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Australia floods: Travel spots to visit in the Outback in 2023: Birdsville, Lightning Ridge, Bourke

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Relentless rain and extreme flooding has completely transformed the Australian Outback – and in six months once barren regions are set to become lush and green unlike anything travellers have seen before.

So when the floods and the rain finally stop, travel experts are urging Aussies to ditch the coast and head inland in 2023 for once-in-a-lifetime regional experiences.

From a historic Outback opal and mining town to Australia’s largest salt lake that has only filled three times in 160 years, these are the places to add to your itinerary that will likely never look the same again.

When the floods and the rain finally stop, travel experts are urging Aussies to ditch the coast and head in-land in 2023 for once-in-a-lifetime regional experiences (pictured)

When the floods and the rain finally stop, travel experts are urging Aussies to ditch the coast and head in-land in 2023 for once-in-a-lifetime regional experiences (pictured)

Two years ago, the Darling River in far-west New South Wales was so drought-stricken that it was dry with boats stuck on the bottom of its riverbed; now the scene in the area is a different story (pictured)

Two years ago, the Darling River in far-west New South Wales was so drought-stricken that it was dry with boats stuck on the bottom of its riverbed; now the scene in the area is a different story (pictured)

Situated around 830km or a nine-hour drive from Sydney, Bourke boasts Indigenous culture and heritage landmarks, as well as the nearby Gundabooka National Park (pictured)

Situated around 830km or a nine-hour drive from Sydney, Bourke boasts Indigenous culture and heritage landmarks, as well as the nearby Gundabooka National Park (pictured)

New South Wales

Bourke

Two years ago, the Darling River in far-west New South Wales was so drought-stricken that it was dry with boats stuck on the bottom of its riverbed.

But with flooding currently sweeping along several major river systems, including the Darling, towns like the historic Outback town of Bourke are wildly different today.

Situated around 830km or a nine-hour drive from Sydney, Bourke boasts Indigenous culture and heritage landmarks.

It is also just a 50-minute drive away from the incredible Gundabooka National Park, which stretches from the Darling River, across the plains and over Mount Gundabooka.

Following the floods, the surrounding countryside (pictured) is likely to look much more verdant, green and lush

Following the floods, the surrounding countryside (pictured) is likely to look much more verdant, green and lush

With widespread flooding in NSW, the historic town of Bourke looks very different today (pictured)

With widespread flooding in NSW, the historic town of Bourke looks very different today (pictured)

In the National Park, visitors can see fascinating Aboriginal rock art of the Ngemba and Paakandji people, camp under the stars or catch the sunrise or sunset from Mount Oxley.

Following the floods, the surrounding countryside is likely to look much more lush and green.

Locals have already shared photos of how different Bourke and its surrounds look in 2022 compared to 2020.

‘The not so dry Outback of New South Wales,’ one person shared alongside a photo of a soaked red-dirt track. 

‘From worst drought to major flood… such extreme events,’ another posted with a snap of the Darling River banks.

Many who have visited Lighting Ridge (pictured) describe it as somewhere you need to visit at least once

Many who have visited Lighting Ridge (pictured) describe it as somewhere you need to visit at least once

Lightning Ridge

For travellers seeking something a bit different this summer, Lightning Ridge – about 720km or eight hours from Sydney and only 65km from the Queensland border – is a unique stop to tick off your bucket list.

The historic opal mining town in Outback NSW is famed for its rare black opals and mining history. 

But there will be even more to see after so much rain and flooding. 

The town is now full of coffee shops, art galleries and the mineral-enriched water of the artesian baths – which many claim heals aches, pains and adds years to your life.

Many who have visited Lightning Ridge describe it as a place ‘you need to visit at least once in your life’. 

What to do in Bourke, NSW 

* Visit the Gundabooka National Park

* Watch the sunrise or sunset at Mount Oxley

* Visit the Mulgowan Aboriginal Rock Art Site 

* Follow the Bourke Town Trail to see historic landmarks

* Visit the Port of Bourke Hotel

* Have a pie or loaf of freshly-baked bread from Morrall’s Bakery

Source: Visit NSW

What to do in Lightning Ridge, NSW

*  Tour an opal mine at The Big Opal and try fossicking or visit the underground Australian Opal Centre

* Visit the artesian bore baths

* Visit local cafes and coffee shops

* Visit the Chambers of the Black Hand to see underground carvings

* Visit the nearby town of Walgett

Source: Visit NSW 

The historic opal mining town in Outback NSW is famed for its rare black opals and mining (Lighting Ridge pictured)

The historic opal mining town in Outback NSW is famed for its rare black opals and mining (Lighting Ridge pictured)

For travellers seeking something a bit different this summer, Lighting Ridge - about 720km or eight hours from Sydney and only 65km from the Queensland border - is a unique stop to tick off your bucket list (pictured)

For travellers seeking something a bit different this summer, Lighting Ridge - about 720km or eight hours from Sydney and only 65km from the Queensland border - is a unique stop to tick off your bucket list (pictured)

For travellers seeking something a bit different this summer, Lighting Ridge – about 720km or eight hours from Sydney and only 65km from the Queensland border – is a unique stop to tick off your bucket list (pictured)

South Australia 

Coober Pedy

Famous for being the ‘opal capital’ of Australia and having a sun-baked lunar-like landscape, Coober Pedy is one of the most unusual places in Australia – and perhaps the world.

Built into one of the hottest and most inhospitable climates in Australia, it is a landscape almost devoid of vegetation where summer temperatures regularly reach 47 degrees Celsius.

Many say it’s like driving in a Mad Max movie.

Famous for being the 'opal capital' of Australia and having a sun-baked lunar-like landscape, Coober Pedy is one of the most unusual places in Australia - and perhaps the world

Famous for being the ‘opal capital’ of Australia and having a sun-baked lunar-like landscape, Coober Pedy is one of the most unusual places in Australia – and perhaps the world

Coober Pedy (pictured) is built into one of the hottest and most inhospitable climates in Australia, where temperatures can reach 47 degrees Celsius

Coober Pedy (pictured) is built into one of the hottest and most inhospitable climates in Australia, where temperatures can reach 47 degrees Celsius

Some 70 per cent of the residents even live underground to escape the blistering temperatures during the summer.

Highlights of a stay there include the nearby Breakaways National Park and various opal mines.

It is some eight hours drive (835 kilometres) from Adelaide and 688km from Alice Springs. 

Some 70 per cent of the residents even live underground to escape the blistering temperatures during the summer (Coober Pedy pictured)

Some 70 per cent of the residents even live underground to escape the blistering temperatures during the summer (Coober Pedy pictured)

Lake Eyre 

Lake Eyre has always been a unique place to visit, thanks to it being Australia’s largest lake and the lowest point on the Australian mainland.

Most of the time the lake is a dry, salt expanse, but recent rainfall as far away as Queensland and the Northern Territory means it has transformed into life – and become a rare breeding ground for waterbirds from all over Australia.

The north lake covers an area 144km long and 77km wide; it is 15.2 metres below sea level, while the south lake is 64km long and 24km wide.

Lake Eyre has always been a unique place to visit, thanks to it being Australia's largest lake and the lowest point on the Australian mainland (the lake pictured from above)

Lake Eyre has always been a unique place to visit, thanks to it being Australia’s largest lake and the lowest point on the Australian mainland (the lake pictured from above)

Most of the time the lake is a dry, salt expanse, but recent rainfall as far away as Queensland and the Northern Territory means it has transformed into life - and become a rare breeding ground for waterbirds from all over Australia (pictured)

Most of the time the lake is a dry, salt expanse, but recent rainfall as far away as Queensland and the Northern Territory means it has transformed into life - and become a rare breeding ground for waterbirds from all over Australia (pictured)

Most of the time the lake is a dry, salt expanse, but recent rainfall as far away as Queensland and the Northern Territory means it has transformed into life – and become a rare breeding ground for waterbirds from all over Australia (pictured)

It has a catchment area from three states and the Northern Territory and is covered by flood waters roughly once every eight years (the lake pictured)

It has a catchment area from three states and the Northern Territory and is covered by flood waters roughly once every eight years (the lake pictured)

It has a catchment area from three states and the Northern Territory and is covered by flood waters roughly once every eight years.

In the past 160 years, it has only ever filled to capacity three times. 

Earlier this year, National Parks and Wildlife Service staff flew along Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre and reported that there was 60 per cent coverage on the south lake, and 50 per cent coverage on the north lake, although this is very shallow in places.

Visitors who have made the trip so far this year have marvelled at a sight of natural beauty, and life being breathed back into its ecosystems. 

Lake Eyre is 718km from Adelaide, or a full day’s drive.

What to do in Coober Pedy, South Australia 

* Visit the nearby Breakaways Conservation Park

* Visit the Umoona Opal Mine and Museum

* Drive a 4WD down the red dirt roads

* Take an Outback tour and discover the surrounding Flinders Ranges

Source: South Australia Travel Blog

What to do in Lake Eyre, South Australia 

* Visit the lake and camp or stay nearby

* Visit nearby William Creek, one of Australia’s most remote towns

* Visit the Anna Creek Painted Hills

* Visit the Maree Man, a 4km long carving etched into the red earth 

Source: South Australia Travel Blog 

Queensland 

Birdsville

Deep in the heart of wild and isolated Queensland lies Birdville, a town which has become famous for the Birdsville Horse Races, held every September.

The first day of the Birdsville Races in September 2022 was postponed due to rainfall (Birdsville pictured)

The first day of the Birdsville Races in September 2022 was postponed due to rainfall (Birdsville pictured)

But there is plenty more to the area – situated between the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert, the vast gibber plains of Sturt’s Stony Desert to the south and rich Channel Country to the north – than horse racing.

Thirty-five kilometres west of the town lies the trademark red dunes of the Simpson Desert.

Visitors can also find rare desert waddi trees said to be more than 1,000 years old, as well as the photogenic Outback pub, the Birdsville hotel. 

The first day of the Birdsville Races in September 2022 was postponed due to rainfall, and many since visiting have made the most of the different conditions.

The world's most remote music festival, The Big Red Bash, is situated in Birdsville, Queensland (founder Greg Donovan pictured left with musician John Williamson)

The world’s most remote music festival, The Big Red Bash, is situated in Birdsville, Queensland (founder Greg Donovan pictured left with musician John Williamson) 

What to do in Birdsville, Queensland

* Visit the Birdsville Hotel, which has welcomed visitors since 1884

* Climb sand dunes at Munga-Thirri National Park

* Visit the Birdsville Bakery for a curried camel pie

* Visit the Melbourne Cup of the Outback at the Birdsville Races every September

* Attend the world’s most remote music festival, the Big Red Bash

* Head 12 km north of Birdsville towards Bedourie to find the largest patch in the world (and one of only three in the world) of rare Waddi Trees

Source: Outback Queensland 

Deep in the heart of wild and isolated Queensland lies Birdsville, a town which has become famous for the Birdsville Horse Races, held every September (pictured)

Deep in the heart of wild and isolated Queensland lies Birdsville, a town which has become famous for the Birdsville Horse Races, held every September (pictured)

It is famous for its trademark red dunes of the desert (pictured), as well as the horse racing in September

It is famous for its trademark red dunes of the desert (pictured), as well as the horse racing in September

The Bureau of Meteorology have predicted the disastrous three-year La Nina weather event will likely end in early 2023

The Bureau of Meteorology have predicted the disastrous three-year La Nina weather event will likely end in early 2023

La Nina is caused by warm water in the Pacific Ocean pooling along Australia's coast while water in the tropical Pacific cools

La Nina is caused by warm water in the Pacific Ocean pooling along Australia’s coast while water in the tropical Pacific cools 

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has predicted the disastrous three-year La Nina weather event will likely end in early 2023.

La Nina is caused by warm water in the Pacific Ocean pooling along Australia’s coast while water in the tropical Pacific cools.

Australia has experienced three seasons of the colder atmospheric phenomenon, which brings higher levels of rainfall – compounded further by rising ocean temperatures.

Large parts of the country’s east coast have experienced devastating flooding, with local communities bracing for another wet winter. 

BOM has released modelling that follows La Nina, predicting it will ease through spring until January, with the event to have ended by March. 

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