Like many Outback Queensland towns, Quilpie – some 200 kilometres west of Charleville along the Diamantina Developmental Road – has long been susceptible to drought.

However, the long periods between rain can result in an unlikely tourist attraction wandering into the Channel country settlement. Large groups of emus have been known to ‘invade’ as they come in search of water.

“They are a lovely peaceful bird and a little bit silly, but it is so nice to see them just wandering around,” said Janelle Cassol, Quilpie Shire Council’s Tourism Development Officer. “Because we’re on bore water and regularly use sprinklers, you sometimes see them having a dance under the water.”

Of course, the town is on many Big Lap itineraries for reasons other than the occasional high-profile feathered invasion. Sitting on the banks of the Bulloo River and with a population of around 600, Quilpie has one of the largest boulder opal deposits in the world and offers a great chance for grey nomads to strike it lucky either at a ‘no-permit-required’ council fossicking area just out of town, or an hour or two further afield at the ‘permits required’ fossicking fields at Duck Creek and Sheep Station Creek.

As you would expect, there are a number of places where you can buy opals or see them cut and polished. One of the best places to admire boulder opals is in St Finbarr’s Church, which boasts superb displays of the beautiful gemstone.

At the Quilpie Visitor Information Centre, visitors can get a good overview of the region and enjoy the exhibits at the History Museum, Gallery, Military Museum and Rail Museum, all of which are free. A stroll along the Bulloo River Walk is a great way to appreciate the native flora and fauna of the Bulloo River Catchment and perhaps throw in in a line.

The area’s waterholes also attract a wide variety of birds, and most of the town’s streets are named after species such as Brolga and Jabiru. The name Quilpie itself is derived from the word ‘Quilpeta’ which means Bush Stone Curlew.

A great place to get your bearings is the red rocky formation known as Baldy Top, which lies just out of town along the Toompine Road. After a 10-minute climb, visitors are treated to truly breathtaking views across the Grey Ranges. Another attraction worth a bit of a drive is the Eromanga Natural History Museum, 100 kilometres or so to the east where the the area’s prehistoric past is revealed, and where Cooper, the largest dinosaur ever found in Australia ‘lives’.

Quilpie’s Channel Country Tourist Park is a popular place for grey nomads to stay, not least because of its relaxing artesian spas. There are also a couple of bush camping options at nearly Lake Houdraman, and there’s a free camp down by the Bulloo River for fully self-contained travellers.

So, with all that, plus a full calendar of classically quirky Outback events, as well as an occasional mob of entertaining emus roaming the streets, what’s not to like about Quilpie?


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