It’s been said that if Outback Queensland was a game of Bingo, Charleville would be the winning combination, as it ticks every box on the ‘things to do in Outback Queensland’ board.
Given its population is just over 3,000, you might think of Charleville as a small outback town. But it’s actually the largest town in largest town in Murweh Shire, covering 687 square kilometres – and it punches way above its weight when it comes to great things to do in Outback Queensland.
Spend a few days or a week here and you can pack in great country hospitality, an observatory experience like no other, meet one of Australia’s cutest animals (the Bilby) go fishing, camp and BBQ under the stars and basically get off the grid in a place that ignites travellers’ love of the true Australian outback.
History and rainmaking
Established on the banks of the Warrego River in the early 1860s, Charleville was named by William Alcock Tully, Queensland’s chief commissioner of Crown Lands at the time, after his hometown in County Cork in Ireland. Its location by a permanent waterhole means that Charleville has always been a part of the major stock routes through the area, and today the town thrives on sheep and cattle grazing. The extremely wide roads are reminders of the old days, when bullock teams of up to 14 pairs needed space for turning when they made their way through town.
An amusing piece of history that visitors can take in is the Steiger Vortex Rainmaker Guns in the Graham Andrews Parkland, which were one of 10 guns used by meteorologist Professor Clement Wragge in Charleville in 1902 in an attempt to end the six-year drought gripping the town. After placing the guns around Charleville, Steiger filled them with gunpowder and ignited them. The anticipated downpour never came and it is rumoured that after addressing a group of locals at the town hall that night and being met with scepticism and mockery, he left town the next day. Today, the pretty park features a native timber walk where interpretive signage describe the outback trees resilient to drought and floods.
The real stars of the outback
Charleville is home to the fascinating Cosmos Centre where tour guides take visitors through cosmic activities and regale them with tales of ancient stargazers and the formation of the universe. At night, powerful telescopes offer an incredible peek into the galaxy. With such little light pollution, the views are awe-inspiring. And during the day, large telescopes trained on the sun allow close-up views of its flares and hotspots.
The newer tourist attractions are also worthy of your attention. Meet the farmer for an inspiring tour of Charleville’s date farm, which uses only recycled water, then sample a tasty date slice and wash it down with a cuppa by the boiling billy.
Learn about the secret US base in Charleville during World War II – when 3,5000 personnel were stationed in the town – on a tag-along driving tour or at the new WWII Secret Base exhibition.
For history buffs, head to the Royal Flying Doctors base and visitor centre. This modern facility celebrates the historical links between the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Charleville, home to the longest-serving RFDS base in Queensland. The crew covers around 622,000 square kilometres – an area almost the size of the United Kingdom!
A short drive from town is the Charleville Botanical Reserve, a real feather in Charleville’s natural cap. In the semi-arid Mulga Lands, this 2,000 hectare reserve contains most of the region’s major vegetation types and is spectacular in spring when a sea of desert fringe myrtle surrounds the winding path.
Bilbies are bouncing back
You can’t visit Charleville without fitting in a Charleville Bilby Experience. The town is home to the largest bilby breeding program in Queensland. Here, you can see these endangered little marsupials digging their way back from the brink of extinction. Bilbies are believed to have inhabited Australia for up to 15 million years, and once were found across 70 per cent of Australia’s landmass.
Wandering around beneath the seemingly endless blue skies that this remarkable part of Queensland is renowned for, you’ll meet the welcoming community and understand why some people fall in love with the outback, and could not imagine living anywhere else.
Hotels in Charleville
You won’t find any high-rise apartments or swanky resorts in Charleville, but you will find plenty of cosy and comfortable accommodation to give you a good night’s rest. Hotel Corones is an outback icon, and The Rocks Motel will also tick your boxes. There are also plenty of awesome camping options such as the Cobb & Co Caravan Park, and Evening Star Tourist Park, which both offer evening campfire gatherings and camp kitchens.
Travel to Charleville
Rex flies to Charleville. Book your flight here.
Looking for more places to explore in Outback Queensland? Check out the rich region of Roma.