Road Tripping From Brisbane To Birdsville
It’s difficult to quantify the beauty of the Australian outback in words, and even harder to imagine it by simply looking at a screen. There’s an endless bounty of stunning natural scenery and wildlife throughout the country, and outback Queensland offers up an enormous stretch of endless horizons, tiny towns, vintage pubs, and diverse wildlife.
Australia’s massive, but that doesn’t mean a life-changing adventure can’t be had in just a few days. Birdsville, near the border of the sandy Simpson Desert, can be reached from Brisbane in less than a week. It’s a long, red and dusty drive, but you’ll be surprised by how many unique, exciting attractions you’ll find along the way.
#1 Getting To Brisbane
Before you hit the road, you’re going to need to reach the point of origin: Brisbane. Only an hour’s flight from Sydney, two from Melbourne and four from Perth, dozens of affordable flights are on offer each week. Pack light, opting to rent a campervan or 4WD and camping equipment in Brisbane from stores like Brisbane 4WD Hire. Planning ahead is crucial for surviving out there – it’s a beautiful journey, but it isn’t always an easy one. Make sure to research and prepare thoroughly before your trip.
#2 Brisbane to St George
St George is just over 500km from Brisbane, so get up early and set off toward Toowoomba. Take a pitstop in town, and a moment to enjoy the view at Picnic Point.
From there, head to Goondiwindi for lunch, or keep going until you reach Queensland’s oldest bar, Nindigully Pub. Opened in 1864, the pub is famous for its ludicrous Roadtrain Burger, with a beef patty weighing 1.2kg (though competitive eating contests have seen the pub produce patties up to 24kg).
Head to St George to rest after a long day of travelling, but stop by The Unique Egg first. It’s the outback Queensland version of Faberge eggs: designer Stavros Margiritis has been carving and decorating emu eggs for more than 60 years, with hundreds on display at one of the most unique galleries you’ll ever visit.
#3 St George to Cunnamulla
After a well-deserved rest, get up and head to Bollon, just over 100km west. Known for its roaming wildlife, enjoy a hearty morning tea in the Walter Austin Memorial Park while looking out for koalas, emus, echidnas and some of the 110 recorded species of birds in the area.
Cunnamulla is 300km away, essentially a straight line through the outback, allowing an incredible scope of your expansive red surrounds. Compared to the rest of your road trip, Cunnamulla feels like a bustling hub, with around 1200 residents, a library, public pool, racecourse, two museums and more. There a several cosy hotels to choose from for a comfy night’s rest, including the Billabong Hotel and Warrego Hotel.
#4 Cunnamulla to Noccundra
Load up on breakfast the following morning, readying yourself for a 200km drive to Thargomindah. Though the population sits at around 200 people, this location is remarkable for being the third city in the world to adopt hydroelectric streets lights, after London and Paris.
Head west, where you’ll find the road zipping down straight open plains, ahead of the low-lying Grey Range, toward the vast Lake Eyre Basin. The Lake Eyre Basin covers approximately one sixth of Australia’s entire land mass – around 1.2 million square kilometres. Trundle down Bundeena Road for 142km until you reach the famous Noccundra Hotel, first opened in 1882.
After a spot of fishing (you can trap blue-claw yabbies in the nearby Wilson River), it’s time for a rest. There’s free camping by the river, or rooms in the hotel.
#5 Noccundra to Windorah
Rise early and head north toward Eromanga, a tiny town with around 30 permanent residents, famous for being the furthest town from the ocean in Australia. It’s also known for its significant paleontological discoveries – Australia’s largest dinosaur fossils were found in Eromanga, and are on display (along with dozens of other rare and beautiful paleontological finds) at the Natural History Museum.
It’s another 278km to Windorah, but try to arrive before sunset so there’s time to really take in the red sandhills and idyllic surrounds. Windorah is also home to the Western Star Hotel, voted the best outback pub in Queensland. Famous for its scrumptious pub fare, make sure there’s room to gorge on a hearty dinner and a massive breakfast the next day, following an easy night’s rest in one of the hotel’s four rooms.
#6 Windorah to Birdsville
It’s a little under 400km between Windorah and Birdsville, and while much of the road is unsealed, it’s a beautiful drive, achievable in a single day. From Windorah you’ll head further west, eventually arriving in the Diamantina Shire, home to Birdsville, Bedourie and Betoota (yep – that’s where the Betoota Advocate got its name, though the town itself is completely deserted).
Birdsville is home to just 100 permanent residents, though thousands pour in for the Birdsville Races each year. Here you’ll find the Birdsville Hotel, Australia’s most remote pub – and there’s even two Airbnb rental properties in the area.
After a solid night’s sleep, head to Big Red the following morning. This famous sand dune lies at the easternmost edge of the vast Simpson Desert, and stands around 40 metres high, offering spectacular views of the surrounding desert. If you can, hike up the dune at nighttime as well; the star-speckled night skies are indescribably beautiful from such a remote location.
Brisbane to Birdsville is just one of many amazing outback road trips one can take throughout Queensland. With each small town populated by just a few hundred people, and the endless, rolling landscapes of red hills, sand dunes and arid plans, it’s an unforgettable experience in every sense.