Why not steer away from the beaten (coastal) track when choosing your next family holiday destination?
Hitch up your caravan or camper-trailer to the 4WD and head ‘way out west’! Here you’ll discover a selection of captivating Queensland National Parks that are world-class, and Outback events bound to rock your socks off, not to mention your RM Williams boots! Giddy up!
Gallop into Gulf Savannah country
Canoeing in Middle Gorge, Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park | © Tourism and Events Queensland
Immerse yourselves in the remote beauty of Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, in Queensland’s far north-west, some 340km from Mount Isa. Journey by 4WD through parched savannah landscape into a surprising lush oasis where a twisting emerald creek winds through towering orange sandstone cliffs.
The kids will be ‘champing at the bit’ to get wet! Firstly, hire some canoes and paddle the waterlily-carpeted creek alongside resident gulf snapping and Worrell’s short-necked turtles. Then get exploring! Discover Aboriginal rock art, climb the ‘Island Stack’ and spot abundant birdlife along the creek edge.
Views from Island Stack, Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park | Mark Nemeth © Queensland Government
Next stop is the Fossil trail at nearby Riversleigh World Heritage Site. Tour with a Savannah Guide, or ramble on your own, and learn about the 25 million year old fossils of turtles, fish, snails, crocodiles, lizards, pythons, birds and many types of mammals.
Unhitch at night in your van or tent at Lawn Hill Gorge camping area; if you prefer to ‘rough it’, unroll swags under the stars at the Miyumba camping area on the banks of the Gregory River.
Tip to visiting: Time your journey west to take in the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo in August 2021, renowned as the biggest (and best) rodeo in the southern-hemisphere.
Prance into the north-west
‘The Pyramid’, Porcupine Gorge National Park | John Augusteyn © Queensland Government
Wind down the window, play those classic road trip songs and feel the calming effect of the Outback’s wide open spaces filter through your senses, as you journey from Townsville to Hughenden.
Stop to put on the ‘nosebag’ at Hughenden, and explore the famed Flinders Discovery Centre and Museum, home to ‘Hughie’, the 7m-high Muttaburrasaurus.
Saddle up again and follow the Kennedy Development Road (60km north) where you’ll be greeted by an impressive canyon and million-year-old sandstone gorge walls at Porcupine Gorge National Park.
Rein in at Pyramid lookout to get your bearings as you peer along the scenic gorge through sparse open woodland, and pull up stumps for the night in the Pyramid camping area. Rise ‘n shine to hike to the base of the gorge, lined with deep pools and sculptured sandstone. The kids will love ‘puddle-jumping’ and cooling off in the creek. Explore around the base of the Pyramid, an isolated monolith of multi-coloured sandstone rising from the gorge floor. Take your binoculars for viewing resident birds, wallaroos and red kangaroos.
Want more? If the kids are into dinosaurs (and which kid isn’t?) lope along Australia’s Dinosaur Trail from Hughenden to Richmond (115km), where Kronosaurus Korner features awe-inspiring marine fossils including a 10m giant marine reptile, and onto Winton (see next).
Canter out to the central west
Muster the family for a trip to the tiny township of Winton, some 1,300km inland from Brisbane (or 216km from Hughenden). Get active outdoors in the Mitchell Grass Downs and Channel Country of Bladensburg National Park. First stop, explore ‘on the hoof’ around the restored homestead (now a visitor centre), and other buildings including the meat house, staff quarters and store, Pick up a brochure and take the self-guided scenic Scrammy Drive over black soil plains through spectacular jump-up country, then amble up to Scrammy Lookout. Later, cool off in the nearby swimming hole at the Bough Shed Hole before making camp under the stars.
Then spend a day in Winton to kindle the kids’ fascination with dinosaurs at the famed Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, where they can eyeball huge dinosaur fossils (nicknamed Banjo, Matilda and Wade), tour the working fossil preparation laboratory to discover how fossils are found and recovered, and explore Dinosaur Canyon’s life-sized bronze dinosaurs!
Back into the harness for the 110km drive south west to Lark Quarry Conservation Park, home of over 3,300 dinosaur footprints perfectly preserved in stone for 95 million years. The footprints are protected inside a solar-powered shelter, Dinosaur Trackways, which can be visited by guided tour only (arrange tours at the Waltzing Matilda Visitor Information Centre before you leave Winton).
These fossilised footprints of more than 100 dinosaurs capture a moment in time, from the Cretaceous Period, when 2 distinct types of dinosaurs—ornithopods (bird-footed) and theropods (beast-footed) left their marks on a muddy shore. Incredible!
Tip to visiting: Hitch your dinosaur adventure onto the biennial Winton Outback Festival in September 2023. Renowned as the world’s quirkiest festival, this is a ‘must-do’ with hilarious dunny-races, sporting challenges and entertainment. The Outback Festival celebrates 50 years this year with a Special Event Weekend in September 2022. Alternatively, Winton’s Way Out West Festival (April 2023) will appeal to lovers of both kinds of music—country and western!
So have you got this in-hand?
No jibbing now! Make tracks for the unbridled freedom of the Outback! With this selection of fascinating national parks, along with Outback events that rival any coastal bash, you‘re bound to impress the whole family with an Outback adventure holiday!
For more information about travelling in this region, check out Outback Queensland. And check park alerts before you go!