Venturing into the heart of the outback in a 4×4 and attending a weekend of horse racing are two activities that are synonymous with Australian culture. However, they would also seem to be poles apart, and as unlikely a combination as vegemite and chocolate. While many might remain unconvinced about the latter, the Birdsville race weekend brings a little of that Melbourne Cup spirit to the outback in a weekend like no other.
A little background
If “the middle of nowhere” had a dictionary definition, it would be accompanied by a picture of Birdsville. The town is in Queensland but is marginally closer to Alice Springs than Brisbane. It lies just 174 km from Poeppel Corner, where Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory converge.
Birdsville has a population of about 100, and life goes on there in much the same way as it has for the past 100 years. Except, that is, for the first weekend in September, when around 7,000 visitors converge from all directions for a horse racing weekend that is truly unique.
About the races
The first Birdsville Races took place way back in 1882. The event has been a regular part of the racing calendar since the mid 20th century, and has strong links with charitable causes, in particular, raising funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Despite the remote location and the festival atmosphere, the racing is deadly serious, with punters flocking to sites like https://www.unibet.com.au to place bets on the outcome.
This year’s event will take place on 6th and 7th September. It might seem a long way off, but with the Birdsville Races, at least half the fun is getting there, so it makes sense to prepare well in advance.
How to get to Birdsville?
Asking how to get to Birdsville is likely to prompt that old joke answer I wouldn’t start from here. The township is 1,600 KM from Brisbane, 1,900 KM from Adelaide and 1,200 KM from Alice Springs. If you happen to own a light aircraft, you can certainly fly there, but book your spot early, as the small aerodrome is exceptionally busy in the days surrounding the race weekend.
There are also organised tours laid on by various travel companies, and if that is your cup of tea, it’s a good way to get there. But for those with a spirit of adventure, there is nothing quite like making your own way through the outback.
Keep in mind that by the time you get to Birdsville, you will probably have forgotten what a sealed road looks like. This is the real outback, and you need a vehicle that can cope with anything. Regular cars need not apply, this is definitely 4×4 territory.
Plan your journey in advance and follow the usual safety rules for driving in the outback. As well as driving sensibly and according to the road conditions, that also means making sure you are well stocked with spare fuel and water, both for the car and its occupants.