Australia’s Rex Airlines may be about to start running Boeings up and down the east coast. But at its core, it’s an airline that serves bush communities. Rex fans inland out from the larger coastal cities to regional and remote towns on serviceable but hardly lavish Saab 340s. The airline offers some interesting route combinations in classic milk run style that gets you well off the beaten track.
The best known of Rex’s milk runs are in Queensland. The Queensland State Government subsidizes the airline to fly into outback towns. As a result, there are some off-piste multi-stop flights available for keen travelers.
On the map, those milk runs are highlighted in green and depart from Brisbane, Townsville, and Cairns. This year has scrambled Rex’s normal schedules in outback Queensland. Usually on offer is a three-stop jaunt from Brisbane to Thargomindah via Toowoomba Wellcamp, St George, and Cunnamulla. There is also the better known seven-stop milk run from Brisbane to Mount Isa. That flight normally takes off twice a week in either direction and takes the best part of a day to complete. Out of Brisbane, you stop at Toowoomba Wellcamp, Charleville, Quilpie, Windorah, Birdsville, Bedourie, Boulia before finally touching down in Mount Isa. This is the part of the world where Qantas kicked off in the 1920s.
Taking your milk runs up a notch or two
You could head back the next day or hop on a nonstop Qantas service out of town. Alternatively, you could go the full double cream milk run and head to either Cairns or Townsville from Mount Isa. The Mount Isa to Townsville route goes via Julia Creek, Richmond, and Hughenden. Including the aircraft change in Mount Isa, there are 11 stops between Brisbane and Townsville on this routing.
The Rex Brisbane – Cairns milk run via Mount Isa includes 13 stops. North of Mount Isa, the plane touches down in Doomadgee, Burketown, Mornington Island, Karumba, and Normanton before hitting the coast in Cairns. Both these extended milk runs will usually involve a night or two in Mount Isa to connect with the ongoing flight. Milk run purists may say that’s not a true milk run. Alternatively, you could argue it’s all about the final destination and how many stops to get there.
There are also a few interesting routing possibilities further south. You could fly Sydney to Broken Hill on Rex via Moruya, Merimbula, Melbourne, and Mildura. Again, this may involve an overnight stop in Melbourne and a change of planes there. You could expand that loop out through Adelaide or tighten it and go via Griffith and stay in New South Wales.
Some alternative milk run options
Even further south, in Tasmania, a canny operator could organize an airborne circumference flight of the island. Sharp Airlines has beefed up its Tasmanian flying. Sharp Airlines makes it possible to fly Hobart – King Island – Burnie – Launceston – Flinders Island – Hobart. It would take some legwork, but it’s do-able, and possibly the world’s most southerly milk run?
Over on the west coast, Kununurra-based Aviair has revived the old Ansett WA vibe and offers multi-stop runs down the coast. You can fly Broome to Newman via Port Hedland and Karratha several times a week on either a King Air B200 or Pilatus PC12.
Darwin’s Airnorth flies between Darwin and Alice Springs and vice versa via Katherine and Tennant Creek. It’s a four-hour flight on a small turboprop. You could hop on Qantas and do the flight in half the time, but you’ll see nothing at 35,000 feet. Or, you could drive, but it takes 15 hours to cover the 1,500 odd kilometers, so the Airnorth milk run is a good compromise.
If you look, there’s no shortage of milk run flights available. Some, like the Rex routings in Queensland, come nicely bundled up and ready to go. Others you need to put together yourself. But the rewards are great. You fly low, get to see things, touch down at these ridiculously small airports, and add some interesting new routes and destinations to your logbook along the way.
Have you got a favorite milk run? Have we missed any Australian milk runs? Post a comment and let us know?