The outback can seem like a daunting place – all those wide open spaces and vast dirt roads – but the reality in Outback Queensland is you’ll land in a new town every 300 kilometres or so and there are plenty of sealed roads to keep those 2WD vehicles happy.
The hardest decision to make is which direction to head first, so why not tie your trip into one of these epic outback events? Let the festivities of your choosing set the compass and see what shapes our big red heart.
Fuel up the car, pack your bags, and get ready for an ‘eventure’ of a lifetime.
1. No one does horse races like Birdsville
On the first weekend in September the population of Birdsville multiplies from 100 to over 6000. A combination of dust-storm horse racing, Fred Brophy’s infamous (almost outlawed) boxing troupe and the legendary Royal Flying Doctors Service Cocktail Party, makes this one of the biggest events on the outback calendar, not to mention total bucket list material.
On top of that it’s the crowds, the tents, the dust, the streets of empty cans and of course the pub that give Birdsville a unmistakable flavour. One even stronger than Dusty the baker’s curry camel pie.
2. Mount Isa has the biggest rodeo in the southern hemisphere
Throw your hat in the air for the crazy cowboys and cowgirls competing for more than $200,000 in prizes at the Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo on August 7-9, 2015. That kind of cheddar brings the best of the best, so get excited.
Party down with “Chainsaw” (mascot extraordinaire) at Mardis Gras, then park yourself ringside for Fred Brophy and his travelling band of pugilists!
The bush poetry will ease you into the day before you watch the manliest of men ride the nastiest of bulls.
3. Winton is Australia’s answer to Cannes
Film buffs, cancel the flight to Cannes and pack the car for a road trip. From June 26 to July 4, 2015 everything you love about Australian film is on show in Winton at the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival.
It’s the first open-air film festival of its kind and each day highlights a different theme ranging from comedy to action and blockbuster to indie. The personality and passion of Australian cinema is renowned and this is the best-of-the-best.
Lay back in the open-air theatre and realise that when each film ends, the night sky opens up and offers just as much beauty and mystery.
4. There’s dunny races
Winton’s at it again. Seriously, they do all the fun stuff.
Held every two years the Outback Festival is five huge days of entertainment and challenges, on from September 22-26, 2015.
Pack your tent and plant it firmly in the centre of ‘tent city’ – just watch where you park the car. Last year, Australia’s Strongest Man, Derek Boyer, flipped a car 10 times in under two minutes, setting a Guinness World Record. He also leg pressed a 96-tonne train 1.5 metres. You know, girly stuff.
When you head for the dunny, just watch out, it might get up and run away from you. With a $5000 prize for the best team in the Dunny Race we’re guessing they’ll be moving pretty fast.
Dine under the stars in a secret location during the Sunset Extravaganza, take on the Outback Ironman or Outback Century Cycle, or just set the kids onto kart racing, wobble board-making workshops and teddy bear’s picnic.
5. Two words: Bog Snorkelling
Much like the outback itself, the Julia Creek Dirt ‘n’ Dust festival was born from nothing but the hard work and dedication of a select few people. Now, on April 17-19, 2015 more than 3000 people will fill the normally quiet town testing their mettle in true outback fashion.
The legendary triathlon and the PBR Bull Riding bring in the toughest of tough, but it’s the other events that show who the real champions are.
Put on your snorkel, flippers and the best costume you can think of and jump into the ‘Bog Pit’ (a trench filled with water and mud). Without using your arms, you need to make it to the finish line around 50 metres away. This is BOG SNORKELLING.
Afterwards, steel your nerves and head over to the Australia’s Best Butt competition and don’t forget to wear some tight denim. Whether you’re bouncing your own booty or voting for the champ, it’s going to be hilarious.
Stop laughing and sign up now.
6. You can become a real Aussie drover
Harry Redford was a cattle thief so good at droving, he was never charged with the crime because the jury was impressed with his skills.
Saddle up with the seasoned pros and follow Harry’s trail across Outback Queensland on the Harry Redford Cattle Drive. This is a full on saddle-riding, swag-sleeping, cattle-droving, bush-bashing, campfire-cooking ride of a lifetime. You’ve got 600 head of cattle and a whole lot of distance to cover. Sore butts are guaranteed.
But when you’re sitting atop your horse and watching the sun go down, with the crackle of campfire behind you and your mob of cattle resting, you’ll realise this is your real-life cowboy fantasy come true.
7. Because you can give an angel wings
Join the convoy to raise money for one of the outback’s most-needed services. The Outback Trailblazer is a charity event that runs from April 18-25, 2015 and it’s also one of the most epic road trips you’ll ever do.
For eight days, 4WDs traverse the heart of Outback Queensland competing in all sorts of challenges, including camel rides, drag racing and a round of night golf. The trip starts in Quilpie and ends in Winton with an ‘Outback R’n’R’ party.
All proceeds go to the Angel Flight service, which flies outback patients to medical care they otherwise couldn’t get to.
8. The Simpson Desert makes a pretty epic stage
Birdsville may be famous for its races but from July 5-6, 2015 nothing will compare to the two-day desert music fest that is the Big Red Bash.
Artists flock from all over Australia to rock it out on Big Red – last year John Williamson, Kasey Chambers and Daryl Braithwaite were there – and dancing and singing at the foot of the dunes will make you feel more Aussie than Crocodile Dundee’s vest.
Pitch your tent on Lake Nappanerica and hope you stay dry. It only fills up once every 50 years so you should be right, mate.
If these events make you want more, don’t worry they’re just the tip of the iceberg giant sand dune. Check out the full list of It’s Live events in Outback Queensland here.