About This Drive
Follow the mighty Barcoo west from its headwaters in the Great Dividing Range through to where it joins the Thomson River and flows peacefully into Cooper Creek. Trek along the river road skirting the tranquil billabongs of the famous Barcoo River. These backroads take you through the prime sheep and cattle lands of Blackall – Tambo and Isisford to the rocky outcrops of Yaraka and through to the corrugated red dunes of Windorah. Here's your chance to hit the road, get the red dust under your tyres and really explore the outback. Who doesn't want to camp beside a billabong, 4wd across a claypan and reel in a champion Yellowbelly. Discover awesome National Parks and incredible raw landscapes.
Your Barcoo Way adventure drive begins in Tambo, the oldest town in Western Queensland. Tambo is also the nearest town to the confluence point of the Barcoo River, the theme of this drive.
Tambo is about an 862 km drive north west of Brisbane along the Landsborough Highway. However, if you are looking for a spectacular entrance into Tambo, we’d recommend that you follow the Dawson Development Road from Springsure. This is around a 250 km drive along a mix of sealed and unsealed surfaces. This section of the drive forms the top section of Tambo’s Wilderness Way 4WD loop drive. You’ll understand why this area of spectacular rugged beauty is known as the ‘Rooftop of Queensland’ as you pass by deep gorges and vast chalk-coloured cliff lines.
As you arrive in Tambo you’ll pass beautiful heritage buildings and streets lined with native bottle trees. Make time to wander the main street, discovering the stories of the past at the town’s Heritage Precinct. Tambo played a vital role in the early telegraph system. You’ll discover a whole host of post and telegraph artefacts, and experience Morse code messaging in operation!
See the latest exhibition at the Grassland Art Gallery. This beautiful centre hosts locally produced and curated displays featuring a mix of regional and touring exhibitions. Just down the street is the famous Tambo Teddies workshop where you can see these cuddly favourites come to life.
Continue to the southern entrance of town to the Tambo Dam and Parklands. The dam provides a wonderful habitat for birds, so it’s a great spot for ‘twitchers,’ particularly early mornings or late afternoons. Enjoy a picnic, or embark on a relaxing stroll along the Coolibah Walk on the banks of the Barcoo River. The river with its many fishing spots is popular with locals and visitors alike.
Blackall is home to the legendary Jackie Howe. This national icon shore 321 sheep in seven hours and 40 minutes, using blade shears at Alice Downs near Blackall. Not a bad effort.
While in Blackall, we recommend that you take a guided tour of the Blackall Woolscour, the only fully intact steam-powered wool washing plant left in Australia. Take a wander through the displays at Ram Park. It really does bring Blackall’s colourful history to life.
What better way to end the day than soaking tired bones in mineral rich artesian water. Spend a couple of hours at the Blackall Aquatic Centre known for its therapeutic benefits, the perfect place to simply relax and soak up the Outback experience
Leaving Blackall, head north and turn left at Avington Road, the dirt track that will take you through to Isisford, passing through some of the richest grazing pastures in Western Queensland.
Keep your eyes peeled for a little track leading off to towards the Barcoo River to the Avington Waterhole. Avington is just one of 22 permanent waterholes on the Barcoo River. Home to 14 species of native fish, it’s fair to say that fishing is a popular past-time. Throw a line in, go for a paddle or check out some of the other nearby waterholes.
Continuing on you come to Isisford on the banks of the Barcoo, the town’s streetscape may make you think you’ve stepped back in time to the 1800s. This part of the region, often referred to as the ‘Outer Barcoo’ has been the inspiration for some of our more note-worthy poets, including Banjo Paterson.
It may come as a surprise to some that Isisford lays claim to a 98 million year old crocodile, you can see a replica of this beauty at The Outer Barcoo Interpretation Centre. At this point we should stress that there are no crocodiles in the Barcoo River, but there is excellent fishing. One of the most popular spots is the Oma Waterhole just 16 km along the Isisford-Yaraka River Road.
Every July Oma Waterhole is the scene of a fishing frenzy with keen anglers travelling from far and wide for the chance to take out the top prize by reeling in ‘the big one’. If you enjoy camping, Oma Waterhole has good facilities and is a great option when exploring the area around Isisford. This tranquil area on the river is great for fishing, water activities with boat ramp access.
From Oma Waterhole, you can follow the Emmet-Yaraka road through to Yaraka. Stunning views of the Yang Yang Ranges and Mt Slowcombe greet the keen photographer as they arrive in town.
Yaraka is small town with a population that could fit in a small bus. Originally a rail head, Yaraka was the point where wool bales were brought to be loaded on the rail wagons and sent to market.
There’s many a visitor who extends their stay in Yaraka because they love the great outback hospitality of the local publicans. Traveller can be found relaxing in the welcoming beer garden with views to the beautiful Yang Yang Ranges.
An absolute must when in Yaraka is to toast the sunset at nearby Mt Slowcombe. Join the daily sunset tour operated by Yaraka Hotel for the short 8km drive to the lookout. You won’t be disappointed. This place just oozes awesomeness from every angle of its 360 degree vista. It’s a sealed road all the way to the top, so it’s accessible to all vehicles, although it’s best to leave the caravan back at the hotel. Make use of the shaded free BBQ facilities and loo with a view while you’re there.
From Yaraka follow the Yaraka-Retreat road south west and turn right onto Wandsworth Road and travel along a gravel bush track to the ruins of Magees Shanty. Legend has it that Banjo Patterson wrote his iconic poem ‘A Bush Christening’ about an event that happened at this very site. To show their support, a handful of locals have also ‘had their heads wet’ here.
A few hundred metres east of the Shanty is the lonely gravesite of Richard Magoffin, a gold prospector who perished a few hundred metres from the river when he went in search of water for his horses during a severe dust storm in the late 1800s.
Further on, is the track to Welford National Park. The Barcoo River Crossing is the perfect place to boil the billy, wet the line or watch the native birdlife at play. From the crossing it’s just a short drive into Welford National Park and your overnight campsite at Little Boomerang Waterhole.
From Welford, travel back across the Barcoo River Crossing along the Jundah-Quilpie Road to the Retreat and head to Windorah. As you near Windorah, you’ll notice the landscape starting to change. From the black soil plains and mulga country to the spinifex and sandhill ‘desert country,’ this is an incredibly scenic drive.
You’ll know doubt be ready for a great meal, a cool ale and some great outback company. Well, you’ve come to the right place. The people of Windorah are renowned for their hospitality.
Just 12km west of town are the Windorah Sandhills. These stunning red dunes are awesome by day, but the real magic happens as the sun goes down. So it’s a good idea to time your visit for just on sunset. And, make sure you bring a supply of drinks and nibbles. This sunset will be one to remember.
You reach the end of the Barcoo Way here in Windorah, but there’s still plenty to see while in town. An interesting drive down to the Cooper Creek is via the Nature Drive. This unsealed track complete with interpretive signage will lead you on a self-guided native plant discovery tour.
Around 2km out of town it’s pretty hard to miss the five dazzling mirror dishes of the Windorah Solar Farm. There’s a viewing area and plenty of information on how this farm came to be. Another interesting attraction is the Whitula Gate Museum featuring an original slab hut built for boundary riders.
You may have passed the Cooper Creek on the way into town. Did you know that it’s the only place in the world where two rivers merge to form a creek? The Thomson and…… you guessed it, the Barcoo, merge around 40kms upstream of Windorah. From here, the waters of the Cooper flow peacefully on to Lake Eyre.
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