Outback Holidays Travel Guide

Travel Guide toOutback Holidays

The Australian outback conjures up different images for each of us. For some, it’s the sweeping plains, red dirt and bony, rugged landscapes of Outback NSW, or the huge deserts of Western Australia that stretch to meet the white sands of the coast, while others picture the quirky watering holes and tropical contrasts of Outback Queensland, or the awe-inspiring monoliths of the Northern Territory’s Red Centre and the bewildering pink lakes of Outback South Australia. There is no one way to describe the vastness of the outback experience. 

The only way to truly understand is to go and see it all for yourself. And, more importantly, to see it through the eyes of those who know it best: Australia’s Traditional Owners, who have dwelt here for some 50,000 years and are the keepers of its stories. Continue reading for everything you need to plan your next – or even your first – outback holiday.

Outback Road Trips

Not only is driving the best way to explore the vastness of the varied outback landscapes found in five of our eight states and territories (Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT missed out), but the outback road trip is one of the most iconic Australian holidays you can undertake.

There is even a bucket list of once-in-a-lifetime road trip routes already mapped out for those eager to explore the Outback by car. From the Explorer’s Way, the Nullarbor Crossing, and the Red Centre Way to the Outback NSW Loop, the Cape York Outback Trek and the Overland & Savannah Ways and more. Find all the itineraries, planning tips and guides you need to make the most of your outback road trip below.

Outback Family Holidays

Countless memorable moments await on a trip to the outback, but exploring it together as a family is one of the most life-affirming experiences you can give your kids. It is an education in what it truly means to be Australian and most of us don’t get a taste of it until we’re old and grey.

It may seem like a huge undertaking, but we’ve made it easy for families to see the outback. Whether you plan on caravanning, driving, cruising or flying, we have the survival tips and itineraries you need to make it as carefree as possible. And if you’re travelling with younger kids, don’t miss our story on the 10 outback places to see before you turn 10.

Outback Accommodation

The outback accommodation offering is as vast and varied as the landscapes it inhabits. Find everything from budget-friendly holiday parks, motels and unique pub stays to glamping and luxury accommodation set alongside some of Australia’s most iconic natural attractions. 

Outback South Australia

Outback South Australia boasts the Desert Cave Hotel, an underground hotel in Coober Pedy; the Prairie Hotel, one of Australia’s most awarded outback hotels; Rawnsley Park Station’s eco villas or Wild Bush Luxury at Arkaba Conservancy, both near the Flinders Ranges; while Wilpena Pound Resort and Ikara Safari Camp both offer incredible access to Wilpena Pound.

Outback NSW

Try a unique farm stay at Trilby Station within driving distance from Bourke. For those venturing to Broken Hill you’ll find the modern Red Earth Motel, Emaroo Cottages, the restored Art Deco Royal Exchange Hotel and Broken Hill Outback Resort — the latter offers stunning views of the desert. Stay at Fossickers Cottages in Lightning Ridge and opt for Mungo Lodge for a comfortable retreat when visiting Mungo National Park.

Northern Territory

Notable stays in the Red Centre include the luxurious white-domed tents set in the shadow of Uluru at Longitude 131. Alternatively, Ayers Rock Resort has five different types of hotels, including Sails in the Desert, Desert Gardens Hotel and Emu Walk Apartments, all of which provide good access to Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). Kings Canyon Resort is centrally placed to explore the West MacDonnell Ranges. Moving further north towards the Top End in Katherine you’ll find the Indigenous-owned luxury Cicada Lodge, or situate yourself at Nitmiluk campground for easy access to the main attraction, Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge. And, don’t miss the best glamping stays in the NT. 

Outback Western Australia

For a luxurious stay in Esperance opt for the Esperance Island View Apartments or The Esperance Chalet Village. For affordable options go with The Jetty Resort in Esperance or Esperance Seafront Caravan Park. Exploring East Kimberley is best done from the luxuriously remote comfort of Bush Camp at Faraway Bay or El Questro Wilderness Retreat. Travelling through Kalgoorlie calls for a night at Quest Yelverton Kalgoorlie or Rydges Kalgoorlie. While Wave Rock Motel in Hyden is a great pit stop motel for those on the road.

Outback Queensland

Home to Australia’s most iconic pub, The Birdsville Hotel is a must-stay option when in Outback Queensland. Base yourself at Longreach Motor Inn when visiting Longreach. And for a luxurious stay close to Cobbold Gorge and Paronella Park book yourself a stay at Gilberton Outback Retreat. Alternatively, opt for an station stay at the luxurious Mount Mulligan Lodge in the outback landscape of Tropical North Queensland.

Top Outback Deals

Outback Experiences

The most impactful outback experiences you can have are those that connect you with the traditional owners of our land. From the millennia-old rock art found in a remote Kimberley gorge or cliff face on the Arnhem Land escarpment to the annual Laura Dance Festival in Cape York and the Parrtjima ‘light festival’ near Alice Springs. But it’s when you first lay eyes on Uluru that you grasp why the awe-inspiring monolith is referred to as the spiritual heart of Australia. There are countless ways to experience Uluru, including doing it in five-star style at a Sounds of Silence dinner, seeing it from above on a scenic flight, or riding a camel, cycling or walking around its base. 

The Queensland outpost of Birdsville draws a crowd for its annual horse races and to enjoy a cold beer at its iconic pub. While central western New South Wales lays claim to Australia’s first dark sky park, Warrumbungle National Park. Prepare to stand in awe under the starry night sky and visit Siding Springs Observatory to view it with the largest telescope in Australia.

Then there is the wildlife you’ll encounter along the way: kangaroos bounding along plains, a trail of dust in their wake; emus sprinting along the horizon; log-like crocodiles camouflaged in rivers and more. 

The Outback Made Easy

Don’t let the task of planning an outback holiday overwhelm you. It is more accessible than you might first think. There are some outback destinations that are easier to access than others. Uluru might be remote, but you can catch a flight from every major city in Australia to this iconic attraction. South Australia’s Flinders Ranges is within easy reach by car from Adelaide, while the Kimberley’s waterfalls and gorges are best experienced on a luxury cruise or tour. 

Keep reading to find all the resources you need to make your outback trip as easy as possible, from how to see the outback on a budget, road safety tips, the outback made easy for families, essential guides to major national parks, destinations and attractions, as well as the best way to travel (including the Ghan versus the Indian Pacific).