The sta­tion wagon crests the hill on the nar­row stretch of bi­tu­men, emus dart across the road, and there, in a sea of mulga, lays the re­gal spread of Aus­tralia’s out­back.

This is Queens­land’s Ad­ven­ture Way, run­ning some 1500km west from Bris­bane to the Dig Tree, lonely site of his­toric blun­ders where ex­plor­ers Robert O’hara Burke and William John Wills per­ished in 1861.

To­day it’s an easy, if longish, run from the east coast. To­day there’s bi­tu­men to within 12km of the coolibah tree where sup­plies were buried for the ill-fated Burke and Wills. To­day there are set­tle­ments and ser­vices and sup­plies all along the way. Good cof­fee too.

All along there’s his­tory and scenery and wildlife. Some may think dis­tances daunt­ing but here the jour­ney is the hol­i­day, say the wise women of far-flung Thar­go­min­dah.

Throw away phones, take it steady and dis­cover a swag of gems on a her­itage hol­i­day down Ad­ven­ture Way.


Toowoomba, about two hours from Bris­bane, is the place to check all’s well with wagon and cargo be­fore ex­plor­ing the city’s new-age net­work of chic cafes and down­town’s art-worked al­ley walls.

The Gar­den City, at 700m one of the coun­try’s high­est, is famed for grand old Queens­lan­der homes, colour­ful gar­dens and her­itage build­ings – in­clud­ing the rail sta­tion and Em­pire The­atre. It also hosts the Cobb and Co mu­seum.

For her­itage with an out­back tinge, move on out to the Jondaryan Wool­shed, 45km west, to ex­plore the world’s largest and old­est shear­ing shed. Built in 1859, to­day this is home, at dif­fer­ent times, to whip crackin’ shows, sheep shear­ing, drov­ing, stage coach rides and damper cooked down by the creek.

On show all the time is a col­lec­tion of old build­ings and ma­chin­ery plus a wel­com­ing cafe with pad­dock-to-plate foods and bush tucker – plus a larder of na­tive shrubs and trees out back. There’s room too for car­a­vans and cam­pers on the 60ha site.

From here it’s off to Dalby, a ru­ral ser­vice town on the peace­ful Myall Creek. Lit­tle won­der there’s a ma­jor col­lec­tion of her­itage ma­chin­ery at the Pi­o­neer Mu­seum Park with this Dar­ling Downs town sur­rounded by rich farm­ing and graz­ing coun­try.

Not far out is the mag­nif­i­cent, her­itage-listed Jim­bour House sit­ting on a rise over­look­ing the plains. The two-storey sand­stone build­ing, fringed by rose gar­dens, palm trees and trimmed hedges, was once head­quar­ters for a vast pas­toral hold­ing.

Also out of town is the Lake Broad­wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion Park – the only nat­u­ral lake on the Downs and much de­pen­dent on the va­garies of weather. Some 230 bird species have been recorded here around the camp­ing sites.

Tonight it’s back to Dalby with its host of mo­tel, ho­tel and camp­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions. Rec­om­mended for budget trav­ellers is the Dalby Tourist Park with room for vans, tents and on-site cab­ins; the Cri­te­rion Ho­tel next door of­fers some of the best steaks this side of the Black Stump.


Next day head to St Ge­orge, about 305km fur­ther west on the Carnar­von High­way; maybe break the jour­ney at the Moonie Cross­roads Road­house for an eclec­tic slice of life in briga­low scrub coun­try.

Once home to Barnaby Joyce, St Ge­orge is more the cat­tle and cot­ton town, with the sur­pris­ing sup­ple­ment of a vine­yard. The sandy 20ha of River­sands were first planted with grapes in 1984. Wines can be tasted at the cel­lar door; for­ti­fied wines the spe­cial­ity with some stop­pered up in replica boots of bush char­ac­ters – there’s been a run on Barnaby’s.

The town is world-renowned for Steve Mar­gari­tis and his carved emu eggs while there’s also a river cruise for sun­set spec­tac­u­lars over the Balonne River.

For break­fast the Del­i­cate Cafe on Henry Street is much rec­om­mended. And 50km

south is Nindigully on the Moonie River, boast­ing Queens­land’s old­est pub, cold beers and foods – in­clud­ing the Road Train Burger, an enor­mous con­coc­tion of bread, meat and salad to feed four.


Back on the Ad­ven­ture Way, next stop is Cun­na­mulla, about 800km out of Bris­bane and home to the Cun­na­mulla Fella, a fa­mous char­ac­ter in a Slim Dusty song and well-cov­ered by the Scream­ing Jets.

This was a wealthy wool town through the 1950s and some of that vi­brant his­tory is recorded in the Fella’s Cen­tre and can be ap­pre­ci­ated in the Club Bou­tique Ho­tel’s well-re­stored her­itage ac­com­mo­da­tion; the Club of­fers some of the most lux­u­ri­ous rooms and en­suites in the Out­back.

If look­ing for a van site away from Cun­na­mulla’s hus­tle and bus­tle there’s the War­rego River­side Car­a­van Park with herb gar­dens on 20 of 38 pow­ered sites plus river­side camp­ing spots.

Just west of Cun­na­mulla is the small vil­lage of Eulo with his­toric pub, art gallery, opals for sale and fine leather goods hand­crafted at Pa­roo Patch. The Eulo Queen ho­tel was once owned, and then named af­ter, Is­abel Gray, a wild woman of the west in the late 1800s.

To­day there’s a friendly bar, cab­ins out back plus camp sites. And on the edge of this charm­ing set­tle­ment is the Arte­sian Mud Baths, the only place in Aus­tralia to re­lax and revive in one of nine baths filled with a milky so­lu­tion of pre­his­toric mud and wa­ter. It won’t stain clothes – they can jump in the nuddy if they want, says owner Ian Pike.

Colour­ful cast iron baths sit in thatched walled en­clo­sures, some with shower trees, and all around is a won­der­ful col­lec­tion of rus­tic arte­facts and artis­tic junk so it’s worth stop­ping just for a look; best to book ahead for baths.


On past Eulo, on past Lake Bin­de­golly Na­tional Park – a wildlife haven among the mulga – and into Thar­go­min­dah, 1000km from Bris­bane.

To­day this is the cen­tre of Bullo Shire that spreads out to the South Aus­tralian bor­der.

Town high­lights in­clude the hy­dro plant, a mud brick home once owned by cat­tle baron Sid­ney Kid­man, the orig­i­nal Thargo hospi­tal (per­haps still run by a ghostly ma­tron?) and a stage­coach cross­ing.

About 100km south on the Dowl­ing Track is Kil­cow­era Sta­tion, a work­ing cat­tle prop­erty open to vis­i­tors from March to the end of Oc­to­ber. Ac­com­mo­da­tion in­cludes shear­ers’ quar­ters, van and camp­ing sites; the 80,000ha is best ex­plored by four-wheel drive to dis­cover a range of out­back scenery, flora and fauna.


Leav­ing Thar­go­min­dah and head­ing into the Chan­nel Coun­try the land­scape widens again, over Grey Range and the hori­zon stretches into the never-never.

About 120km out, take a 20-kilo­me­tre di­ver­sion to the Noc­cun­dra pub, an­other out­back gem of thick walls and cool bars, serv­ing beer since 1882.

Back on the Ad­ven­ture Way, past oil­fields and gas cen­tres and it’s a wild and strik­ing land of gib­bers and bull­dust.

About 325km from Thar­go­min­dah, turn right down 12km of dirt to the Dig Tree. The tree was carved with DIG so that ex­plor­ers Burke and Wills could find buried sup­plies left be­hind on their re­turn from the north; it wasn’t enough and both per­ished in the area.

To­day there are no fa­cil­i­ties aside from toi­lets, just old coolibahs along­side Cooper Creek, of­fer­ing shade over a large camp­ing area. It’s a place of tragedy and peace and ac­knowl­edge­ment of white man’s his­tory in a some­times un­for­giv­ing land­scape.

It’s a piece of Aus­tralian his­tory on Queens­land’s sur­pris­ing Ad­ven­ture Way where Cobb and Co once roamed.

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