It may be sleeping in a swag, gazing at a billion stars. It may be spending a week learning to be a jackaroo. It may be attending an Outback rodeo – jeans, boots and belt buckle included. It may be sitting on the bank of an Outback dam, fishing for yabbies, cold beer in hand, or visiting a series of working homesteads, meeting the people who work on Australia’s land.
“Messy, inconvenient, dirty, ants, grit in your food, rock-hard ground, no powerpoints, no email . . . this is how Australia started. A refreshing, clarifying, levelling week.”
– John Borthwick
There are – thankfully – now hundreds of ways for the bulk of Australia’s population, who live in cities and near the coast, to visit and build a connection with the great brown land that is Australia.
“The land,” says author and ecologist Tim Flannery, “is the only thing that we all, uniquely, share in common. It is at once our inheritance, our sustenance, and the only force ubiquitous and powerful enough to craft a truly Australian people.”
Did you know?
At the time of the Federation, when Australia was “riding on the sheep’s back”, 61 percent of Australia’s population was living in rural and regional areas. Today, that’s just 17 percent, and the number is likely to fall even further.
If you’re heading into the Outback by car you will need a reliable vehicle (preferably a 4WD) and, if you’re going to very remote areas, a high-frequency radio transceiver (to communicate with the Royal Flying Doctors), satellite phone and Global Positioning System (GPS) finder.
When preparing for your trip seek advice from the RAA, tourist and National Park information centres. Plan a day-by-day itinerary, from which you can determine the distances you will travel between petrol and food supply points. This allows you to make allowances for the amount of fuel and water you will need. The rule of thumb is 5 litres of water per person per day, plus water for the radiator.
Always advise family and friends of your whereabouts and if you get in trouble, always stay with your car.
How to get there
No matter where you are in Australia, if you drive away from the ocean, you’ll get to the bush. You can drive from Adelaide to Darwin, or from Cape York to Perth, for example.
Best time to go
In the northern parts of Australia, where the wet season strikes, between May and November.
In the southern parts of Australia, between March and September.
Beware, in the desert it gets very cold at night – all year round.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service has some handy tips on travelling in the Outback.
Boomerang Tours offer Outback adventure tours and Farmstay holidays.
Website of the Dag Sheep Station, situated 400km northwest of Sydney near Nundle, which offers jackaroo/jillaroo experiences.
Farmstays and Stationstays in WA
** This is our original 100 Things to Do Before You Die. First published in 1996. There is an updated 100 Things To Do In Australia Before you die, published in 2011.