In response to my recent posting about visiting SW Qld later this year a number
of people have asked when would be the 'best' month/s to visit that area.
I apologise for the delay in answering but I have been a little busy checking
my records and I also decided to take a bit of time off from staring at the
computer screen to do a bit of bird-photography.
Anyhow, below are some of my thoughts on the matter.
A lot of what I have written will be familiar to many readers but I do think
that it is still worth saying.
Please remember when reading these notes that these are my personal thoughts
and ideas; other people may have different opinions and more experience of the
Being asked to give advice on travelling in the 'outback' is, I have found,
often fraught with danger, but, as I did encourage people to travel to SW Qld I
think I should make an attempt to give some good advice. Please note, though,
that I give this advice in good faith knowing that different people have
different expectations, different capabilities and different tolerances to
environmental conditions. Also, different people will have different amounts of
time in which they can do such a trip.
Most of the places I mentioned in my original posting can be easily reached by
bitumen roads, in fact, many of these places are on 'main' highways. I would
think, however, that even the main highways could have been damaged by the
floods and that will mean slower travelling and numerous road-works areas. So,
even if the plan is not to venture off the hard-top, the 'usual' average speed
of 150 kmh that a lot of birdwatchers seem to travel at (judging from the
descriptions of their travels I often see on the 'net) would not be advisable.
If the plan is to travel on the more minor roads then I suggest that travelers
should be prepared for slower trips and more delays and deviations.
During at least one year back in the 1980s the track from Nappa Merrie (near
the Dig Tree) to Innamincka was practically impassable for several months after
heavy rains early in that year.
Places such as Hungerford and Currawinya NP have to be reached by gravel/dirt
roads and full restoration of these roads may not have been completed by 'later
this year'. Also, it may be necessary to drive short distances off the bitumen
at places like Lake Bindegolly NP to reach a camp site. In the 'old days' it
was possible to drive to the edge of the lake there but these days vehicles are
prohibited from doing that, I believe, which is probably a good thing in one
way: the edges of the lake are very soft and it is easy to become bogged. The
downside is that Lake Bindegolly covers a huge area so be prepared for a bit of
walking and the hazards that can be encountered doing that (think of huge
thorny burrs that can easily pierce light-weight walking shoes). Of course, if
the lake is full it will be possible to stand on the edge of the road (well off
the road would be best as the traffic moves past there at high speed) and view
the scene from there.
Anyone contemplating travelling off the bitumen should seriously consider being
in a 4 wheel drive vehicle or, at least, a high-clearance vehicle.
When is the 'best' time to go?
I don't know! But I can give some pointers to when would be a 'good' time to go.
It would seem that I have visited some parts of SW Qld in all months from March
to October but most of my pleasure-time trips there have been in August and
The reasons for that would include:
- that's when I could easily get leave from work;
- those months are usually dry and cool (not as cold as June or July and not
too hot as in the summer months);
- there seems to be a certain mystique about travelling outback in the months
- this is often said to be the time for the wildflowers.
I have been to Lake Bindegolly in March but had to leave after a few days
because of the excessive heat; I moved to Girraween NP near Stanthorpe hoping
for some cooler weather and was nearly frozen by the sub-zero temperatures
One trip in May saw me arrive west of Thargomindah a few days after 4 inches of
rain in the area - the roads were a mess and the going was very hard. Knowing
what I know now I should have turned around and gone home.
A trip in October was interesting but the heat took the gloss of it all.
My photos (remember slides?) show that Aug/Sept can be a very good time for
wildflowers around Bollon (flooded at the moment) and the Birdsville Track near
the Cooper Creek crossing. Actually, that year the Birdsville Track had been
cut by the Cooper in flood and there were wildflowers everywhere.
Going now or in the next few weeks would be interesting if you want to see lots
of water but the roads could be difficult and some places could still be
isolated. Thargomindah has been cut off from the rest of Australia for all but
a few days this year so far.
Also, after the rain stops and the sun comes out to warm the place up, there
could be a massive eruption of mosquitoes. I experienced such an eruption one
time out past Thargomindah and it was horrendous. If you think you have seen
big mossies, think again. One of those mossies could suck the blood out of a
horse in less than 5 minutes and then look around for more! I was lucky to
On the other hand, if Bowra after the rains at the beginning of 2008 is
anything to go by, a trip there as soon as it is accessible and traversable
could be interesting for the waterbird breeding. A boat would be handy as the
breeding takes place on the banks of the Gumholes waterhole and the only
effective way to see the birds is from the a boat.
The grass is already over knee high in parts of the area we are talking about
and some bird species are probably already breeding madly. April 2008 saw
thousands of budgies, Diamond Doves and Little Button-quail around Bowra,
I would probably favour September for this year but I am semi-committed to
being in Perth, WA, during Aug/Sept (family commitments) so it could be July or
October for me.
Late September/early October (school holidays for most) for those birders with
school-aged children could still be good; there might still be a few
wildflowers around and the birds which bred earlier in the year probably won't
all have died of starvation by then.
Hope that helps.
Good luck and take care in the outback.
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