Queensland has its own unique character and diverse landscape which will inevitably take your breath away one way or another. So if you're looking for things to do in the Australian outback, this list of the 9 quirkiest Australian outback icons ought to get you going.
1. Sapphire Gemfields
Just 45 minutes west of Emerald is the Sapphire Gemfields, the largest sapphire fields in the Southern Hemisphere. You can go to either one of the 4 towns – Anakie, Sapphire, Rubyvale, Willows Gemfields to learn more about fossicking this marvellous find. For those looking to fascinate the insights into the history of gem mining, make your way to Rubyvale and get yourself on a tour of the place. Adventure into the mine and gain a unique underground sapphire mining experience to call your own. And for those who don’t mind getting your hands dirty, try your luck with a bucket of wash to unearth your very own treasure. Before leaving the town, snap a photo with the “Big Pick and Shovel” or the “Big Spanner” to pay tribute to Australia’s love of BIG THINGS.
2. Thomson River cruise
Unwind on the cruise while it glides down the Thomson River at Longreach. Prepare to enjoy the glow of the sun slowly setting behind the horizon and be entertained about the captivating tales about the river, its wildlife and native heritage. As the sky transforms into the starlight, the boat will pull up to a quaint riverside restaurant where you get to enjoy your dinner underneath a lit-up sky while being entertained by performance on the river stage.
3. Cobb & Co. stagecoach horses
It’s not every day in this modern world that you get to submerge in the wilderness across the Outback by riding on a beautifully restored stagecoach. This award-winning tour starts with leisurely pacing through town and once the warm-up is done, a full-tilt along a stretch of the original Longreach-Windorah mail route. Thanks to the company who is keeping the history of stagecoach alive, you get to connect with the history as you hold onto your hat as the horses race on the outback dirt road.
4. Australian Age of Dinosaurs
If you’ve ever been fascinated by the existence of dinosaurs, then this museum will have to make it to your list of must-visits. Home to the world’s most extensive collection of Australian dinosaur fossils, the Australian Age of Dinosaurs is a museum focused on Australia’s evolutionary prehistoric past. The tours into the fossil laboratory and collection room will be guided by dedicated staff equipped with passion and knowledge. You may be surprised at just how many of these magnificent creatures actually roamed through Australia millions of years ago. This makes for an excellent opportunity for kids to learn and explore this prehistoric subject in a fun way.
5. Dinosaur Stampede
The terrifying moments of the prehistoric stampede where numerous dinosaurs ran in a single direction have been frozen in time at a fossil site about 100 kilometres south west of Winton. The Dinosaur Stampede National Monument is where you can find the world’s only known site of a dinosaur stampede. You get to relive the moment where more than 3000 fossilised footprints mark their tracks in the world.
6. Wellshot Hotel, Ilfracombe
This hotel is one of the quirkiest icons as it’s considered as one of the most unique and historic pubs in the Outback. When entering the hotel, you can see fascinating artifacts such as the old-timer timber wool press and caricatures depicting the local history in the outback. Originally from a small railway siding west of Anakie, the hotel was erected in Barcaldine and operated for approximately 10 years. As the railway line moves, the owner dismantled the pub and relocated it for a few times by bullock and cart before settling down at Ilfracombe. A great place for a family to hang out together as it has a main bar, dining room, pool room and even kiddies area or even spend the night at one of the seven budget accommodation rooms which have been modified for modern days comfort to make your trip experience one to remember.
Emerald is a town that lies on the Nogoa River. As such, it’s not surprising to find some of the most beautiful water gardens in the world located in Emerald Australia. You can also find the world’s biggest Van Gogh sunflower painting measuring 25 metres high in Morton Park possibly due to Emerald being a major sunflower-producing town in the past. Head over to the Emerald Town Hall to be astonished by the ancient fossilised tree which is about 250 million years old or the National Trust listed Railway Station constructed in 1900 which boasts an elaborate entry with wrought iron lacework and pillared portico which can hardly be replicated by the modern day architecture.
Remember to stop by Maraboon Tavern to experience a distinctly modern pub food with an Australian twist headed by a trained chef.
8. Barcaldine Tree of Knowledge
The town’s most famous tree, the Tree of Knowledge claimed its title for being the birthplace of the Australian Labour movement. Even though it was poisoned in 2006, the tree still remains to provide inspiration and celebration to those who lay eyes on it. To prevent a recurrence of the poisoning incident, the tree is placed under an award-winning timber structure where it’s beautifully lit with green lighting in the evening radiating a mystical illusion that the tree is still alive.
9. Lake Dunn
Also known as Pajingo Bola meaning Big Fella Waterhole, Lake Dunn is the one and only wetland area that is home to a large waterfowl population in Central West Queensland. Along the countryside on route to Lake Dunn, you can add fun to your road trip by trying to find over 30 distinguished sculptures which have been created by local artist Milynda Rogers using scrap metal and barbed wire that depicts an animal or life in the Outback. Activities such as swimming, bird watching or catching Black Bream in the lake to get a taste of real Outback life are certainly recommended!