Birdsville Races Facts

Have fun at this unique event in Outback Australia

Birdsville Races 2020 - Cancelled

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the iconic Birdsville races had to be cancelled. Organisers didn't have much hope that large gatherings would be possible in September. 

The Birdsville races are held on the first Friday and Saturday in September every year. Join a non-stop party in one of the most isolated Outback towns.

The main race, the $28,000 XXXX Gold Birdsville Cup, is internationally acknowledged. It is said to be the Melbourne Cup of the Outback.

Can you imagine what it is like when a tiny town of 100 swells up to 6000 excited race fans within a few days? Not to mention hundreds of cars, caravans and light airplanes. It is an unique event, and you can experience true Australian joy and fun.

A racecourse in the middle of the OutbackThe racecourse 3km outside of Birdsville

Driving to Birdsville is an adventurous journey where you can discover the wonderful Outback scenery, from whichever direction you come. Attending the famous Birdsville races is certainly an unique experience you shouldn't miss.

History of the races

The first race was held in September 1882. About 150 visitors, station owners and stockmen, visited the first races.

Apart from a few years during World War II, the races have only been cancelled twice.
The first time was in 2007 because of an outbreak of equine influenza. Horse movement was banned in Queensland and New South Wales the week before the races. No horses in Birdsville meant no races.

The second time was 2010 when the main race day had to be cancelled due to pouring rain that set the racecourse under water.

However, these "minor" troubles didn't keep people off, the festivities and entertainment continued during the race weekend.

The Cancelled Birdsville Races 2010

Now, 2010 was a race event that really made it into the history charts.
Troubles began when Cooper Creek cut off the Birdsville Track, the main access route from the south. Everyone was worried that the ferry wouldn't manage the crowds heading north to Birdsville. Now, somehow people made it into town. Everyone was ready to celebrate.

The event started as planned, however, torrential rain on Saturday morning (the day of the Gold Birdsville Cup) flooded the race track. At first, the races were postponed from Saturday 4th September to Tuesday 7th September 2010. Still, the party in Birdsville went on.
Finally, the races had to be cancelled. In 128 years history, it was the first time the races were cancelled because of the weather.
Well, the wild weather also had thousands of (wet) travellers stuck in Birdsville for a few days.

Watch this video about Birdsville & the races

Birdsville Races Entertainment Program 2019

During the week the tiny town fills up with race-goers from all over Australia. So the party begins early for some people.

Listed below are a few "evergreen" events that you can expect during the week, along with parties and concerts.

  • The classic films Back of Beyond and The last mail from Birdville, featuring the legendary mail man Tom Kruse and his 1936 Leyland Badger mail truck are often screened during the race week.

  • The "Equine Fun Day" in front of the Birdsville Pub includes lots of activities & and the first show of Fred Brophy's Boxing Troupe.

  • Friday 6th September 2019 - The races begin at the racecourse and entertainment continues in town.

  • Saturday 7th September 2019 - The XXXX Gold Birdsville Cup is held. Entertainment includes the "fashion on the fields" events and much more.

  • "Wind-down" activities are held on Sunday before the crowds head home again after an exciting Outback event.

Birdsville HotelThe Birdsville Hotel will be very busy during the race weekend

General Tips for your Birdsville Race Visit

  • Accommodation - The hotel won't be available during the race week. The caravan park doesn't take any reservations, but it is available for visitors, first in, first served is the rule.
    A tent city is located behind the information centre. You can hire a tent for four days.
    You can also camp on the Diamantina river.
    Portable toilets will be provided by the council.
    Showers are available for a small fee at the campground and on other locations in town.

  • Supplies - Birdsville has two fuel stations, but no Autogas and leaded fuel.

  • Food - The Birdsville Roadhouse has a general store, there is a bakery in town, and food stalls are located in several places during the races.
    The race club offers a corporate marquee at the race track for gourmet dining. There are only 120 seats, so book early.

  • How to get there? - Take the Birdsville Track if you come from the south, the Birdsville Developmental Road from the east, or the Eyre Developmental road from the north.
    Birdsville Track Ferry: Just in case the Cooper Creek cuts the Birdsville Track, travellers from the south can use the ferry service (no caravans allowed) to cross the Cooper. The detour to the ferry is signposted on the track, plus there are sign on both end of the track that indicate that the ferry is running.
    An alternative route would be to travel via Innamincka to Birdsville.
    It is a rare event that the track is cut by the Cooper. It happened in 2010 & 2011 in a row, but before that it was 20 years ago.

  • Greyhound bus runs a shuttle service from the Birdsville to the racecourse during the race days.
    There are several tour operators running tours to the races, mainly from Queensland.

If you drive on your own, please drive carefully, don't drink and drive. Police will monitor the area around Birdsville closely.

Please note:

This page about the Birdsville races gives general info about the great Outback event.
Rita's Outback Guide is not a travel agent, or tour operator.
If you have further inquiries about the races, accommodation, tickets etc., please contact the Wirrarri Information Centre. They also have information about the current event, and a frequently asked question section. 

Thank you.

Discover other places in the Birdsville region