Why Should the Big Road-Trippers Have All the Fun?

How to experience the fun of an outback road trip in just 3 days

Why should the grey nomads, gap-year’ers and young families doing the big lap of Australia have all the fun?

If you can’t take 3 months off to hit the road – Try taking 3 days –
You’d be amazed what you can experience by leaving the beach and the coast behind and heading off on an inland adventure…

Here’s how…

Day 1 of My Mini Outback Queensland Road Trip

City to Outback view from the air-plane window

View out of my air-plane window leaving the city and landing just 1.5 hours later in outback central Queensland’s Emerald 900 km NW of Brisbane

In an hour and a half from Brisbane you can be in central outback Queensland, transposed to this vast wonderful wilderness for (usually) under $250 return per person with either Qantas or Virgin.
Emerald is 900km (560miles) NW of Brisbane, 300 km (185miles) inland from the coast at Rockhampton.
And for precision, about the same from Barcaldine to the east where the Roma road that comes up from Brisbane intersects and would take you on out to Longreach and the Stockman’s Hall of Fame.

Hire cars are available in Emerald including 4WD that are allowed off-road, which is perfect if you want to do a bit of fossicking
It’s then time to hit the road where the big road trippers roam.

Road trip


Leaving Emerald on the Capricorn Highway (named as it follows the geographic Tropic of Capricorn) head west and after just 45km (28miles) turn left off the main drag to visit Anakie, where any final remnants of fast city life will fall off your shoulders as you step into historic Gemfields time.

Anakie Railway Station in the Gemfields, outback Queensland

Anakie Station where the Spirit of the Outback passes through twice a week

Sit a while on the platform bench of Anakie’s Railway Station and peer down the line where twice a week the Spirit of the Outback will come into view.

Then check out the huge Kurrajong tree that marks the end of the platform.
Stand at its base and look up –

High, high up in the Kurrajong’s canopy you can see initials carved into the trunk made by men waiting on this platform to leave the region for WW1, when this tree was but a sapling –
And about half way up are letters engraved by men leaving for WW2.
The passing of time sprouting before your eyes.

Kurrajong tree at Anakie railway station that has initials from men leaving for the world wars

Back in your vehicle, cross over the Capricorn Highway – Australia’s old Highway 66 – and head towards Sapphire and Rubyvale where ramshackle miners’ humpies are scattered across the 4500-hectare miners’ common, which was established in the 1890’s about 20 years after gems were first discovered in the region.
It allows for ‘non-permanent’ structures to be established on small pegged out mining leases along with the right to graze livestock at $1 per annum for a cow (incl a calf) or $2 per annum for a horse.

Miners shack in the gemfields, queensland

And rusty relics of vehicles from a past era.

Rusty vehicles in the gemfields queensland

After checking into Rubyvale Gem Gallery’s self contained apartments we headed up a nearby hill on the edge of town to admire the view across the plain to ancient volcanic plugs peppering the horizon line, behind which the sun was radiantly setting.

Kurrajong tree at sunset with rock wallabies overlooking My Leura in the gemfields, queensland

Watching the rock wallabies scampering over the hillside it was hard to believe we’d woken up in civilization that morning and but a few hours previously were breathing in the fumes of Brisbane’s city air.

Here’s my travel journal story map summarising Day 1 of my mini outback Queensland road trip.

Diagram of my day in the Gemfields in Central Outback Queensland

Story Map of Day 1 in Outback Queensland

Day 2 – Fossicking for Gems, Exploring Underground Mines & Kicking Back 

We awoke to a classic Queensland winter’s morning – about 20 degrees Celsius with the sun shining in a perfect crystal clear blue sky – with first up a wonderful breakfast at the Rubyvale Cafe, just at the front of our accommodation.
Fresh carrot, ginger and orange juice – Delicious 🙂
Breakfast in the outback

And then off we set on an outback fossicking adventure –

Read my post:

“What a Gem! The Fun of Fossicking”

where we met an RV’er who’d found a $10,000 yellow sapphire just days before!

Fosicking, mining and cutting gems in outback Queensland

I don’t need an excuse to head off the beaten track, away from urbanisation to enjoy nature –
But having said that I have to confess it was a bit of a thrill (and a lure to return) to actually find a little blue sparkler of my own under Michael’s guidance (from the Little House of Gems) who took us out and showed us exactly where to dig for wash and then process it.

Sieving for Gems in Outback Queensland

Having experienced how to fossick from the surface, we went on a short but informative underground tour at Miner’s Heritage, before visiting a small family operated plant, where we watched drums of wash they’d dug out from tunnels underground being hauled up… poured into hoppers… rolled around trummels… jiggled down pulsators… to finally reveal the spoils of the day in gravelly trays.

Techniques for extracting sapphires

Bringing the wash up from underground to pour it into the hopper, down the trummel and through the pulsator to extract the gems


All that country air gave me quite an appetite… so after a bite to eat…


A BLT for lunch at Pats Gems Queensland
…we returned to Rubyvale’s Gem Gallery to admire how wonderful the world is that nature can produce such pretty precious gems from volcanic eruptions that spurted fiery molten lava across the region millions of years previously.

Sapphire Gems

Yes, they’re ALL sapphires… even the yellow ones!


As the day came to a close we returned to the Miner’s Common to watch the sun set over the mullock heaps.

Sunset on an outback queensland road trip

The last of the sun’s rays catching the dried ochre grasses and scrubby bushes turning them uncharacteristically into autumnal shades of orange, yellow and gold –
While as the air cooled, kangaroos ventured out to graze along the distant bush-line.
It was oh so peaceful.

But what outback road trip would be complete without a beer in the local Pub. So we popped over to the Royal in Rubyvale and enjoyed some liquid amber with the publican who recounted tales of times past, while their Nepalese chef prepared us a tasty meal.

Rubyvale Pub

Beer and a meal with the publican at the Royal in Rubyvale


Here’s my Story Map summarising Day 2 – Which was full of new experiences, fresh country air and the smells and sounds of a region a thousand kilometres from my buzzing city life.

Story Map diagram for my trip to the Gemfields in outback Queensland

Story Map illustrating Day 2 of My Mini Road Trip to Outback Queensland

Day 3 of My Mini Road Trip Adventure

Day 3 started with much hilarity!
Outback Queenslanders have a wry sense of humour, and we’d been noticing many funny Australian signs – Such as…

The Willy Wash

“The Willy Wash”

…as well as a place for
Getting Your Nuts Tightened…

You’ll have to click through to my post:

Signs of My Time in the GemFields

to see more if you feel like a giggle!

It was then time to start making our way back towards Emerald for the 2.30pm flight back to the city –

We went via Lake Maraboon and over Fairbairn Dam (my namesake hehe!)

Fairbairn Dam near Emerald Queensland

Lake Maraboon is huge – and with a circumference of 260km appears like an inland sea – Hard to imagine that Lake Argyle in the NE of WA has a circumference of 1,500km!

Such a gorgeous big body of water to play in so far from the coast – If we’d had a bit more time it looked super inviting for a dip, or hiring a boat for some fishing or water ski-ing.
Another time!

And as we left, we came upon a cattle drove that had come all the way from Winton – about 600km (375miles) to the west.

Outback Queensland road trip we came across this herd of cattle on a drove from Winton

What could be more quintessentially Queensland than quad bikes, cattle dogs and big shady cowgirl hats.

Here is my third story map extracted from my travel journal for this fun 3 day trip ~

Travel journal story map recording my 3rd day in the gemfields

Story Map of Day 3 of My Mini Outback Queensland Road Trip

So… Who would have thought?
That you could experience the real feel of an outback Queensland road trip in just 3 days and…
without having to drive all those miles and miles and miles to get there –

Next time you’re ready for a break – instead of doing the obvious and heading for the beach – think about taking a flight out bush and experience a world away from home for a few days –
When you get back to the city you’ll be glad you dared to be different.
You’ll have stepped into the shoes of the grey nomads, experienced adventures of a gap year’er and had some of the fun of those road-trippers doing the Big Lap!

Where the big roadtrippers roam

Why let the big road-trippers have all the fun?

When did you last dare to be different
and take a flight inland, instead of to the beach?

Or have I planted a seed?
A change, is what makes a holiday! 😉

Do share in the comments below!

38 thoughts on “Why Should the Big Road-Trippers Have All the Fun?

  1. Linda, you have such a gift for transporting people to the destination you write about. I want to jump on a plane and head off today… If we were not heading to the UK with the girls on Christmas Day to spend a year or so house sitting and travelling… I’d be planning a quick trip to the Outback.
    I just love your stories, Thanks!

    • I’m so happy to hear you were transported into the place and enjoy my stories Jane ~
      Hopefully the Gemfields can welcome you on your return from Europe 🙂

  2. Oh fancy finding a Fairbairn Dam – going on that adventure was just meant to be 😉 Looks as if you had a really interesting trip, definitely one my geologist hubby would have enjoyed too. I love the photo of you with a cocktail – very serene. It looks like you had a fabulous time and learnt lots about an area that I suspect isn’t really on the tourist trail in a big way?

    • I crave and treasure places off the tourist trail, don’t you?
      So you’re right – this is as precious an area to visit as the gems you can fossick for and find here –
      Sapphire and Rubyvale were treasures in every sense 🙂

    • The outback in January will be H-O-T!!!
      I can’t believe you’re going to be in my neck of the woods exactly at the same time as I’m going to be over in Europe – Pffftt! Would have loved to have caught up, even if only for a quick kayak in the Bay 🙂
      If you fancy a paddle you’ll have to give Katrina a call!

  3. I tend to romanticize Australia after reading “The Thorn Birds” and “A Place Like Alice” but your photos only reinforce my dream of this amazing country! So many of your pictures give a real sense of how vast Australia is and it’s easy to imagine the gold and gem seekers, miners and ranchers setting off on their own big adventures.

    • Australia is soooo immense, which is why going on a road trip usually has to be such a major undertaking –
      If you can’t get away for long yet want to experience a region where the gem seekers sought their fortunes, it seems like a plan to get as many miles behind you as possible by plane to land right in the heart of it and have the fun of a mini-road trip… where the big road-trippers roam! 😉

  4. I love your story maps and am super impressed with your artistry. In three days you covered a lot of ground – but what a fantastic break from teh routine. I’d really enjoy following your route.

    • It always surprises me just what you can achieve on a 3 day break –
      And going inland created so many more memories than if we’d done the norm and headed to the beach! 🙂

  5. I love those short getaways – sometimes more than the extended ones! You covered a lot of ground and as always provided such a beautiful way of telling us about your trip. I love those journals of yours!!

    • Time is a strange thing indeed –
      So you’re right you can often accrue more memories and seemingly do more in a few days away than on an extended trip!
      Story Map Journals are for sharing 😉

  6. I think many travel bloggers get caught up in posting about their faraway (for them anyway) travels and overlook the “gems” (pun intended) in their own figurative backyards. (I know I just gave you a quite large backyard). So, thanks for sharing your 3 day getaway with us. Your photos are great illustrations and, as usual, your story maps are simply charming.

    • I do often think it funny that while I’m (figuratively) saving up to travel to some distant exotic location (for me), ie someone else’s backyard – That they are saving to visit (for them) a distant exotic location – namely… my backyard!
      A case of the unknown always being greener!
      And always happy to hear story-maps are giving pleasure 🙂

  7. This all looks amazing and like so much fun. Thank you for the tips as I’m planning on returning to Australia this year I loved all of your photos and story maps. Great post.

  8. Beautiful photos Linda, I felt I really came on that journey with you! And I love the idea of exploring your own backyard. Yes we have a large backyard here in Australia and it’s full of little gems!
    Thanks for sharing your journey to a not-so-obvious destination 🙂

    • Thank you Kerstin 🙂
      We are so lucky in Australia to have such a large backyard to play in, yet some areas – such as the Gemfields – seem to manage to fly under the radar as they’re not on the favoured coast and are in a way… off the beaten track – which is of course their attraction 😀

  9. I’d love to visit these places again. That nostalgic feeling you encounter reading this blog is something else. The Anakie station, Gem stones and above all, the delicious food. Feel like visiting these places again. Great read. Thank you.

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