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What’s on in the Outback right now

A few of the great events coming up in the famous Australian Outback. 


By Georgia Rickard
Published: 28 July, 2017

Warm days, cool nights and clear starry skies: winter is the ideal time to explore Australia’s legendary Outback. Here are four highlights on the event calendar over the next four weeks.

HUGHENDEN COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL, QUEENSLAND

Hughenden Country Music Festival, Hughenden, Queensland

The Hughenden Country Music Festival might not be the world’s biggest or most glamorous country music fest, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it's a mighty good time. Over three days each July, the small Outback town of Hughenden – best known for being on Australia’s Dinosaur Trail and home to many world-class dinosaur fossils – is flooded with locals, travellers and music fans who come together for a program of country music performances, dancing, workshops and celebration. The town’s remoteness lends a real community atmosphere to the festivities and many visitors leave having forged firm new friendships. This year’s event runs from 28-30 July.


AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK MARATHON, NORTHERN TERRITORY

Australian Outback Marathon, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory

The Australian Outback Marathon takes place in what must be one of the world’s coolest race locations. Competitors run straight past the site of Uluru and its lesser-known but just as spectacular neighbour, Kata Tjuta, in an event that draws some 600 entrants from 29 countries. You don’t have to be a super athlete to take part – alongside the full marathon there is a half marathon and two fun runs (6km and 11km) – plus optional activities such as camel rides, helicopter tours and skydiving over Uluru. This year’s event takes place on 29 July.


MOUNT ISA RODEO, QUEENSLAND

Mount Isa Rodeo, Mount Isa, Queensland

Bucking broncos, bulls and nonstop cowboy action with a live rock and country music soundtrack? It must be rodeo time! Australia has a deeply entrenched cowboy culture and the Mount Isa Rodeo isn’t just the biggest rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere, but a spectacular celebration of a long-held Australian tradition. Mount Isa is a true frontier town, surrounded by striking geological formations and the classic red earth of the Outback, and the rodeo is a time-honoured event that sees the whole town gripped by “rodeo fever”. Shops are decorated, costumes are donned and some 30,000 spectators flood the town from all over the world to watch 600 of the nation’s best cowboys and cowgirls take part in competitions such as bull riding, saddle bronc, bareback bronc, steer wrestling and more. It’s a true bucket-list event and a whole lot of fun! This year’s rodeo will take place from 11-13 August.


LIGHTNING RIDGE OPAL FESTIVAL, NEW SOUTH WALES

The opal is Australia’s national gemstone (we produce 95 per cent of the world’s supply) and Lightning Ridge is famous for the rarest of them all, the black opal. The town itself is worth visiting just to see the locals’ unique Outback lifestyle. It’s a friendly, laid-back place set against a wildly beautiful moon-like landscape – with a main drag named Opal Street, of course – but it really comes alive during the Lightning Ridge Opal Festival in July. Dreamt up by a local miner in 1971, the humble festival has grown into the world’s largest showing of opal. Browse some 150 stalls selling all kinds of opal jewellery, then head to the real party outside the exhibition. Wheelbarrow races, shovelling competitions, float parades and other family-friendly events have all featured in past programs, but there’s just as much entertainment during the evenings, when the pubs fill with friendly locals who love to chat in the festive Outback atmosphere. This year’s event takes place from 27-30 July.