read this myth busting blog post and get yourself to The Rocks Motel.
Its onsite restaurant, On the Rocks, is home to one of the best dinners in the bush, including an iconic Tomahawk steak, complete with 30cm bone.
7.30PM: Tour the night sky
If you’ve been using the app Night Sky for a little while now, it’s time to upgrade to the real thing at the Charleville Cosmos Centre.
With the aid of state-of-the-art Meade telescopes and a guide, you’ll be able to play eye-spy with star clusters 17,000 light years away, solar flares and craters on the moon.
Book in for the Introduction to the Night Sky (night experience), or if the stars don’t align (so to speak) and you find yourself here in the day, you can even do a daytime sun viewing, which is safe for the naked eye.
Day 3: Charleville to Quilpie
8am: Hit the tarmac
Hit the road 210km west to opalescent Quilpie, for a day of fossicking and relaxed sightseeing.
12pm: Dig deep
A shovel and spade are all you need to strike it rich in this town, which is home to the iconic outback boulder opal.
Not much in this life is free, but opal fossicking is, and you can try it for yourself at the fossicking area in town.
Alternatively, head to the Toompine opal field (between Quilpie and Yowah), which includes Duck Creek and Sheep Creek opal mines.
For more free Outback Queensland experiences, swing over here.
3pm: Picnic by the river
The Outback isn’t all red dirt and dusty plains – and you can rebut this presumption with a wander along the Bulloo Riverwalk. Brimming with greenery and native species, the flora is conveniently signed so you know exactly what you’re looking at.
Feeling a little lethargic? Grab a shady spot under a tree and drop a line in, or head to Lake Houdraman for a quick picnic-style afternoon tea.
5PM: Catch sunset from up high
Sure, you could enjoy sundowners at Imperial Quilpie Hotel Motel, but it pays to hold off on drinks a little longer and take the 7.4km drive from downtown Quilpie to Baldy Top Lookout. This lookout has elevation on its side for the sun’s daily show.
With three days of red dirt under your wheels, you’ve got the option to fly back to Brisbane from Quilpie (via Charleville and Toowoomba) or continue your route along the Warrego Way for more Outback adventure.
For more Outback Queensland trips:
- Check out these free (or almost free) things to do
- Time your visit for one of these events
- Go digging for dinosaur bones with this itinerary