13 things to do on an outback Queensland road trip with kids
With Camel races, rodeos, lava tubes, dinosaurs and Outback Queensland road trip sounds like a kid’s daydream.
As we set off in search of red dirt, we find this land is nothing if not a land of surprises.
Best of all, it’s waiting just on your doorstep. So grab your swag and billy, and check out these great attractions.
1. Charleville Bilby Experience
Charleville is an outback town with a wealth of great activities. Charleville is the bilby capital of Australia and the folks at Charleville Bilby Experience are working hard to ensure the survival of these endangered Aussie Easter Bunny-substitutes, offering daily shows along with bilby-themed merchandise to support their efforts. Daily shows will bring little nature lovers face to face with these adorable critters, then take a stroll through the historic Charleville Railway Station, now converted into a nocturnal house for these sweet local legends.
2. Cosmos Centre, Charleville
The next place not to miss in Charleville is the Cosmos Centre and Observatory, an interactive museum that will take you and your kids to infinity and beyond. Little astronauts can hold a meteorite, study the glittering Milky Way, or lose themselves in Saturn’s rings. A purpose-built solar telescope offers any budding astronomer the chance to look directly (and safely) at the sun.
Booking a night session will definitely prove an adventure for the kids. You need to arrive at least 15 minutes early because after this time, the observatory is locked and all the lights in the area are blacked out so as not to disturb the visitors’ astounding view of the night sky, revealed when the observatory roof rolls back. A closer look can be had through the powerful Meade telescopes.
3. Try a Farm stay at Charlotte Plains, Cunnamulla
Charlotte Plains is a family-owned sheep station, 60km from Cunnamulla. The sheer size of this place will blow the kids’ minds. At 29,000 hectares, it’s is half the size of Singapore.
Families can pitch a tent or pull up the caravan at the campground close to the artesian bore. Or, for something different, book a bed in the shearers quarters. Owner Robyn hosts tours of the property and it’s a great way to learn about farming and the landscape on your outback Queensland road trip.
We highly recommend a soak in the outdoor porcelain baths filled with mineralised water from the Great Artesian Basin.
4. Qantas Founders Museum, Longreach
I bet you didn’t know that Qantas actually stands for ‘Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service’. It was in Outback Queensland that the airline was founded, which is why the Qantas Founders Museum is housed in Longreach. A Bristol Fighter flight simulator and optional wing walks are perfect for little pilots, as well as a variety of retired airplanes on display including a replica of the 1930s de Havilland Giant Moth, the first aircraft fitted with a toilet, and the 1980s Boeing 747 Jumbo which was used as one of the Bali bombing rescue planes, it is no wonder that this museum has become almost iconic as a Queensland tourist attraction.
After exploring the numerous replica aircrafts – including the first jet ever owned by Qantas – there’s still plenty to occupy energetic tots at the Cadets’ Corner Play Zone and Kids’ Trail.
5. Outback Pioneers, Longreach
Outback Pioneers invites you to jump in a restored Cobb & Co stagecoach for a 45-minute ride, beginning with a leisurely trot through town before amping up the horsepower and hitting a stretch of the original Longreach–Windorah mail route at full pelt. The four-hour experience also includes a classic Australian movie in retro cinema seats and a Harry Redford Old Time Tent Show, a tribute to the old-time travelling shows.
6. Winton’s Dinosaurs
The next stop is an easy two hours north of Longreach in Winton, a definite ‘must-do’ because there is nothing quite like real dinosaur tracks to grab the kids’ attention, and there is nowhere like Lark Quarry to find them. In the historical town of Winton, Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackways has the only dinosaur stampede tracks on earth! The stampede was caused 95 million years ago by a hungry Theropod after his dinner – you certainly wouldn’t want to get under those feet. The town of Winton is a fascinating little place, and Lark Quarry isn’t its only dinosaur attraction. The town also boasts the interactive Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, which displays the largest collection of unique Australian dinosaur fossils, as well as the Corfield and Fitzmaurice building that houses a diorama of the stampede, bringing the awe-inspiring events to life.
This museum is spread across more than 1,800 hectares of archaeological hotspots. The museum’s three facilities – the Fossil Preparation Laboratory, Collection Room and Dinosaur Canyon – each give wannabe palaeontologists the chance to touch fossils and discover the real Jurassic Park. Nearby, the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument at Lark Quarry Conservation Park builds on the Jurassic theme with over 3,300 preserved dinosaur footprints scattered over the rock face and animated recreations of a dinosaur stampede worthy of Spielberg himself.
7. Festival of Culture and Camel Races, Tara
Just a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Brisbane airport, this colourful three-day festival is not to be missed.
The Tara Festival is held every two years. You can find the next date here. It celebrates the diverse culture of the Tara region, and will include martial arts displays, working sheepdogs, Bollywood performances, and a stellar line-up of local country music.
But the main attraction is those camels. If Camel Racing isn’t on your outback Queensland road trip list, it really should be, and this is the place to see it. The kids will love the jockey’s bright outfits, the unexpected speed of the animals, and of course all that dust!
Camping is free at the event, but get in early – there will be a crowd.
8. Undara Experience
If you’ve got kids who love trains and lava, this is one you simply can’t miss out on. Shimmy through the tunnels of one of the longest lava tube cave systems in the world at Undara Volcanic National Park. Over 190,000 years ago, the Undara volcano erupted, spewing lava through the Gulf Savannah country in Northern Queensland and creating a cave system that is a must-see for anyone exploring the Queensland outback.
Undara Experience’s highly skilled tour guides will help you explore the beautifully preserved lava tubes visitors can walk down, underneath the grasslands above. The fertile lands also mean lots of wildlife, so keep an eye out for kangaroos and wallabies, and take a tour to watch thousands of bats fly out of Barker’s Cave against the stunning sunset. After a day of volcanoes and wildlife, settle into your very own Federation-era railway carriage, lovingly restored to become 25 rooms (including family rooms). If you prefer, there’s also the Swags Tent Village or camping ground facilities are available. Wherever you stay, the kids will never forget the time they stood on lava!
9. The Big Red Bash festival
Every July, the sands of the Simpson Desert play host to a variety of iconic Aussie artists for the three-day festival known as the Big Red Bash. Set against the 40-metre-high dune known as ‘Big Red’, this remote festival is a family-friendly fiesta of good music, great food and staggering dunes just waiting to be surfed down on a boogie board or a piece of cardboard. Tourists and locals flock to this event, just 35 kilometres from the quaint town of Birdsville. Optional camel and helicopter rides offer the kids a break from dancing to killer tunes, but with legendary acts that headline each year, we doubt you’ll need one.
10. Mount Isa Mines Rodeo, Mt Isa
When your planning your outback Queensland road trip, make sure you can be in Mt Isa in August. That’s when the annual Southern Hemisphere’s biggest rodeo kicks into action.
You’ll see all kinds of events including ladies’ barrel racing, steer wrestling, roping, saddle bronc and bareback, and bull riding. There’s loads of other entertainment including music, rodeo quest queens, and Cowboy Corner where you can meet cowboys and their mascot, Chainsaw.
The place to stay nearest the action is Sway City, set up in Buchanan Park. It’s suitable for caravans, tents, camper trailers or camping under the stars, and you’re sure to meet plenty of other travelers. Just make sure to book ahead. Yee ha!
11. Boodjamulla NationalPark
Pack a thirst for adventure – and a sturdy 4WD – for Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, about 8.5 hours past Mount Isa. This outback experience will see your little explorers discovering sandstone cliffs, natural cave systems and ancient cave drawings. Hire a canoe from Adels Grove Camping Park and wind your way along the creek, taking in scenes of cliff faces and natural flora as birdcalls echo through the gorge.
12. 4WD the Simpson Desert
If rolling dunes, endless horizons, brilliant wildflowers and unique wildlife that only survives the harshest of conditions sounds like your cup of tea, then a 4WD adventure (the only way to navigate the sandy terrain) through the Simpson Desert might just be the answer.
13. Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame
The iconic Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame & Outback Heritage Centre, located in Queensland’s Longreach, has a swag of immersive experiences for visitors of all ages. Featuring the stories of stockmen and women, First Nations people, pioneers and settlers, and jackaroos and jillaroos, visitors will experience a thought-provoking adventure with unique encounters and cinematic storytelling told through the voices of the people that make the outback real. Among the exhibits is an interactive experience just for kids – a fast-paced treasure hunt game.
From the tropical coastal regions of the Top End to the ancient deserts of the Centre, the...Read More
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