Birdsville is noted for its isolation and wild country - a classic 'must visit' Outback town. The town which began life as 'Diamantina Crossing' in 1881 was given the name of Birdsville in 1885 - reportedly as a compliment to the local birdlife although there is another theory that it was named after a popular settler named J. Burt (Burtsville was proposed, but when the offer was declined it was changed to Birdsville).The town's original function was as a 'tariff wall' between Queensland and South Australia. Tolls which had provided the town's income, ceased in 1901 with the formation of the Federation and the town declined.
Birdsville today is a modern community with a sporting complex, gymnasium, two galleries, a bakery, air services, motel, hotel, caravan park and cabins, coffee shops and restaurants, general store, post office, medical clinic, fuel and auto services, and a police station. It is often the starting point for travellers making their way into into South Australia along the Birdsville Track. Perhaps nowadays, Birdsville is best known for its famous pub and the Birdsville Races held annually on the first weekend in September.
Some key attractions in Birdsville include:
- Big Red is the first of 1,113 dunes in the Simpson Desert and stands at 30 metres high. The perfect location to experience the spectacular sunsets - Outback Aussie Tours toast the sunset with drinks and nibbles atop Big Red on their Birdsville tours.
- Birdsville Cemetery is the resting place for many of the early pioneers and is a testament to the hardships they ensured in this beautiful but harsh desert country.
- Birdsville Track passes through the Simpson Desert and Sturt's Stoney Desert, stretching over some of Australia's most beautiful and challenging country. Visitors to the area can view Lake Eyre catchments, wetlands, sand dunes and vast gibber plains. It takes approximately two days to travel the route which is 515km long. (gravel road).
- Birdsville Working Museum is owned and run by John and Jody Menzies. Featured on Queensland Weekender, the museum collection offers visitors a trip down memory lane with visits to the harness maker, wheelwright and blacksmith shops. Other interesting collections include clocks, pottery, jewellery and toys. Also on show is an art gallery, hospital and machinery shed.
- The Burke and Wills Tree is located on the banks of the Diamantina River. Bearing the marking BW-C76 1860, local history records that this Coolibah Tree was marked by a party which traced the route taken by Burke and Wills. Burke cut only the letter 'B' and camp number's in Roman Numerals.
- Deon's Lookout offers visitors spectaular and long-ranging views. If you are travelling east of Betoota, the site is a perfect place to break your journey. Don't forget your camera.
- The Frontier Australia Inland Mission Hospital which originated as the Australia Inland Mission was set up as a hospital in 1923 in the former Royal Hotel. Visitors will see how the sick and injured were treated back in the early 1900s.
- Royal Hotel Ruins building is the historic reminder of the Royal Hotel, built in 1883 as Birdsville's second hotel. Today it is privately owned and listed with the National Trust.
- The Simpson Desert National Park spans 1,012,000 hectares and is Queensland's largest protected area, home to more than 180 species of birds, along with numerous mammals and reptiles. Expect to see rows of wind-blown sand dunes set in a majestic desert landscape. Some of these dunes reach 90 metres high and extend for 200kms.
- The Waddi Trees are listed as some of Australia's rarest plants (now a protected species), only found on the fringe of the Simpson Desert in Queensland and Northern Territory. The Waddi wood which was extremely hard was used by local Aboriginals and European settlers.