#Tent, van or hotel. Here's where to go
The variety of towns, villages and locales along the Outback Trail is matched only by the number of options you’ll have when it comes to turning in for the night.
There are cottages in ancient mountain ranges, glamping tents in the shadow of the almighty Carnarvon Gorge, handsome historic hotels, and secluded creek-side campsites deep in the Outback.
Here’s where to pitch a tent, park your camper or find a warm bed on the Outback Trail.
#Bunya Mountains National Park
A primordial mountain range defined by its rich rainforest, eucalypt woodlands and (of course) enormous bunya pines, the Bunya Mountains are a traditional meeting place for First Nations people from across the east coast of Australia, who would come together for tri-yearly festivals and to feast on bumper crops of bunya nuts.
These days, the mountains are a national park and favoured weekend getaway for Dalby locals and Brisbanites in the know, a collection of holiday homes and cabins scattered across a rolling sub-alpine plateau populated by red-necked wallabies, Australian king parrots and crimson rosellas.
There’s a stack of different options for a two-night stay, from Godshill Studio, a cosy, fully equipped cottage on the edge of the rainforest, to expansive modern homes such as Endless Views and House on the Hill, which can accomodate groups.
The location is a quaint miniature village that boasts a cafe and tavern, and a general store, and there’s a bunch of walking tracks, waterfalls and lookouts to check out in the surrounding national park.
Bunya Mountains Road, Bunya Mountains
(07) 4668 3126
#Wallaroo Outback Retreat
Travelling between Jimbour and Charleville, you could stop for a night in Roma (if so, the iconic Queens Arms Hotel gets you in the thick of the action) but if you can, head 90 minutes north of town to spend a few nights at Wallaroo Outback Retreat, a 72,000-acre cattle property on the doorstep of the jaw-dropping Carnarvon Gorge.
The digs here are beautifully appointed Eco Structures glamping tents scattered among the eucalypts, five of which come with an en suite (the remainder feature detached en suites). Each has a luxury bed decked out with sumptuous linen, and access to barbeques, camp ovens and a well equipped communal kitchen. As a couple, you’ll only ever be sharing with a maximum of 22 other guests – meaning this is always an intimate experience – but you can expect to make plenty of new friends around the camp fire.
Of course, the real attraction here is the location. Wallaroo is home to spectacular rock formations, and is rich in Aboriginal and European history. If you have the time, book a Boobook Ecotours tour of the property, or head north to discover Carnarvon Gorge proper – it’s a breathtaking spot that’s on every Queensland traveller’s bucket list, towering sandstone cliffs and caves gathered around remnant rainforest and pristine waterways.
250 The Basin Road, Arcadia Valley
(07) 4626 3746
#Birdsville Hotel, Birdsville
If you’re travelling to Outback Queensland’s most iconic town, you might as well stay in its most iconic inn.
Originally built in 1884, the Birdsville Hotel by now barely needs any introduction. A beer here in the front bar amid the stacks of memorabilia, mementos and photos is a must-do on any adventure out west.
But there are some fabulous digs here too. The hotel’s recently refurbished units with their winsome red doors and cute decorative gardens feature queen beds, air conditioning and modern bathrooms. A night here feels like a rare and precious escape from the desert.
It’s also a great place to base yourself for further adventures, whether they be scenic flights, a trek to Poeppel Corner (where South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland meet), or simply sitting atop the nearby Big Red sand dune and enjoying an Outback sunset or two.
Adelaide Street, Birdsville
(07) 4656 3244
#Quilpie Brick Hotel
A classic Quilpie inn, this recently renovated timber and brick edifice on Brolga Street is steeped in history. You can see it in features of the building itself, with its original facade, pressed metal ceilings, cyprus timber flooring and grand chandelier. And it’s in the black and white photos of frontier life that are scattered around the premises. There’s also a beautiful tea room where high tea is served Monday to Friday.
For accommodation, there are spacious air conditioned economy rooms with shared amenities, and five refurbished en suite rooms in double or twin arrangement.
It’s the location that seals it, though – the hotel’s enormous front verandahs allowing you to soak up the town life and some spectacular Outback sunsets.
34/36 Brolga Street, Quilpie
(07) 4656 1427
#Cooper Creek Campground
Ten kilometres northeast of Windorah, Cooper Creek is popular among locals for its swimming, boating and fishing for golden perch (Windorah is an Indigenous name for “place of big fish”). There’s also some significant modern history attached to the waterway: downstream from this site was the location of Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills’s infamous depot – the place where the two explorers would eventually perish.
Free campsites make this the perfect spot to settle for a day or two. There are open sites on the eastern side of Coopers Creek Bridge and covered areas on the western side more suitable for campervans and four-wheel drives. The grounds have bathroom facilities – you just need to bring your own firewood.
If your feet are a little more tender, the Western Star Hotel in the middle of town has both hotel and motel rooms, and boasts one of Queensland’s most iconic Outback pubs out front.
Quilpie Windorah Road, Windorah
#Bailey Bar Caravan Park
Bailey Bar Caravan Park is a Queensland road tripper favourite, known for its well-equipped cabins, crisp amenities, shady green lawns and handy location close to town.
Arguably, though, it’s the signature dinner nights that make this more an experience and not just another caravan park. On Sunday and Friday nights it’s a camp-oven stew; on Tuesdays, a spit roast cooked over coals; and Wednesdays a communal barbeque. The food is fantastic but more importantly these meals lend the park an easy-going feel, as travellers rub shoulders with other folks on the trail, or perhaps nomads heading north on the Matilda Way.
There’s a fabulous range of cabins and units available depending on how many you’re travelling with, alongside 50 powered camp sites.
196 King Street, Charleville
(07) 4654 1744
Images courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland, Alex Coppo and Krista Eppelstun.