Instead of using your beloved annual leave on house renovations and Top Gun repeats on free-to-air, load the car and make better use of your sanctuary time (and sanity) to explore what’s out back.
Say g’day to Outback Queensland, with these 7 Top Gun driving journeys:
Take this six-day journey in bite size pieces, including many games of eye-spy, as you travel through Goondiwindi to Cunnamulla. Replenish your engines at Queensland’s oldest establishment, the Nindigully pub, and take a relaxing scrub in the Eulo mud baths enroute to Thargomindah.
Have some dirty fun locking the hubs into 4WD all the way to Innamincka, paying respect at the Burke and Wills Dig Tree. Enjoy the home stretch to Birdsville Hotel and reward your bucket list journey with a hot curry camel pie from the bakery and a cold ale from the Hotel, overlooking the red Simpson Desert.
Take three days exploring your way to Richmond, home of the Kronosaurus Korner, stopping for sunset at Lake Moondarra with packed nibbles. Later, meet Hughey the dino replica in Hughenden and many more real life fossils at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs outside Winton.
Home of AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda anthem, detour slightly to the nearby Combo Waterhole as you travel through to Mount Isa. It’s an Aussie’s right of passage to stop for a drink and selfie on the deck of the McKinlay Walkabout Creek Hotel – the one that featured in Crocodile Dundee many moons ago.
Give yourself at least nine days out of office for the 2000-kilometre Tropic of Capricorn circuit, kicking off from Australia’s beef capital of Rockhampton and travelling through: Emerald, Barcaldine and the Sapphire Gemfields to Longreach Springsure, Carnarvon Gorge and back to nearby Gladstone.
Try fossicking for gems in the biggest field in the southern hemisphere and stand with respect under the gigantic Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine, paying tribute to the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party.
Overnight in plush swags under the stars on the banks of Thompson River in Longreach and roam the historic museums and National Parks filled with Indigenous rock art and waterfalls.
Start this journey from Winton and set the GPS even further west where the Min Min lights shine bright in Boulia. Take some time off the road for a relaxing artesian spa in Bedourie and grab a counter meal at the Royal Hotel, owned by one licensee Jim Smith since 1971.
Follow the long Diamantina Development Road into Birdsville before testing your 4WD skills and seeing if you can reach the top of Big Red – a sand dune in the Simpson Desert. The itinerary continues through quaint Windorah and their solar farm to Longreach, famous for their rib fillet steaks at the RM Williams Cottage.
If you feel like you need a break from driving, take the overnight Spirit of the Outback Rail from Longreach to Brisbane. Simply pop the car and yourselves onboard and settle into one of their sleeping berths. (Note: This service is subject to conditions and is priced at $165 per vehicle).
The Matilda Highway is a fully sealed 1812-kilometre stretch from the border of New South Wales right up to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Take the journey comfortably over four leisurely days from Barringun to Cunnamulla.
Wander the Stephanie Mills Gallery and local museums before making tracks to Blackall, home of the Woolscour shed and legend of speedy sheep shearer, Jackie Howe.
Take your time in charming Charleville, oh and also Barcaldine, Longreach and Winton, too. With Karumba in your sights and the taste of fresh seafood on your lips, journey through to Cloncurry and Normanton to arrive in a sea man’s paradise, stocked with the freshest seafood every day of the week.
Leave the Great Barrier Reef behind from Townsville and set the GPS to a town on the Northern Territory border called Camooweal. This drive is very cruisy with townships every three hours or so, and Visitor Information Centres filled with knowledgeable Outback Mates ready to share a secret lookout or two.
Explore the Ghosts of Gold Heritage Trail in Charters Towers and spot the life-sized dinosaur replicas in Hughenden and Richmond. Tie in the trip with the annual horse races and red claw luncheon in Julia Creek before setting the cruise control on the long flat road to Mount Isa via Cloncurry.
Detour to Lake Moondarra for biting barramundi and venture below the ground on a Hard Times Mine Tour. Your final destination Camooweal, and it’s renowned 500-million-year-old caves and sinkholes, isn’t too far away now.
Quite possibly the easiest and most accessible journey west of Brisbane is known as the Warrego Way, which follows a scenic highway through many rural townships such as Ipswich and Toowoomba, high in the ranges.
Appreciate the working farming properties through Dalby, Chinchilla and Miles, and you’ll know you’ve hit Roma with the largest cattle yards in the southern hemisphere jumping out from the horizon.
Venture on through the mulga country of Mitchell and Morven to Charleville, a pinnacle outback destination – home to the Cosmos Centre, Bilby Centre and school of distance education. Take time out exploring the local 4WD tracks and the local weather station, which is always a hit with dads.
Click here for your very own Queensland Drives map.
Hot tip: Just as mum would tell you, you’re going remote on some of these trips, so play it safe and pack spare tyres, petrol, oil and water just in case. Also be sure to consult with our friends at RACQ for road conditions and ‘stay on track out back’.
Which driving journey would you pick? Or do you have some great tips to share? Tell us in the comments below.
(Words: Nikki Dudley)