7 outback national parks to put on your bucket list

#OutbackQueensland photo by @the.wildlings

If you thought Outback Queensland was simply red dirt as far as the eye can see, think again.  

With lush forest, waterways, towering sandstone and deep gorges, you can find over 20 national parks dotted throughout the 901,574km2 of outback landscape – when you know where to look.  

Don a bit of khaki and an Akubra and set your GPS west, you’re heading on an outback nature adventure at these seven national parks.

1. Munga-Thirri National Park (Simpson Desert)

#OutbackQueensland photo by @ourlivingoutback

It doesn’t get more outback than the Munga-Thirri National Park, aka the Simpson Desert, just outside Birdsville 

Spanning over one million hectares of dry, arid landscape, this national park is Queensland’s largest protected area of land.  

It’s also the only spot in Queensland where you can also be in another state and a territory.

Visit Poeppels Corner where Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory meet for the mandatory photograph.  

A 4WD enthusiasts dream, the 1,140 undulating sand dunes of the Simpson Desert reach up to 90m and spread as far as the eye can see.  

Visit its largest and most famous dune, Big Red, earning its fame as being the best seat in the house for a sunset over Birdsville and its iconic red landscape.   

It’s also home to the most remote music festival in the world, the Big Red Bash, which welcomes over 9,000 people to celebrate country music in the desert.  

Psst – with summer temps over 40 degrees, this national park closes from December to March.

2. Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park 

#OutbackQueensland photo by @the.wildlings

From dry desert to weaving waterways, 20 hours directly north of the Simpson Desert (nine hours north-west of Mount Isa) you’ll find an outback oasis at Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park. 

Towering blood-orange sandstone gorges frame placid emerald waters and create a natural playground that attracts over 40,000 visitors each year to camp amongst its beauty.   

Take to one of the seven walking trails that lead you along the top of the gorge for a birds-eye-view of the canal or get out on the water in a canoe and paddle through the thick of it.  

It’s not just its beauty that earns this national park a place on your outback bucket list. In the national park’s southern pocket, there’s an ancient world waiting to be discovered.  

The World Heritage-listed Riversleigh Site displays fossils over 10,000 hectares of the national park, representing now-extinct animals that lived on the land 15-25 million years ago.

3. Carnarvon National Park

Once you see Carnarvon Gorge’s giant sandstone structures, it’s hard to think they are so hidden amongst the Central Highlands (3.5 hours north of Roma). 

With a lucky dip of landscapes, you’ll come across lush forest, woodland, creeks, flat plains, rocky cliffs, and deep gorges amongst the untamed wilderness of this national park.  

Carnarvon is best experienced over a few days. There is a range of accommodation with options from camping and powered caravan sites, to nearby luxury retreats giving you easy access to the national park.  

A trip to Carnarvon National Park isn’t complete without a hike through its namesake gorge, with overarching sandstone structures creating a cave-like atmosphere.

4. Porcupine Gorge National Park

#OutbackQueensland photo by @visithughenden

Although you won’t find any porcupines, you’ll discover a never-ending path through cliffs and valleys at this gorge-ous national park. 

Although only 65km north off the beaten track from Hughenden, you can set up camp in Porcupine National Park, with a short walk to the lookout for sweeping views over the gorge.  

Longer trails into the thick of the park to explore this real-life history book, discovering eroded structures formed over millions of years from Porcupine Creek.  

The national park’s gigantic valleys make for great acoustics – yelling ‘cooee’ never sounded so good.

5. Bladensburg National Park

Emerging from the flat landscapes of central Outback Queensland, Bladensburg National Park adds to the theme of dinosaur country, giving off eerie Jurassic Park vibes.  

You’ll find it 7km from dinosaur hub, Winton – in fact, the national park is used as the backdrop of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs‘ canyon walk.  

A highlight of the national park is Scrammy Gorge, a sharp cliff that looks down on giant rocky formations that were created from collapsing off the land above.  

Psst – overwhelmed with the number of things to see and do while in Winton? We’ve got you sorted with this 48 hour guide for Winton.

6. Camooweal Caves National Park

#OutbackQueensland photo by @annette_hobbs_

Sitting on the edge of the Queensland and Northern Territory border, you’ll find the coordinates in the name of this national park.  

Perched along the Barkly Highway, set out on one of the two short (either 70m or 220m) return walks from the entrance to the Little or Great Nowranie Caves.  

Formed from water eroding 500-million-year-old rock, a series of caves and sinkholes are found across the national park. 

For a longer adventure, set up camp at the Nowranie Waterhole camping area in the national park, and spend your days birdwatching, bushwalking and bike riding along the internal roads.

7. Currawinya National Park

#OutbackQueensland photo by @visitcunnamulla

You only need to look at a map to see national parks frame Outback Queensland, and guarding its southern border you’ll find Currawinya National Park. 

Sitting 185km south-west from Cunnamulla, this national park’s red plains and mulga woodlands give little hint to the fact it’s one of the most important inland waterbird habitats.  

Pack your binoculars and try and spot the 200 species of birds that call the rivers, lakes, and wetlands of the national park home.  

Birds won’t be the only thing on your outback wildlife bucket list, Currawinya National Park also has a large population of kangaroos and wallabies, as well as an enclosed section (no public access) for endangered bilbies to live without the threat of predators.  

Have you been to one of these outback national parks?