The most authentic Australian experience can be found on working cattle farms in the Australian Outback.
In Australia, outback stations the size of small countries are becoming a fascinating alternative for international visitors wanting an Australian experience beyond battling the crowds at Bondi Beach or climbing Uluru.
Families, some who have lived on the station for generations, welcome guests for an authentic Australian outback experience on working cattle and sheep stations. Here’s our pick of the best
Bullo River Station
WHERE: East Kimberley, Northern Territory
Bullo River Station is a whopping 500,000 acres (yep, that’s the size of Mauritius) and is located in the Kimberly region of the “Top End,” so often depicted in postcards and books illustrating the Australian outback. At Bullo River, it’s all about adventure. You can explore the property by quad bike or be taken by helicopter to remote waterholes to fish for giant “barra” (that would be a barramundi). You can also get some bush skills under your belt (whip cracking or cattle mustering anyone?) or just relax and read or swim at a secluded billabong.
Rawnsley Park Station
Not all outback stays involve red sand and dust. The Rawnsley Park Station is set at the foothills of the lush Flinders Rangers, just 270 miles (that’s Australian for very close) from South Australia’s capital, Adelaide. While the Flinders Rangers are famous for the dense bush, ancient Aboriginal rock paintings and quaint tiny towns, Rawnsley Park Station is known for its heli-swag experience.
Guests are transported by helicopter over the Rawnsley Bluff and Wilpena Pound, and land at Chase Range where they are treated to a breathtaking sunset, while staff set up camp and prepare a campsite feast. After dinner, the staff leave, only to return the next morning after you’ve enjoyed a breakfast from the provisions left the night before.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
Home Valley Station
If you prefer your outback station stay with a touch of Hollywood, check out Home Valley Station, which is featured in the Nicole Kidman film, Australia. Chosen for the rugged and quintessentially Australian landscape, the station is featured as part of the fictional Faraway Downs Station, and in scenes where the heroes track across the cattle drive.
INSIDER TIPConsider visiting during the wet season (November to April), when the Kimberley is completely transformed into raging rivers and flooded plains, which attract spectacular wildlife. It’s less popular with tourists, but if you can tolerate the heat (it can reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit), it’s unforgettable.
WHERE: Petermann, Northern Territory
The hosts of Kings Creek Station understand that some guests prefer their experiences of a working cattle and camel stations to include a little luxury at the end of the day and offers a variety of outback stay options, including glamping.
Kings Canyon has a long and proud Indigenous history and Aboriginal culture plays a large role in these station stays. The local Wanmarra community operate tours and cultural experiences to preserve the local language and customs.
INSIDER TIPDitch the horses, and tour the station by camel. Camels played an important part in colonization of the outback, originally imported because of their suitability to dry arid conditions.
Willow Springs Station
WHERE: Hawker, South Australia
Willow Springs has been owned and operated by four generation of the Reynolds family, and accommodation options include the Jackaroo’s Cottage, The Homestead, Overseer’s Cottage, or the Shearer’s Quarters.
INSIDER TIPPack your camera. The colors of outback South Australia change dramatically with the lights of different times of day, making this station popular with photographers.
WHERE: Coral Bay, Western Australia
Western Australia is home to some of the longest and most beautiful beaches in the country, and Bullara Station is located right on the middle of the Coral Coast. That means visitors can work up a sweat exploring the bush in the morning and cool down in the pristine waters of the Indian Ocean in the afternoon.
This part of Australia is known for its vast expanses of vibrantly colored wildflowers that are in full bloom during the winter months.
INSIDER TIPDrink coffee. Australians are strangely fanatical about coffee and serving anything less than perfectly brewed flavorsome beans is considered a terrible crime. It might be an outback post, but Bullara Station has its own barista.
Book a Hotel
WHERE: Louth, New South Wales
Trilby is a working sheep station and offers an Outback Helpers programs that allow visitors to roll up their sleeves and pitch in with the running of the station. It’s hot, dusty, and unpaid, but it’s a more real experience than other tourist traps.
Australia has a rich and colorful mining history and Angorichina Station is located near the old mining town of Blinman. It’s a working farm, located in the Flinders Rangers and is favored by visitors who enjoy hiking or cycling the bush tracks, as well as those interested in history, exploring ruins, and photography.
You can experience a little of what it was like to be an early European settler in Australia’s dramatic outback by staying in one of the station’s original shearers’ cottages built in the 1850s. Refurbishments, you’ll be happy to learn, have been made since original construction.
INSIDER TIPAngorichina Station has a four wheel drive track that’s only accessible to station guests and is a great way to take off exploring for a day on your own.
Robin Hood Station
WHERE: Gulf Savannah, Queensland
Known for its environmentally sustainable operating practices, Robin Hood Station is home to the 4,720-hectare Cobbold Gorge Nature Refuge, which has been set up by the government to protect natural wildlife habitats and threatened plant species. River tours and paddling trips through the narrow sandstone corridors of Cobbold Gorge are popular excursions.
Located in sunny Queensland, the station has more of a tropical feel and is close (as close can be in Australia) to natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef, as well as other major cities and towns.
WHERE: Murchison, Western Australia
When you’re at Wooleen Station you are literally standing amongst the oldest landscapes in the world. This ancient land currently exists as an eco-friendly station stay and is managed by an environmental conservationist and eco-tourism expert (read: “Greenies”).
Visitors can choose from a range of accommodation, including camping in amongst the vast landscapes of wildflowers or staying at the National Trust Listed Wooleen homestead, and activities include guided bushwalks, Aboriginal tours, and ecology exploration.
Barn Hill Station
WHERE: Broome, Western Australia
It’s where outback cattle farming meets beach holidaying. Visitors can combine the daily life of an outback cattle station with a relaxed beach vacation on some of the most untouched stretches of beach in the world. Visitors can participate in bushwalks, cliff walks, and cave exploring, as well as snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming.
INSIDER TIPThere is very little cell phone reception in the Australian outback, but if you are with a major provider, you will enjoy coverage at Barn Hill.
Australia is a large country and the middle of it, accurately known as the Red Centre, is vast, barren, and inhospitable. Yet, in the 1900s, early white settlers braved these harsh surrounds to build a famous telegraph wire and railway line that unified the country. And they did it from Beltana Station and its surroundings, making this outback station experience one for the history buffs, or just those who fancy a yarn as the billy boils by the billabong (translation: those who appreciate listening to a captivating tale while waiting for the water to boil for a cup of tea next to a lake).
There are ruins to explore and tracks to follow, and there’s also a working sheep and cattle station to experience, right on the edge of the Red Centre, its about as outback as it gets.