When it comes to remote outback towns, Birdsville is like the cream of the crop for most 4WDers. The real reason this place has shot to stardom in the world of the tourist is the fact that it lies on the edge of the mighty Simpson Desert. Yep, if you’re tackling the Simmo from the east, this place is the last stop for food, fuel and supplies before you hit the sand.
As you can imagine, the humble little town of Birdsville is pretty darn remote as far as fully operational towns go. I mean anywhere you can expect to see wild camels cruising around just a few kays out of town is getting a bit out there, eh? It’s even more out there when you realise they sell camel pies at the bakery! Yep, this place has a fair bit going for it if you’re a true-blue 4WDer. In fact, I’d say it’s somewhere that every red-blooded 4WDer has to visit at least once in their lifetime. So if you’re keen to add another notch to your bucket list, then it’s time to put your reading glasses on and take the grand tour of one of Australia’s most iconic outback towns.
Anyway, back to that bakery I mentioned a little earlier. Seriously, if the size of my gut is anything to go off you just know I’m definitely no stranger to a good pie! And I can tell you right now these little beauties are up there with the best of them. For something a little different, give the world-famous Curry Camel Pie a crack. Okay, so being world-famous might be a slight exaggeration but rumour has it people come all the way across the Simpson Desert just to get one of these babies! Or so the bumper sticker goes anyway! I’m going to be honest here; I lived off lamb shank pies pretty much the whole time I was in Birdsville they were that damn good. Don’t tell the missus though; she’s still trying to figure out how I put on 5kg in five days supposedly eating vegetables and muesli every day I was there!
THE BIRDSVILLE HOTEL
Now there are plenty of things around here to keep a bloke/sheila busy but if you like cold beer, tall tales and big feeds than the Birdsville Hotel should be at the top of your places-to-visit list. It’s a great spot to enjoy a yarn with the friendly locals: you’re bound to hear some crazy but more often than not true country stories, and find out where the best places to visit are. In fact, those very same locals ended up drawing us a map in the dust highlighting the best spots to visit in the area – you don’t get that every day! Yep, this place has got a real knack for taking you back in time and once you’re back there I can almost guarantee you won’t want to leave. Oh, and as you can imagine the whole hotel goes off like a firecracker on a good night, especially when there’s an event on in town like the Birdsville Races or the Big Red Bash!
4WD ADVENTURE HOTSPOT
Let’s face it, you don’t sit for days behind the wheel just to get to the edge of the Simpson Desert and turn back around now do you? Nope, if you’re in Birdsville you’re also on the crux of one of the most unforgettable adventures in the country. In fact, just a 30 kay drive west will have you sailing the top of the largest dune in the desert, Big Red!
This bad boy has been testing man and machine out since god knows when with 4WDers coming from every corner of the country to give it a crack. It’s a bit daunting at first if I’m totally honest, and there’s a better than average chance that not everybody will make it up, at least not on the first go. That is unless you own a dual cab 80 series LandCruiser with about 10psi of air in the tyres and make it look like child’s play. Sorry, I just had to brag about that! Yep, my old LandCruiser with super low tyre pressures and good old-fashioned momentum got the job done just right. Tyre pressures really are the key to this dune. In fact, my old mate Troopy Dan probably had about eight cracks at Big Red before we realised his tyre pressure gauge was faulty and he might have well been running road pressures the whole time.
Once you make it to the top of Big Red it’s really something; you need to sit back and take in every moment of it. Seriously a late afternoon run up the dune is probably one of the coolest things you’ll do out this way; the desert colours really do steal the show at sunset, and I can say with all honesty it’s one moment I’ll remember for years to come.
YOU WON’T WANT TO LEAVE
Well, I don’t know about you but I can already hear the Simpson Desert calling. Nope, scratch that; this is Australia calling! If you really want to see, hear, feel and experience one of the last frontiers in the country you’ve just got to lock in the dates and make a trip to Birdsville happen!
Birdsville is about 1900km north east of Sydney, 700km from Longreach via dirt and about 520km north of Marree.
- Tackling Big Red
- Having a beer at the Birdsville Hotel
- Bird watching
- 4WDing on the Birdsville Track
Birdsville has two service stations with hot meals and accommodation available at the Birdsville Hotel. Visit theoutback.com.au for more.
We set up a roadside camp for the Big Red Bash but camping is usually available at Birdsville Caravan Park.
The full article appears in Caravan World #555 September 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!