Let’s be honest; you don’t ever hear the kids screaming, “Muuum not another seaside holiday, please!”
But what if patting a dinosaur, learning to crack a stockwhip, or sitting in the cockpit of a 747 aircraft was on their radar?
Hide the boogie boards, queue the playlist and stock up on snacks for a family road trip set to trump any Kelly Slater surf break.
1. Stars. Parks. Legends.
The perfect introduction for little minds as to what lies west is to keep them occupied with fun, interesting and quirky tales of Outback’s Stars, Parks and bush Legends. That’s why families flock to Charleville’s Cosmos Centre and stargazing observatory to watch their jaws drop at the first sight of galaxies and Saturn’s orbiting rings through the lens. And guess what? There’s not a single wave or beach in sight (Oh, perhaps a mirage or two).
Everyone’s allowed to get their hands dirty at Quilpie fossicking for real opals. Once cleaned up, don’t bypass the space-like looking solar farm in Windorah. Then show the kids what it’s like to live without power for a night under the coolibah trees and red river gums camping in Welford National Park.
Dive into the legends of Longreach at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Qantas Founders Museum. They’ll leave with inspired minds and grand plans to one day become astronauts, pilots and archaeologists.
2. Far West Adventure
If they’re begging for a more rugged and raw adventure (likely the boys), show them firsthand what it’s truly like to live on the land 1800 kilometres west of Brisbane – in comparison to a 450m2 house block in the ‘burbs – in the remote Far West. Then, show them how easy it is to gain a new outback mate as you pass through friendly Stonehenge, Jundah and Betoota.
Spot the aircraft hangers parked out front of the Birdsville Hotel and let all that pent-up long drive energy out with an afternoon playing in the Simpson Desert. Don’t forget to snap the obligatory ‘oh what a feeling’ photo on top of the Big Red sand dune.
Continue your journey north, overnighting in designated camping areas or comfortable motel rooms through Bedourie, Boulia, Dajarra. Spot the mining stacks of Mount Isa in the distance and venture below the earth’s surface on a Hard Times Underground Mine Tour.
3. Channel Country Explorer
If you’re stumped on where to start planning your family itinerary then the Channel Country Explorer is a you-beaut way to experience what all the fuss is about in a neat loop. You can also trust Australia’s seasoned bloggers, Caz and Craig from Y Travel Blog when they say Winton is their favourite stop in all of the outback. Make a beeline to their top picks: quirky singing fence and nearby Australian Age of Dinosaurs, where you can touch real dinosaur remains. How cool is that!
Continue south west where outback’s annual camel races are held and the Min Min Lights are spookily spotted in Boulia, and point out the roaming brolgas and pelicans of the Diamantina National Park from your window.
Loop back to Longreach via quaint Windorah and stay a while longer to ride the Outback Pioneers Cobb and Co Stagecoach or join a real-life cattle muster on horseback.
4. Birdsville Desert Safari
This safari journey is as it sounds – an opportunity for the family to don their wide brim hats and rub red sand between their toes. In this part of the world, 1800 kilometres west of Brisbane, you can even meet the traditional owners and elders of the indigenous Wangkangurru Yarluyandi Tribe.
Follow the trail of Australian explorers Burke and Wills to Innamincka in north-east South Australia along the Coopers Creek, paying tribute at their resting place, the Dig Tree.
Return back to Queensland soil and make the most of Birdsville by visiting the dusty race track which draws 6,000 hopeful race-goers every year and tucking into a delicious curry camel pie on the verandah of the old bakery.
5. Dinosaur Trail Weekend
This road trip is as close to Jurassic Park as they’re gonna get in real life, without all the scary parts. Keep all eyes poised for dino sightings, with a prize for spotting the life-sized Kronosaurus in Richmond and ‘Hughey’ the seven-metre muttaburrasaurus in Hughenden.
Pretend to be archaeologists preparing real bones in the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Prep Lab outside Winton and see the footprints of the world’s only recorded dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackways.
If you have time, follow the unsealed road to Opalton for records of a different kind – the largest opal ever recorded. We bet you wouldn’t find that precious gem on any sandy beach!
6. Corner Country Stories
West from Brisbane, where the soil turns rich red outside Roma, is known as Queensland’s Corner Country. Make time in Charleville for the ‘star’ attraction – the Cosmos Centre Twilight Show. Learn how to operate a powerful telescope and later spot the formations from your campsite under millions of stars.
If you promised the kids excitement better than any ride at the theme parks, then try coating yourself from head to toe in artesian mud at Eulo in the middle of a paddock.
Continue to treat yourself with a fair dinkum pub meal at the sandstone Noccundra Hotel, built in 1882. Population just two, hear their stories of the Cobb & Co. stagecoaches that operated in this area and appreciate your comfortable vehicle with air conditioning all the way to Birdsville.
Have you taken the family outback? What was your most memorable experience?
Looking for more road trip inspiration? Try these suggested drive route itineraries.