Purnululu National Park, Kimberley, WA (Photo: Getty Images)

Top 10 Australian outback experiences

  • BY AG staff and Lonely Planet |
  • May 17, 2010

From red icons to rugged tracks swept away in the rainy season, the outback always surprises.

This list, from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Experiences, is a red hot rundown of the top 10 Australian outback destinations.

1. Longreach, Queensland
At the crossroads of several old stock routes, this legendary township is known throughout the outback. One of the country’s most famous bushrangers, Captain Starlight, kicked off his career here by swiping a thousand cattle and driving them down to sell in South Australia. Longreach was also one of the founding centres for the iconic Qantas airline...See and read more

2. Broken Hill, NSW
This way-out westerner is known as the Silver City for its roots as a mining town – silver, lead and zinc are all still mined here. When it’s time to down tools, head to one of several old-fashioned Australian pubs including the celebrated Mario’s Palace, which starred in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert... See image and read more

3. Heysen Trail, South Australia
This 1200 km trail, with a trailhead just south of Adelaide at Cape Jarvis, is for dedicated walkers only. It sweeps through some of the state’s best terrain, winding along the ridge of Mt Lofty and wandering through the awe-inspiring Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges before winding up in Parachilna Gorge... See image and read more

4. Coober Pedy, South Australia
Looking to really get down under? To escape the soaring 50°C temperatures, most of this outback town, from private homes to elaborately carved churches, was built underground. It was opal mining that drew people into this inhospitable environment and there’s still fun (if not fortunes) to be had by noodling (fossicking) through mullocks (waste heaps) from other mines... See image and read more

5. The Kimberley, Western Australia
TThis huge chunk of WA remains one of the true remote Australian destinations. Start by making a base in Broome, the celebrated northern beach town that has a diverse Chinese and Malay history. From here, head out into Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park, known for the Bungle Bungle Range... See image and read more

6. Oodnadatta track
This epic Australian road trip kicks off in Port Augusta in South Australia, snaking up through the ochre-hued Flinders Ranges before heading off the tarred roads at Lyndhurst and on to the rough stuff through to Maree. Just 60 km from Maree stop off at Mutonia, a scrapyard-cum-sculpture park that includes ‘planehenge’, a series of planes poking out of the earth to resemble the UK landmark... See image and read more

7. Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
Sitting near the northern coast and covering more than 19,000 sq. km, this massive national park is synonymous with adventure. Over 5000 examples of Aboriginal rock art are daubed on the walls of this World Heritage site, with some dating back more than 20,000 years... See image and read more

8. The Ghan
Not every outback experience requires you to break a sweat. The genteel Ghan is one of Australia’s great railway adventures. It runs between Darwin and Adelaide, following the trail of Afghan cameleers who lent the train its name... See image and read more

9. Nullarbor Plain
Named for the Latin phrase for ‘no trees’, this plain between Adelaide and Perth offers a long drive that is so straight you can see another car coming from kilometres away. People used to hop out for a chat when they met because there were so few people on the road... See image and read more

10. Uluru, Northern Territory

At Australia’s dead heart a 348 m high monolith rises out of the surrounding scrubland. It’s the rock that sold a thousand postcards, but up close you can’t help but feel why the local Anangu people regard it as sacred... See image and read more

This is an extract from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences, © Lonely Planet, 2010. $34.99.

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