Two blokes take on Queensland’s Wellness Way

Two blokes from the big smoke head out the back of Queensland to experience first-hand how wellness has become more raw and real – and fun!

Standing under the sweeping skies of the Queensland outback, caked in mineral-rich mud from head to toe, we huddle in front of a toasty, wood-fired stove as we sip beers, waiting for the milky, grey, natural clay to dry. We can’t stop laughing at how ridiculous we look but how cathartically wild and raw it feels to be cloaked in nothing but earth. Once fully ‘baked’, we waddle over into a couple of outdoor, claw-foot baths facing the desert and soak restfully in pure, hot, artesian water before an alfresco shower completes the ethereal ritual, our skin blooming and bodies totally relaxed.

It’s not the image you would usually conjure of a bathhouse but around Australia, wellbeing is getting more real and fun. Sanitised day spas are evolving to become less glamorous and more rustic to help us connect more meaningfully and mindfully with nature and others. As a result, more men are being drawn to authentic experiences like our memorable mud baths in the red-earth wilds of Eulo, a tiny outpost in the Queensland desert, 10 hours west of Brisbane and 12 hours northwest of Sydney.  

QLD outback

A new path to wellbeing in the Outback

We’re following the newly crafted ‘Wellness Way’, a hot springs and bathing trail through southern Queensland’s outback. Ancient waters, landscapes, cultures and rhythms promise to soothe body, mind and soul. The new road trip route was launched following the opening of the stunning Cunnamulla Hot Springs complex which is now the striking showpiece of the Wellness Way, and it so it should be, with Victoria’s phenomenally successful Peninsula Hot Springs behind this remote but transformative oasis of wellbeing in the heart of the QLD outback.

The Wellness Way offers an immersive dip into the ancient, healing powers of the mineral-rich artesian water that lies beneath the surface of this vast landscape. The Great Artesian Basin spans almost 1.7 million square kilometres, or around one-fifth of the Australian continent, and holds more than 65 million megalitres of water – enough to fill Sydney Harbour 130,000 times. 

Hot springs in QLD

The geothermal hot springs of the QLD outback are where water that’s been pressured and heated by subterranean magma makes its way to the Earth’s surface. The water is heated below ground by flows of magma circulating through the earth. The mineral content and water temperature has been found to improve circulation, alleviate muscle and joint pain, reduce inflammation and blood pressure, relieve tension, promote calmness and relaxation, burn calories and improve skin conditions. Unlike surface water from lakes and rivers, artesian water is pure and uncontaminated, making it ideal for bathing. 

Blending luxury, wellness and the rugged beauty of the desert 

Whether you’re a wellness spa connoisseur or just a weary road tripper seeking rejuvenation after a day on shimmering outback roads, there are now numerous artesian springs, pools and deluxe bathhouses through outback QLD that seamlessly blend luxury and well-being with the rugged charm of the desert.

Of course the cooler months from April to September are more suited to a warming soak in a natural desert spa so in search of nature’s own revitalisation for our middle-aged bodies, my mate and I recently embarked on a boys-own adventure along the fully-sealed Wellness Way to experience for ourselves the celebrated healing powers of artesian water.

Where to go on the Wellness Way

The liberated bras of Westmar

First stop on our journey west of Toowoomba was the wild and wacky outpost of Westmar where an obligatory stop at the local pub revealed the ‘Bra Bar of Westmar’, where hundreds of liberated bras dangle from the rafters. We pushed on westwards to the handsome town of St George where the naturally warmed artesian water at the local aquatic centre was silky smooth.   

An outdoor hot tub and bevy in the middle of nowhere

The wild open spaces, ochre sands and big skies of the outback unfolded cinematically as we ventured deeper into the desert, turning off the highway into the Charlotte Plains cattle station where a string of artesian bathtubs are strategically perched along a billabong so you can soak in the hot, mineral-infused water, beverage in hand, surrounded by the raw beauty of the outback. We luxuriated in silence, enthralled by this raw, magical experience in the middle of nowhere.

Enjoy a bevvy in the middle of nowhere at Charlotte Plains
Enjoy a bevvy in the middle of nowhere at Charlotte Plains

Cunnamulla Hot Springs

Fifty kilometres away, or just down the road as they say in these parts, is the inviting town of Cunnamulla. Here, the outback’s new oasis of wellbeing has been born. The gleaming, new Cunnamulla Hot Springs centre is an impressive, earth-textured haven of ironbark and stone. The centre features multiple indoor and outdoor, free-flowing geothermal pools of healing artesian water where you can bathe in peace overlooking the serene Warrego River, lined by coolabah trees. A river-view sauna, steam room and meditation lounge – even a cold water plunge pool and waterside hammocks – mean you can spend hours relaxing here, especially at dawn and sunset and under star-filled skies at night, to take in the primal majesty of the place.

Cunnamulla Hot Springs
Cunnamulla Hot Springs

A hot soak under the Milky Way

We’re convinced nothing on the Wellness Way can beat the bathing buffet at Cunnamulla Hot Springs but then comes our memorable mud bath in the near ghost town of Eulo, 45 minutes further west. It is a far more rustic experience than Cunnamulla’s new, state-of-the-art spa complex but no less enriching and rewarding. And then another 45 minutes deeper into the never-never, past some busy emu crossings, we arrive at Alroy Station, a cattle ranch where more bathtubs filled with hot spring water allow visitors to soak under the Milky Way at night before settling into the brand new guesthouse where your hosts can cook up a hearty outback dinner on the outdoor stove and regale you with tales of life on the land.

Eulo Mud Bath
Eulo Mud Bath

As we turn back east and head home, we make one final stop at the Eulo Queen Hotel, a quintessential outback watering hole filled with earthy characters and colourful stories and toast our immersive escapade into organic wellness, our bodies definitely more relaxed and shiny than when we embarked on our fact-finding mission into a new era in artesian-sourced wellness.

And when it rains back home on the coast, I playfully eye a pool of mud and wonder if its qualities are as therapeutic and restorative as the magic mud back in Eulo!   

Andrew Mevissen was hosted by Outback Queensland