Australia is surrounded on all sides by incredible coastline. With miles and miles of expansive, white sandy beaches, pristine turquoise waters, surf breaks, peaceful bays, dramatic scenery…. It is no wonder we flock to the beach on our holidays. Not to mention the amazing tropical islands.
But the interior has just as much to offer. Replace those images in your head of hot, dusty and inhospitable landscapes with soaring red sand dunes, framed against a brilliant blue sky. A mob of wild red kangaroos, leaping across the horizon. Spectacular natural wonders with mindboggling history and culture. Quirky and quintessentially ‘Australian’ experiences. And a population of people who have the outback in their heart and soul and will welcome you with open arms into their country.
An outback adventure is not just a holiday. It is an education for the whole family on the very fabric of our country, and its rich and varied heritage and natural wonders.
Here are just some of the unique Australian outback experiences on offer that will move it up to the top of the list for your next holiday.
Goat racing in Barcaldine, QLD
So you might have heard of camel racing. But goats? Believe it or not, Outback Queensland prides itself on this sport, with people (and goats!) training and travelling from miles around for the races. Annually, Australia’s richest goat race is held in Barcaldine (also the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party), and if you don’t have a goat of your own to enter, you should definitely get along to watch this quirky Aussie event!
Discover Dinosaurs in Winton, QLD
Did you know that evidence of the only dinosaur stampede in the world is recorded in Outback Queensland? You can step back into the time of the lost giants and travel along Australia’s Dinosaur Trail between Winton, Richmond and Hughenden, QLD, discovering unique experiences that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, including the incredible Dinosaur Trackways at Lark Quarry Conservation Park. Here you will find the preserved footprints of the dinosaur stampede, which is said to have occurred 95 million years ago and were discovered in the 1960’s. You’ll also visit the world’s largest collection of dino fossils and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum.
Bronco Branding in Birdsville, QLD
Birdsville is not just famous for it’s iconic pub, or the Birdsville Races. Each year, it also holds the Birdsville Bronco Branding event, where teams compete to be the quickest to brand a required number of cattle using the traditional method. Watch locals use their dexterity, riding and rope skills in this challenging task, and drink in the Aussie outback atmosphere and culture!
Have dinner under the stars, Uluru, NT
There is NOTHING like an outback night sky. You feel like you can see the entire galaxy, a never-ending magical carpet of twinkling and shooting stars that you will find impossible to peel your eyes away from.
Have dinner in this most extraordinary of locations, in the middle of the Australian outback, at the Sounds of Silence dinner. With a view of Uluru to one side of you, and Kata Tjuta to the other, you will be transported to an isolated piece of desert where you will sip champagne while watching the sun sink below the horizon, causing these incredible natural wonders to glow and change with the light. Then dine on the most scrumptious of Australian inspired meals, while the sky simply lights up above you. You will be treated to an expert astronomy session, decoding the night sky, and enjoy an unforgettable outback experience.
Go A’Waltzing Matilda in Winton, QLD
Discover Matilda Country, where J.B Patterson was inspired to write our nation’s ‘other’ anthem, Waltzing Matilda, and the pub where it was first performed back 120 years ago. The home of Bush Poetry is in a little town called Winton in Outback Queensland, where a museum has been established in its honour (currently being rebuilt due to fire). Plenty of bush poets remain in town, you can discover them at the local pub, or the annual bush poetry championships and bush poetry festival. You can also visit the billabong that is said to be the one behind the famous song, and I challenge you not to start singing when you are there.
Hot Air Ballooning near Alice Springs, NT
Everything in the Red Centre is best viewed at sunrise or sunset. It involves a lot of early mornings but those early birds will always catch the worm.
Rise early in Alice Springs for a sunrise Hot Air Balloon ride. You will set off as it’s still dark, only a flicker of light appearing on the distant horizon. The world around you is completely silent in the pre-dawn darkness, as you start to glide peacefully across the morning sky. As the sun wakes up, first light will hit the red earth so it glows, and gradually, life in the desert beneath you will start to appear. The rugged MacDonnell ranges are illuminated in the growing sunlight, and you can spot our native wildlife; perhaps a mob of kangaroos or emus, beneath you as you glide across the landscape.
Helicopter ride above the Outback. Various locations.
The Outback is simply so expansive that often, it is best viewed from the air. To get an idea of the scale and form of the Bungle Bungles in Purnululu National Park, (the Kimberley, WA), you simply must get a birds eye view. Hundreds of striped beehive shaped domes with dramatic gorges, ancient bedrock and fossilised creeks are just waiting to be discovered. Or view Kings Canyon in the Red Centre, NT, from the sky to get a real sense of its sheer size, magnitude and beauty.
Plunging into a natural swimming hole, various locations
There are many, many safe swimming spots in the outback. Not all of them are home to crocodiles, so pack your bathers and discover one of the best swimming pools you will ever experience. From Bell Gorge in the Kimberley, to Mataranka thermal springs in the NT and the spectacular Gunlom ‘plunge pool’ in Kakadu National Park, there is plenty of choice to cool off in the outback and wash away the dust. Always check that any natural pool of water is safe for swimming!
Have an off road adventure, Mary River NP, NT
Many roads in the outback are considered ‘off road’ but there are some dedicated tracks that are purpose built for adventure. If you are in the right kind of vehicle (with the right kind of preparation), and some experience, then the Hardies 4WD track in Mary River National Park, just outside of Kakadu National Park, is an exhilarating day out.
Travel through local farmland, past termite mounds twice the size of your car, a beautiful billabong teeming with birdlife, and some pretty thrilling river crossings. As you travel, spot dozens of wallabies, or flocks of magpie geese. Take a picnic and catch your breath before tackling another set of rocky hills and ditches.
Traverse the heart of the Outback
There is nothing quite like The Ghan for experiencing the Outback. For 2-4 days, your train journey cuts through the very heart of Australia between Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin, as you watch your very own Australian outback story unfold outside the window. Stop off in Alice Springs and Katherine for unparalleled adventures, which cover everything from big red rocks, to mesmerising gorges.
What incredible Australian outback experiences have you got on your list? Tell us in the comments.