Located just over 1500km west of Brisbane, lays a small town, renowned for its pub and with a population of just 120 called Birdsville.
Every year since 1882, on the first Saturday in September, people converge on this tiny outback town from all over Australia, to attend the race that stops the outback. The iconic Birdsville Races.
The very first race in 1882 was set up for hack and stock horses, with a few of the locals watching as spectators. Today the race has grown into a full racing carnival held over 2 days. It includes 13 races and prize money well in excess of over $170,000, with the Birdsville Cup being a much sought after trophy throughout the world. The track itself is located just outside the tiny town, right beside the sand dunes of the Simpson Desert. It is one of only four tracks in Queensland to run anti-Clockwise. The horses that run out there are as tough as their owners and the jockey’s….. well you cant really call them jockeys. They are twice the size of a so called jockey. I’d call them medium sized, hard as nails, true Aussie bushman, who can ride the S#%t out of a horse. It’s a spectacle to see the horses round the bend with this incredible dust cloud following them across the finish line.
The people who attend this famous horse race in the middle of nowhere are what truly make this event. I was out there this year for the second time, and the characters you meet from all walks of Aussie life are truly incredible. Everything from your 18yr old kid, on his first big outback adventure with his mates, to backpackers, to the grey nomad, quirky outback characters with giant mo’s and beards (who have the most incredible tales you’ve ever heard), just to name a few! These amazing people, combined with beer and scorching 40 degree heat make it a cracker of a day.
Then begins the nighttime shenanigans. As soon as the last horse crosses the line, the pilgrimage to the Birdsville pub begins. The Pub is in the center of the town, located directly opposite the airstrip. It’s not unusual to watch a plane land and the pilot walk across the road for a beer. XXXX Bitter and Gold are the drink of choice, with a nice splash of Bundy rum in the mix, only consumed from tinnies. Within half an hour of arriving at the pub after the races, the crowd is flowing out under the awning of the Birdsville Hotel, onto the street. The unspoken rule is to drop your can in the gutter out the front of the hotel, where within no time there’s a metre wide river of cans. So much so, that in the morning’s cleanup each day, there is a dedicated person to poke a stick through the mountain of cans to make sure nobody has passed out underneath them before the garbage truck comes through.
Another infamous attraction at the races is Fred Brophy’s boxing tent. The last boxing tent in the world where you put your hand up to punch on with a pro in the ring. The banging of the drum and the introduction of the fighter in Fred’s crew is a show in itself, with some of the hardest boxers in the country being discovered in this tent. I put my hand up this year for a fight, and it truly was an amazing experience. After a day on the booze and no mouth guard, you step out onto a bit of rolled out canvas that is having the red dirt swept off it and while staring down your opponent. The crowd is sitting on planks of wood held up by bessa blocks each end, chanting and heckling. The fight is reffed by Fred himself who claims to be the fairest in the land! I went all 3 rounds and ended up with a draw and an amazing experience!
If you have never experienced the outback and want a reason to do so, the Birsdsville races is a must on your bucket list. A unique Australiana experience that you will never forget!
CEO & Founder
The Bearded Chap