Quilpie to Birdsville

Previously: 30 days off-grid | Pub in Adavale.

There are two ways to get from Adavale to Quilpie, the red road or the black road. I didn’t find out why they were named as such but I nonetheless chose the red road.

Quilpie Arriving in Quilpie, population 574, was a momentous occasion. It was the biggest town we’d been in in 5 weeks. It had been as many weeks since I’d seen a supermarket and Quilpie had two. The smaller towns as I travelled further West into the outback would often only have a roadstop. They served as a service station, supermarket, general store and post office. The prices were generally high and the range limited. It’s to be expected when you’re this remote.
Where is it?
Other places we have visited

Time to stock up

Knowing it would be months before I was in a town as big as Quilpie, I stocked up. Cans of fruit and non-perishables, potato chips, crackers, and fresh produce and meat for the next week. The van’s stores were replenished having visited each supermarket twice in the process. Quilpie is a nice town, bakery, butcher’s shop, a pub.

They call this Opal country. There’s even a fossicking area for travellers to try their hand at finding one. I wondered if you could teach a cat to dig. We visited Baldy Top lookout and could see for miles out over the outback. There were plenty of places to camp on the Bulloo River where we stayed for 4 nights.

We left in the morning for Windorah.

Another Oasis?

Cooper’s Creek

About 10km before Windorah we had to cross Cooper’s Creek. After 200kms of driving through outback plains this place seemed like paradise. It was certainly more of a river than a creek. The banks were green, birds abound, and water flowing.

There was a track that followed the creek South where we found the perfect little campsite perched up on the bank. Willow found the old gum trees, with their expose roots, the perfect place to play.

That evening I cooked dinner and watched the pelicans float elegantly past. I later learnt that around this area is one of the biggest pelican breeding areas in Australia.


Four days passed at Cooper’s Creek before we went into town to get fuel. The next leg of our trip was from Windorah to Birdsville. I spoke to the kind people in the Visitor’s Centre who said there was lots to see along the way.

Till the roof comes off

JC Hotel Ruins

The first stop was the ruins of an old hotel. There wasn’t much left of the place. Just some posts, a decaying shed, and various bottles and artefacts.

The story goes that a nearby station manager was sick of seeing his employees squander their earnings and health so he bought the pub and ripped the roof off it.

I lit a fire and waited for the wood to burn down as the sun set, put my skillet on the embers and cooked a steak. This is the only way to cook a steak in my opinion. The pan gets so hot the steak only needs 2 minutes on each side.

Deeper still

Every time I think I’ve made it into the outback I drive just that little bit further and realise there’s more. The trees get sparser. The plains get flatter and drier. The towns get further apart. But the dust kicks up just the same.

We were now in Diamantina Shire which has an area of 95,000 square kilometres. To put that area into into perspective it’s greater than Hungary or Portugal, or Denmark and the Netherlands combined. Though whilst Hungary or Portugal have populations around 10 million, Diamantina Shire is home to less than 300 residents.

The hole in the hill

Mount Henderson

When the land is so flat and I see a small hill you can guarantee that I will be ‘inclined’ to climb it. The flatness is almost repressive. Without a view it almost feels like the land is swallowing you up. Rising above it is an amazing feeling. I spotted Mount Henderson and found a rough track that brought me to the base of it. It was only a 15 minute walk up but the view was breathtaking.

Mount Henderson is known as the hill with the hole. If you look carefully you can see right through it. Deon’s Lookout

At Deon’s Lookout I considered the possibility of releasing a coffee table book on outback toilets. This would be the cover shot.


The next day we passed through Betoota, the inspiration behind satirical website The Betoota Advocate. They were renovating the pub for it’s grand reopening in August. This would see the town of Betoota’s population grow from zero to potentially one or two.

Entering Birdsville


We were about 15km from Birdsville. Every few kilometres the road would undulate over a ridge. The ridges became more pronounced. I realised they were in fact sand dunes. Birdsville is situated on the Eastern side of the 176,500 square kilometer Simpson Desert.

The racetrack was on the right as we approached town. The races have been held since 1882. Nowadays in the first weekend of September the town of Birdsville, population 140, comes alive as over 6,000 people arrive for the event. They travel from all over Australia on those dusty roads. The event is held in aid of the Royal Flying Doctors Service.

There were photo opportunities everywhere at the track. Willow was glad to pose on the old grandstand. I got out my metal detector and swept around the kiosk and under the big shed. In an hour I found $21 which I put in a donation tin for the Flying Doctors. It was meant to get to them anyway, right?

We found a camp by the river. Then the rains came. We could hear it brewing most of the afternoon. Thunder and lightning in the distance. By afternoon it was pouring. When it rains out here the fine dirt on the tracks soon turns to silt. The silt fills up the tread in your tyres rendering even the most capable 4×4’s stranded.

Check out this vid from a family who were on their way into Birdsville after the rain.

Just our luck, we go to the desert and it rains! Though, we didn’t need to be anywhere. In fact I was happy to spend a few days waiting for the roads to dry out.

When the sun came out it was magnificent.

Big Red

One of the reasons people come to Birdsville, apart from having a beer at the pub, is to see the Simpson Dessert. The prepared will cross it in their 4×4’s. The less adventurous will drive 35km to Big Red and watch the sunset. Next week thousands of people would arrive for the Big Red Bash music festival. Until then it was just me, a little cat, and a setting sun.


We arrived back into town after dark to rising red moon. I wandered around town taking some night shots. Tomorrow we would say goodbye to Birdsville and head North.

Next: Carcoory Bore & Homestead

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