Get your motor running: Outback Queensland the place to kick-start bucket list

After weathering Covid and natural disasters, outback Queensland’s tourism operators are stepping up a gear to deliver more for thrill-seekers and holiday-makers.

Mar 09, 2023, updated Mar 09, 2023
Dirt bike tours out of Thargomindah are ready to roll, one of the newer attractions offered by Queensland's Outback tourism sector.

Dirt bike tours out of Thargomindah are ready to roll, one of the newer attractions offered by Queensland's Outback tourism sector.

Queensland’s outback tourism season has officially launched with a wider offering of high-octane activity to complement attractions appealing to those who prefer the slower lane.

While the region still has its museums, natural hideaways, farm-stays and secluded overnighters, this year marks a renewed focus on attractions that offer high-adrenaline, ‘bucket-list’ experiences.

Revving their engines in anticipation of the visitor influx expected over the next six months of peak season will be Thargomindah couple Steve and Jo Emery, who last year put their toes in the industry for the first time to kick-start Desert Gateway Dirt Bike Tours.

So successful was the debut, the Emerys have purchased 10 new trail bikes for this season, allowing them to better meet demand for the overnight tours they lead through some of south-west Queensland’s most rugged desert terrain.

The investment is big news for Bulloo Shire in the far bottom western corner of the state. Bigger in area than Tasmania, but with a population just over 300, Bulloo Shire’s tourism sector has swelled by a third since the Emerys’ entry into the industry, joining  Kilcowera Station and Thargomindah Station who offer farm stays and outback experiences.

Bulloo Shire’s number one tourism promoter Erin Lee, who was in South Brisbane on Wednesday night to share the season launch, said it was a sign of bigger things to come.

“I think it’s just going to keep growing,” she said.

“The more people who see what our region offers, especially in springtime with all the stunning wildflowers out in bloom, the more people will want to come here.”

Bulloo Shire tourism officer Erin Lee at the Outback Tourism season launch. (Photo: Brad Cooper).

Paroo Shire’s tourism team leader Paul Harper-Green was also of a similar view that increased domestic tourism numbers during the days of Covid border closures, had increased the visibility of rural and remote Queensland, which councils like Paroo in the state’s far west will be capitalising on well into the future.

His council is currently developing a project in conjunction with private investment that will see natural outdoor baths constructed fed by the region’s famed Great Artesian water. Enhancing the region’s natural assets and marketing them to the world also promises further development to revitalise the town centre of Cunnamulla and create jobs, he told InQueensland.

Queensland Outback Tourism CEO Denise Brown said the sector was unlikely to see big visitor numbers compared to the extraordinary peaks seen in 2021 and 2022, which had required a re-think on developing new attractions and adding value to existing outlets to capture visitors and their wallets for longer.

“What we’re aiming for is a higher rate of expenditure from the people who come to Outback Queensland,” she said.

“Our data also tells us that we are attracting more families and young couple, more than just the grey nomads, seeking those big sky, big adventures.”

To help visitors plan their next trip, Brown and her team have developed a 2023 Traveller’s Guide showcasing 160 ways to experience Outback Queensland.

“Outback Queensland is renowned for its excellent experiences, which continue to grow each year, providing Australians with even more reasons to visit time and time again,” Brown said.

“Last year, we saw eight Outback Queensland operators receive Queensland Tourism Awards for the unforgettable experiences they deliver to holidayers from across the nation.”

Outback Queensland Tourism Association chair and Blackall-Tambo Mayor Andrew Martin said the region had seen a tourism and economic surge and that he was excited to see this continue.

“Following the pandemic, we have seen a spike in young Australians eager to get out and explore their own backyard – we welcome you, your vans and your enthusiasm for an adventure to Outback Queensland to see where the real beauty lies,” he said.

“Our roads are open, the land is nourished and looking more beautiful than ever, the sunsets are phenomenal, the birdlife is sensational and we’ve got country hospitality in spades – come now, don’t wait.”

Outback Queensland spans the North West (Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden), Far West (Boulia, Birdsville and Windorah), Central West (Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall and Tambo), South West (Eromanga, Thargomindah, Quilpie, Charleville, Cunnamulla, Roma and St George) and East (Biloela).

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