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Birdsville and the Birdsville Track, Queensland

Birdsville and the Birdsville Track, Queensland

An Antipodean travel company serving world travellers since 1983

Birdsville and the Birdsville Track, Queensland

On the very western edge of Queensland is Birdsville. The Birdsville population is 115, regarded as the quintessential Australian outback town, a tourist destination, though Oodnadatta, Marree, or Coober pedy for example may disagree.

Over 1587 km west of Queensland’s capital Brisbane, Birdsville is close to the border between Queensland, South Australia, and the Northern Territory, on the edge of the Simpson Desert . Because of the harsh climate, the area was only sparsely populated by Aboriginal people, with the Yarluyandi group living in the Birdsville area and the Wangkangurru people on the Simpson Desert .

Birdsville is the quintessential Australian outback town.

For tourists and bodies such as events Queensland, Birdsville is the quintessential Australian outback town and with with right marketing the perfect investment a fantastic place complete with history to sustain the Birdsville economy and the outback dream complete with famous curried camel pies on the bakery menu, thanks to Dusty Miller and Dusty’s apprentice.  A Birdsville base for a few days enables local guides engaged by Odyssey to show you Birdsville‘s sites, including the sand dune of the Simpson desert the one called “BIG RED”, the channel country and the Diamantina river, the local Aboriginal community and the remains of colonial settlement.

The first Europeans to pass through the area were likely the exploration party of Charles Sturt , after whom the Sturt Stony Desert to the south-east of the town is named. Sturt was unimpressed with what he found, describing the area as a ‘desperate region’ with ‘no parallel on earth’s surface’. 15 years later, Burke and Wills passed only a few kilometres from the present town on their journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

In the 1870s and 1880s, large cattle stations were established in the area. In order to cater to the squatters, Robert Frew, opened a store near a permanent lagoon on the river, known as the Diamantina Crossing, in what is today known as channel country, where there were already stores, two pubs, and a customs collection point on the Queensland/South Australia border. The town was gazetted as Diamantina Crossing in 1885, but was already known as Birdsville, thanks to the rich diversity of birdlife found in the area.

Today, Birdsville has entered the popular imagination as a byword for the Australian outback and is a tourist destinationfor the many. Ironically, through tourism it has begun to attract tourists from around the world, seeking out one of the most isolated towns on the earth and underpinning the Birdsville economy. Draws here for domestic visitors and international, include the heritage architecture, including two quintessential outback pubs, the Royal Hotel and the Birdsville Hotel; the late 19th century Birdsville Courthouse; and the Australian Inland Mission Hospital, used as an outpost for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a iconic outback bakery. This Birdsville population knows how to create a tourist destination for the shire, high on domestic visitors and the international traveler bucket list, far away from Queensland’s capital.

Every September in peak tourist season for the Australian outback, Birdsville plays host to the annual Birdsville Races, known as ‘the Melbourne cup of the outback‘. The races were first held in 1882, but became hugely popular in the 1990s, race weekend will often attract up to 8000 visitors to the tiny town, pushing the Birdsville population to its limit and possibly selling out of the famous curried camel pies from the iconic outback bakery

Birdsville is also in close proximity to ‘The Burke and Wills Tree’, a Coolabah tree said to be among the explorers’ final campsites before their demise in the Strzelecki Desert.

The Birdsville Track:

The remote Birdsville Track, one of Australia’s great 4WD odysseys.

One of the major draws of Birdsville during the tourist season for domestic visitors is the Birdsville Track, one of Australia’s great outback adventures. Passing 517 km to Marree in South Australia, it traverses some of the most arid and remote landscapes in Australia. 

The route was developed in the 1880s as a shortcut for stockmen. In 1882, a drover called Tom Ford from Lake Nash station in the Northern Territory took 2000 cattle south-west from Birdsville. Covering 2000 kilometres and nine months, Ford successfully reached Marree, and blazed the Birdsville Track.  Western Queensland property owners realised that moving cattle through channel country, and down the Birdsville Track to the end of the railway at Marree was a quicker way to reach coastal markets. This route was at least 1000 km shorter than the alternative path to Brisbane.

The road passes through three different deserts, the Sturt Stony Desert, the Strzelecki Desert, and the Tirari Desert. Over time, it rose to fame as one of Australia’s best 4WD routes and now attracts tourists from around the world.

Odyssey Traveller visits Birdsville as part of our tour of Broken Hill and the outback. Beginning and ending in the ‘Silver City’ of Broken Hill, New South Wales, our outback experience explores the mining history and artistic legacy of the capital of the outback, taking in the works of the ‘Brushmen of the Bush’ at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery and visiting the moving Lode Miners Memorial and elegant Broken Hill Courthouse. Leaving Broken Hill, we head towards Birdsville, stopping off at the opal mining town of White Cliff and Menindee Lake National Park on the way. From Birdsville we head south to Marree on the legendary Birdsville Trail, before visiting the flora and fauna sanctuary of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, on the northern edge of the Flinders Range. Leaving the Flinders, we head back to outback NSW, passing through the ‘corner country’, possibly the most remote area in Australia.

If you’re interested in exploring Australia, why not join an Odyssey outback tour? Our tours are designed especially for mature Australians, who seek to learn about the history and culture of their destinations. We are now offering a number of outback Australia small group tours, including:

  • An odyssey through the outback roads of the Kimberley, taking you on a scenic flight over the rock formations of Purnululu National Park and to the ancient landscape of the Mitchell Plateau, where the red dirt meets the west coast
  • An outback adventure through rural Queensland, learning about the history of the cattle station in the outback town of Longreach and Aboriginal culture at the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Brewarrina Fish Traps. 
  • A tour of the Flinders Ranges, South Australia, taking in ancient Aboriginal art and quintessential arid Australian landscape in one of the most accessible areas of the golden outback.

In addition to our Australian outback tours, we offer a number of other tours of Australia, including a city tour of Adelaide and surrounds (including the Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island), the Wildlife of Tasmania, and West Australian Wildflowers.

Diamantina River, Birdsville.

Articles about Australia published by Odyssey Traveller:

You can read all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers.

External articles to assist you on your visit to ‘Broken Hill and Back’

Articles about Australia

Outback Queensland is particularly hiding a number of unforgettable indigenous tourism experiences. Especially at the Brewarrina Fish Traps, Carnarvon Gorge, and Wallaroo station you can experience and learn about dreamtime creation stories, age-old cultural practices…
The 'capital of the outback' and the 'silver city', Broken Hill, on the western edge of New South Wales, is an outback Mecca, packed with history, art, and culture.
In 1883, Stuart's tree was located, and photographed in 1885, verifying his claims. The route he established through the centre of Australia became the basis of the Australian Overland Telegraph Line. In 1942, the principal…
Marree and the Railway Track, South Australia At the meeting point of the Oodnadatta Trail (Oodnadatta Track)and the Birdsville Track , the town of Marree, South Australia, has a fascinating history at the crossroads of…
The leaders of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills are forever etched together in the Australian imagination, representing Australia's most ambitious and most tragic journey of the 19th century age…
Uncovering the ancient history of Aboriginal Australia … from time immemorial, we believe as Aboriginal people, Australia has been here from the first sunrise, our people have been here along with the continent, with the…
The Australian Outback: A Definitive Guide ‘Back o’ Bourke’, ‘beyond the black stump’, ‘Outback’, ‘Never Never’: the various names given to the vast inland of Australia reveal just how hard it is to precisely summarise…
Australian Rivers Australian rivers have shaped the country from the moment the first Indigenous people arrived tens of thousands of years ago through European occupation until today. Supplying the vital ingredients of life and supporting…
Camels of the Australian Outback Here’s a trivia question : where are the world’s only wild single-hump (dromedary camel) camels found? If you guessed Arabia or the Sahara, you’d be wrong. In fact, the answer…
The Simpson Desert, Australia Sand dunes, desert flora, and splendid isolation: the Simpson Desert is one of the great wildernesses of outback Australia. Crossing the borders of South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, the…
The Channel Country By Marco Stojanovik The Channel Country constitutes some of the most distinctive landscape in Australia: wide open flat alluvial terrain that is essentially desert that floods after heavy rainfall. An estimated 280,000…