A guide to Australia’s most iconic outback destinations

The Australian outback is full of iconic towns known for their festivals, food and fossils.


From giant dinosaurs to underground hotels, this list of iconic outback destinations is a celebration of everything that makes Aussie towns so unique.


Big Red Bash © Tourism and Events Queensland


Birdsville, QLD


Birdsville is a rural town located on the edge of the Simpson Desert. Each year, it draws a crowd from all corners of the world due to its popular festivals and attractions.

The Birdsville Hotel is perhaps Australia’s most iconic outback pub, built all the way back in 1884. The beautiful building has survived floods, fires and cyclones, serving the residents and visitors of Birdsville all year long. 

With a town of just over 100 residents, Birdsville certainly punches above its weight when it comes to festivals and events. The Big Red Bash is a three-day-long music festival set against the backdrop of the Big Red, a giant 40 metre sand dune in the Simpson Desert. This year, the line up features Tina Arena, Jon Stevens, Ian Moss and more. The Bash also includes plenty of fun activities for family and friends, including the Bashville Drags Race, camel rides and sand dune surfing. 

The Birdsville Races are also known to draw a crowd, with 13 action-packed races taking place over the weekend. Here, attendees can also enjoy a cocktail party, fun run, boxing troupe, food vendors and a giant auction. 


“Hughie” the dinosaur © Tourism and Events Queensland


Dinosaur Trail, QLD


While not a single location, the Dinosaur Trail in outback Queensland is an essential addition to this list. The circuit includes the towns of Winton, Hughenden and Richmond, each with their own unique prehistoric past, told through unique artefacts and fossils.  

When visiting Winton, you must stop at the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument. The dry seabed of Lake Quarry contains the footprints of more than 170 dinosaurs, telling the story of a stampede that occurred 95 million years ago. Scientists have been able to distinguish two main types of dinosaurs caught fleeing the scene; carnivorous coelurosaurs and larger plant-eating ornithopods, scared away by something much, much bigger…When visiting, guests are invited to join a 45 minute guided tour to immerse themselves in the fascinating history of the site. 

In Richmond, Kronosaurus Korner features more than 1000 fossils discovered in the area, including the 115-million-year old remains of the ‘Richmond Pliosaur’, recognised by palaeontologists as one of the most well preserved Cretaceous marine reptile fossils in the world. At Richmond’s fossil hunting sites, you can dig for your own discoveries, sifting through rocks and sand for the fossilised remains of fish, squid, or even giant marine reptiles. 

To complete the Dinosaur Trail, stop off at the Flinders Discovery Centre in Hughenden to visit two giant prehistoric artefacts. Hughie is a 7-metre life-sized replica statue made using the bones of a Muttaburrasaurus discovered nearby, while the Big Ammonite is a rare find that reveals how this desert land was once completely submerged in the ocean.


iconic outback destinations
Opal mine & museum © cooberpedy.com


Coober Pedy, SA


When opal was first discovered in Coober Pedy in 1915, the town immediately became a hotspot of mining activities, and is now home to 70 opal fields. As Australia supplies roughly 95 percent of the world’s precious opal, visiting this small town reveals lots about the country’s natural resources. 

Visitors will find plenty of opal shops and displays to purchase their souvenirs. Plus, adventurous spirits are welcome to try noodling, a process that involves sifting through mullock for small pieces of opal left behind by miners. 

More than half of the town live underground in dugouts carved into the hillside. The thick walls act as natural insulation, providing comfort from the harsh desert heat. To experience this phenomenon for yourself, head to the Desert Cave Hotel, the world’s only underground hotel. Due to the high quality of the soil, locals typically have huge ceiling spans, and sometimes even mansion-like homes spread across 450 square metres. Coober Pedy also contains several underground churches  


DJs at Pitch Please Party, Broken Heel Festival © Destination NSW.


Broken Hill, NSW


Broken Hill is a vibrant and artistic town, known for its galleries and sculptures

At the Living Desert Reserve, visitors can wander amongst 12 sculptures built from giant sandstone blocks weighing over 50 tonnes.These beautiful pieces of art were created in 1993 by artists from around the world, and still stand tall surrounded by the outback landscape. At sunset, Sundown Hill is washed with colour, perfect for that insta-worthy photograph.

Broken Hill is also Australia’s oldest mining town, a history memorialised by the Line of Code Miner’s Memorial overlooking the city. One of the world’s biggest bodies of ore, the memorial contains the names of all 800 miners who have perished working in the city. 

A major event on the outback calendar, the Broken Heel festival is a colourful celebration of Pricilla Queen of the Desert, taking place in the very town where filming occurred. Each year, drag queens and entertainers from around the country descend on Broken Hill for a weekend of parties, parades, movie screenings and performances. From cabaret to DJs, the festival has it all.


Bath houses at the Julia Creek Caravan Park © Tourism and Events Queensland


Julia Creek, QLD


Known as the “gateway to the Gulf”, Julia Creek is perfectly positioned on the Great Artesian Basin, an underground water source spanning 1.7 million square kilometres. Running beneath around one fifth of Australia, the basin keeps its water between 38-41 degrees celsius. 

At the caravan park, guests are invited to submerge in a private bath house while overlooking the stunning landscape. With a glass of wine and a cheese platter on hand, it doesn’t get more relaxing than this.

Julia Creek is also the host of the Dirt N Dust Festival, which boasts outback fun at its finest. Each year, families participate in bucket list experiences such as nightly bull rides, concerts and the race days. On the DnD Adventure Run, participants tackle a wild outback obstacle course featuring plenty of mud and dust. Whether racing in a team or going solo, the positive atmosphere will carry you over the finish line where a cool drink awaits.


iconic outback destinations
Open Bull Ride, Mount Isa Rodeo


Special mentions 


Of course, it would be impossible to feature all of Australia’s iconic outback destinations on this short list. While we have highlighted a few iconic locations, there are two festivals worth a special shoutout. 

Mount Isa rodeo is one of Australia’s most popular rodeos, and for good reason. Each year, the best of the best battle it out in eight electrifying rodeo events, with live music and market stalls to entertain in between. As the largest rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere, this event is jam packed with fun and excitement.

The Shearers Shindig, located in Thargomindah, is a unique festival experience you won’t find anywhere else. Over two days, families can enjoy market stalls, pig races and quick shears while learning about the town’s rich shearing history. Precision working dogs will demonstrate their smarts and skills in the field, while the Snake Boss shows off her wildest reptiles.


Travel to the outback

Can’t get enough of these iconic outback destinations? Rex flies to all these spots and more! For more details, head to the Rex website or check out the route map below.


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