There’s no doubt about it, country folk know how to have a good time – whether it’s the camaraderie of a campfire or a wife-carrying competition, rocking out in the desert or freaking out at dinosaurs. So pack up the car and take the kids on a road trip they’ll never forget to these Outback Queensland festivals.
Roma’s Easter In The Country Festival
March 24-30, 2016
Catch the billy cart races at Roma.
Spend a long weekend in Roma, about a six-hour drive northwest of Brisbane, for a celebration of all things country at the 39th Easter in the Country Festival. It kicks off with Outback tucker under the stars, including shared Mandandanji Bush Tucker plates, and local beef, lamb and wheat. There’s also a night rodeo and professional bull ride, drag racing, mud derby, Aboriginal dreaming festival, race meet, quilt exhibition, bush poets breakfast, wife-carrying competition, street markets, parade, fun run, performance by country star James Blundell, and way more.
Kids will love: Seeing kids hurtle down the street in the Billy Cart Races; plus the MONSTER Easter Egg Hunt.
Cully Fest – Outback & Aboriginal Folk Festival, Cunnamulla
March 31-April 3, 2016
Connect with Aborigianl culture at Cully Fest. Picture: Ali Sanderson
The first ever Cully Fest will feature live music from the likes of Aussie rock legends The Angels, Darren Hanlon, and the Christopher Coleman Collective; didgeridoo from virtuoso and storyteller Mark Atkins; performances by the Gawumu Aboriginal dancers; as well as dance and singing workshops; sandboarding; opal fossicking; fishing competitions; and more. See how didgeridoos are made and learn how to cook an emu. Feast on delicious local Aussie Outback fare and traditional Aboriginal food cooked in the camp oven. It’s on at Cunnamulla, about a 10-hour drive west of Brisbane.
Kids will love: The dedicated Kids Festival, with hip-hop and rap performances, dance and clown workshops, a jumping castle, animal farm, busking competition, and more.
Barcaldine Tree Of Knowledge Festival
April 28-May 2, 2016
Glory awaits the fastest goat. Picture: Louise Gronold Imagery
The Tree of Knowledge Festival at Barcaldine, about six hours west of Rockhampton, will this year celebrate 125 years since the Shearers’ Strike of 1891, which led to the birth of the Australian Labor Party. The shearers met under the Tree of Knowledge, a ghost gum outside the railway station, which was poisoned in 2006. The festival will feature markets, an art exhibition themed around the strike, a Graeme Connors drought relief concert, race meet, Revfest drag racing, a street party and food festival, as well as a May Day March.
Kids will love: The goat races, where local kids ride in a small gig and race their goat to glory; and the May Day Family Day, with children’s entertainment, and a show by Dougie and the Dungbeetles.
Open Shutter: Starry Nights In Queensland
Adventure drive: A Glimpse Of Outback Queensland Along The Savannah Way
Can you dig it? Earthly Delights In The Outback
Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival, Winton
June 24-July 2, 2016
Sit back and relax in a canvas chair under the stars at the Royal Open Air Theatre, during The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival in Winton, about a nine-hour drive west of Rockhampton. This year’s program features the best dinosaur films of all time, as well as celebrating Aussie film and culture, plus masterclasses, short film competitions, location tours and movie premieres. This is dinosaur country, so make sure you stop in at Australian Age of Dinosaurs to see the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils while you’re here.
Kids will love: The Vision Splendid KIDS Club, which includes entry to all kids’ movies at the Opal Theatre.
Birdsville Big Red Bash
July 4-6, 2016
Red dirt, dunes and tunes at the Big Red Bash.
Are you ready to rock the Simpson Desert? Jimmy Barnes, Paul Kelly, Glenn Shorrock and Brian Cadd are, at the Birdsville Big Red Bash – three days and nights of music from iconic Australian artists with the 30-metre-high Big Red dune as a backdrop.
Think red dirt, blue sky and wide open spaces, where Outback characters come together with 3,000 festival goers. Add in a scenic chopper flight to complete the picture. Birdsville is remote – about 1,590 kilometres west of Brisbane.
Kids will love: The absolute freedom of camping in the desert and getting red dirt on their feet. Family passes are available and kids under 11 are free.
Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo
August 12-14, 2016
Some keen spectators at the Isa Rodeo. Picture: Stephen Mowbray Photography
The Isa Rodeo has been going strong since 1959, and describes itself as the place where “the romance of the Australian Outback meets the grit of a mining town”. The action includes saddle bronc, bareback bronc, bullriding, rope and tie, steer wrestling, team roping, ladies’ barrel racing and ladies’ breakaway roping. There’s also a ball, street party, Rock the Rodeo concert, bush poets breakfast and Fred Brophy’s boxing tent. Mount Isa is about 10 hours’ drive west of Townsville.
Kids will love: The family Mardi Gras parade on the Friday night, before the official opening; plus face painting and poddy rides at the rodeo.