The journey from Longreach to Quilpie includes some worthy stopovers, and really shows you what outback Queensland is made of.
The 570km journey from Longreach to Quilpie, Qld, is best toured via Stonehenge, Jundah, and Windorah and Cooper Creek.
The bitumen from Longreach is fine to drive, but watch for muddy conditions after rain. We took the track at 30km/h in places.
Just before you turn off to Stonehenge, look out for place names set out in stones on the right-hand side of the road, known locally as the “Address Book”.
Stonehenge is 150km from Longreach and is worth a visit to check out the rocks next to the pub, which contain large opal pieces. There is also a scenic drive, but that was out for us after the previous night’s rain.
There is also a small van park (on the honour system) and fuel available. We saw many roos, as well as several emus and bustards.
Between Stonehenge and Jundah you come to Swanvale Lookout on top of a jump up. This signposted spot is a good place to stop for lunch – there are expansive views, a picnic area with a barbecue, seats and ample parking for caravans.
This area is on a cattle property owned by the proprietors of the Jundah pub and would make a good overnight stop.
About 6km further on there is a sign to a couple of native wells. They are just 100m off the road, and the short drive in passes between them.
Heavy rain and black soil meant it was not possible to camp at the overnight spots next to the Thomson River, nor do the river walk. There had also been a big fish kill on the river, most likely due to the huge rainfall and silt causing a lack of oxygen in the river.
Your other options here are a caravan park and the pub campground.
Windorah is the last stop before Birdsville, whether coming from Longreach or Quilpie. It is also just a few kilometres from where the Thomson and Barcoo rivers join to form Cooper Creek.
Locals prefer to call it Cooper’s Creek, but it has been Cooper Creek on official Qld maps for many years, and this is what has been taught to generations of school children.
Cooper Creek has an amazing array of birdlife, especially looking downstream from the bridge. We had time to do the 12km nature drive, on which we saw many birds. Native flowers were out after the record wet, and we visited the red sand hills along the road to Birdsville.
The best place to climb these sand hills is 12km out of town, where you will find an unmarked road leading in just before the cattle sale yards. This short road was fine for 2WD vehicles when we were there.
The road on to Quilpie is about 250km and has some wider stretches, although most is still single-lane bitumen. We pulled up on the side the of road and discovered paddocks full of wildflowers.
The van park in Quilpie charged normal rates, confirming we were back to civilisation and had left the $10 parks behind. We found plenty to do. Just out of town is an opal fossicking area supplied by the council and we found some good colour. The van park also has its own lease about 80km out of town.
You may like to join the mail run which visits Ray Station, owned continuously by members of the Durack family mentioned in the book Kings in Grass Castles There is also an overnight flying tour to Birdsville.
We found several great camping spots beside Lake Houdraman, and did the Bulloo River walk. Two local lads fishing in the Bulloo caught three yellowbelly in a few minutes and told us the river was full of them. Even if you are short on time here the easy climb for the views up Baldy Top mesa is a must.
From Quilpie, the road to Charleville is an easy 200km of two-lane highway. In fine weather, this part of outback Qld is accessible by all RVs and is a wonderful adventure.
- Visiting Cooper Creek
- Stunning wildflowers in a good season
- Wildlife, including emus and roos
- The trip is about 570km from Longreach back to Quilpie. Charleville is a further 200km.
- All roads are sealed, but most are single-lane until Quilpie.
- This is a very popular route to Birdsville, so it pays to book a park site in advance.
- This is channel country with mostly black or red soil. Check the state of the roads into river camping areas before trying them – we heard of several campers who were stuck until the roads dried out.