05 November, 2023
Last updated on 06 November, 2023
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Posted by Louise | guest blogger
Queensland is the Queen of Australian adventures - but it offers so much more than beaches, reefs and rainforests - so get off the East Coast trail and head outback to discover Queensland's hidden gems. From the wildlife and wildflowers to the wild characters you meet, this is a rural ride to remember.
Take a different route: go west!
Instead of immediately heading north from Brisbane to Cairns like everyone else, go west. From Brisbane, it’s an easy drive along smooth highways to quirky country towns and beautiful landscapes. Get ready to hike, fish, swim, camp, stargaze and soak in the mineral waters of natural springs – and of course, enjoy life on the road in your campervan!
Take a different route and explore the Queensland Outback
Discover Brisbane before you leave it
The Spaceships depot in Brisbane is situated close to the airport and M1 Highway. So before you go anywhere, make sure you check out what Brisbane has to offer. We have compiled a list of amazing activities in and around Brisbane, for example, a visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where you can hold a koala, hand-feed kangaroos and meet a variety of Australian wildlife in beautiful, natural settings.
Or take a stroll around South Bank. Even though Brisbane is around 70 km from the coast, you can still hit the beach! Streets Beach is a man-made beach that is great for sunbathing on the white sandy beach or swimming in the clear waters of the blue lagoon, surrounded by sub-tropical plants - it's an oasis in the city.
While you're in South Bank, don't miss the Wheel of Brisbane for panoramic views of the city and Brisbane River, before getting some lunch in Little Stanley Street. The Hop & Pickle is a traditional gastro-pub, or grab a “Healthy and Tasty” take-away at Viet de Lites, South Bank’s resident Vietnamese experts.
If you have time, the Mount Coot-tha Lookout offers great views of Brisbane with the chance of a stroll through Brisbane Botanic Gardens at the base. See the city from the water or on one of the tours, go for a river cruise, a craft beer brewery tour or hop on a Segway to explore the city.
Around 300km (3.5 hours) from Brisbane is Chinchilla, ideal for your first destination and stop over as you head inland. This peaceful place is known as The Melon Capital of Australia and is home to the Big Melon, a huge slice of watermelon standing more than three metres tall and nine metres wide.
Spend the night at a lovely, quiet free site called Chinchilla Weir. Park next to the weir, where you can take a bush walk, catch fish for dinner or relax by the campfire while listening to the native birds and watching the sunset.
Carnarvon Gorge: from stunning sandstone cliffs to rich Aboriginal cultural heritage
A 400km detour north off the A2 from Chinchilla takes you through the rugged ranges of Queensland’s central highlands, Carnarvon National Park is one of Australia’s most popular hiking and camping areas. The highlight, Carnarvon Gorge, is surrounded by sandstone cliffs, Aboriginal rock art and spectacular lookouts. It’s also one of the best opportunities to spot elusive animals such as echidnas and platypus. A night walk with a torch can reveal gliders, possums and bush stone curlews. Nature walks range from one hour to eight hours, and there’s a large rock pool to cool off afterwards.
Explore Carnarvon Gorge - one of the amazing hidden gems in Queensland
Time to relax at Great Artesian Spa in Mitchell
To revive after a drive from Carnarvon Gorge or Chinchilla, drop into the almost magical mineral baths at Mitchell. The Great Artesian Spa is just off the Warrego Highway/A2 in the town. People through the ages have travelled great distances to take in the natural mineral water from the Artesian Basin. One of the pools has naturally heated water from the region’s Great Artesian Basin, which is known to soothe tired muscles. The other pool is cold if you prefer a refreshing dip.
Also within the site is a Visitor Information Centre, cafe and free Wi-Fi.
Morven: tiny in appearance, big in impression
This tiny town captures your attention with its sculptures along the highway and a unique museum containing a miniature replica of a pioneer township, Aboriginal artefacts and one of the few remaining 1930s huts made from kerosene tins, which were used as housing during the Great Depression. Don’t miss Gidgee’s Bush Camp, where the Kill For a Cuppa coffee shop, in a former slaughterhouse, is decorated in colourful art, antiques and comfy couches.
Don't miss the new Sadlier’s Waterhole which was funded and built by the local residents. Morven survived four years without a pub and now they celebrate every night at this great bar and bistro, with a large deck and garden for dining and drinking outdoors.
Stepping back in time in Charleville
Around 750kms west of Brisbane, Charleville has an interesting heritage trail of 1860s buildings, a self-drive safari around a botanical reserve bursting with wildflowers, and sanctuaries for cute Aussie animals such as the bilby and yellow-footed rock wallaby.
At the Cosmos Centre, powerful telescopes allow incredible observation of stars and planets in these famously clear skies. During the day, get a close-up view of the sun.
To experience a night immersed in the red earth of the outback, stay at Red Lizard Camping Ground, which has a small farm, abundant birdlife, individual campfires and excellent facilities, despite the authentic bush setting.
Experience the colours of Charleville on your hidden gems in Queensland road trip
And finally, back to Brisbane
On the drive back to Brisbane, get a taste of real cowboy life in Roma, home of Australia’s largest cattle sale yards. The buzz of these fast-paced livestock auctions brings the town alive, selling up to 14,000 cows a day. Join a free guided tour of Australia’s largest cattle-selling centre, where local graziers teach you all about the local cattle industry and watch live as auctioneers demonstrate their fast-paced skills.
For a more urban experience, Toowoomba is the most populated inland city in the state (and second only to Canberra in the whole country). Wander along the Street Art Trail, visit the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, go wild at Darling Downs Zoo, or chill out at the Toowoomba Salt Cave, which is said to help with fatigue, stress, sleep and respiratory issues. If you get the chance, take in a show at the spectacular Art Deco Empire theatre. To take advantage of the city’s panoramic views of the Great Dividing Range, have a picnic at Picnic Point (of course) or sample a wine grown at altitude at Preston Peak’s Cellar Door.
Road trip like a pro with these extra outback driving tips
Don’t drive at night, sunrise or sunset when animals roam the roads.
Book ahead for caravan parks and arrive around lunchtime for free campsites.
Telstra has the best coverage for mobile phones and internet. There is no coverage for other carriers in many areas.
From Toowoomba, it’s only 125km to Brisbane, around a 1.5-hour drive back to the Spaceships Rentals Brisbane branch. Alternatively, make it into an epic one-way hire road trip by heading north to Airlie Beach. It is a big Spaceships Universe, there's a lot more exploring to be done. Never stop exploring and see it all in Australia.