Outback Queensland is the inner west desert expanse of Queensland.
This is a vast and desolate region. Don't be fooled by the number of towns listed; there are no major population centres in this part of Australia, and human habitations can be hundreds of kilometres apart or more.
- 1 Birdsville
- 2 Blackall
- 3 Burketown
- 4 Charleville
- 5 Cloncurry
- 6 Cooladdi
- 7 Cunnamulla
- 8 Eulo
- 9 Hungerford
- 10 Longreach - original home of the Qantas airline
- 11 Mount Isa - heavy mining in the desert
- 12 Thargomindah
- 13 Winton
- 14 Yowah - opal-mining town
- 1 Boodjamulla National Park – home to the world-heritage fossil site Riversleigh along with some spectacular gorges
- 2 Currawinya National Park
- 3 Munga-Thirri National Park – Queensland's largest national park
- 4 Porcupine Gorge National Park
Queensland's main population centres are on the coast, and the arid western part is very sparsely populated. If you venture off the beaten track you will find wide open grazing lands and open cast mining.
It will take a while to drive into this region, and if you do a 4x4 is recommended due to the nature of much of the road network here. There are few sealed/paved roads into Outback Queensland, with all but two from other parts of the state:
- Warrego Highway (A2) from the Darling Downs and Greater Brisbane
- Capricorn Highway (A4) from Rockhampton
- Flinders Highway (A6) from Townsville
The other two highways connect to New South Wales and the Northern Territory:
- Mitchell Highway (A71) from Nyngan in New South Wales
- Barkly Highway (A2) from the Barkly Tableland of the Northern Territory.
There are also some other minor unsealed dirt tracks leading into Outback Queensland, most notably Highway 1 from the NT and Highway 83 from SA. These are however, routes that few take and require an immense level of preparation.
Flying is also possible with QantasLink flying smaller planes into the main mining towns from Brisbane. Airports include Birdsville Airport (BVI IATA), Blackall Airport (BKQ IATA), Charleville Airport (CTL IATA), Cunnamulla Airport (CMA IATA), Burketown Airport (BUC IATA), Longreach Airport (LRE IATA), Thargomindah Airport (XTG IATA), and Winton Airport (WIN IATA).
Some of the towns are visited by trains, although it may be with a frequency of twice a week so plan ahead!
The only consistent way of getting around all towns is via car, but some of the larger towns are served by train too, but it's not an efficient way of getting around.
Queensland Rail operates 4 train lines in Outback Queensland. The Westlander runs between Brisbane and Charleville (740km, 17 hours) overnight, twice weekly. There are no sleeping cars on this service. The Spirit of the Outback runs between Brisbane and Longreach (1325km, 26 hours). It departs Brisbane Tuesday and Saturday late afternoons, and departs Longreach Monday and Thursday mornings. This service has seating and first class single and twin sleeping berths. This service follows the coast as far as Rockhampton (although the tilt train travels between Brisbane and Rockhampton much more quickly) before it turns inland. The Inlander runs between Townsville and Mount Isa (977km, 21 hours) twice weekly. It leaves Townsville in the early afternoon on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and departs Mount Isa early afternoon Thursdays and Sundays. There are no sleeping cars on this service. Finally, there is a rail link once per week between Normanton and Croydon, called The Gulflander, but it is likely of little use to tourists.
- Picturesque remote rural communities are found across the vast expanse of the outback. The most notable of these is Winton.
Hiking in the Outback can always be different and while trekking in the summer will be boiling, while in the winter it'll be cold, but not as cold as Outback New South Wales. Better do it in autumn or spring, but sill it's hot then.
Like the rest of the Outback, food is simple, generally consisting of steaks, lamb chops, beef and other basics. Be aware, however, that prices for fresh food are likely to be higher as the food has had to travel quite a way and fuel costs are factored into the food though considerably lower in reasonably touristed areas like Longreach or Mount Isa.
Every small settlement will have a local pub.
See the Australian Outback article for more general advice.
The obvious danger of travel in this region is having a vehicle breakdown or getting lost. Prepare for such an eventuality and remember to stay with your vehicle rather than trying to go for help.
There are poisonous snakes, but these are likely to avoid you unless you surprise them. Be careful when walking through any vegetation and looking under rocks.