Where is the Outback?
People often ask us: where is the Outback?
On this page, we explain where the Outback is and where it isn’t. We’ll help you to understand more about this very special place
The Outback is a place that inspires myths, poets, artists and writers. It’s one of those places that everyone knows something about, and many people dream of visiting.
It’s a place that many people associate with vast open spaces, freedom, Aboriginal people and a deep spirituality.
And let’s not forget: red dirt and flies!
But where is the Outback really?
Lots of people say that the Outback is anywhere outside of the main cities in Australia.
Some people try to tell you that Darwin or Kakadu are in the Outback! Our Darwin friends laugh when they hear this – Darwin is in the tropics, in what’s known by locals as the Top End.
The term Outback came about in the 19th Century. It was used to refer to places that were ‘out the back of X (insert a place name). A similar term is ‘back of beyond’. Basically, it’s somewhere inland in Australia, a long way from the sea.
The real truth is that exactly where the Outback is can be hard to define.
It’s many different things and places, depending on who you ask. The Outback symbolises remote desert places, red dirt and flies to many people.
To others, it’s a place of freedom and no restrictions, with continuous wide, open spaces, and where, unless you’re on a major highway, you can travel for hours without meeting another car.
Where is the Outback to Us?
We have our own idea about where the Outback is.
To us, the real Outback is Australia’s heart and soul, Central Australia.
It’s the arid/desert regions that surround it in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia, with the Outback town, Alice Springs, at its centre.
Although we like the popular ideas about the freedom and wide open spaces, we also prefer to use environmental science: rainfall, climate and habitat to explain where the Outback is:
To us, the Outback takes in those places in Australia which have 300 millimetres (11 inches) of rainfall per year or less and are 200 kilometres from the coast.
The orange-brown and tan colours on the map indicate roughly where the Outback is.
So places like Kakadu, Cairns and Darwin just aren’t part of the real outback to us!
What’s more, the Outback has distinct plants and animals: lots of mulga trees, mallee (Eucalyptus) trees Spinifex grass, Bloodwood, Corkwood and Desert Oak trees. Its creeks and rivers are lined with shady River Red Gums.
Outback animals are generally small (apart from Red Kangaroos) and come out at night to escape the heat. Many of them are little known even by Australians.
The best place to learn more about the plants and animals, geology and landscapes of the Outback is the Alice Springs Desert Park.
We’ve written a lot more about the Outback’s destinations, top tourist attractions, off-road adventures and Outback towns. Hopefully, we’ll meet you one day when we’re camping by a shady creek.
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