Few towns with a popula­tion of just a few hundred are capable of evoking such rich imagery as Birdsville in Queensland’s Channel country.

The tiny community, perched on the edge of the Simpson Desert, is synonymous with Outback adventure. Sitting at the northern end of the leg­endary Birdsville Track, Birds­ville was originally established as a place to collect tolls from those driving cattle interstate.

Today, it is grey nomads and other travellers – not cows – that use the town as a staging post as they move from one stage of their Big Lap odyssey to another. First port of call for many is the iconic Birdsville Hotel which has served beer to more than its fair share of genuine bush characters over the years. The memorabilia-filled pub is always an interest­ing place to be, but never more so than in September when the Birdsville Races transform the normally quiet town into a hive of social activity. The town’s population famously swells to more than 6,000 at this time.

Despite its remoteness, Birds­ville is well serviced and boasts a well-respected caravan park, as well as mechanics, restau­rants, art galleries, a general store, a post office and a medi­cal clinic.

For those not game to tackle a Simpson Desert crossing, a trip out to the Big Red 40km from town is enough to give a flavour of what lies beyond. The 40-metre-high sand dune is the first of more than 1,000 dunes which await the westward-bound adventurer.

If that all sounds a bit energetic for a famously hot town, then perhaps a day chilling on the banks of the Diamantina River could be the go. There are great views, beautiful wildflow­ers, and fascinating birdlife.

The nearby billabong which boasts a recently built pontoon is another fascinating place to see some of the area’s varied bird species. Just out of town also is the Burke and Wills Tree which was marked as part of the famous Burke and Wills expedition in the 1800s. Other interesting attractions are the geothermal power station, the Old Birdsville Hos­pital where you can learn more about the provision of medical services to remote Australia, and the Birdsville Star Show which offers a telescopic guide to the desert sky.

Ultimately though, it’s just being here that’s the real thrill. When you’re sitting in the Birdsville Hotel having a cold one with the locals, it really doesn’t seem to matter that dust storms are closing in, the mercury’s tipping 40, the flies outside are ferocious, or even that your van’s broken a spring


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