The cooler weather won’t stick around for long, so it may be time to start thinking about that Outback holiday you’ve always dreamed of. If you’re prepared for adventure and maybe wish to leave the bitumen for dirt tracks, a world of fascinating Outback towns awaits you.
The Outback may be vast and arid, but it’s equally beautiful and colourful. Wildlife abounds and it’s rich in Australian heritage & culture, especially when speaking of Australia’s Traditional Owners. There are also many quirky attractions along the way.
Whether you plan to fly in and rent a 4WD or simply relax in a fancy Outback resort or secluded hideaway, here are some of the best towns that are perfect for your next Outback escape.
Broken Hill, NSW
Look no further than Australia’s first heritage-listed city for a unique Aussie outback experience. The nation’s longest running mining town, Broken Hill may be equally famous thanks to movies like The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Mad Max II which were shot here.
Step into the iconic Palace Hotel for a feed and visit more than 30 different art galleries featuring the works of artists like Pro Hart, Eric Minchin, and Badger Bates. Be sure to browse the oldest regional gallery in the state by visiting the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery.
There’s also a mining and minerals museum and the marvellous sandstones artworks found in the outdoor Living Desert Reserve. You may even spot some native wildlife at the local Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.
Pay your respects to the many miners who lost their lives in the local mines at the Line of Lode Memorial or take a day trip to visit nearby Silverton to see The Mad Max Museum, Silverton Gaol, and Historic Daydream Mine.
Broken Hill also hosts a number of annual events including the Broken Heel Festival and the Mundi Mundi Bash held each August which is Australia’s newest remote outback music festival attracting musicians like Jimmy Barnes, Midnight Oil, Kasey Chambers, and Missy Higgins.
Alice Springs, NT
Situated quite literally at Australia’s centre, halfway between Darwin and Adelaide, is Alice Springs. The gateway to exploring the Red Centre, many visitors use Alice as a base for experiencing Uluru which is about a 5-hour-drive to the southwest.
Truth is, there’s plenty to keep you entertained in Alice. The surrounding West and East MacDonnell Ranges makes this area a hiker’s dream, with the option of tackling the famous 230-kilometre Larapinta Trail which can also be split into smaller sections if you’d rather simply enjoy a day hike.
Other natural attractions include Simpsons Gap, Ormiston Gorge, and Standley Chasm. You can enjoy plenty of wildlife at the Alice Springs Desert Park which is home to thorny devils, wedge-tailed eagles, emus, and dingoes. There’s also a local kangaroo sanctuary and botanic garden.
Take time to visit the many local art galleries, see some megafauna fossils at The Museum of Central Australia, and learn the stories of the local Arrernte people. There’s also the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tourist Facility and Museum as well as sunset camel rides and the possibility of a hot air balloon ride over the Outback.
Regarded as the largest Outback city in Australia, Kalgoorlie with its next-door neighbour town of Boulder is quite literally worth its weight in gold. Located in the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia, this magical place can be easily accessed via Perth whether you fancy a road trip, flight, or train journey.
Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s colourful history shines through its many heritage buildings that blend with more contemporary street art murals. Spring yields a beautiful array of native flowers including grevillea and Sturt’s Desert Pea. Head up to Mt Charlotte Lookout to catch a sunset or simply take in the sweeping views during the day.
Visit the enormous Super Pit mine, one of the world’s largest open-cut mines which can actually be seen from space. Join a mine tour and maybe be lucky enough to catch one of their regular blasts which help to produce well over a half million ounces of gold annually.
View even more gold bars and nuggets at the Museum of the Goldfields or take a self-guided tour of Hannans North Tourist Mine, one of Kalgoorlie’s first registered mines. Adults can even take an eye-opening tour of Australia’s Oldest Brothel known as Questa Casa.
Other quirky activities include going on a honey ant hunting tour as well as taking a day trip to Lake Ballard to witness Australia’s largest outdoor art gallery known as Inside Australia which consists of black chromium steel sculptures.
Coober Pedy, SA
You’ll find Australia’s “town underground” along the Stuart Highway. Regarded as the Opal Capital of the World, Coober Pedy is unlike any other Outback town. You’ll find many of its homes, churches, hotels, and shops in underground dugouts.
Visit the Umoona Opal Mine and Museum to see the local stunning opals or try fossicking for your own. After working up a sweat, cool off and have lunch at the cafe near the Big Winch which provides a great view over the town.
Embrace the local flora and fauna by hiking the Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park or take a scenic flight over the Anna Creek Painted Hills. Other unique attractions include visiting Coober Pedy’s two cemeteries, the Old Cemetery and Boot Hill Cemetery, as well as the eccentric Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest which is sure to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Lightning Ridge, NSW
Another historic opal mining town, but this time in Outback NSW, Lightning Ridge is roughly an eight-hour-drive from either Brisbane or Sydney, or just an hour and a half flight from Brisbane.
Famous for its legendary black opals and very rare opalised fossils, the best place to get an overview of the unique special gems is by visiting the Australian Opal Centre. You can of course also visit a genuine working opal mine.
Lightning Ridge is also famous for its four different colour-coded self-drive Car Door Tours. You’ll get a chance to see the unique bottle house, Amigo’s Castle, and Stanley the giant 18-metre-tall emu.
Relax in the naturally-heated artesian bore baths after exploring the town, or head into an underground mine to view the carved sculptures in the Chamber if the Black Hand Gallery.
Charters Towers, QLD
Likely Queensland’s most accessible Outback destination, Charters Towers is an old gold rush town that offers a wide range of activities for the whole family. The region’s gorgeous landscapes may look familiar since the surrounds are where the latest Australian Survivor TV series was filmed.
Pick up a self-guided heritage walking map at the Visitors Information Centre to locate the many 19th century heritage buildings around town like the Stock Exchange Arcade which was the Southern Hemisphere’s first Stock Exchange
Get a bit wild by going on a real Outback safari in either jeeps or a covered-wagon to view Asian water buffalo, Scottish Highland cattle, American bison, African Watusi, Indian Gyr, and Australia’s largest herd of purebred Texas Longhorns.
You can also catch an outdoor movie at one of Queensland’s oldest and last remaining drive-in theatres. Meanwhile, the Dalrymple Cattle Saleyards hosts entertaining cattle sales every Wednesday. There’s even an old psychiatric hospital that has been converted into new fully-furnished luxury apartments, with onsite lavish pool, golf driving range, and walking tracks.