About This Drive
Duration: 8 days
Route: Townsville - Julia Creek - Mount Isa - Camooweal
From the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and pristine beaches of Townsville to the rugged rocky outcrops and red sand of north-west Queensland, the Overlander's Way will take you through towns rich with history, dinosaur discoveries and some of the world's quirkiest events; all without having to leave the bitumen. Follow the footsteps of Australia's droving heroes, who lead thousands of cattle from the Northern Territory across Queensland to coastal markets and discover the unspoilt beauty of Outback Queensland.
Day 1: Townsville to Charters Towers (137km, 1hr 34min)
Although this stretch of the drive is short in distance, it’s rich with things to see and do.
You’ll want to take at least a day to explore the vibrant coastal hub of Townsville, if only to visit the Great Barrier Reef where you can dive or snorkel with colourful fish, giant turtles and bright coral. Drop by Reef HQ Aquarium where you can experience the world’s largest coral reef aquarium and visit the Turtle Hospital.
Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium
2/68 Flinders St, Townsville City QLD 4810
Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium in Townsville is the national education centre for the Great Barrier Reef.
Experience the world’s largest living coral reef exhibition and the underwater viewing tunnel where you can see marine life and living coral – all without getting wet. Be sure to stop in at the turtle hospital where sick and injured turtles are rehabilitated in Reef HQ’s care.
Magnetic Island is just a short ferry ride away from Townsville and is home to a colony of koalas, walking tracks and magnificent views from Picnic Bay.
Day 2: Charters Towers to Hughenden (248km, 2hr 36min)
Continue on to Charters Towers, a beautifully preserved part of Townsville history.
This gold mining town was once the largest city in Queensland after Brisbane. During the gold rush the town boasted 65 hotels and 29 crushing mills, and it’s easy to see how bustling it would have once been with its wide open streets and grand architecture. The prosperity of this era can be seen in the beautifully preserved city centre, known as ‘One Square Mile’.
The quirky stories and legends of the gold rush are brought to life each night on the Ghosts of Gold Heritage Trail tour in Charters Towers.
During your time in Charters Towers, make a pit stop at Leahton Park to visit Texas Longhorn Wagon Tours & Safaris and Bethel Saddlery.
Queensland’s last bushranger was laid to rest at the Charters Towers Cemetery, where you’ll find the graves of other notable people including Jupiter Mossman (whose namesake is now a casino), the Aboriginal boy who helped discover gold at Charters Towers.
Ghosts of Gold Heritage Trail
Charters Towers Post Office, corner Bow Street and Gill Street, Charters Towers.
Take the Charters Towers Ghosts of Gold Ghost Tour for an after dark tour of the city. Hear the spookiest stories of the region on this walking tour which showcases the historic Stock Exchange Arcade, World Theatre and Royal Hotel.
Texas Longhorn Wagon Tours & Safaris
‘Leahton Park’, 441 Urdera Road, Charters Towers, QLD 4820
Texas Longhorn Wagon Tours & Safaris is home to the largest herd of purebred Texas Longhorn cattle in Australia. Pop in for a wagon ride around the 110,00-acre cattle station and don’t miss glancing JR – the steer with the record for the longest horns in the world.
Towers Hill Lookout
Sitting 420m above sea level, Towers Hill Lookout offers panoramic views over Charters Towers. Towers Hill is a significant historical landmark to the region. It is the first spot a prospecting party which included an Aboriginal boy named Jupiter, first discovered gold in December 1871. At the base of Towers Hill is a monument identifying the location of the first sight of gold.
Day 3: Hughenden to Richmond (115km, 1hr 15min)
Step further back in time to the era of dinosaurs in Hughenden. Along the way, stop at Burra Range or Mount Walker lookouts for an uninterrupted view of the densely wooded buffel country.
Hughenden is the heart of dinosaur country, which in prehistoric times sat on the shoreline of a great inland sea.
Nearly 3000 dinosaur and marine fossils have been found in the surrounding countryside. To get a true idea of the beasts that roamed these lands, check out the life-size replica of the first entire dinosaur skeleton found in Australia and on display at the Flinders Discovery Centre.
Porcupine Gorge, known locally as ‘Australia’s Little Grand Canyon’ is just one of many national parks in the Flinders region. Porcupine Gorge is made up of towering sandstone cliffs that have been carved into the landscape over time by the erosion of the surrounding creek creating it’s beautiful colour.
Flinders Discovery Centre
37 Gray St, Hughenden QLD 4821
A visit to Hughenden is not complete without visiting the Flinders Discovery Centre and Museum. The museum houses an extensive display of fossils from around the world including ones that have been found in the local area. “Hughie”, the life-size replica Muttaburrasaurus stands at over seven metres tall and was recreated by the original bones discovered in the area.
Porcupine Gorge Lookout Access, Porcupine QLD 4821
Located 63 kilometres north of town, Porcupine Gorge is a wildlife-watcher and hiking enthusiasts dream with it’s towering sandstone cliffs and sedimentary rocks that are millions of years old. Each June, the Porcupine Gorge Challenge takes place which is an 8km run or 5km walk through the Porcupine Gorge National Park.
Day 4: Richmond to Julia Creek (149km, 1hr 35min)
Venture ‘underwater’ into the prehistoric inland sea to Richmond, the fossil capital of Australia.
In Richmond, explore the collection of marine reptile fossils at the award-winning Kronosaurus Korner. The museum is home to over 1150 fossil specimens unique to Richmond. Try to find one for yourself at the fossil hunting site.
Explore the Bush Tucker Gardens on the banks of Lake Fred Tritton where you will find local native plants labelled with their traditional purposes. The lake has sandy beaches, a boat ramp, free barbecues and a playground, making it an ideal place to relax, swim and fish for barramundi or red claw.
91-93 Goldring St, Richmond QLD 4822
Experience Australia’s premier marine fossil museum at Kronosaurus Korner. Visit ‘Penny’ the Richmond plesiosaur – Australia’s best vertebrate fossil, ‘Krono’ Kronosaurus queenslandicus – a 10 metre, giant marine reptile and ‘Wanda’ – Australia’s largest fossilised fish. Keen to get amongst the action? See the fossil preparation area up close, or grab a map and get fossicking for your own find at one of the free designated sites.
Lake Fred Tritton
111-113 Goldring St, Richmond QLD 4822
Picturesque Lake Fred Tritton is located a short distance from central Richmond. It is a water lovers’ paradise with activities including swimming, skiing, canoeing, fishing and a kids water park. There are free BBQ’s available and don’t forget to pack the rod and reel as there are 18 species of fish found in the lake.
Day 5: Julia Creek to Cloncurry (137km, 1hr 30min)
Head further west to Julia Creek for spectacular outback sunsets and a chance to gaze at a thick blanket of stars that cover the night sky.
The Julia Creek Dunnart is a tiny endangered marsupial who lives in a special nocturnal viewing area at the Visitor Information and Interpretive Centre, ‘At The Creek’.
Learn how the Great Artesian Basin sustains life in the outback, have a picnic on the moon rock chairs and tables, or go underground to explore the geological features that shaped the region.
Take a walk through the township and discover the historical tales of this small town and visit the remains of a WW2 Directional Finding Installation near the airport.
Each April, the town population swells to 3000 for the annual Dirt ‘n’ Dust Festival. The program includes a triathlon, horse racing, bull ride and outback novelty events such as mud snorkelling races.
At The Creek
34 Burke St, Julia Creek QLD 4823
At The Creek is a must-do when visiting Julia Creek. It’s much more than a Visitor Information Centre with audio and visual displays showcasing the country and people of Julia Creek including a virtual reality cattle muster experience. The centre is built from recycled materials sourced from local railway fettler’s cottages. ‘Beneath the Creek’ is a hands on interactive journey where you can learn all about the Julia Creek Dunnart, which is native to the area and currently endangered.
Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival
Held in April each year, the Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival is a celebration of live music, the country’s toughest triathlon, bog snorkelling, horse racing, PBR Bull riding and Australia’s Best Butt competition.
Day 6: Cloncurry to Mount Isa (121km, 1 hr 20min)
Continue along the Overlander’s Way to Cloncurry, the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which is as integral to Outback survival today as it was when it serviced these remote outposts of Australia’s vast inland when the Reverend John Flynn launched the flying medical service in the 1920s. Learn how he harnessed the emerging technology of the pedal radio to pioneer Outback radio communication, when you visit the John Flynn Place Museum and Art Gallery. On the theme of aviation, visit the original Qantas hangar where the first passengers flew from Longreach to Cloncurry in 1922.
Cloncurry was named by explorer Robert O’Hara Burke and you can see his drink bottle at the Burke and Wills display in the Cloncurry Unearthed Museum at the Mary Kathleen Memorial Park, where you can learn about the former Mary Kathleen uranium mine.
Other attractions include the Cloncurry Cemetery with graves dating back to the 1880s, the Court House, which was built in 1898, and Chinaman Creek Dam where you can swim, picnic and take in an Outback sunset. From Cloncurry, the Overlander’s Way winds through the spectacular Selwyn Ranges to Mount Isa.
John Flynn Place Museum and Art Gallery
King St &, Daintree St, Cloncurry QLD 4824
Visit the museum to learn about the history of the beginnings of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in the region and how John Flynn created this vital service for outback communities.
Mary Kathleen Memorial Park & Museum
You’ll find Mary Kathleen Memorial Park & Museum located in the Cloncurry Unearthed Museum, which houses memorabilia and photographs from the abandoned Mary Kathleen Uranium Mine and Township. There is a display on explorers Burke and Wills including Robert O’Hara Burke’s abandoned water bottle. Australia’s most comprehensive gem and mineral collection is also on display, as well as an outdoor machinery display.
Day 7: Mount Isa to Camooweal (190km, 2 hr)
Mount Isa is Outback Queensland’s only city and offers a melting pot mix of culture, industry, history and nature. The town’s major industries are mining and beef production, and visitors can experience both at the Outback at Isa visitor centre, home to the replica Hard Times Mine. Descend 22 metres underground to feel the earth move with the firing of the drill face and use real mining equipment. Outback at Isa also houses an Outback park, art gallery, museum and the Riversleigh Fossil Centre. Join the resident palaeontologist on a lab tour to see exciting local fossil finds.
If you have a day to spare, head out to Lake Moondarra, 17km north of Mount Isa, and explore this expansive body of water. Perfect for Barramundi fishing, water skiing, wakeboarding or swimming, Lake Moondarra is an oasis in the desert for the residents of Mount Isa.
Before leaving Isa, call in to the School of the Air for a glimpse into classes conducted via satellite internet with students from remote communities and cattle stations. See the WW2 Underground Hospital, visit the National Trust Tent House, take a surface mine tour and see inside the Bureau of Meteorology.
The final stop is Camooweal. There you can visit the Drovers’ Camp to learn about this historic droving town or the Camooweal Caves National Park, which is honeycombed with sink holes dating back 500 million years.
If you have a few days to spare after your long journey discover the Jewel in the Outback’s Crown; Lawn Hill Gorge in Boodjamulla National Park. Only 270 kms from Camooweal, Lawn Hill Gorge boasts some of the regions most incredible waters and the team at Adele’s Grove are the most helpful and willing hosts, they even have air conditioned cabins should you wish to visit in wet season!
Outback at Isa Visitor Centre
19 Marian St, The Gap QLD 4825
Outback at Isa is more than a Visitor Information Centre offering both tours and experiences.
Hard Times Mines Underground Tour
Explore the history of mining at the Hard Times Mine Tour where you will descend into a mine with your guide (who has been a miner most of his life) wearing your overalls and cap lamp. Get up close and personal with machinery and equipment such as the air-leg drill and feel the earth rumble. Learn about the good times and the hard times of being a real-life miner.
Riversleigh Fossil Centre
The Riversleigh Fossil Centre showcases the fossils that have been extracted from the Riversleigh Fossil Fields nearby. The Fields were declared a World Heritage Site in 1994 due to their representation of the evolution of Australian mammals and are home to the most significant fossil deposits in the world. Take a guided tour of these finds through the laboratory showing how specimens are sorted and cleaned and fossils extracted, every day at 10am and 2pm.
Outback at Isa also offers the Isa Experience and Outback Park, Mount Isa Regional Art Gallery, Mount Isa Hatchery Project and the Outback Cafe.
Underground Hospital & Museum
Joan Street, Mount Isa QLD 4825
The Underground Hospital & Museum was built in 1942 by off-duty miners and was used by civilians in World War II. The hospital consists of three parallel tunnels cut into rock. While it has been restored, the original furnishings remain the same, including original medical equipment.
Lake Moondarra is located a short distance north of the city and is a popular spot for locals and tourists to visit due to the lakes safe and still waters. Swimming, boating, sailing and canoeing are all popular activities as well as fishing. The lake has been stocked with barramundi for excellent fishing and hosts the Lake Moondarra Fishing Classic competition each October.
Lake Moondarra offers scenic picnic spots around the lake and have plenty of BBQs which are free to use.
Day 8: Camooweal
The final stop on the Overlander’s Way drive is Camooweal, the gateway to the Northern Territory. Here you can visit the Drovers’ Camp Museum to learn about this historic droving town or the Camooweal Caves National Park, which is honeycombed with sinkholes dating back 500 million years.
Drovers Camp Museum
Lot 15 Barkly Highway, Camooweal Qld 4828
Wander through the displays and exhibits of the Drovers Camp Museum to learn about Australia’s pastoral history or take a guided tour with one of the friendly volunteers. The museum is open from May to September.
The Drovers Camp Festival takes place each August and showcases the people and history that have made the outback what it is today. Activities include National Bronco Branding Championships, camp oven cooking demonstrations, a street parade and live entertainment.
Camooweal Caves National Park
Camooweal Urandangi Rd, Camooweal QLD 4828
Relax and refresh at this pleasant stopover on the Barkly Highway. The Camooweal Caves National Park features caves and sinkholes that were formed when water percolated through 500 million year-old layers of soluble dolomite, creating caverns linked by vertical shafts up to 75 metres deep.
Take the short 70 metre return walk to the Little Nowranie Cave entrance or the 220 metre return track to the Great Nowranie Cave. Note, the caves are not accessible to visitors but a viewing area is located at the Great Nowranie Cave.
The National Park is a popular spot for mountain or trail bike riding and bird watching.
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