Visiting Australia's Remote Towns

For the past 26 years I have lived on a farm surrounded by rugged mountainscapes, cows and winding dirt roads. I have witnessed droughts, floods and bushfires all to which is so familiar to living a life on the land.

I have never been a fan of the city in fact I can’t stand been stuck in one. If I have to travel interstate or go overseas, I generally travel from Sydney and the time that I spend in Sydney is time I wish I had somewhere else…like a country town and that’s what I want to get into!

Over the past couple of years I have been lucky enough to travel to some unique and often quirky country towns some of which are tiny with populations in the 10’s. Here are 10 of my favourite remote country towns and cities located throughout the Northern Territory, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland.

Wanna get remote? Go visit these places! (you’ll want to pack spare tires, water, fuel and cold beers)

1)     Erldunda

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The Northern Territory is known for having a vast amount of roadhouses and given their remote locations they often have a population of people living on site to run the facilities at hand. Erldunda battles it out for the busiest roadhouses alongside Daly Waters in the Northern Territory.

Over the past few years I have driven through Erldunda on my way to Yulara or Alice Springs and the place is constantly abuzz with people and their caravans, roadtrains and four wheel drives that are returning from The Simpson Desert. Erldunda is situated on the corner of the Lasseter Highway and Stuart Highway with Darwin 19 hours to the north and Adelaide 14 hours to the south.

Erldunda has everything from fuel bowsers, campground, swimming pool, tavern and a yard of wandering emu’s! One of the reasons I love Erldunda is that it’s the gateway to a whole stack of Australian deserts; for example if you head west along the Lasseter Highway you’ll come across Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park and Watarrka Kings Canyon. If you head east you’ll come across Finke and The Simpson Desert. If you head north, Alice Springs and the West MacDonnell’s are at your helm. If you head south, Coober Pedy and the Oodnadatta Track are ever so close.  

So would I be right to say Erldunda is the centre of the universe or Australia at least?

2)    Condobolin

Condobolin is really known as Condobolin as in Australia we love to cut most words in half. Condo has a population of 3,500 and is the birth place of Shannon Noll and no I am not going to break into song and tell you more about this bloke, that’s for another day.

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Condo is bloody great and bloody remote situated in the Central West of New South Wales roughly 7 hours west of Sydney. So why has Condo made my list? I really don’t know to be honest there’s just something about the tight knit community bonding over a game of rugby union especially when rivals West Wyalong role into town or the talk that gets going amongst locals about sheep shearing and goat hunting and often a hot topic is the drought that not only Condo is going through but most of New South Wales.

Condo is the gateway to Outback New South Wales even South Australia if you go far enough so if your ever visiting Parkes or Dubbo make sure to put those extra miles on your cars wheels and go see what this small but mighty town is all about.

3)    Broken Hill

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Broken Hill is the 2nd biggest town I have on this list with a population of 18,000 so much so that Broken Hill is actually classed as a city. Broken Hill might be the strangest and most remote country cities I have ever visited in Australia and everything about the city is normal with shopping centres, pubs, butchers to hotels and caravan parks but the one thing that had me stumped was the fact that 18,000 people are living in the middle of the bloody desert.

One of my biggest fears would be going out on a Friday night with pals and drinking way too much then deciding that it would be a swell idea to go on an “adventure”; go too far north, south, east or west and you’ll be lost in the desert forever or an emu will peck out your brains!

New South Wales Far West is a beautiful place and the reason for Broken Hill’s existence is silver ore which has been mined for the last 100 years or so.

Fancy a visit to Broken Hill? Sydney to Broken Hill takes 13 hours by car or 17 hours by train or if you want to go for a night out in Sydney and wander into the desert, that will set you back 212 hours…just remember to carry water not beer.

4)    Dorrigo

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Dorrigo is the closest town to me and for some people; Dorrigo would be considered as remote given that the town is completely surrounded by cattle farms, Gondwana era rainforests and creeks of crystal clear water.

Dorrigo has a population of about 1,100 people most of which run cattle farms or have moved up onto the Great Dividing Range to retire. Dorrigo is one of the quietest towns in New South Wales apart from the torrent of water cascading from Dangar Falls and Crystal Showers.

Situated 500 kilometres from both Sydney and Brisbane, Dorrigo is the first “real” country towns you will come across if driving west and maybe one of the last towns that will have grass lawns in front of houses.

5)    Ebor

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Ebor is a bit of a gem on this list and if you’re looking for a list of things to do in Ebor, you are probably not going to find more than 1 page of writing on this place.

Ebor has a solid population 170 people and one big waterfall known as Ebor Falls which is a two-tier mumma of a waterfall. Ebor has one street but is technically a highway leading towards Armidale and Tamworth or east to Coffs Harbour.

During the winter, Ebor is at its best with the occasional dumping of snow especially at nearby Point Lookout and maybe not idyllic for snowboarding, it’s quite something to see. Another reason to visit Ebor is to visit Cathedral Rocks National Park (technically not Ebor) which is a series of boulders scattered throughout dating back some 270 million years.

6)    William Creek

Topping the list for the smallest population is William Creek at a hefty 10 people. William Creek is literally the most remote place you will go, maybe ever!

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William Creek well doesn’t really have a flowing creek in fact I don’t even know where the actual dried up creek is however the one thing that doesn’t dry up in William Creek is the supply of beer at William Creek Hotel. William Creek Hotel looks dull from the outside but inside is walls upon walls of writing, business cards and peoples driver’s licenses. To earn your name on the wall, you’ll need to donate a dollar or two to a local charity.

There’s really not that much to do in William Creek Hotel other than drink yourself senseless or squat hordes of flies. Out of all the places in South Australia’s Outback, William Creek is home to Wrightsair, a locally run scenic flight company that takes you over places such as Lake Eyre, Birdsville, Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges, Coober Pedy and more.

If your game, you can even sit in the middle of the Oodnadatta Track and enjoy a cold beer.

7)    Mutijulu

Mutijulu is one of the hardest communities to access and you’ll need special permission to enter. Mutijulu has an up and down population of about 300 Anangu people situated on the southern side of the famous Uluru.

I was fortunate enough to visit Mutijulu this year and see what it was like within a remote aboriginal community and frankly I wasn’t shocked but surprised to see that tourism at Ayers Rock Resort and Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park doesn’t one bit contribute to the communities health.

However, Mutijulu has quite a bit going on especially when it comes to AFL (Aussie Football Rules) The Mutijulu Cats are kings of the oval and after seeing a game between Mutijulu and Yulara, it was clear that AFL is a passion for a lot of the locals at Mutijulu.

I was lucky enough to go on country with Maruku Arts and a few Anangu women over the course of a few days. The anangu are passionate people when it comes to their culture and they like me are extremely excited to see the climb being closed on Uluru this coming October.

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8)    Alice Springs

Alice Springs tops the list as the biggest city and most remote city in Australia with a population over 26,000. After visiting the city in the middle of nowhere on varying occasions I somewhat get drawn to the town’s quirkiness each time I go.

Speckled with aboriginal art galleries, a dried up Todd River and a stunning view of the Heavitree Gap, Alice Springs is a thriving community that I have no idea how it survives within the extreme conditions that it’s based within.

One of the funniest things I often here is tourists either driving or flying to Alice Springs and asking whereabouts is Uluru only to be told it’s 500 kilometre away!

Alice Springs is so damn remote and here’s why –

Sydney to Alice Springs = 2,500km

Brisbane to Alice Springs = 2,500km

Perth to Alice Springs = 2,400km

Melbourne to Alice Springs = 2,200km

Hobart to Alice Springs = 2,900km

Yep she’s pretty far off the beaten track.

9)    Rathdowney

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I questioned myself a few times by having Rathdowney on this list but it’s a strange place of sorts about 45 minutes’ drive across the New South Wales/ Queensland Border on the Mount Lindesay Highway.

The only real reason you’d go to Rathdowney is for supplies if heading to adventure or climb at Mount Barney National Park or if thirsty take down a XXXX beer at the local pub. Rathdowney is one of those places where not much goes on and all the farmers head down to the local after a hard day on the farm for a yarn.

Rathdowney is only 2 hours’ drive from Brisbane but you wouldn’t even know Brisbane is over the hill as Rathdowney is a whole other world. Brisbane has a staggering 2 million people while 2 hours south, Rathdowney tops out at 450.

10)  Beltana

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Where the bloody hell is Beltana?

That’s a good question. Beltana Station is a cattle property 500kms north of Adelaide enroute to Lake Eyre and Coober Pedy. Beltana Station is quite small in size compared to other stations in South Australia however it’s 1,547 square kilometres and to put that in perspective, Beltana Station is larger than 51 countries on earth including Hong Kong, Bahrain and Singapore.

Further north of Beltana Station is Anna Creek Station, a 23,677 square kilometre station bigger than 82 countries on earth including Israel, Slovenia and Fiji…we breed them big in Oz.

Go Get Outback!

Why visit remote towns? For me big cities like Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are overrated and when I hear people saying that they have set foot in Australia and I ask where, the common answer is the 3 big cities. That’s not fucking Australia.

Australia is damn huge but when you visit make sure you get out of the big cities and into the countries. The likelihood of you coming across any of these 10 towns or cities is unlikely on your trip but Australia has tens of thousands of remote towns just like these ones and they need your help more than ever. Every time I go to Sydney and say “hey” to someone they will rarely reply, you go to a country town and say “hey” you’ll be spinning yarns (talking) for hours.

Big business in Australia doesn’t need your money, they can feed themselves but there are communities out there that need your help. Don’t be afraid to wander past Australia’s cities and into the outback, it will change the way you look at Australia.