The Outback is known for inhospitable places, for rich resources, for rare gems and oases, for the richness of indigenous culture and for the richness of people who profit from yet survive the arid and the inhospitable, and the interaction of those factors and people. It's about country music, Akubras, fossicking, a lot about cattle country and homesteads with homestays, and slowly, is becoming more about tourism. The history of outback tourism seems obscure, but by all means, the comments field is on the end of the page, so do let me know anything more formal about it. It's my inference that it's just popped up slowly in the last 50 years, but has grown due to better transportation - private and public, better publicity and legendary stories about the destinations.
I have been to two parts of genuine Outback Queensland and have done accompanying research and want to share some tips so that it nicely concludes my series of Outback inspired articles for WeekendNotes, as I search for a change in pace/topic. Saw The Outback in summer and spring, once in Southern Queensland and once in Central Queensland, so this is some of my tips for any visit:
1. Artesian Baths: are numerous and dotted over several states, I know more about Western NSW and Western Qld, some are really spa and health-based, while others are just for a swim in the cooler outback winter, and some can combine both, they seem like a gimmick but I went to the spa in Mitchell, Qld, which welcomed all and they nicely applied their concept, run like a special type of day spa. They had a gym and hot and cold pools, with water to drink to ease dehydration. Dotted across the outback, springs from underground water are well worth a dip especially if tired from driving.
2. Insects and Reptiles: locust-like or grasshopper-like creatures had virtually taken over town when I got to Longreach on a midweek evening. They covered kilometres, just flying in hordes everywhere, it was really horrible. Stimulated thoughts about a delicate ecosystem that exists out there, how the wildlife overall is a bit of an unknown quantity. I feel that I learned the hard way, but on my second visit I sensibly brought hand sanitizers, band-aids, painkiller pills and packed like a guy who'd been swarmed by insects on his first proper Outback visit.
Near Mitchell, on the Westlander rail journey, mild gateway to the Outback yet still as hazardous as it is charming and valuable..
3. Attractions: aside from artesian baths, there are fossils, astronomy, Bilbies, superb history, Qantas, Mt Isa, the Kimberleys, Kakadu, Uluru, Coober Pedy, even on a more humble note, a town like Quilpie is interesting, especially for being so uninhabitable, Birdsville, Broken Hill, the coast to coast luxury train journeys, there is too much to it to pass up the chance to go there.
4. Winter: Australian winter is the commonly referred to high tourist vacation season for the Outback, and my summer trip there reveals why. The heat was unbearable, especially at 8 PM as the earth had been steadily cooking all day, hence the climate became dry and excessively hot. February in Longreach was a fascinating alternative, yet now that I did it I can admit I was wrong to do it. Should have travelled in May or June and accepted higher prices and crowded attractions.
5. People: the people are mainly friendly, and seem to make time to tell you something about the place, possibly over a drink or a meal. Any unfriendliness seems like plausible behavior, so usually just a normal reaction, like people do on the coastal regions. An interesting observation is how few people live there, that is a hazard ultimately but can be a luxury as well, good serenity when the locusts aren't around.
6. Off-road vehicles: having been there in summer, that lesson of learning the hard way seems unaffordable when driving through deserts and long distances, with the unpredictable involved. Some people though are so practical, such talented thinkers for four-wheel driving, so while I can't tell people not to try it, just remember, those four-wheel driving Vloggers are somehow experts in their situation.
Roads in remote Queensland near Capricorn Highway.
7. Festivals: lots of great festivals, rodeo, country music, food and drink or combinations of different themes such as at Julia Creek and Birdsville. Qantas is celebrated by a spectacular museum out in Longreach.
8. Mining: it's lucrative and I think that is everyday knowledge yet worth a quick mention. People do work out there, but that is well understood and supervised and lots of money is put into safety, and even then, the results aren't desirable in terms of protecting the workers, although the majority of hazards in that situation are caused by machinery and drilling, it's not comparable to a novice turning up there on foot or by car but the mines are a large aspect to human life in the Outback.
All photos used in this review taken by author, Mitchell ones in 2019 and Longreach ones in 2021.