Many travelers come to Australia in search of adventure inspired by tales about the rough life in the outback; the cowboy lifestyle, the endless sunburnt landscapes and the untamed nature. You see Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin on TV and want to explore Australia’s wilderness by yourself and experience the thrill of encountering dangerous animals and survive in the most relentless environment on earth.
However, once they arrive in Australia, many backpackers get stuck on the well beaten trail that connects the coastal cities and all they see of Australia’s wild side are the commercial wildlife parks where they can pet tame crocodiles and take pictures with toothless snakes.
So are the stories about the adventurous outback life only a myth today?
If you want to see the wild side of Australia: the ragged mountain ranges, the red dirt, the extraordinary wildlife and the rough cowboy culture; there are many places in Australia where you can still experience the original outback-way-of-life!
One such place is Queensland’s Adavale, a town in the middle of nowhere: in the real outback. With a population of less than 20 people the small town is situated at least two hours away from any civilization and the inhabitants know how to rough it in the outback.
Once part of the biggest sheep station in Australia, Adavale blossomed as a railway town in the early years of the 19th century. But after the railway changed it’s path and a terrible flood devastated the place, the number of inhabitants shrunk quickly and all that is left behind today, is the legend of a once prosperous town that is now a refuge for those who enjoy the peaceful seclusion from the outside world.
Despite it’s isolation however, Adavale is far from boring.
We ended up coming to this unique town to take up a job offer at Adavale’s famous bush pub which won the prize for “the best bush pub” in 2012. Curious to see what a real bush pub looks like, we headed far inland which was an epic road trip by itself and we were rewarded with the most awesome outback adventure ever!
There are 13 things that you can do in remote Adavale that will make your stay in Australia the most authentic outback adventure ever:
1.Ride a Bull at the Rodeo
Once a year countless cowboys come from near and far to compete in the epic Adavale Rodeo. With over 700 participants and thousands of cows and horses, the show covers a whole weekend. You can watch brave cowboys being thrown in the dust by mighty beasts over and over again or if you are brave enough, you can even try and ride a bull yourself!
There are several disciplines that test the skills of a real cowboy, such as catching and driving cattle, riding untamed horses and handling a wild bull. If you are a real man, you cannot miss this epic spectacle of power and bravery!
On the last day, there is an offroad motorbike race, the Jim Carna, where even the youngest generation of cowboys- and girls participate on their little dirt bikes. You can see whole families attending the rodeo; even for the bullriding there is a junior section, where the little ones can test their courage by riding a young calf.
In the evening you can enjoy a cold beer with the men, while the blood red sun sets over the desert and the dust is still awhirl in the air.
2. Ride a quad or dirt bike on the old station coach road
You can not only watch motorbike races, but you can drive a quad or dirt bike yourself in the endless landscape of the Australian desert. There are plenty of game trails to follow that will lead you through rocky, hilly landscapes which are great fun to explore! You will truly feel free while racing over the dry earth, bumping over rocks and gravel and pushing to the summits of sandy hill crests.
Or you can trace the steps of the first settlers and drive over the remains of the old gravel road for the station coaches where you can find the ruins of old stations and old equipment left behind by the pioneers.
There are no cars, no residents who take issue with noise and there are endless parcours of pristine landscape where you can run wild without any restraints. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent a quad bike or an old dirt bike from the Adavale Store and Pub whose owner Koss knows everything about the area and will love to show you around.
3. Go to Hellhole
No, I’m not cursing you. Hellhole is a big gorge that got it’s name from the horrible massacre that took place there about a hundred years ago. The new settlers drove a tribe of Aboriginals who did not want to give up their land to this waterhole and cruelly drowned and shot all of the men. The bodies were left in the water of Hellhole and the place is considered cursed ever since. Even today you can still happen to find old human bones on the shores of the lake when the water is low.
In hellhole there is a monolith in the middle of the lake, that you can climb onto if you are brave enough to balance over a slippery path of rocks slightly under the surface of the cursed waters. They are called “the devil’s walkway.” Even without knowing the story, it is eery to walk over the dark water which is so deep that you can’t see the bottom. There are no crocodiles in this part of Queensland, but Australian waters always give me the creeps when you cannot see which deadly creatures are swimming underneath you…
4. Fish in the shade of the coolabahs
The days can get really hot in Adavale. In summer the temperatures easily reach 40+ degrees, so the best way to spend a hot afternoon is to go to the water, find a nice spot in the shadows and spend the day doing something that does not require much effort, like fishing.
Take a sixpack of beer or a nice picnic and enjoy nature and life. Just make sure to bring insect repellent as well, since the flies can be a real bother if you go into the wild unprotected. Around Adavale there are many great spots to catch yellow belly!
5. Catch yabbies in the billabongs
If the water is low because of drought, or if the fish are just not biting, you can try to catch yabbies instead. Yabbies are little brown-blue lobsters that taste delicious and are easy to catch with a crab-cage and some cat-food. Just throw the cage in one of the billabongs, let it sit there during the day and pull out a yummy free meal in the evening. The blue little fellows live in almost all of the billabongs, so it does not matter were you set out your trap. It’s really easy. They are also good as bait for fishing.
6. Hunt wild pigs with bow and arrow
Personally, I’m not much of a hunter, since I have too much compassion for animals and could never kill one myself. My boyfriend however, is a passionate hunter and, like the locals, he enjoys a thrilling pig hunt. There are many wild pigs out here and it is not illegal to hunt them, so if you like to stalk your prey with bow and arrow or want to take your dogs out for a hunt, here is the place to do it.
7. Bushwalk through nature
There is hardly any place where nature is still as untouched as in Adavale’s outback. If you are a wildlife photographer or just a fan of hiking, you can go trekking over far distances and take great pictures of beautiful nature and rare animals. During our walks and drives we saw lots of wildlife: Big herds of emus, kangaroos, dingoes, giant iguanas, beautiful carpet snakes, wild pigs, wild horses, colorful galahs, cranes, geese, black swans and more. Be careful were you step though, so you don’t get bitten by snakes which like to hide behind fallen branches and in the holes of big rocks. Also bring sturdy shoes so the thorny shrubs don’t go through your soles. This is the real outback, so you should be aware of the dangers and prepare yourself for emergency. Bring plenty of water, tell people where you intend to go and wear long clothes and a hat when you go into the bush.
8. Search for opals and gold near the river banks
Adavale is known for it’s opal mines, that produces many of the precious stones that are found in the ironstone of the region. You don’t have to own a mine to find opal though, since they are contained in big boulders within the ironstone that covers most of the landscape. If you go to the gorges or along the dry riverbeds you can see boulders that were washed out by the water. If you crack those open you might be lucky and find opal inside. You can even find gold in the iron sands, the locals told me. We also came across big pieces of quartz in the desert, which is not worth that much, but can be made into beautiful jewelry.
9. Experience the historic vibe of a 100 year old shearing station.
Reading about history in books can be quite boring. Seeing the remains of another era can be quite fascinating though. Near Adavale you can see the ruin of the biggest shearing shed of the world, the Milo Station, whose record of shearing the most sheep in one year (566217 sheep in the year 1892) is still unbeaten today. I found it very impressive to see the huge shed that still smelled of animal and to see the old steam powered machines. Especially in a surrounding where modernization has not progressed very far yet and people still live by farming cattle, it is easy to imagine how people lived in those days. Going to Adavale feels a little like doing time travel.
In the city hall of Adavale you can also look at pictures of the old town and see how the buildings looked before everything was swept away by the big flood in 1963. Which brings me to the next point:
10. Witness the epic flood that comes every ten years
The old town of Adavale was almost completely destroyed by the floods that hit the town every ten years. The people rebuilt their houses on stilts after that and moved to an area further up to avoid being swept away again. Unfortunately, most of the old wooden buildings were lost that way and nowadays the residents live in so called “dongers”, which are metal containers that are big enough to live in. However, if you like to witness natural disasters, you can see a big flood if you arrive at the right time in the right year. It is more or less a matter of luck/ bad luck though, since the cycle of the flood is not always regular and can be one or two years late sometimes, depending on the weather conditions. Since the buildings are made to withstand the water, it is now safe to watch the natural spectacle if you come to Adavale during this time.
11. Drink beer and play pool with real cowboys at the bushpub
If you liked to play cowboy as a child, you can make a childhood dream come true and drink beer with a real cowboy in a rugged bush pub. Most people here own or work on cattle stations, so your chance to meet a real cowboy in Adavale’s Pub is pretty high. You can have a drink and chat on the bar or play pool together in the outback-style pub that will make you feel like you are in the wild west. In the evenings there are sometimes karaoke meetings where the local people gather in the pub to play the guitar and sing country songs.
12. Drive your 4-Wheel-Drive through rocky landscapes and endless plains
The landscape around Adavale is not only great for driving a bike, it is also the perfect place to drive your 4WD over bumpy, sandy roads and through the grassy plains on to the north or the rocky ironstone landscape to the east. There are rivers to cross, hills to climb and kangaroos to chase in the infinite wilderness of the outback. Many people come here to test their driving skills and challenge themselves driving through mostly uncharted landscape where they can discover beautiful gorges and hidden stone formations that no eye has yet seen.
13. Test your survival skills camping in the bush
Around Adavale there are lots of spots where you are allowed to do bush camping. You can set up your tent near a billabong, catch fish and yabbies during the day and try yourself on testing your survival skills in the real outback. There is hardly any human around, so you are undisturbed and can enjoy the silence and freedom of solitariness in the wild under a wide blanket of stars that shine just for you.
If you feel like taking a break from living like Tarzan, you can go to the pub for a cold beer and a warm meal anytime. There are public showers near the city hall that are free to use and also flushing toilets and drinking water.
Some things you have to consider:
When you come out here, you should know, that Adavale is a very small town with lots of nature but not much civilization. The next city, Quilpie, is more than two hours away and there is neither a petrol station nor a grocery shop in Adavale, so make sure you stock up before you go there.
It is pretty much up to you how adventurous your time in the outback will be, since there are so far no organized tours or guides that will tell you what to do once you are there. This is not a tourist spot, but a real outback town, so don’t expect any amenities if you decide to come here. You can get maps and information at the local pub, which is also the only place to get a room, (it’s 45$ a night for a double room) if you don’t want to camp.
Adavale provides the right surroundings for an adventure, but you have to create it yourself. For me, this is the best way to travel: No staged “cultural events” or planned tours, but only the real thing, not made easy for you by some travel organization. The adventure is real. So find your courage and taste the freedom!
By the way, I don’t receive any commission for advertising Adavale or the pub. I worked here for two month, so I got to know the place and the people very well and had honestly a very good and adventurous time. I sincerely hope that you will get inspired to come here and see this unique and adventurous place and have as much fun as I had. It’s definitely worth coming all the way out there!
If you meet Koss, Margaret or Chris at the pub, tell them hi from me!