Whether you’re a history buff, an adventurous bushwalker or a sports fanatic, everyone loves to check out something ‘different’. Here’s 10 of Outback Queensland’s wacky, weird and wonderful things that you should add to your trip.
1. World War II Underground Hospital in Mount Isa
While it may resemble a hobbits home in Middle-earth, this entrance is actually an underground hospital museum that was built during WWII in Mount Isa! Far from New Zealand, this uniquely Australian underground hospital was built in 1942 by the off-duty miners of the Mount Isa mines. During WWII the possibility of Mount Isa encountering air strikes increased due to bombings in Darwin, Broome and other parts of WA and the Mount Isa Copper Mine being a valued resource. From here, Mount Isa district hospital decided to take precautions and this underground facility occupying 20 meteres square was built.
2. The ‘Hilton Hotel’ in Middleton
Whilst you may be in the middle of Queensland’s Outback, don’t think that you’ll be short of an overnight stay at the Hilton Hotel in Middleton. As this ‘Hilton Hotel’ has no air-conditioning, no TV, no pool and no charge though….it’s certainly not the traditional Hilton Hotel you may be familiar with. BUT for those on a budget, this FREE overnight campsite opposite the Middleton Pub may not be so bad! As the only structure within the town besides the remains of the town hall, you’ll get a true blue experience of the scenic rich red mesas and its surrounds. Once you’re back on the road, ensure you stop at Cawnpore Lookout, just 51kms west of Middleton for a spectacular panoramic view!
3. Kerosene Tin Hut in Morven
While driving along the Matilda Way, between Roma and Charleville, be sure to stop in the small town of Morven. Keeping the history alive, is the Morven Historical Museum where you’ll come across an innovative idea from The Great Depression! Kerosene tins which were widely used throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s for heating, lighting, refrigerators and stoves were also used to create makeshift dwellings. In Morven, five of these huts were built in a circle around one tap with running water. These hunts were once common in many towns but most have now eroded or been demolished….
4. Rain Makers in Charleville
The desperation for rain took a unique turn in 1902. Queensland’s first Government Meteorologist, Mr Clement L Wragge decided to experiment with Steiger Vortex Guns, developed to break up hail over the vineyards of Italy. Six copies of these were made in the hope of producing the much needed rain and were strategically placed throughout Charleville. Charged with gun powder and their barrels pointing to the sky, the resulting explosion hoped to change the atmospheric pressure and create rain! Interestingly enough, Wragge was the first man to name a cyclone in Australia and initially named these cyclones after politicians as he thought in some cases they were as much of a national disaster as a politician!
Photography by Derek Barry
5. Plane Crash Site in Kroombit Tops National Park
For 49 years the crash site of a World War II United States Army Airforce B-24D Liberator bomber remained a mystery until a ranger in Kroombit Tops National Park stumbled across it in 1994. This scenic National Park within the Banana Shire is the resting place of ‘Beautiful Betsy’ which crashed during bad weather in 1945 returning to Brisbane from Darwin. The aircraft was named after the original pilot’s wife which can be found painted to the aircraft’s nose. Shards of aluminium debris of the crash is spread out over 100 meters however majority of the wreckage is still intact. The crash site is can be accessed by a 700m return trail with interpretive signs along the way to help you understand this tragic event.
6. Octopus Tree in Bladensburg National Park
Far from the ocean, in Bladensburg National Park, you will come across an octopus tree. You can find this peculiar ghost gum, shaped by the rugged conditions when you travel along Scrammy Drive in the park near Scrammy Gorge. Along Scrammy Drive you can find out who Scrammy was and share his view over Bladensburg National Park. Scrammy was a ‘hatter’ – meaning he could fit his family under one hat; working on the neighbouring Vindex Station around 1900. Fast forward to today and this station-turned national park is a rich sandstone outback background and a short drive from Winton.
7. Chicken Stampede at the North Gregory Hotel, Winton
Over 95 million years ago near Winton, a herd of dinosaurs stampeded across the mud, forming what we now know as the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument. At Winton’s Iconic North Gregory Hotel, you can find a stampede of a different kind – Ben’s Chicken Stampede. This relatively new event but already well loved, combines the forces of chooks, a remote-control car and special chook treats to create the world’s first Chicken Races! The event helps raise funds for local charity and is a clucking good time for the whole family. Ask a friendly Winton local to find out when they are on! Check out more unique racing events in the Outback HERE.
8. One hole golf course in Richmond
There’s no room for birdies or bogeys here, you have only one shot! Richmond’s Lake Fred Tritton is bursting with activities for the whole family from swimming, skiing and kayaking, but you can also try your luck at the lake’s one hole golf course. The hole is roughly the size of a dinner plate, but the catch is that it’s in the middle of the lake, 134 metres from the tee! If you think you’ve got what it takes, at Richmond’s Outback Fossil Festival a cash prize can be won if you sink a shot within two attempts! However, if you’re not successful you can always redeem your pride by throwing out a line into the lake, by catching one of their 18 species of fish!
9. Willie Mar’s Fruit and Vegetable Shop and Market Garden in Winton
The settlement of the Chinese in Outback Queensland is an important component to the area’s history and development. Willie Mar’s Fruit and Vegetable shop and Market Garden, plays a part in the regions pioneering history. In 1923, immigrant Willie Mar began the longest running Chinese market garden and shop in Western Queensland. Its presence serves as a reminder of the long association Chinese settlers had with the Central West and the significant contribution they made to the health of communities. He sadly passed away in 2007, where he was the last of the Chinese market gardeners living and working in western Queensland and had spent many decades tending to and selling his vegetables to locals.
10. Queensland’s Opals
Australia is renowned for the producing the world’s finest opals, but many Australians don’t realise that there are different varieties of opals, each unique to their own region! Approximately 95% of the worlds opals originate from the Great Artesian Basin’s rich mineral deposits. The boulder opal is unique to Queensland and can be found in the mining belt from Quilpie to Winton. These opals form within the cavities of the boulders in both vertical and horizontal cracks. Have a go at finding opals yourself at one of the many opal fossicking sites across Outback Queensland towns including Opalton, Yowah and Quilpie.
Do you know something that’s wacky, weird or wonderful, that can only be found in Outback Queensland?
Let us know below!
By Sally Bird