Plan your drive around the Outback Queensland Camel Festival featuring three big camel races and trackside entertainment in Bedourie (2nd weekend in July – 2 day event), Boulia (3rd weekend in July – 3 day event) and Winton (last weekend in July – 1 day event). Camel racing is a serious international sport in some countries and its origins can be traced back to the early Islamic period in the 7th century. In Australia, Camel races have had quite a rich history since the late 19th century however it wasn’t until 1990 that the sport gained real exposure in Australia. The Boulia Camel Race is the second richest professional camel race in the country and promotes the longest running camel race in Australia.
Begin in Birdsville
At the end of the famous Birdsville Track is the frontier town of Birdsville. Deep in the heart of wild and isolated country, Birdsville is situated between the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert, the vast gibber plains of Sturt’s Stony Desert to the south and rich Channel Country to the north. Call in to the Wirrarri Visitor Information Centre for information on local road conditions, weather and travelling tips. You can also view local artists’ work in their extensive gallery. Local attractions include Big Red sand hill on the edge of the Simpson Desert, the Birdsville Billabong, Birdsville Racetrack and the famous Birdsville Hotel. For a great pie and some tall stories, the Birdsville Bakery is a must do.
Drive Birdsville to Bedourie approx. 187kms / 2hrs
Take the Bilby Way drive between Birdsville and Bedourie for an unforgettable experience. Full trip notes are available from the Birdsville and Bedourie Visitor Information Centres. On the drive to Bedourie, you will see the rare and endangered Waddi Trees, considered to be 500-1000 years old, and one of only three such groups of Waddi trees left in Australia. You will also see the unusual “Shoe Tree”, a true testament to the Australian humour! Further on is Mooney’s Grave – a strange and sad story of a local ringer’s early demise. See the Carcoory Ruins, remnants of an early 1900s homestead then view the amazing birdlife at the Cuttaburra Crossing wetlands. Pass historic Glengyle Station, one of the original Sydney Kidman properties and Cookawinchika Waterhole, once an Afghan cameleer’s overnight stop.
In Bedourie, see The Dust Storm Sculpture representing the Spinifex in a dust storm and visit the Mud Hut, Bedourie’s most historical building dates back to the 1880’s. Another Bedourie attraction is the Artesian Spa and Aquatic Centre where you can ease your tired muscles in the 22-person therapeutic spa and cool off in the 25-metre swimming pool. The crystal-clear water comes directly from Bedourie’s artesian bore.
Bedourie Camel Race (2nd weekend in July)
Begin your Outback Camel Festival experience in Bedourie with the Bedourie Camel Race. This event is one of Bedourie's most significant events featuring a range of activities that will appeal to the whole family including a camp oven cook-off. Hundreds of people converge on the town to watch dozens of camels race in six events, with total prize money worth more than $11,000. Join in the excitement of both the professional races and novelty races with some fantastic prizes up for grabs. Show your skills in the camp oven cook-off and see who truly makes the best Outback damper. Free camping available with food and entertainment at the track.
Drive Bedourie to Boulia approx. 191kms / 2hrs
Stop for spectacular views and a picnic lunch at Vaughan Johnson Lookout before arriving into Boulia. A popular attraction in Boulia is the Min Min Encounter, a unique 45-minute theatrical experience incorporating animatronics, fibre optics and loads of other high-tech wizardry. The Encounter is a tribute to the long honoured art of the bush yarn, all based around the famed Min Min Light phenomenon. Also within the facility is an inviting café, servicing quality food and beverages, a Visitor Information Centre and a retail souvenir shop.
Call into the well-preserved historical Stonehouse Museum, one of the first homes built in Western Queensland. Storekeeper James Edward Jones built the house in 1888 and it is now one of Boulia’s most treasured tourist attractions. In the grounds of the Stonehouse Museum is the Marine Reptile Fossil exhibit, evidence of Boulia once being part of an Inland Sea over 100 million years ago. See the last recognised Corroboree tree of the Pitta Pitta tribe - a rare and ancient Waddi Tree which occurs naturally in only three locations on the fringes of the Simpson Desert: South of Boulia, north of Birdsville and south-east of Alice Springs. Just a short drive out of town on the Boulia to Selwyn road is the Barracks Waterhole, site of the Police Barracks (1874-1884). The waterhole is an ideal spot for a picnic, fishing, bird watching or simply enjoying the peace and tranquility.
Overnight Desert Sands Motel, Australian Hotel or Boulia Caravan Park.
Boulia Camel Races (3rd weekend in July)
The famous Boulia Camel Races held annually on the third weekend in July attract people from all over the world with total prize money of $25,000 on offer. It is not unusual for the town’s population of 300 to swell to 3000 for the three-day carnival. Friday evening kick starts the weekend with live entertainment till late. The racing action starts in earnest on Saturday morning and there is plenty of trackside entertainment to keep you occupied. Saturday night comes alive with great entertainment and a spectacular fireworks show. Jockeys and camels combine once more on the track on Sunday morning and race to the finish line for the prestigious Boulia Camel Cup. Free camping included with entry ticket which allows for 10 days camping if desired. Food and entertainment available all weekend at the track.
Drive Boulia to Winton approx. 355kms / 4hrs
Drive approximately four hours east on the Kennedy Developmental Road to Winton. Along the way visit the original Min Min Hotel site where one of the first recorded sightings of the Min Min Light was said to have taken place. Drive another 33kms east to Cawnpore Lookout offering spectacular panoramic views of the Lilleyvale Hills. Travel a further 51 kms along the road to the Middleton Hotel, built during the Cobb and Co. era and one of the most isolated pubs in Queensland before arriving in Winton.
Winton is the birthplace of Waltzing Matilda and home to some amazing dinosaur attractions including the Australian Age of Dinosaurs, housing the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils, and Dinosaur Stampede at Lark Quarry Conservation Park, where over 3,300 dinosaur tracks mark the site of the only known dinosaur stampede on the planet – these tracks are estimated to be about 95 million years old. Experience some of Winton’s free attractions – play a tune on the Musical Fence, take a self-guided walk through possibly the last working Chinese market garden in Queensland and marvel at Arno’s Wall where everything can be found – including the kitchen sink!
Just a 7km drive from Winton is the spectacular Bladensburg National Park where impressive flat-topped plateaus and residual sandstone ranges provide a scenic backdrop to vast grassland plains, river flats and river red gums. Spot some endangered wildlife including the Julia Creek Dunnart and discover pastoralist history. Roads within the park are formed dirt roads more suited to 4WD vehicles. Conventional vehicles can access Bladensburg only during dry weather, and a high clearance 4WD vehicle is recommended at all times. Bladensburg National Park is open all year however wet weather may cause temporary closures.
Overnight at a range of Winton motels or camping options.
Winton Camel Race – last weekend in July
For one day on the last weekend in July, the Winton Camel Races offer an excitement packed program of 8 races including the Winton Camel Cup with up to $12,000 in prize money. Enjoy great trackside entertainment including a Motor Bike challenge with the 2009 wheel stand competition champion riding 1.1km on his back wheel! The Outback Camel Festival Trail concludes in Winton after a three-week adventure taking in the best of the Far West Outback region and travelling through to the Central West Outback region. If time permits, why not continue your journey east through to other Central West towns of Longreach and Barcaldine.