Hundreds of Victorians desperate to get home while avoiding New South Wales are taking on the 500km Birdsville Track on the long way home. Picture: Adam Head
Hundreds of Victorians desperate to get home while avoiding New South Wales are taking on the 500km Birdsville Track on the long way home. Picture: Adam Head

Border wars spark boom for tiny outback town

A tiny outback town 22 hours from Brisbane is reaping the benefits of Victoria's hard border closure with New South Wales as desperate holiday makers take the long way home.

But locals and Queensland's peak motoring body have warned Victorians could be risking more than their vehicles if they're not properly prepared for the journey.

Since Victoria closed its borders to NSW on January 1, hundreds of travellers enjoying the Queensland sun have opted for an alternate route home, which takes at least 30 hours longer.

Instead of the direct 18 hour, 1776 kilometre trek down the Pacific Highway through hotspot Sydney, many have driven west instead, clocking up 4000 km through outback Queensland and South Australia before re-entering Victoria.

Victorian health authorities have ruled out opening the NSW border until at least the end of the month, but people coming from Queensland or the ACT are now allowed to travel through NSW so long as they have a permit and minimise stops.

Victorians desperate to get home without passing through New South Wales are heading through Outback Queensland and regional South Australia – a trip that takes at least 46 hours. Picture: Google Maps
Victorians desperate to get home without passing through New South Wales are heading through Outback Queensland and regional South Australia – a trip that takes at least 46 hours. Picture: Google Maps

Birdsville, with a population of just over 100, typically receives no tourists over Christmas, but the local pub has welcomed more than 70 bookings since Boxing Day, almost all of them Victorians on the way home.

Birdsville Hotel general manager Ben Fullagar said the town had welcomed the unexpected tourism boost.

"We love having all these extra people out here … It's great for business in regional areas," he told News Corp.

Birdsville Hotel general manager Ben Fullagar said the number of Victorians passing through on their way home was unexpected but “welcome”. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Birdsville Hotel general manager Ben Fullagar said the number of Victorians passing through on their way home was unexpected but “welcome”. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

But Mr Fullagar warned people should be aware the trek was considerably different to the eastern route, and motorists couldn't rely on Google Maps to tell them the right information.

"The trip is quite achievable, as long as people do their research. Currently these roads are only open to four wheel drives," he said.

"Unfortunately we have had a number of people get out here and attempt to do the Birdsville Track in sedans, and they've been bogged or get tyre issues.

"The trip can be enjoyable, it's a lovely part of the country, but people should carry plenty of water and have even two spare tyres."

The drive from Birdsville to Marree in South Australia is 500km of dirt road, which the RACQ is advising motorists against taking unless they are completely prepared.
The drive from Birdsville to Marree in South Australia is 500km of dirt road, which the RACQ is advising motorists against taking unless they are completely prepared.

Between Birdsville and Marree in South Australia, motorists have no option but to drive on 500 km of dirt road, which is not suitable for low clearance vehicles.

RACQ spokesperson Clare Hunter said while motorists might see the long way home as their only option, it wasn't suited to everyone.

"Unless you have all the gear, you have no idea," she said.

"Travelling through remote parts of the state is no joke and can quickly become dangerous for you and your family, especially if you're unprepared.

"Make sure you're stocked with plenty of food, water and fuel."

"A breakdown on outback roads presents a myriad of challenges, especially if there are caravans to consider so it's important your roadside assistance covers you for the trip."

RACQ is advising Victorians against taking the long way home from Queensland unless they are completely prepared to tackle the long dirt roads. Picture: Peter MacMillan.
RACQ is advising Victorians against taking the long way home from Queensland unless they are completely prepared to tackle the long dirt roads. Picture: Peter MacMillan.

Birdsville Roadhouse echoed RACQ's advice, taking to Facebook to advise motorists to keep the heat, roads, and vast distances between towns in mind when making the trek.

"Travel in small sedan type vehicles should be avoided," the Roadhouse said.

"Google Maps does not accurately reflect driving times or road surfaces. Take the time to research the roads you are driving on.

"There is no phone service between towns … Let someone know your intended route, departure time and expected arrival time.

"Always travel with sufficient water and food … Have enough for an additional couple of days in case of breakdown.

"If you experience problems, please stay with your vehicle, it is much easier to find than a person."

The post of tips was met with gratitude from many setting out on the trip.

"You guys read our minds. That's exactly where (we) are going to avoid NSW," one person wrote.

"We are on our way! This info is awesome - thanks so much!!" said another.

Others commented to echo the Roadhouse's advice, one person labelling the roads as "vicious".

Originally published as Border wars spark boom for tiny outback town


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