When I was first asked “have you considered doing the Natural Sciences Loop?” my first response was – “what’s that?” Then when I was told “Oh that’s a road trip exploring places like Eromanga, Thargomindah, Quilpie, Cunnamulla and Charleville” – I was like “ok I’ve heard of some of those places – but where the hell is Eromanga and Thargomindah??”
Now I’m pretty sure from the number of messages I received while doing this road trip – that I’m not the only person who has lived in Queensland my entire life who has never heard of some of these towns let alone the Natural Sciences Loop.
Fast forward a few weeks, and I can now tell you, that not only do I know what the Natural Sciences Loop is, as well as exactly where Eromgana and Thargomindah are – but I have now visited all of these little towns, explored all their wonderful attractions as well as fallen madly in love with the Queensland outback!
If you want to take your kids on an exciting Queensland outback adventure, where they can see emus run across the road, walk where some of the country’s largest dinosaurs once roamed, learn all about our amazing solar system, watch the sunset from some of the country’s most spectacular locations as well as meet some of the friendliest locals – then you’re going to want to read this guide and learn all there is about the Natural Sciences Loop.
In this guide, I’m going to share with you step by step our itinerary as we travelled the Natural Sciences Loop so you can simply follow suit. I will share where we stayed, for how many nights and then exactly what attractions we visited, including when and for how long. I will also provide a few tips about how you might change the itinerary up if you have more or less time.
So, what are you waiting for – let’s start planning your family’s next adventure!
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- 1 Our Natural Sciences Loop Itinerary
- 1.1 Day 1: Drive to Charleville
- 1.2 Day 2: Charleville
- 1.3 Day 3: Charleville
- 1.4 Day 4: Drive to Cunnamulla via Wyandra
- 1.5 Day 5: Cunnamulla
- 1.6 Day 6: Drive to Yowah
- 1.7 Day 7: Drive to Thargomindah
- 1.8 Day 8: Thargomindah
- 1.9 Day 9: Drive to Eromanga
- 1.10 Day 10: Eromanga
- 1.11 Day 11: Drive to Quilpie
- 1.12 Day 12: Quilpie
- 1.13 Day 13: Drive to Roma
- 1.14 Day 14: Roma and then Drive Home
- 2 Fast Paced Itinerary
- 3 Pre Trip Tips
Our Natural Sciences Loop Itinerary
Unlike other guides of mine you have probably read, in this guide, I’m going to be relatively brief and link you to my more detailed posts on the towns. The purpose of this post is to simply provide you with a detailed itinerary, so you don’t need to worry about planning your own trip day by day.
Day 1: Drive to Charleville
Assuming you are starting the trip from somewhere in South East Queensland, I recommend you get an early start and plan to spend all day driving to Charleville. It will take around 8 hours to drive here, and I recommend you ensure you arrive before sunset (to avoid any collisions with wildlife) – so check what time that is and plan accordingly.
We stopped in Roma for lunch – which is around 5 hours from Brisbane. After lunch, we grabbed a map and did some of the Roma Historical Walk as well as the Avenue of Heros Walk. Another option would be to go and visit the Big Rig; this takes around 1 hour. Read our full Roma guide here.
This will be your longest day driving, so don’t worry, there are no other driving days this long. However, if you really can’t drive this long in one day, then stay overnight in Roma.
Accommodation: We stayed at Bailey Bar Caravan Park – you can pitch a tent, set up your van or stay in one of their excellent family self contained cabins. Read our review of the Bailey Bar Caravan Park here.
There is an IGA just as you come into town, so a good place to pick up some groceries if you need to.
Day 2: Charleville
Today is your first day for getting out and exploring Charleville. Here is how we spent our day:
- We drove to the Cosmos Centre to meet our guide for the 10.30 am Top Secret WWII Tour. This tour goes for 1.5 hours.
- We then had lunch at the Cosmos Centre cafe and a bit of a look around the Cosmos Centre.
- At 1 pm we watched the WW2 Dome Show at the Cosmos Centre.
- We then went into town for the 2 pm tour of the Coronoes Hotel – this tour goes to around 4 pm.
- Next, we headed back to the Cosmos Centre for the 4 pm Beyond the Sun show at the Dome – this went for around 45 minutes.
Our first day was pretty full on, and I don’t think it’s necessary to see all the shows at the Cosmos Centre as we did (we wanted to try them all out so we could provide feedback to you all). Unless you have particularly small children – I’d probably skip the Beyond the Sun Show and go for Birth of the Earth show instead – which we did the following day.
My other note for today is I’d recommend the first thing you do is to see the Bilby’s, before the WW2 tour. The centre was closed while we were there so it’s not included in our itinerary.
Accommodation: Bailey Bar Caravan Park
Day 3: Charleville
Here is how we spend day 2 in Charleville:
- We saw the automated Weather Balloon release at 9.15 am – this only takes 5 minutes to watch – but be here early to avoid missing it.
- We then went to the Royal Flying Doctor Visitor Centre, which is close by. This is a great centre, but only small, so we only spent around 40 minutes here.
- We had a brief look around the Graham Andrew Parklands which is where you’ll see the Vortex rainmaker guns and learn precisely what they are. There is also an Outback Native Timber walk here and a playground for the little ones.
- Next, we went across town and did the Warrego River Walk – allow around 30-40 minutes for this.
- Then we went into town and visited the Historic House and Museum. There is plenty to see here, so depending on your families interest you could well spend a while here. We spent around 1 hour here.
- We then had lunch just across the road at the yummy bakery in town.
- We then headed back to the Cosmos Centre for the Sun Viewing – this is where we got to get a close look at the sun through a powerful telescope. This session went to 1.15 pm.
- We then had another look around the Cosmos Centre, before going to see the Birth of Planet Earth at 2.30 pm. This went to around 3.30 pm.
- Afterwards, we went back to our cabin for a rest and some dinner, although we took a detour to see the mural on the water tower.
- After dinner, we headed back to the Cosmos Centre for the Universal Dreaming session at 6.30 pm.
- Then at 7.30 pm we were booked to see the stars and planets through the telescopes, but unfortunately due to bad weather, this was cancelled. Instead, we saw another show in the dome theatre.
As you can see, this was another super busy day, so if this sounds like too much for your family, I suggest adding another day to Charleville or cutting back on the things you do. Another option is moving some of the things to tomorrow morning and doing them before heading to Cunnamulla.
I also want to mention that we wanted to take the 10 am tour of the School of Distance Education. However because it was school holidays while we were there it wasn’t on. However if it is on, you may want to swap out some of the things above and do this tour instead.
Accommodation: Bailey Bar Caravan Park
Day 4: Drive to Cunnamulla via Wyandra
On day 4 of our trip, we did as follows:
- Before we left Charleville, we stopped at the IGA to stock up on groceries for the next few days, as the rest of the towns on the trip are super small with tiny supermarkets (mind you we didn’t have trouble getting what we needed along the way).
- Just out of town, we stopped at the Angellala Bridge Explosion Site for around 10 minutes.
- We then stopped in Wyandra for lunch at the Gladstone Pub – it’s only 1 hour from Charleville – so as you can see you do have time to do a few Charleville sites this morning if you need to.
- After lunch we went and checked out the Wyandra Beach – it was very muddy so we didn’t get close and being in the middle of winter we wouldn’t have swum anyway – but keep this in mind if the weather is warmer.
- We then stopped by the Wyandra “everything” store before heading on to Cunnamulla – which is only another hour drive.
We had planned on driving to Charlotte Plains (a great station stay) which is just 45 minutes outside of Cunnamulla, but due to wet weather the road was cut off, so we headed straight to Cunnamulla instead. Just keep this in mind though, as if the weather is good, we had planned on staying 2 nights here and just 1 night actually in Cunnamulla.
As it is only a 2 hour drive from Charleville to Cunnamulla, you could easily get stuck into some sightseeing in Cunnamulla on this day. This would mean you could cut your nights in Cunnamulla from 2 to just the 1 – do some sightseeing this afternoon, the rest tomorrow morning and then move on tomorrow afternoon to your next destination.
Accommodation: We stayed at the Cunnamulla Tourist Park for two nights – you can pitch a tent, set up your van or stay in one of their excellent family self contained cabins. Read our review of the Cunnamulla Tourist Park here.
Day 5: Cunnamulla
This is how we spent our day exploring Cunnamulla:
- We headed to the Cunnamulla Visitor Centre which is home to the Cunnamulla Fella Statue, a small local museum and art gallery as well as the Artesian Time Tunnel which is a great place to learn heaps more about the Great Artesian Basin. We probably spent an hour all up doing these activities.
- Next, we grabbed a map and walked around town, checking out some of the historical sites we could on foot.
- We then drove to the Cunnamulla Bushlands and did the 1.6km walk through the area – this area is also supposedly good for sunset and spotting kangaroos and emus at this time – so consider moving this activity up later in the day.
- We headed back to town for some lunch at the Cunnamulla Coffee Shop.
- After lunch, we drove to the Allan Tannock Weir – this is a great picnic spot, so consider bringing a picnic lunch here.
- We returned to our cabin and then walked to the Cunnamulla sand dunes which are right behind the caravan park.
- We then went back to our cabin for a little bit of a rest, before heading out to the Warrego River Walk for the sunset.
As you can see, if you got into town a bit earlier on day 4, you could see quite a few of the sites then and do the remainder of the sites in the morning and drive on to Thargomindah the same day – this would save you a day if you needed to shorten the trip.
Accommodation: Cunnamulla Tourist Park
Day 6: Drive to Yowah
As mentioned above, we were supposed to spend 2 nights at Charlotte Plains and just the 1 night in Cunnamulla, but due to road closures, we were unable to make it out to Charlotte Plains. This meant we had an extra day up our sleeve. We had planned on driving straight to Thargomindah with a stop in Eulo and Yowah, but given we had a spare day we decided to spend the night in Yowah – just keep this in mind when planning your own itinerary.
If you do decide to drive to Thargomindah on this day with the stops I mention below – be sure to leave nice and early to ensure you arrive in town before sunset.
This is how we spent day 6:
- We left Cunnamulla and drove to Eulo – this is only a 45 minute drive.
- In Eulo we checked out the General Store, Eulo Queen Hotel and the mud springs. Now Eulo is famous for its artesian mud baths, but they were closed while we were in town – but otherwise do make time for this experience. We were only in town for around 45 minutes.
- We then went on to Yowah, which is another hours drive. This is where the drive really starts to change and you really feel like you are in the middle of nowhere!
- Once we arrived in Yowah, we checked in at the Artesian Waters Caravan Park, then had lunch at the Blue Wren Cafe.
- Next, we went for a soak at the Artesian Spas and returned to our cabin for a soak in our own private outdoor artesian spa.
- Just before sunset, we drove up to the Bluff for a spectacular sunset.
If you don’t plan on spending the night in Yowah – still go up to the Bluff, it’s a great spot to view the outback countryside. Plus I’d also recommend you check out the fossicking area which is not too far from the caravan park. Pick up a permit from the caravan park first.
If you do decide to move on to Thargomindah – it’s a 1.25 hour drive. You may also consider a stop at the Lake Bindegolly National Park along the way.
Accommodation: We stayed at the Artesian Waters Caravan Park for one night – you can pitch a tent, set up your van or stay in one of their cabins. Read our review of the Artesian Waters Caravan Park here.
Day 7: Drive to Thargomindah
We had a relatively easy day on day 7, but if you decided to arrive in Thargomindah on day 6, I recommend you skip this day and check out our day 8.
This is how we spent day 7:
- We had a late start and then went fossicking in Yowah for the famous Yowah nut. While we didn’t find any ourselves, plenty of the more experienced fossickers showed us what they had found and also gave Myla a few tiny pieces of opal.
- We then headed to Thargomindah, which was an hour or so drive.
- Once in town, we picked up our passes for some of the attractions for the following day and then had lunch at the Bulloo River Hotel.
- We then spent the afternoon doing washing and having a rest.
As you can see, we took this day relatively easy and this would be another great area to save some time. You could easily get into Thargomindah much earlier in the day and probably see the majority of the sites on the same day. This way you’d only need to spend the one night in town and move on tomorrow.
Accommodation: We stayed at the Explorer’s Caravan Park for two nights – you can pitch a tent, set up your van or stay in one of their self contained cabins. Read our review of the Explorer’s Caravan Park here.
Day 8: Thargomindah
Today was all about seeing the attractions around Thargomindah. This is how we spent day 8 of our road trip:
- As we had bought our passes for the attractions yesterday, we headed straight to the Old Jail. We were here for around 15 minutes.
- Then we walked up to the Hydro Power Plant, with a stop at the Conduit Sculpture.
- Next, we walked back into town for lunch at the Road House.
- We then headed to the Old Hospital – we were here for at least an hour – quite a lot to see here.
- After this, we walked down to the Cobb & Co Crossing and then onto the Bulloo River Walk and down to Pelicans Point. This is actually a nice place for a picnic, so you could change this around and have lunch here.
If you wanted to save another day on the itinerary – here would be a good place to do it. You could start your morning early, see all the attractions and then drive on to Eromanga, which is a 3.25 hour drive. However I recommend you leave it till the following morning as I recommend a stop in Noccundra – but if you are short on time then skip this.
Accommodation: Explorers Caravan Park
Day 9: Drive to Eromanga
This is how we spent day 9 of our road trip:
- Before leaving Thargomindah, we stopped for a look at the old cemetery. We had planned on checking out the new cemetery as well, but due to road closures, we couldn’t.
- We then drove to Noccundra, which is a 1.75 hour drive.
- We had lunch at the Noccundra Hotel.
- We had planned on visiting the waterhole here – but again due to road closures we couldn’t.
- We then drove onto to Eromanga which is just over a 2 hour drive.
- Once in Eromanga, we checked into our accommodation and relaxed for the remainder of the day, which included watching the sunset.
Another tip if you’re trying to save some time in your itinerary – go check out the sites in Eromanga on arrival. That way you can see the museum in the morning and then move on to Quiplie by lunchtime.
Accommodation: We stayed at Cooper’s Country Lodge for two nights which is the accommodation on site at the Eromanga Natural Living Museum. Read our review of Cooper’s Country Lodge here.
Day 10: Eromanga
This was the day Myla had been waiting for on the entire trip – the dinosaur museum! This is how we spent the day:
- We were booked in on the 9 am museum tour which went to 10 am.
- After the museum tour, we did the 90 minute fossil preparation program.
- We then headed to the Royal Hotel Pub for lunch.
- After lunch, we did the town walk which included checking out the Living History Museum, Konasaurus Park, Opalopolis Park and the River Walk. You only need an hour or so to check out all these sites.
- We then headed back to our accommodation.
You could save yourself a night here and after the above, move on to Quilpie – which is just a 1.25 drive.
Accommodation: Cooper’s Country Lodge
Day 11: Drive to Quilpie
On day 11 of our road trip, we headed to Quilpie – the last stop on the Natural Sciences Loop. Here is how we spent our day:
- We left Eromgana and drive to Quilpie. Now we had wanted to stop at the Kyabra Waterhole – so went the long way round. However we couldn’t for the life of us find it – so went the long way around for nothing. If you decide to do this, get some good directions from the locals before leaving town. Otherwise, the direct route to Quilpie is just 1.25 hours.
- Once in Quilpie, we went for lunch at the Quilpe Cafe and then headed to the Heritage Inn and picked up a fossicking kit.
- We then went fossicking in Quilpie.
- After that, we went and check into our accommodation – the gorgeous Lake (pictured above).
- We took a stroll down around the lake, then at 5 pm went up to the Lakeview Pub where we met some locals and other travellers. Awesome campfire and great sunset here.
- For dinner, we then went to the Heritage Inn.
Accommodation: We stayed at The Lake for two nights in the Cottage. You can also camp here too. Read our review of The Lake here.
Day 12: Quilpie
This is how we spend day 12 of our road trip:
- We headed down to the Quilpie visitor centre which is where you’ll find a range of museums including the Rail Museum, the Military Museum and the Art Gallery. These are all just small and so we wouldn’t have spent more than 1 hour here.
- We took a stroll down the main street, looking at the various cute art sculptures and murals and had shared a cheeky pie from the bakery for morning tea.
- We then headed out to the Mini Airport Museum, which is all about Amy Johnson. This is only small and we spent around 15 minutes here.
- Back in town, we looked at the End of the Line and visited the Opal Alter.
- Then it was back to the Heritage Inn for a lovely roast lunch.
- After lunch, we then checked out the Powerhouse Museum – this is only small and we only spent around 10 minutes here.
- We went back to our accommodation for a bit of rest before heading out to Baldy Top Lookout for a wonderful sunset. First though we stopped in at the Heritage Inn and picked up an awesome picnic hamper to enjoy at the lookout for dinner.
- After the sunset, we headed back to The Lake and once again went to the Lakeview Pub and had some drinks with the locals and other travellers.
Day 13: Drive to Roma
Day 13 saw the official end to the Natural Sciences Loop and so it was time to make our way home. This is how we spent day 13 of the trip:
- We left Quilpie very early and drove to Mitchel – which took around 4 hours.
- In Mitchell, we had lunch, visited the museum and had a nice soak in the Artesian Pools.
- We then drove onto Roma, which was another hours drive.
- In Roma, we checked into our hotel and then headed to the Big Big Parklands. Here we checked out the Lenroy Slab Hut, walked the Adungadoo Trail and checked out Roma’s largest bottle tree. We probably spent around 1 hour doing this.
- We then headed to the Big Rig Night show, which was at 5.30 pm and goes for around 1 hour.
Day 14: Roma and then Drive Home
Day 14 was the very last day of our road trip and went like this:
- We made sure we were at the Roma Saleyards when they opened and checked out the interpretive centre there before having a short tour outside the sale yards.
- After this, we went to the Big Rig and took the 1 hour self guided tour through the centre.
- We then looked at a few more things around Roma including the St Paul’s Anglican Church, 3D Heritage Mural, Roma Courthouse, Hospital Hill and the Bush Gardens.
- After this we had lunch at the bakery coffee shop in town – this place is awesome!
- We then drove the 5 hours – STRAIGHT – home – we had planned to stop somewhere for the night, but we were just so eager to get home by this stage, we put the hard yards in and drove all the way home, arriving around 6 pm.
Fast Paced Itinerary
Throughout our itinerary above, I provided a few different suggestions to help you cut the number of days required down a little. Given I’m working while travelling, there were many days in the above were I was working until around 10 am as well as working from early afternoon. Of course most families don’t need to do this, so you could do the trip much faster. However our itinerary is also great for families with younger children who need to build in a bit of rest time.
However if you want a fast spaced itinerary, here is my suggestion:
- Day 1: Drive to Charleville
- Day 2: Explore Charleville
- Day 3: Explore Charleville
- Day 4: Drive to Cunnamulla – explore Cunnamulla in the afternoon
- Day 5: Drive to Thargomindah – with a stop in Eulo and Yowah on the way
- Day 6: Explore Thargomindah
- Day 7: Drive to Eromanga – with a stop in Noccundra – explore Eromanga in the afternoon
- Day 8: Visit the Eromanaga Museum – drive to Quilpie – explore Quilpie in the afternoon
- Day 9: Explore Quilpie
- Day 10: Drive to Roma, a stopover in Mitchell, explore Roma in the afternoon
- Day 11: Explore Roma in the morning and then drive home
Pre Trip Tips
While we’ve been on road trips before, I’d never done a road trip on my own (well with Myla, but I was doing all the driving) in the outback, so this one took a little extra planning, but nothing too major. Anyway, here a few tips you might want to consider before heading off.
Get Your Car Checked Over
My Dad was on at me about getting the car checked to make sure it was up for the trip, as well as ensuring my spare tyre was all good and that I could change it on my own. So I got my mechanic around to give my car a good check over and he also taught me how to change the tyre.
Another thing I did was increase my RACQ to the highest level, just in case.
The good news though – I had no issues whatsoever with my car! But I was prepared just in case!
Make Sure You Have Telstra Mobile
The next thing I’d recommend is to get a Telstra mobile SIM card if you haven’t already. I had one already, so this was not a problem – but many people I met on the road were telling me how they hadn’t had mobile coverage for days with other networks.
I have to say I was really impressed with the coverage I had while on the road. I didn’t have coverage all the time – but a lot of the time I did even in the middle of whoop whoop, which was great.
Get the Car Organised
Given you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the car, you’re going to want to give some thought to how you organise everything in the car. We got this car organiser from Aussie Outback Supplies which was really handy for Myla to stay organised in the back of the car. I also bought Myla this lap tray from Spotlight so she could draw, read or even eat food from easily. We also got an extra long USB cable, so she could have her iPad plugged into the car if necessary – we only have the one outlet in the front of the car.
Pack Your Gear
Rather than use backpacks or suitcases to pack our gear. Andy got us these clip on crates like this. This was a really easy way to pack our gear. We had one each and then we could clip them together while in the back of the car. As it was just Myla and I travelling, this made it easy for me as I could carry them both inside easily myself. It also made it simple to find things in the crate rather than having to go through a backpack which we normally travel with.
We also took a cooler bag with ice bricks so we could transport drinks and basic groceries items with us for breakfast and dinner. We choose to eat out for lunch and experience all the great little pubs around the towns.
For all our pantry type items, electronics etc we had the one large plastic crate. Then each time we pulled into a place – I used green shopping bags to take out the things that I needed and bring them inside.
Download Shows and Podcasts
Given we were spending so much time in the car, before the trip I had Myla download a bunch of shows from Netflix and I downloaded a heap of podcasts to listen to while driving. I think this really helped the driving go much faster.
The Natural Sciences Loop – Our Verdict
Wow – what can I say! What a trip! This trip was such a great adventure. Apart from all the towns we visited and all the attractions – I just loved driving in the outback. I never got bored of that barren landscape and vibrant red dirt. I was pulling off to the side of the roads so many times to take pictures.
But the little towns along the way were brilliant. I loved visiting the small town pubs, chatting to the locals about where we had been and what was coming up. And we learnt so much along the way – things about the Great Artesian Basin, dinosaurs, opals, astronomy not to mention the wildlife and birdlife we saw such as kangaroos, emus, and so many beautiful birds! And the landscapes were spectacular – honestly, I never tired of a sunset in the outback – nothing beats it!
So if you’re looking for your family’s next big adventure, hopefully I’ve now got you thinking about doing the Natural Sciences Loop yourself. At the very least, I hope I’ve put all these little Queensland outback towns on your radar and one day in the future you will visit them for yourself.
Hopefully you found this guide to our Natural Sciences Loop helpful. Don’t forget you can also find all our Outback Queensland content here.