While the Big Lap is full of surprises and amazing experiences, some places – like the tiny Outback town of Bedourie – still manage to stand out from the crowd.
Perched on the edge of the Simpson Desert in southwestern Queensland’s Channel Country, a trip out here is an authentic adventure offering a genuine glimpse into the way Australia was built. The town, which boasts a population of a little over 100 people, was a major stopping point for drovers in the 1800s as they moved cattle from the Northern Territory and northwest Queensland to the customs collection point in Birdsville, some 200 kilometres to the south.
Given the fact that the name Bedourie actually means ‘dust storms’ and there is a sculpture in the main street representing these desert phenomena, most visitors are surprised to find the town boasts attractive lawns, gardens, and shrubs.
This unexpected lushness is explained by the Bedourie Artesian Bore which was drilled back in 1905, and which has also created a popular attraction for grey nomads. Most travellers absolutely love to soak away the rigours of the road in the warm waters of the 22-person artesian spa.
One of the first buildings built in this ‘Oasis in the Desert’ was the Mud Hut which was constructed from mud collected from Eyre Creek in the early 1880s. It is believed that the Mud Hut may have operated as a Cobb and Co rest stop due to the remains of a horse yard found out the back, and an old horse trough found in the bed of the Eyre Creek. The building was bought by Diamantina Shire Council in 2001, and has now been fully restored.
Other historic buildings still standing and worth a look include the Royal Hotel, and the original police station.
Bedourie will always be linked with Australia’s droving past, of course, through the iconic Bedourie Camp Oven. The earliest version was created here in the 1920s for drovers and cameleers who apparently struggled to keep their cookware from breaking as they travelled in the harsh Outback conditions. Other top attractions include Issue the lawn cemetery, and the truly unique nine-hole Outback Golf Course which is situated alongside Lake Larry and Lake Sampson. Given its remoteness, there is a good level of facilities in the town, including a restaurant and tavern, a general store, fuel services, a medical clinic, and a police station.
There are two caravan parks, although the Bedourie Tourist Park is currently closed due to not having enough staff to maintain the Covid-19 cleaning guidelines. The Simpson Desert Oasis Roadhouse Caravan Park is very much open however, and is eager to welcome grey nomad visitors. While the pandemic has created havoc with events across the country this year, Bedourie’s famous camel races will no doubt bounce back bigger and better than ever next July.
While distance is relative in this vast region, there are some other top spots to check out ‘a little bit’ out of town, including the Carcory Homestead ruins and the wetlands of Cuttaburra Crossing to the south, and the stunning Diamantina National Park a few hundred kilometres to the east.