5 unique towns to visit in the Australian Outback

Some say you haven’t truly experienced Australia until you've visited the Outback. The continent’s arid interior covers 5.6 million sq km and 70% of the country yet is home to just 5% of the population. Huge areas of the Outback are natural parks exploding with extraordinary scenery and wildlife, including bizarre rock formations, ancient Aboriginal sites, canyons and craters, multi-coloured salt lakes and woodlands that abound with emus, dingoes, kangaroos, wallabies and parrots.

A caravanning trip through the Outback can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience you will treasure forever. Here are 5 unique towns to put on your itinerary.

Lightning Ridge, NSW

Lighting Ridge might be the quirkiest town in NSW. By the early 1900s, it was known and folks were drawn from as far as China and Eastern European to claim their fortunes here.

Mining companies were locked out of the prime estate to allow individual fossickers to create their own business.

Unsurprisingly, the town drew all sorts, and today its best-known attractions are a bizarre mural gallery carved into maze-like underground chambers and the public artisan baths (popular evening meeting places) where natural spring waters are a balmy 40+ degrees round.

Coober Peddy, SA

Like Lightning Ridge, Coober Peddy sprung up (or down?) out of nowhere with the discovery of huge reserves of opals.

The problem was, Coober Peddy, which lies 850km north of Adelaide, has temperatures often regularly climbing above 40°C in the summer months.

To combat these conditions, the people of Coober Peddy came up with an ingenious idea. They built not only their homes – but schools, shops, and churches underground, permanently shielded from the scorching sun.

Over half of Cooper Peddy’s residents still live largely subterranean lives. Tourists can spend the night at the Cave Hotel, the world’s only underground hotel and swimming pool.

Alice Springs, NT

The quintessential desert outpost Alice Spring’s population of 25,200 makes it one of the Outback’s most bustling settlements, with plenty of places for tourists to eat, shop and stay and several world-class Aboriginal art galleries.

The Gateway to the Red Centre, it’s the closest town to Uluru-Kata and King’s Canyon.

Broken Hill, NSW

In a remote corner o NSW near the SA, Broken Hill is known for its welcoming inhabitants. Offering both truly stunning desert landscapes and classic outback hospitality, it was first populated as a mining settlement in 1885. The wealth brought from silver and ore made the town become wealthy, and it was decided to beautify the town with a fascinating patchwork of architectural styles, from Victorian Classical to Arts and Crafts and Romanesque.

Speaking of artsy, it’s also home to the Pro Hart Gallery.

But the most beautiful part of any visit to Broken Hill is the breathtaking natural surrounds – perfect for caravanning, camping and hiking.

The Living Desert Reserve in the Barren Ranges lies 12km from the city and offers some of the most starkly beautiful hikes and camping sites in Australia. The breathtaking topography of gullies, rocky outgroups, mesmerising viewpoints and dozens of stunning red sandstone sculptures cutting striking silhouettes against the clear outback sky at night.

Birdsville, QLD

Birdsville’s main claim to fame is being very, very far from everything. The entire length of the Birdsville Track, a historic stock route from the 1860s, covers 517km from Maree in SA and ends, basically, at a very famous old pub, the weathered old sandstone Birdsville, dating to 1884. Known as Australia's most iconic outback pub, the Birdsville Pub has played an important role in the exploration of Australia’s desert country.

The Event of the Year is the famous annual Birdsville Races during the first weekend of September.

On Race Weekend, Birdsville’s population of 1,500 swells to up to 6,000 as spectators crowd round to watch “the Outback Melbourne Cup” on the dusty plains of the Simpson Desert and then continue to party all weekend.

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