Australian Outback windmills

Australian Outback windmills

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

australian outback photo essay windmill
Photos: Danielle Lancaster

Windmills have become iconic with Australia’s outback. They are a familiar sight, a stand signalling a watering point crucial for the survival of stock, wildlife and man. Photographing Australian Outback windmills is something I love doing and its fascinating to learn about the stories behind these windmills.

Australian Outback windmills


For over a century they have generated the means to bring the water of the Great Artesian Basin, the largest and deepest artesian basin in the world, above ground.

Stretching over 1,700,000 square kilometres, the Great Artesian Basin provides the only reliable source of fresh water through much of arid inland Australia.

This windmill is on Norley Station, west of Thargomindah, Queensland, owned by Sir Sidney Kidman, a cattle Baron who once possessed the greatest extent of pastoral properties by any one man in Australia and hence he became known as the ‘Australian Cattle King’.

Slowly windmills are being replaced by more modern equipment and the decline of windmills across the outback is apparent.

Here on Bunginderry Station, 100 kilometres west of Quilpie, an old, broken windmill stands nearby a smaller functioning one.

Bunginderry Station is owned by Annabel and Stephen Tully. The Tully family are pioneers of the Quilpie area and Annabel runs artist retreats so others can enjoy their amazing outback landscape.australian outback windmills

Australian history

In Australia, the Griffiths Brothers from Toowoomba were manufacturing windmills from 1876, with the trade name Southern Cross Windmills in use from 1903.

The other well-known historic windmill brand is Comet which was founded in 1879 by Mr Sidney Williams in Rockhampton, Queensland.

The windmill below is on Tickalara Station in far south-west of Queensland. It is the only station remaining in the corner owned by a family and not a company.australian outback 02

How they work

A number of blades turn slowly with considerable torque in low winds while being self-regulating in high winds.

Image below: As the sun sets south of Winton, Queensland the blades of this large windmill turn generating the power to bring fresh water above ground.australian outback 02Windmills make great photographic subjects and a fabulous addition to any holiday album. My photo tips: Isolate your windmill from other subjects and from the horizon.

Being such a graphic shape it photographs well as a silhouette and forms a strong focal point.

Look for different angles.

Try zooming in on a part of the windmill as below. This windmill is in the main street of Boulia, Queensland allowing all visitors to the town an opportunity to capture one of those iconic outback images!windmills 06Don’t overlook photographing a windmill in the middle of the day. This windmill on Norley Station with the old bough hut next to it, gives a feeling of desolation and harshness to the outback. But what a remarkable landscape it is!australian outback 04

Discover Queensland

For more things to do in Brisbane and surrounds, see

Australian Outback windmills


  1. Our friends at Comet Windmills Australia have a message:
    Hey that’s great! Love the photos but just a small correction about windmills being phased out. We have seen a resurgence in windmill sales and repairs over last 5 years and are the busiest we have ever been. We still make all sizes including the largest in the world the 30ft wheel diameter which we sell all over the world. Windmills are seen in the outback as still the most efficient method for drawing water more so then solar as solar is limited . The story was a bit disappointing as it was a bad reflection on windmills!

    • To the crew at Comet, I love windmills and I was trying to show windmills as a beautiful iconic Australian structure with tips on how to capture them through the lens. It’s great news about your sales and agree they remain one of the most efficient methods for drawing water. I’m unsure how the article is ‘a bad reflection on windmills’ though?

        • Thanks Travel2Next. I meant no harm as I think they are one of our most iconic structures and happen to love them to bits:) I look forward to capturing many more on my return trips into rural Australia.

          • Thank you @danielle_lancaster:disqus. Your stories has stirred up a great deal of interest in windmills (which we also think are beautiful!). There are some passionate advocates for windmills out there. You’ve captured them beautifully in your photographs.

    • Agree that windmills are the most efficient at pumping water, they will even do it while you sleep. When things go wrong down a deep bore equipped with a windmill it can be costly, labor intensive and cost time which is why some are turning to solar and mono pumps. Convenience is a big thing these days. I am sure the author has only good intentions and I felt the article showed how the windmill is both an iconic tool of the landscape we live in as well as an appealing subject for many. Cheers Terry

      • Thanks @disqus_PBqnOVgqFx:disqus your comment about the efficiency of windmills is so true. We also think that windmills add interesting shapes to the landscape of the Outback.

      • Many thanks Terry for your time to comment. I especially love windmills (as I you guessed) and hope we see them across our landscape for many, many more years!

  2. I have just read this article. Love the images and the story. They are certainly an iconic part of Australia’s outback. (Not so common down here in Tasmania). I cannot work out why Comet Windmills Aust would think that the story is a bad reflection on Windmills. Great that their business is as strong as ever though.

  3. A delightful article on the role windmills have played in western life Danielle. I thought you captured them beautifully. I am also having trouble seeing why Comet Windmills Aust thinks that the article is a bad reflection on our windmills. They are one of the iconic sights I love to photograph when I’m travelling in the bush.

  4. Love your article Danielle – I grew up on a 30,000 acre property just north west of Roma and had windmills through out our property. We spent hours climbing them and even going up and just sitting there looking out over the country. This article brought back memories of this. It is great to learn the history of the windmill and I always think of the windmill as being an iconic and unique part of Australia. Don’t understand why Comet Windmills thought that the story was a ‘bad reflection’ on windmills. I found your article very positive and what great images to go with it.

  5. Hey I learned some cool things about windmills! As a photographer I am always fascinated by how to capture such iconic landmarks and do it well. Very informative and helpful 🙂

  6. I had never really given windmills much thought before to be honest. But these images are stunning and the information about them is really interesting. I will defintately be keeping an eye out for one now and will try to take advantage of any photographic opportunity.

    • Thanks Karen for your time to comment. They are a wonderful structure and one I hope we see for adorning our landscape for many, many more years.

  7. I wonder how many windmills there are in the world and which country has the most. If I had to take a guess, I’d say Netherlands. Anyone know?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.