Driving in the Red Dunes of Windorah (QLD)

Highlights:

  • Rolling red sand dunes
  • Abundant wildlife
  • Long drives and 12km nature drive
  • Camp site with amenities, power and washing machine
  • Pituresque
  • Pub

Endless untouched sand dunes, isolation, sunsets and bucket loads of coffee. This sums up my time in Windorah. Located in Western Queensland this hidden gem is full of wildlife and breathtaking and underrated landscapes.

My partner Jasmine (@wildlifetraveler) and friend Issac (@GC_hinterland_herper) jumped into a car full camera equipment, two tents and enough snacks to stock your local IGA and begun our 14 hour drive heading west from Brisbane.

Once leaving Brisbane and heading over the Great Dividing Range we found ourselves in the Darling Downs. The entrance to the west. Here farmland takes over. Fields of sunflowers are not uncommon and the type of wildlife starts to really change. Here arid species that are used to long dry periods of little rain take over. Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Emus are often sited just off the highway. Nankeen Kestrels perch themselves on fence posts whilst Wedge Tail Eagles gorge themselves on festering unidentifiable roadkill.

Farmland eventually changes into endless Mulga Country roughly around Charleville. Gangly thin trees that are full of hollows hide a myriad of wildlife. If you are patient and have the eye you might see a family of Tree Skinks hilariously chasing down insects or a Black Headed Monitor poking his head out surveying his land. Usually I time our drives so that we are in this type of habitat just on dusk. This time of day we normally see snakes crossing the road and geckos warming themselves on the bitumen. We drove on until we found a small truck stop and decided to go night spotting for a few hours before we collapsed into our sleeping bags.

Waking up early, we had a short breakfast, which consisted of musli bars and sachet coffee (lots of it) and jumped into the car to finish up the rest of our 14 hour drive. A few hours later just past a town named Quilpie we noticed that the trees started to thin out and grasslands took over. It’s bleak and endless. Not only that but serveral storms were on the radar. With nothing but the odd fence line to keep you company, I normally watch every post looking for small lizards blissfully basking. Eventually on the horizon the plains gave way to sand dunes. It starts to really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere as you’re surrounded by red sand dunes. They start to come up to the road and you can pull over and walk through the spinifix (spikey desert grass) communities. Small Military Dragons zoom between them whilst Two Lined Dragons eye you off suspiciously.From time to time you’ll be startled by a Spinifex Pigeon flying off in a hurry It was a beautiful site watching several distant storms roll past from the top of the dunes. We decided to keep heading west not stopping until you made it Windorah.

Windorah is pretty hard to miss in the outback. You’ll drive over Cooper Creek which is a great place to go fishing (Windorah literally means place Big Fish in the local language). Here it’s not uncommon to see a swarm of raptors and pelicans gliding in thermals. On the edge of town we decided to set up camp on a small sand dune and watch the sunset. The storms we saw earlier decided to follow us and drop large quantities of much needed water in the area. Water sat in the lowlands and Desert spadefoot frogs called as they emerged from deep within the sand. The sky was glowing red and I knew we were in for a great night of wildlife spotting. A King Brown as long as I am tall, a range of small snakes and Smooth Knob Tailed Geckos crossed our paths. We clicked away at on our cameras till at least 4am. The amount of wildlife was just crazy. Just as the sun was rising and my eyelids were getting extremely heavy I noticed a small moving lump on the road. I hit the brakes and it turned out to be a Centralian Blue Tongue Lizard. Basically, an extremely pudgy cuter version of the Eastern Blue Tongue Lizard.

Our last stop was the Pub. The aircon was glorious as was the food. There’s no reception in Windorah, so we found ourselves talking and conversing to other people with the same taste of adventure as well a young British backpacker who had been living there for the last two months. We spent several more days climbing dunes and walking isolated grass plains. Whilst it may seem like an empty boring place to road trip to. The interior of Queensland holds countless hidden gems. Whether you want a cheap holiday to get away from it all, adventure, sweeping landscapes, a 4wd mission or to immerse yourself in nature, the journey to Windorah has it all.

Essential Gear

  • Sunscreen
  • Camping gear – tent, sleeping bag, esky, camping stove
  • Camera
  • Good music

Activities

  • Bushwalking
  • Fishing
  • Boating/canoeing
  • Wildlife watching
  • Photography
  • 4wd
  • Camping

Skill Level

  • All levels
  • 2 Wheel drive accessible except for several 4wd roads
  • Camping, Caravan parks and motels

Distance Covered

  • 14 hours from Brisbane
  • Several National Parks along the way
  • 12km nature drive