The Dowling Track | 4WD Guide & Review

When you head to Dowling Track, you will follow the footsteps of its namesake Vincent James Dowling and his companions when they discovered the region. The pioneers named the area the “Plains of Promise” to signify their desire to live a new life and take new opportunities. Aside from this, the place is just really enjoyable if you are a 4WD enthusiast who is seekings the next adventure.

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The Dowling Track is located approximately a thousand kilometres away from Brisbane but the long trip will be worth it. First of all, you will have 560 km of unsealed roads to drive on, so you will need to prepare for a multi-day trip. The track also links Bourke, NSW to Quilpie, Qld which will enable you to explore two towns (three if you count Thargomindah) on a single trip. In addition, the track will take you to numerous interesting spots where you can stop to have lunch or set up camp. Lastly, you can immerse yourself with the rich history of the area.

The track deserves to be considered as your next destination. Do you want to learn more about it? Read more to find out!

How Do I Get to Dowling Track?

From Brisbane, you should:

  • Head southeast by taking Albert St and turn left onto Elizabeth St.
  • From the street, continue onto Eagle St.
  • Stay on the right lane and turn onto Queen St. From there, continue onto Wickham St.
  • After 350 metres, turn right onto Gipps St/State Route 15 and continue driving straight until you reach Barry Parade/State Route 15. From there, turn left to merge onto M3.
  • Keep right at the fork so that you will continue onto M5 and follow the signs leading to Western Suburbs/Legacy Way Tunnel/Ipswich.
  • After 17.1 km, use the right lanes to continue onto the M7/Ipswich Motorway exit which leads to Ipswich/Toowoomba.
  • Merge onto M7 and onto M2.
  • After 7 kilometres, use the left lanes to take the M2/Warrego Hwy exit that leads to Esk/Toowoomba.
  • Continue onto Warrego Hwy/M2.
  • After about 92 kilometres, turn right onto James St/Warrego Hwy/A2.
  • After 5.2 km, turn left onto Hursley Rd and take another left on Toowoomba Cecil Plains Rd after 53.2 km.
  • From there, continue straight onto Taylor St, Millmerran Cecil Plains Rd, and turn right onto Cecil Plains Rd
  • After 18.2 km, turn left onto Moonie Hwy/State Route 49.
  • After 209 km, turn left onto Carnavon Hwy/A55/State Route 49 and continue straight onto Balonne Hwy/Victoria St/State Route 49.
  • Turn right onto Mitchell Hwy/A71 after 288 km and continue straight onto Emma St.
  • Turn left onto Wicks St
  • Turn right onto Louise St and continue onto Adventure Way until you reach Cunnamulla Rd.
  • From Cunnamulla Rd, turn left and merge onto Dowling St on Thargomindah.

What Should I Know About Dowling Track’s History?

Vincent James Dowling (1835-1903) was an Australian explorer and pastoralist and he established Fort Bourke Station (which is not the same as the Fort Bourke Stockade) located near the Darling River. In 1861, he founded the Caiwarro and Eulo stations which are situated on the Paroo River and others like the Yantabulla and Birrawarra in New South Wales. Dowling also lived on Thargomindah Station on 1864-1865 and this is where he traced the main source of the Paroo and Bulloo Rivers. 

He also charted the various water systems, ranges, plains, in southwestern Queensland and western New South Wales. In addition, he also recorded new species of flora and fauna in the region. There are other notable figures who explored the area in the past including the Australian author Henry Lawson. He walked from Bourke all the way to Hungerford and back in the scorching heat of the summer while looking for work.

What Routes Can I Take on the Dowling Track?

There are two routes that you can take to fully explore Dowling Track. These are:

Bourke to Kilcowera Station:

Route: Bourke to Hungerford Road and Dowling Track
Length: 305 km
Track Time: 4 hours
Road condition: Mostly Unsealed

Leaving Bourke (Food and Huts by Mt Oxley), the first stopover is Hungerford which makes an extraordinary stop for lunch at the notable bar. From Hungerford, the Dowling Track keeps running along the SW/QLD border and through Currawinya NP before shifting north up to Kilcowera Station. This area is likewise unsealed however very much passable. Kilcowera Station (individuals from Outback Beds) makes an extraordinary stopover.

Kilcowera Station to Quilpie:

Route: Dowling Track
Length: 282 km
Track time: 4 hours
Road conditions: Unsealed and sealed

Leaving Kilcowera, it is a short 90-minute drive to Thargomindah before proceeding to the north along the Dowling Track through Toompine and into Quilpie

Important: This track includes remote outback driving, so you’ll need to make sure that your vehicle is fit for the trip, bring enough water if there should arise an occurrence of a breakdown and in particular make sure somebody knows where you are and an ETA for your destination.

You can find more information about Kilcowera Station on this website.

What Places Should I See While on the Track?

The Dowling Track is only recommended for 4WD/AWD vehicles in order to traverse it safely. The area also possesses a rich and diverse history which is unique in this part of the outback. While you are on your way, you will pass by these attractions:

  • Bourke: This town is the centre of wool, cotton, and citrus production in the region. It is also a popular tourist area as it is located near the Darling River, it has a rich heritage, and notable figures lived in this town in the past. Henry Lawson once lived here and his stay was immortalised through numerous poems and songs made since then. When he moved to Bourke, he experienced new things which led him to say that “if you know Bourke, you know Australia.” Another notable figure in Australian history is Charles Sturt who passed through the district way back in 1828. However, the town had no permanent residents until Fort Bourke was constructed by Sir Thomas Michell. The name of the fort and the town was derived from the name of the Governor of NSW at that time – Sir Richard Bourke.
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    Fords Bridge: This area was at one time a little prospering town with a butcher shop, Post Office, school and race track. Today ‘Fordsy’ is a lethargic town of four. Call into the historic Warrego Hotel, 1913 from locally sourced mud blocks, thought to be the sole bar in Australia as yet standing built from mud blocks.
  • Yantabulla: Initially called Yanda Bullen Bullen, which in the Aboriginal language means ‘bounty to eat’, it was a prosperous town of nine houses, an inn, store, school, police headquarters, and a small industrial facility. Vincent Dowling once claimed property in Yantabulla, and Cobb and Co had a changing station here. Little remains today other than the soul of those early days.
  • Hungerford: Hungerford is situated on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, which is only demarcated by a Rabbit-Proof Fence. From this point, you will open an entryway starting with one state then onto the next. Named after Irishman Thomas Hungerford, who with his sibling explored the country in New South Wales and Queensland. The Royal Mail Hotel, completed in 1873, was initially a staging post for Cobb and Co and today is as yet a significant piece of the town. A Biannual field day is held in Hungerford every June.
    Photo Credits
    Thargomindah: Thargomindah is a unique town with a one-of-a-kind history. Initially, in Australia and third on the planet, (only one day after Paris) to have road lighting produced through hydropower. Find Thargomindah’s rich history with a town voyage through the first hospital (built around 1888), Leahy House (completed around 1885) and Thargomindah’s unique paper printery which started operations in 1884.
  • Toompine: The curious Toompine Hotel is an ideal case of what you expect of an Outback Pub. The sign at this old Cobb and Co arranging post says everything: Toompine-the bar with no town! Ask for the way to the forlorn little Toompine Cemetery and discover why it is known as a ‘cemery’.
  • Quilpie: Home of the Boulder Opal and ‘Colour of the Country’, situated on a mulga ridge on the western side of the Bulloo River. Some of Australia’s most celebrated graziers, including the Costello’s, Tully’s and Duracks founded the land around Quilpie and the chronicled records of these families have turned into a significant piece of Australia’s grazing history. Quilpie opal is acclaimed throughout the world and nearby fossicking is accessible 1.5km west of the town. Visit the immense attractions of Quilpie, including the opal altar, lectern, and font of the Roman Catholic Church, Baldy Top post, Lake Houdraman, Quilpie Art Gallery, and many more.

Related Questions

What is the Significance of the Murray-Darling River?

As Australia’s most significant rural area, the Basin produces a third of Australia’s supply of food and supports over one-third of Australia’s total gross value of production in the agricultural sector. While agriculture is crucial to our economy, the Murray-Darling Basin is significantly more than just a “food basket”.

What River Runs Through the Town of Bourke?

Bourke is situated on the Darling River 760 km north-west of Sydney and 110 m above ocean level. It is 133 km south of the border between Queensland and New South Wales.

Is Travelling Through the Australian Outback Dangerous?

Snakes are the main dread of most Outback voyagers. Australian snakes are the most hazardous on the planet. Truly, there are noxious snakes in Australia. No, they are not hazardous, as long as you ignore them.

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