Seeing the best bits of Outback Queensland doesn’t have to break the bank! With endless skies to gaze upon, national parks to explore and landscapes to admire (all absolutely free of charge), there’s nothing stopping you from embarking on an outback adventure today, even if you’re on a budget! Our sizzling outback sun might singe the soles of your feet, but we guarantee it won’t burn a hole in your pocket. To give you a few ideas, here are the top 10 free things to do in Outback Queensland.
1. Largest cattle sales centre in the Southern Hemisphere
It’s something you won’t find on a traditional holiday itinerary, but if you really want to experience what keeps Outback Queensland’s wheels in motion, then duck into the largest cattle sales centre in the southern hemisphere, the Roma Saleyards. There’s no way to describe the energy of this place, with all the thrills and excitement that comes from watching up to 13,000 cattle be bought and sold. Auctions are held every Tuesday and Thursday, and sometimes there are special sales like bull sales, herd dispersal sales and special breed sales. You won’t find this in Brisbane, an experience that’s definitely worth a look (and 100% free).
2. Fossick for Boulder Opals
If you’re heading past Quilpie and feeling a little lucky, detour two kilometres west of the town to the council fossicking area, which gives you the opportunity to fossick for opals for free. The Boulder opal is unique to Queensland and is found in the mining belt stretching from Quilpie in the south west to Winton in the north of the State. Bring some hand tools, picks, shovels or sieves to help you dig, and not only could you stumble across some free souvenirs for the kids, you might even make a buck!
3. Trek through Carnarvon Gorge
If you’re saving up for a rainy day to see Outback Queensland, you might be waiting a while. So invest your cash in a holiday that gives you the most bank for your buck. Carnarvon Gorge is filled with a mountain of things to do, and none of them will cost you a cent. 21 kilometres of walking tracks, with over 173 bird species to spot, plus fantastic flora, impressive cliffs and historical Aboriginal rock art to see. Pack a camera and lace up your comfy shoes for a day spent getting up close to nature and admiring the region’s cultural heritage.
4. Visit Lake Eyre Basin
Lake Eyre Basin is the largest salt lake in the world, covering 1/6th of Australia. If chartering a plane and helicopter is out of your budget, don’t fret, you can still see the massive expanse of shimmering dry white salt from the ground. If the kids have seen one coastal beach, they’ve seen them all. Why not bring them to Outback Queensland and show them a sea of salt. An incredible natural attraction that is worth a detour.
5. Bask in the Tree of Knowledge
While it won’t increase your brain function, you may walk away a little bit smarter, purely because you’ll have learnt about the importance of this tree to Australian political history. The Tree of Knowledge was regarded as the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). While it lasted longer than any Australian prime minister seems to last in power these days, unfortunately it met a cruel end and the tree itself was transformed into a majestic monument in downtown Barcaldine. You work hard for your money, and you’ll be pleased you won’t have to part with it here.
6. Check out the Birds
If you’re holidaying on the Gold Coast, going to check out the birds can cost a pretty-penny at one of those Gentleman’s Clubs. And whoever said women aren’t bird-lovers to? In Outback Queensland, everyone can get a look at our birds for free, and they’re pretty fine to look at if we do say so ourselves. 300km south-west of Winton is Diamantina National Park, an impressive area with a range of habitats filled with native wildlife and endangered birds. One of few sites known for the critically endangered night parrot, this region also supports globally important populations of the plains-wanderer, Australian bustard, straw-necked ibis, white-necked heron, inland dotterel, Bourke’s parrot, black and pied honeyeaters, gibberbird, Hall’s babbler, chestnut-breasted quail-thrush, cinnamon quail-thrush and spinifexbird. It’s free AND suitable for a postcard home to your old lady.
7. Go Fishing!
In Outback Queensland, you’ll find a fantastic spot to sink a line around just about every bend. Coolibah-lined billabongs, lakes, gorges, waterholes and creeks filled with yellowbelly, sooty grunters, sleepy cod and catfish. Throw in a line, sit back and wait for a nibble, then haul in a whopper. You just caught yourself a free dinner… Score! Lake Moondarra in Mount Isa is a top spot, the rest are a secret, you’ll have to suss out for yourself.
8. Hunt down the Min Min lights
The mysterious Min Min Lights have haunted a remote area near Boulia in Outback Queensland since the first documented sighting in 1941, although reports go back up to sixty years before that. It may appear as one light, double lights or many lights, and may flash or hover. There are a bunch of theories as to what causes the lights, but the most important thing to remember is that legend says that anyone who catches the light will never return. Experiencing the Min Min lights won’t cost you an arm and a leg, or will it? Hunt them down if you dare.
9. Tuck into a picnic at Starlight’s Lookout
A lonesome rise surrounded by flat plains stretching to the horizon in every direction, it’s no wonder they say that this lookout was once used by the notorious cattle thief Harry Redford, aka ‘Captain Starlight’. With magnificent 360-degree views of Longreach and the surrounding countryside, pack yourself a deluxe fine-dining picnic (of dry biscuits and water for those on a budget) and get set to bask in the view.
10. Take in a Picture Perfect Sunset
It’s one of the most spectacular shows in the country, playing every night at dusk, and the best thing is- tickets are absolutely free. Big open skies, endless colour combinations, enjoy it as many times as you like from anywhere in the region. We have the best seats in the country and you can enjoy them whenever you like. There’s no waiting list, no need to pre-book, and definitely no need to sell a kidney. They’re free and waiting for you at the top of Big Red, the first of over 1000 dunes in the Simpson Desert which begins 35 kilometres outside of Birdsville. You’re virtually saving money just by going there.