The Dowling Track

Outback Driving Adventures

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Open Information on town or member by clicking panel on top left of map.

Total Route Details:

  • Distance: 560km - Mostly Unsealed Roads
  • Allow: Min 3 Days (2 Nights)


Travel in the footsteps of Vincent James Dowling and other early pioneers who over 100 years ago discovered this area, known as the “Plains of Promise”- people travelled the track looking for a new life and new opportunities.

Vincent James Dowling (1835-1903)

  • Explorer and Pastoralist;
  • 1859 he established Fort Bourke station on the Darling River ( not to be confused with Fort Bourke Stockade).
  • 1861he founded Caiwarro and Eulo stations on the Paroo river and Yantabulla and Birrawarra in NSW.
  • 1864-65 settled Thargomindah Station
  • Traced the source of the Paroo and Bulloo Rivers
  • Mapped river and creek systems, ranges and plains and recorded Flora and Fauna in SW QLD and Western NSW

The Dowling Track is a 560km outback touring route linking Bourke in northern NSW to Quilpie in Queensland.
Australian author Henry Lawson walked from Bourke to Hungerford and back in the hellish summer heat looking for work.

The Dowling Track is a 4WD/AWD tour (Dry Weather only) to experience the rich and diverse heritage of this outback region of Australia.


Bourke is the centre of the wool, cotton and citrus region as well as a popular tourist destination. Situated on the Darling River, Bourke has a rich heritage, immortalised in both poetry and song,since the famous Henry Lawson lived here and his experiences moved him to state, “if you know Bourke, you know Australia.” Charles Sturt passed through the district in 1828, however it wasn’t settled until 1835when,Sir Thomas Mitchell constructed a Fort, Fort Bourke, named after the Governor of NSW, Sir Richard Bourke. Call into the Bourke Information Centre for all the details on tours and attractions. Bourke will charm you.

Fords Bridge:

Fords Bridge, located on the Warrego River was once a small flourishing town with a butcher shop, Post Office, school and race track. Today ‘Fordsy’ is a sleepy town of four.

Call into the historical Warrego Hotel, 1913 from locally made mud bricks, thought to be the only pub in Australia still standing constructed from mud bricks.

Yantabulla; Originally called Yanda Bullen Bullen, aboriginal for ‘plenty to eat’, once was a prosperous town of nine houses, a hotel, store, school, police station and a cordial factory. Vincent Dowling once owned a homestead in Yantabulla, and Cobb and Co had a changing station here. Little remains today other than the spirit of those early days.


Hungerford is located on the QLD/NSW border, separated by a Rabbit Proof Fence, where you open a gate from one state to the next. Named after Irishman Thomas Hungerford, who with his brother pioneered country in New South Wales and Queensland. The Royal Mail Hotel, built in 1873, was originally a staging post for Cobb and Co and today is still an important part of the community. A Biannual field day is held in Hungerford each June.


Thargomindah is a special town with a unique history. First, in Australia and third in the world,( just one day after Paris) to have street lighting generated by Hydro Power. Discover Thargomindah’s rich history with a town tour of the original hospital, circa 1888, Leahy House, circa 1885 and Thargomindah’s original newspaper printery, circa 1884.

Call at the Information Centre for details.


The quaint Toompine Hotel is a perfect example of what you expect of an Outback Pub. The sign at this old Cobb and Co staging post says it all: Toompine- the pub with no town! Ask for direction to the lonely little Toompine Cemetery and find out why it is called a ‘cemery’ ( not a cemetery.)


Home of the Boulder Opal and ‘Colour of the Country’, located on a mulga ridge on the western side of the Bulloo River, out of flood reaches.

A number of Australia’s most famous graziers, including the Costello’s, Tully’s and Duracks pioneered the land around Quilpie and the historical records of these families have become an important part of Australia's grazing history.

Quilpie opal is world famous and local fossicking is available 1.5km west of the town. Visit the vast attractions of Quilpie, including the opal altar, lectern and font of the roman Catholic Church, Baldy Top lookout, Lake Houdraman, Quilpie Art Gallery and much more.

Contact the Quilpie Museum and Visitor Centre for further information.

Route Sections:

* This touring route involves remote outback driving, so ensure your car is mechanically sound, carry enough water in case of a breakdown and most importantly ensure someone knows where you are and an ETA for your destination.

Bourke <> Kilcowera Station:

  • Route: Bourke-Hungerford Road <> Dowling Track (305 km - about 4 hours) - Mostly Unsealed

Leaving Bourke (Food & Huts by Mt Oxley), the first main stopover is Hungerford which makes a great lunchtime stopover at the iconic pub. From Hungerford, the Dowling Track runs along the SW/QLD border through Currawinya NP before heading north up to Kilcowera Station. This section is also unsealed but well maintained. Kilcowera Station (members of Outback Beds) makes a great stopover.

Kilcowera Station <> Quilpe:

  • Route: Dowling Track (282 km - about 4 hours) - Unsealed and sealed.

Leaving Kilcowera, it is an easy 90min drive to Thargomindah before continuing north along the Dowling Track through Toompine and into Quilpie.

Outback Beds Members & Towns along the way


  • For the traveller, Thargomindah and the surrounding area offers wonderful National Parks (Lake Bindegolly NP and Currawinya NP), friendly farm stays, unique birdlife, amazing geomorphology of ancient land forms including massive sand dunes, historic pubs, and carpets of outback wildflowers after r...

  • "If you know Bourke, you know Australia" so wrote the famous Australian poet Henry Lawson in 1882. Although Bourke is a town, it is something that is etched in the psyche of Australia and is commonly used as a reference point to the start of the true Outback. 'Back o Bourke' is a colloquial term f...


Safe Outback Travel

This touring route encompasses remote outback drive and as such some safety precautions will ensure you get the most out of your adventure.


  • Determine if your vehicle is appropriate for the intended journey.
  • Ensure your vehicle is fully serviced before embarking on your holiday.
  • Take spare parts that may be needed. (Fuses, tyre, belts etc)
  • Carry spare fuel.
  • Buy a first aid kit.
  • Do not overload your car – especially if using roof racks
  • Water – carry enough water for at least 1 day (10+)


  • Plan to stop and explorer the areas you are travelling through. This will break the trip up and keep you fresh. Plan to do this every 2-3 hours.
  • Be aware when approaching livestock as they will not necessarily keep off the road and can cross when you least expect it.
  • Try avoiding driving at sunrise and sunset as many native animals (Roos and Emus) will be active then and will be attracted to your headlights and can jump in front of your vehicle – and cause serious damage.
  • If you wish to overtake trucks, a quick flash of you lights is often appreciated.
  • Road trains (double semi-trailers) are long and will take twice as long to overtake than a normal truck. Plan to overtake with caution.


  • Drive at a safe speed (10-20kms less) as conditions on unsealed roads can change quickly.
  • If approaching another vehicle, slow down and move to the left as this will reduce stone damage (windscreen and paint) and reduce dust which may inhibit vision to what is behind their vehicle and yours.
  • Slow when approaching cattle grids as some may be raised or dropped and can be hazardous if crossing at speed.
  • Don’t drive on closed roads.
  • If stopping for some reason, pull over and don’t stop in the middle of the road. If venturing off the main road, take care as the side drain may look dry but maybe wet underneath.
  • Approach creek crossing with caution… they may be washed out and can cause serious damage to your car.


  • If for some reason your vehicle breaks down or gets stuck. STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE. Someone will always come by.


  • Country people are renowned for their hospitality but remember that their property is their home and livelihood and not all are amenable to random access of their properties; in the same way you would not be at your home or office.
  • Always leave gates as you find them not as you think they should be.
  • Ask permission for camping at the homestead. Check with the station owner before camping and let them nominate a place for you.

 Dowling Track Map