Outback Queensland usually brings to mind scorching hot deserts, but in winter the temperature drops below freezing at night, while the days are crisp and sunny with endless blue skies.
It’s the perfect time to explore all that Outback Queensland in Winter has to offer.
Opening image: Outback sunset over waterhole, Longreach, © Tourism and Events Queensland.
Riding high at Mount Isa
One of the premier events for an Outback Queensland in winter calendar is the world-famous Mount Isa Mines Rodeo. From 11-14 August, Mount Isa comes alive with the largest rodeo event in the Southern Hemisphere. This entertaining and thrilling spectacle will get your adrenaline pumping, with a program that includes bull riding, saddle bronc and bareback, steer wrestling, roping, ladies barrel racing and breakaway roping. There’s also live concerts staged in the rodeo forecourt, or you can take a chute tour to get a cowboy’s eye view behind the scenes.
It’s a wonderful community event for spectators and competitors alike. Champion cowgirl Jo Caldwell – who has won her favourite event, barrel racing, at Mount Isa five times – says, “It’s pretty much the same people at all the rodeos, so even though we’re competitive, we’re all pretty close friends. It’s such a good family environment; we camp during the week between rodeos, and all the kids get to play together – it’s a little community.”
Warm up in hot springs
What do you do when the temperature drops in the Outback? Take a dip in an outdoor bath, of course! It might sound counterintuitive, but the many outdoor baths, waterholes and pools from from Julia Creek to Cunnamulla are fed by the natural hot springs of the Great Artesian Basin. It is one of the largest artesian freshwater basins in the world, covering 1.7 million square kilometres and sitting between a toasty 38-41°C.
Julia Creek Caravan Park is the perfect place to have a soak during Outback Queensland in winter. They have six ceramic baths for caravan park guests to use for free. Sip a glass of wine and snack on a cheese platter as you relax in the naturally warm water and take in a famous Outback sunset. The bathhouses are private, and built with wood and corrugated iron to give you a true outback bush bathing experience. The water is extracted from bores over 900 metres deep, and is enriched with minerals such as sulphur, calcium and magnesium. There’s nothing better than a long, relaxing soak at the end of a winter day to soothe sore muscles – and make your skin silky smooth!
Discover somewhere gorge-ous
Another great way to get the blood pumping during Outback Queensland in winter is to get outdoors and go hiking. Porcupine Gorge, dubbed Australia’s ‘little Grand Canyon’, is a must-visit for your bucket list. Located on the traditional lands of the Yirendali people around 60 kilometres north of Hughendon, a major fossil hob, this natural wonder has been 500 million years in the making. An impressive sight in the vast savannah plains, the towering multi-coloured sandstone cliffs are fringed with pockets of vine forest and deep permanent waterholes.
The Pyramid track will see you descending 120 metres steeply to the gorge floor. At the bottom of the gorge, you can relax by the clear pools of Porcupine Creek and take in the Pyramid, a multi-coloured sandstone monolith rising from the gorge floor. Discover the view from Pyramid Lookout, a 30-minute walk from the gorge where you’ll also find the Pyramid camping and day-use area complete with toilets, picnic tables and fire rings for campfires.
Rock on at the Big Red Bash
They say things are bigger and better in the outback, and with no neighbours for hundreds of kilometres, it’s time to get loud! The Birdsville Big Red Bash is an iconic Aussie rock festival held in Birdsville against the backdrop of Big Red, a 40-metre sand dune that is the gateway to the Simpson Desert. From 5-7 July 2022, thousands of music lovers take the 2,096-kilometre trip west for three days of great Aussie tunes. This year’s lineup is more star-studded than ever: Jimmy Barnes, Missy Higgins, Jon Stevens, Kasey Chambers, and many more for a great showcase of music for Outback Queensland in winter.
In between sets, there’s plenty to keep you busy: check out sand dune surfing, camel rides, sunrise yoga, scenic helicopter flights, novelty races and more. Pop into town to grab a lemon-myrtle tart or a curried camel pie from the Birdsville Bakery, or a lazy beer at the Birdsville Hotel. Set up your tent, swag or caravan and enjoy nights under the stars in one of Australia’s most remote townships.
Take a train ride to remember
Explore an up-front view of the Outback aboard the Spirit of the Outback: a 1,300-kilometre train journey into the heart of Queensland. From Brisbane to Longreach, the 26-hour trip takes you on a journey through the state’s unique western plains, passing the historic towns of Blackwater, Emerald and Barcaldine along the way. Choose a seat or sleeper carriage and enjoy views of the ever-changing Outback landscape in comfort.
Longreach is a town of 3,000 people and contains authentic experiences to learn more about pioneering legends, Outback stations and the majestic Thomson River. Relax on a sunset cruise down the river or take a historic homestead and station tour. You can also check out the Qantas Founders Museum or the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre, dedicated to the unsung stories of everyday people in regional Australia.
Follow the Dinosaur Trail
Did you know there are dinosaurs in the Outback? Better yet, dinosaurs in Outback Queensland in winter? The Dinosaur Trail is an outback circuit through the vast red landscape of western Queensland connecting Winton, Hughenden and Richmond. There are plenty of prehistoric, archaeological and fossicking sites, as well as museums waiting to be discovered.
Check out Lark Quarry to walk amongst the 95-million-year-old preserved footprints of a dinosaur stampede, or head to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum near Winton to find the world’s biggest collection of Australia’s largest dinosaur fossils. The Flinders Discovery Centre and Museum near Hughenden hosts an amazing exhibition of dinosaur fossils, while Kronosaurus Korner in Richmond includes more than 1,000 unique fossils from the area including 115-million-year-old remains of extinct marine animals from Australia’s ancient inland sea. You can also search for fossils at the fossil hunting sites near Richmond and discover a piece of prehistory for yourself.
Learn more about Outback Queensland and step back in time with our podcast.
Plus, explore the Rex route map below to plan your next trip to outback Queensland.