In South West Queensland, cornered by the New South Wales and South Australian borders, the Bulloo Shire represents an understated and underrated pocket of Outback Australia.
Fiery red sunsets that set the clouds ablaze and the kind of night skies that make you feel that if you stare too long, the galaxy might swallow you right up – these are the things few travellers have the privilege of witnessing that Bulloo has in bucketloads. The Shire’s star town, Thargomindah, was founded on Wongkumara and Kalali territory and today serves as a welcoming pit stop for travellers taking on an Outback Queensland road trip.
Between the Old Hydro, the Old Hospital and the Old Jail, you’d be forgiven for thinking Bulloo Shire was stuck in the past, but their new approach to tourism is anything but. Each of these attractions is now fully automated, meaning you can take a tour at a time that suits you with as many fellow travellers as the ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions permit.
Take a stroll along the five-kilometre walking track that wraps around Pelican Point and you’ll likely spot a tangle of ropes and netting looming just below the river’s surface. With the right bait and a bit of luck, any old fool could throw a pot into the water and come back a few hours later to find it crawling with yabbies and Blue Claw crabs.
Exploring Thargomindah, Outback Queensland
Driving through the town of Thargomindah, you’re more likely to spot a camel or Polocrosse horse than a person – even though around 300 of them live there. An unlikely pastime, perhaps, but Polocrosse is the sport of choice out here with around 80% of the population getting involved.
For a serving of history, head over to the Leahy Historic House. It was built out of local mud bricks around 1885 when a deed of grant was made to the Thargomindah Newspaper Company. It’s now a museum open to the public seven days a week.
Venture 164 kilometres south of Thargo and you’ll find yourself staring across a vast expanse of outback over a fence no higher than your shoulders. What was once a mish-mash attempt at keeping the rabbits out is today considered the world’s longest fence, stretching over 5,600 kilometres.
The Wild Dog Barrier Fence runs along the NSW/QLD state borderline with the township of Hungerford perched on the northern side. Though only 20-odd residents call this outpost home, hundreds more come to visit during Hungerford’s bi-annual Field Day and the Hungerford Horse and Motorbike Gymkhana.
The Royal Mail Hotel is a beloved, corrugated iron staple of the town. Built in 1873, it was originally a Cobb & Co Staging Post where horses were rested and fed before heading out on their next journey. Today, it’s a well-stocked watering hole for visitors and locals alike. Although a cold beer and great food are the mainstays of most pubs, appreciation for these simple pleasures is amplified when you are in the real Outback.
For more iconic outback pubs, check out this story.
Bulloo Shire attractions for nature-lovers
Only a short drive from Hungerford, red sandplains and mulga scrubs line the roadside, giving little hint to the lakes, rivers and wetlands that make Currawinya National Park one of Australia’s most important inland waterbird habitats.
Twitchers should also include Kilcowera Station on their itinerary. The property is home to more than 180 bird species, as well as red kangaroos, emus and echidnas. In the warmer months, swimming, canoeing and yabbying in the lagoon helps to quell the intense outback heat.
In the very south-western crook of Bulloo Shire, Cameron Corner allows visitors to be in three different places at once. The town’s golf course crosses three states, giving players something to brag about even if they don’t take home the win.
Thargomindah to Innamincka
Perhaps Bulloo Shire’s most well-known landmarks, the Dig Tree and Face Tree memorialise the ill-fated expedition of Australian explorers Burke and Wills. Still standing strong on Nappa Merrie Station, the trees are an enduring reminder of the outback spirit. The interpretive centre at the Dig Tree site explains the expedition’s full story including the deaths of Burke and Wills from starvation. The closest town is just across the border into South Australia. Innamincka is an isolated but thriving outback town, well worth a stop on your outback road trip.
As with most outback towns, Noccundra begins and ends with one building – the historic Noccundra Hotel. Established in 1882 to quench the thirsts of cattlemen droving stock along the Wilson River, the hotel is a cherished reminder of this once-thriving township. Today, you’ll find most of the town’s inhabitants at the pub, sitting down to a hearty meal, sharing tales of the day’s haul on the Wilson – Yellow Belly, Cat Fish and a few Silver Perch.
How to get to Thargomindah and the Bulloo Shire
Twice-weekly flights on Rex make visiting the Bulloo Shire easy, although packing into the 4WD and road tripping there is the more adventurous option. Make sure things are tied down tightly – you’ll find plenty of opportunities to ditch the bitumen and go off-road.
As for accommodation, travellers can choose from picturesque campsites at the new Bulloo Riverside RV Camp; self-contained cabins at Explorers Caravan Park; and comfortable rooms at the Bulloo River Hotel.
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