Planning a trip around the Sunshine State’s heartland? There’s no reason to forego life’s little luxuries, writes Dilvin Yasa.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: nothing says ‘outback Queensland road trip’ quite like tackling Australia’s wealth of rustic, centuries-old pubs, quirky personalities and yes, those quintessential chicken parmies.
Out here, driving long stretches of open road is a given, but the good news is the experience no longer needs to be bookended with roadside motels and takeaway food. Indeed, dig a little deeper (watch for the dinosaur bones prevalent in this area) and you’ll find a world filled with stylish stays and activities that elevate the beauty of the region.
Are you ready? It’s time to go and purchase that Akubra!
Stylish Queensland Outback Accommodation
Whether you’re dreaming about a safari-style glamping experience, a quaint cottage with a romantic outdoor bath or a luxurious outback station stay, outback Queensland has got every whim and desire covered.
At Longreach, long considered the heart and soul of the state’s outback, Mitchell Grass Retreat serves up 15 luxury en suite tents for those looking to enjoy the surrounding Mitchell Grass Plains in style. Each tent features an en suite bathroom with tub, air conditioning, European appliances and a private deck, while an onsite saltwater pool, communal fire pit, Wi-fi and a list of activities to enjoy nearby completes the experience. For those who prefer a more remote glamping experience steeped in Indigenous and wildlife experiences, Wallaroo Outback Retreat, curled around the sandstone cliffs of the Carnarvon Ranges, is also an experience not easily forgotten.
Prefer your accommodation to be a little more… traditional? Longreach is also home to Saltbush Retreat, a spectacular property where you can choose between the rustic, 4.5-star Homestead Stables, the 4-star Slab Huts or the Outback Cabins. The Homestead Stables are beautifully appointed to tell the full outback story, with old gates repurposed as bedheads and rustic troughs fashioned into bed bases. The stables also feature fully equipped kitchens and air conditioning and provide access to the all-important outdoor bath terrace where you can enjoy the ultimate soak with a view. Happily, a swimming pool, Wi-fi and barbecue facilities can also be found on the property.
Meanwhile, you will find Moble Homestead in Quilpie on the banks of the Bulloo River. Here, you can choose between a variety of accommodation options (everything from a rustic-looking hut with luxurious finishes to the shearer’s quarters) and the list of activities is just as joyful. Fancy some tennis, cooking classes or a dedicated walking package? The competitive all-inclusive rates can be tailored to whatever your heart desires.
Outback Queensland Experiences & Tours
Car karaoke aside, remote outback regions aren’t usually renowned for their entertainment value, yet there’s surprisingly plenty to do in outback Queensland.
For those who like to plan their activities around the sunset (and with colours like this, why wouldn’t you?), there are a plethora of options. Thrill-seekers will enjoy a scenic helicopter flight from Winton with Outback From Above, while those who like to keep their feet firmly on cracked terra firma might prefer Rangelands Rifts and Sunset Tour. The latter, run by Red Dirt Tours at Winton, is a three-hour experience exploring the rifts (narrow channels created from erosion) at Rangelands Station before nibbles and (BYO) drinks are enjoyed from the sunset lookout.
Of course everybody needs a middle ground, and for those there is the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing and ridiculously scenic Thomson River cruise with Drover’s Sunset Cruise with Outback Aussie tours in Longreach. Refreshments are enjoyed onboard as the sun dips its head and then it’s off for a two-course camp-oven dinner at Smithy’s Outback Dinner and Show (included with the tour).
Keen to immerse yourself in the rich history of the region instead? Qantas Founders Museum has long been a tourism mainstay of Longreach for its life-size exhibits and artefacts, but it brings entertainment to a whole new level with Luminescent Longreach. A 20-minute night-time sound and light experience designed to awe, this brings the 100-year story of Qantas to life with a Boeing 747 serving as the primary canvas.
Still in Longreach, Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame is set to reopen with all-new exhibits and state-of-the-art interactive technology. Check out the themed galleries of Australia’s pioneering history, get up close and personal with the stars (both human and four-legged) at Stockman’s live show and enjoy a 20-minute journey for all senses with a cinematic experience. The cherry on top? A Cobb and Co Stagecoach Experience with Outback Pioneers. There’s simply no better way to put yourself in our pioneer past.
Just don’t forget to add a day of real-life dinosaur bone digging at Winton’s Australian Age of Dinosaurs (tour and dino-prep options available as well), followed by a visit to the Waltzing Matilda Centre. Showcasing the story of Winton, the outback and, yes, that much-loved song, it is quintessential outback Queensland.
Great food in Outback Queensland
Michelin star fine dining might not yet be a feature of the outback, but there are many modern Australian dining experiences to enjoy.
Royal Carrangarra in Tambo is famous for its chicken parmigianas and spaghetti meatballs in the shape of a Tambo Teddy, but punters are just as enthusiastic about the venue’s quirky weekly event: chicken racing.
Of course, those in the mood for unique pub experience can also add Queensland’s oldest pub, Nindigully Pub, in Nindigully, for one of its gargantuan road-train burgers (they feed four people minimum) and an ice-cold beer in its beer garden. Fancy a camel burger or pie instead? Shuttered by COVID-19, Birdsville Bakery is due to reopen its doors in 2021.
And finally, if you’re in the mood for a cheeky croissant, muffin or pastry with a side of boutique browsing, be sure to lock in some quality time in one of the outback cafes offering the best of both worlds. Elegant Emu in Adavale is famous for its premium high tea experience and ever-changing patisserie menu (so much cake, such little time), while Blackall’s The Lodge on Hawthorn comes to the party with a sophisticated menu and a range of quirky finds. Over in Charleville, Charlotte’s Nest is the place to spend an easy morning with a nice slice of carrot cake and a pot of tea, and the good news is that coffee drinkers won’t be left in the cold either. ReX Coffee & Food in Roma might be known for its decadent desserts (Caramello Koala hot tub muffins, anyone?), but its coffee tastes like a dream. Just the fuel required to start that long drive back to city life.