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Departing from the tropical ‘top end’ of The Territory we headed south on the Stuart Highway, also known as Explorer’s Way, through the centre of Australia. The landscape suddenly transformed from lush greens to red dirt and vast shrubby plains to rocky Spinifex covered tablelands. We soon realized that we were in the real ‘dinky die’ outback of Australia.
Prior to taking a left hand turn and steering east to our home state of Queensland, we spent two nights and three days exploring places along the way.
A small town 185 Kms south of Katherine, Larrimah, means ‘meeting place’ in local Aboriginal language. It was established in 1940 due to the construction of the Gorrie Airfield, that was a major airfield servicing the war effort. It later became the site of a busy rail and road terminus until the railway closed in 1976.
What is so unique about Larrimah is the ‘Pink Panther’ and the 15 foot stubby that stands outside the very interesting Larrimah Pub. The pub was originally an Officer’s Mess during World War II and has some of the most intriguing memorabilia. It also has an Australian wildlife zoo that is free of charge to visitors.
The Larrimah Museum is in the old telegraph building and exhibits World War II information that occurred in the area, the Overland Telegraph Line and the operation of the railway. You can also drop by the old Larrimah police station and step inside the cells and imagine what it was like to be in the ‘lock-up’ for a night.
Explore the remains of the nearby Gorrie Airfield, 10 Kms north of Larrimah, which was a highly secretive RAAF base. The complex once employed 6,500 personnel.
One of the best authentic ‘outback Aussie’ experiences that I have had was the night we spent at the Daly Waters Pub. This award winning pub was first established in 1930 and serviced passengers and crew arriving at the international airfield, as well as travellers, drovers and pastoralists.
It has become famous for the memorabilia adorning the walls of the interior of the pub and exterior beer garden with a pergola decorated with rubber thongs. Very Aussie! It also boasts free nightly entertainment and the best ‘beef and barra’ meal I’ve ever devoured.
You can visit the airfield, the Daly Waters Aviation Complex, which was closed in 1965, where the original Qantas hangar still stands, housing interesting facts, photos and equipment and explore the terminal ruins and the old airstrip.
A short distance from the pub is Stuart’s Tree, where early explorer John McDougall Stuart marked the tree with the letter ‘S’.
The ghost township of Newcastle Waters was once an important place for drovers to source provisions and rest because of its location at the junction of three major stock routes. Newcastle Waters has a rich vibrant history, preserved through buildings such as Jones’s Store and the Junction Hotel.
The Drover’s Memorial Park, which features a bronze statue of a drover, is also a must see. Newcastle Waters is a great reminder of the early pioneering era of the area.
Named in honour of Dr Frederick Renner, medical officer to the men working on the Overland Telegraph Line, Renner Springs is rich in history. Dr Renner discovered the Mud Springs in the area when he noticed flocks of birds converging. The lagoon and springs support a large variety of native species including Honey-eaters, Heron, Woodswallow and Falcons.
Watch the gentle turning of the towering windmill swinging in the gentle breezes and enjoy the sunrise and magnificent sunsets. Climb to the top of Lubra’s Lookout for spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside.
The historic Banka Banka cattle station was the first operational pastoral lease in this region, and a supply camp during World War II, providing meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables. It was occupied and run by the Ward family and is still the site the original mudbrick homestead.
These days Banka Banka Station operates as a campground and has a licensed bar in the historic mudbrick homestead and free entertainment on the night we stayed. There is also a scenic walking trail through native flora to a bush watering hole.
Tennant Creek, Australia’s last gold rush town, sprung up overnight in 1932 and has developed from its rough, tough droving and gold mining days into a modern town. It is the hub of the sprawling Barkly Tableland, vast elevated plains of black soil with golden Mitchell grass, that cover more than 240,000 square kilometres of Central Australia.
The Overland Telegraph that once linked Melbourne to London was constructed in the 1870’s, 12 Kms north of where the town was established. This forged a corridor through the middle of the continent that the Explorer’s Way and Ghan train now travel. The solid stone buildings of the Tennant Creek Overland Telegraph Station still remain today.
Tennant Creek is near well-known attractions including the Devils Marbles, Mary Ann Dam, Battery Hill Mining Centre and the Nyinkka Nyunyu Culture Centre.
Although we only travelled a distance of 672 km between Katherine and Tennant Creek it was an epic journey that gave me a marvellous insight into the outback and the hardships of the remoteness and starkness of this countryside. Definitely a road trip not to be missed!
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.