“We’ve just pulled in to see what it’s like in the smallest town in the country.”
Yep, join the club.
I’m travelling through Queensland’s outback for a story about drought and the issue of wild dogs.
And I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to say I’ve visited and spent the night in Australia’s smallest town.
Cooladdi is about 10 hours’ drive west of Brisbane – between Quilpie and Charleville in south-west Queensland – and is home to just three people.
And they’re all related. What could possibly go wrong?
Blink and you’ll miss it
Don’t be fooled by Cooladdi’s “town” status.
There’s no main street here (unless you count the Diamantina Developmental Road the town sits on) or any streets at all, in fact.
No mobile phone reception, no school, no police station, no swimming pool, no bank.
Quite simply, the Fox Trap Roadhouse is where Cooladdi starts and finishes.
“We have a post office, we have our own postcode, pub, restaurant, motel and grocery store,” Roxanne Muller, one of Cooladdi’s three residents, tells me.
That combination, all squeezed into one small roadhouse, is enough to qualify it as a stand-alone town.
With her husband Gavin and mother Laurel Seymour-Smith, Ms Muller said they welcome dozens of people during their busiest times.
“Every day there’s somebody passing through. There’s not a day that goes by where that doesn’t happen,” she said.
Most visitors are tourists, usually towing caravans, who are chasing warmer weather in Queensland during the winter months.
One nomad tells me she’s planned her trip to include a special stop at Cooladdi.
That’s a pretty common story, Ms Seymour-Smith notes.
“One man even drove 1500 kilometres just so he could come to see us and have a burger,” she laughed.
‘We’ve never had an argument’
You might think living in Australia’s smallest town could be a pressure cooker for family arguments. Apparently not.
“We get along fine. We haven’t had a disagreement yet,” Ms Muller said.
“We’ve never had an argument,” her mother adds.
Properties surrounding Cooladdi are enduring a lengthy drought and the roadhouse also feels the impact, because farmers aren’t spending much when they come to town.
Ms Seymour-Smith says she tries to offer a listening ear to those doing it tough.
“We try and have events. We have a big trivia night coming up. We have burger nights,” she said.
“Really just a get-together to try to bring the community together and lift their spirits.”
The best sleep in Australia
So what is it like spending the night in Cooladdi?
There was nothing sweeter than seeing the bright light (yes, singular) of the Fox Trap Roadhouse after a long day of filming at a nearby sheep station this week.
Ms Muller greeted us at the door, ready to take our dinner order and recite the menu options: Steak, lamb chops, pork chops, rissoles, chicken, a sandwich, salad, steamed veggies.
For well under $20, we’ve landed rissoles, gravy and vegetables (for me), a steak sanga (for camera operator Russel Talbot) and a drink. All with a side of brilliant country hospitality and conversation.
Our hosts have made sure we won’t feel the chill of the overnight temperature of just two degrees and have made our beds with thick flannelette sheets and a couple of blankets.
And after a quick shower (hot water is a precious commodity in Cooladdi so we’re urged to help preserve it) I’m ready to crash.
After all, I’ve been forced into a digital detox – there’s no mobile phone reception here, nor a TV in my room.
“The best part is the laidback lifestyle,” Ms Muller said.
“You don’t have the hustle and bustle of the city lifestyle. It’s just peaceful, I love it.”
In a town of no street lights and no traffic, we agree Cooladdi is one of the best places in the country for a good night’s sleep.