The 10 Best Outback Experiences in Australia

Simpson’s Gap in the West MacDonnell Ranges
Simpson’s Gap in the West MacDonnell Ranges | © Paul Balfe / Flickr
Photo of Tom Smith
2 July 2018

Australia covers almost eight million square kilometres, and there’s an incredible adventure to be enjoyed in every inch of the country. From the red dust of Uluru to gold mines of Kalgoorlie, discover the outback through these 10 unmissable experiences.

Watch the Field of Light glow

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Field of Light Uluru © Romain Pontida / Flickr
Field of Light Uluru | © Romain Pontida / Flickr

The desert landscape around Uluru is impressive enough on its own, but the 50,000 frosted glass spheres that surround ‘The Rock’ make it even more spectacular. British artist Bruce Munro added the light installation in 2016 and the luminous bulbs will remain in place until 2020, making for a compulsory after-dark adventure in the Red Centre.

Stroll through the streets of Broken Hill

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Desert sculpture in Broken Hill © Colleen Galvin / Flickr
Desert sculpture in Broken Hill | © Colleen Galvin / Flickr

There aren’t many outback icons that are more famous than this frontier mining town in far western New South Wales. Follow the Broken Hill Heritage Walk to see the heritage architecture and classic outback streetscapes, get out of town to wander through the picturesque Living Desert Sculptures, and even visit the Mad Max Museum, a homage to the cult classic that was filmed nearby.

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Drive the Gibb River Road

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Gibb River Road (eastern section), The Kimberley
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

The Great Ocean Road might be Australia’s most famous road trip, but the Gibb is perhaps its most challenging. This epic journey winds through more than 600 kilometres of rugged terrain in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and it’s not for the faint-hearted – jump in your 4WD to tackle the gorges, plateaus, waterfalls and outback stations that make up this wild corner of the country.

Climb the 'Staircase to the Moon'

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Roebuck Bay in Broome © Robyn Jay / Flickr
Roebuck Bay in Broome | © Robyn Jay / Flickr

Keep on driving to the coast and you’ll hit Broome, one of Australia’s most attractive outback destinations. The camel trains along Cable Beach at sunset provide the postcard image of the town, but the Staircase of the Moon is equally jaw-dropping, as the full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay for a couple of days a month between March and October.

Go underground at Coober Pedy

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© John Warburton-Lee Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

Eight hours’ drive north of Adelaide lies one of Australia’s most unique destinations: the underground opal-mining town of Coober Pedy, which hides beneath the earth’s surface to escape the baking Central Australian heat. See subterranean museums, cafes and churches, and those with a ribald sense of humour will also get a giggle out of Crocodile Harry’s underground lair, one of the outback’s oddest attractions.

Golf across the Nullarbor

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The fourth hole of the Nullarbor Links © Bahnfrend / Wikimedia Commons
The fourth hole of the Nullarbor Links | © Bahnfrend / Wikimedia Commons

If you think Coober Pedy sounds unusual, wait until you see the world’s longest golf course. The Nullarbor Links spans 1,365km of barren desert crossing between Ceduna in South Australia and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, an 18-hole par 73 course crawling with kangaroos and wombats.

See the 'Super Pit'

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Kalgoorlie Super Pit © Chris Fithall / Flickr
Kalgoorlie Super Pit | © Chris Fithall / Flickr

After you’ve played your 18 holes, you arrive in the WA Goldfields, where Australia’s largest open pit gold mine is the area’s biggest attraction – literally. The Super Pit, as it’s colloquially known, swallowed up a series of Kalgoorlie’s historic underground mines, and can be gawked at from a lookout at the end of the Golden Quest Discovery Trail.

Dress up at the Birdsville Races

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Birdsville Races © Geoffrey Rhodes / Flickr
Birdsville Races | © Geoffrey Rhodes / Flickr

Most horse races are held on luscious green grass, but not this one. Thousands of visitors converge on the tiny town of Birdsville 1,600 kilometres west of Brisbane on the first Saturday in September to watch nags gallop through the Simpson Desert dust, producing an event that’s the outback’s answer to the Melbourne Cup.

Have a dip at Ormiston Gorge

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Ormiston Gorge © Paul Balfe / Flickr
Ormiston Gorge | © Paul Balfe / Flickr

The outback isn’t just red dust and open road, with a string of scenic swimming holes trickling around Central Australia. The Ormiston Gorge – located within the West MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs – is one of the most photogenic, fringed by sandy verges and towering red stone walls.

Fill up in Oodnadatta

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The Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta © Kr.afol / Wikimedia Commons
The Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta | © Kr.afol / Wikimedia Commons

Outback road-trippers stop for petrol at many unremarkable roadhouses, but you could never accuse this flaming pink pit stop of being boring. More than a thousand kilometres north-west of Adelaide, the Pink Roadhouse is a compulsory stop on any road trip from South Australia into the beating red heart of the continent.

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