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We crossed the border into our home state of Queensland after leaving Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. The countryside was stark and barren with wide expanses of flat plains with little vegetation and a roadside that was littered with dead Kangaroos. Discovering Outback Queensland was a revelation. We found it to be largely affected by drought over a lengthy period, so we were surprised by the large amount of Australian wildlife.
Our first stop was the small town of Camooweal situated on the Georgina River, just 12 kilometres over the Northern Territory/Queensland border. Here we camped for a few nights on the Georgina River billabong that was teeming with a variety of waterbirds.
Camooweal proudly declares itself as being the “Gateway to the Northern Territory/Queensland”. The surrounding district is honeycombed with rare sink holes and caves, dating back to the Cambrian Period, about 500 million years ago. For those who are experienced in serious caving, they will discover a whole new world beneath the Camooweal region.
While in Camooweal visit The Barkly Tableland Heritage Centre, Freckleton’s Store, Camooweal Caves National Park, Camooweal Cemetery and the Drovers Camp Information Centre. It is very much the home of the drover and a visit to the Drovers Camp shares the story of droving in the outback in an entertaining way.
Also don’t forget to take a comfy chair, a pair of binoculars and a camera to the waterlily laden Georgina Billabong to view the magnificent waterbirds including Brolgas, Egrets, Pelicans, Swans, Ducks, Corellas, Kytes and White Cockatoos.
20 kilometres south of Camooweal is the Camooweal National Park where you can explore the rare sinkhole caves that were formed 500 million years ago. This park is home to many species of birds, and there is a a camping area beside the billabong.
Our next stop across Outback Queensland was in the iconic Australian mining town of Mount Isa, that is dominated by the sprawling Mount Isa Mine with its 270 metre exhaust stack from the lead smelter. The mine is the deepest underground mine and is still the worlds largest single producer of copper, silver, lead and zinc.
A good introduction to Mount Isa is a two hour city tour where you will learn the history of mining from discovery to current day operations. Get a bird’s eye view of the town from the Hilary Street Lookout. We discover it’s an especially good spot to take sunset photos or evening mine shots.
If you don’t do the tour, make sure you see the Underground Hospital that was built in 1942 after the bombing of Darwin. The hospital is tunnelled into the side of a hill and stands as a monument to the ingenuity and tenacity of the people of Mount Isa. There is also the Beth Anderson Museum, that is attached to the underground hospital, that features a wonderful collection of antique medical equipment and stories of the times.
Otherwise The Hard Times Mine tour will take you deep into the heart of mining and give you a unique opportunity to experience what it was actually like to toil far below the surface on a daily basis. Tours are available seven days a week and runs for two and a half hours.
Take your fishing rod out to Lake Moondarra, located 16 kilometres north of Mount Isa and try to catch a Barramundi, Sooty Grunter, Long Tom or a Sleepy Cod, (yes these are species of fish!) Lake Moondarra is a large body of water that even has a sandy beach perfect for swimming or enjoying a picnic or BBQ on the foreshores.
If you are into art, then visit the Outback at Isa Artworks, that has the famous miner statue taking pride of place in front. There are exhibits of local outback artists paintings, a copper mural and Riversleigh-inspired quilts, to name a few.
It was in Cloncurry that the Royal Flying Doctor Service was established in 1928 by John Flynn. It was also involved in the beginnings of Qantas, and the original Qantas Hangar is still in use at the aerodrome. However today it is a small rural town that continues to derive its main income from the mining and pastoral industries. This was our next stop and we found it was packed with interesting things to see and do.
Voted as Queensland’s Friendliest Town in 2013, Cloncurry’s must sees are:
We headed 57 kilometres west of Cloncurry to Clem Walton Park and Corella Dam that is a great place to camp, fish and bird watch. We camped here for a night right on the shores of the dam and caught some Red Claw, which were absolutely delicious.
With a rich history including the Great Shearer’s Strike, Waltzing Matilda and Qantas, is it any wonder that visitors flock to the town of Winton. However today the town is almost as well known for something far more ancient – Dinosaurs! This was our next stop on our travels across the Outback.
The first official fossilised footprint of a dinosaur was discovered in 1962 on nearby Cork Station. The Winton area later revealed over 3,300 footprints, a veritable dinosaur stampede. Fossilised remains were discovered for the largest dinosaur in Australia on properties outside of Winton.
So base yourself in Winton and take in some of the fascinating history of the region. There are many things to do and see, including:
Fossick for an opal at Opalton, Queensland’s capital of the boulder opal, 125 kilometres south of Winton.
The thriving centre of Outback Queensland where they say “heritage was born on the back of legends”, Longreach is not just a town but a way of life. Home to the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Qantas Founders Museum and the Powerhouse Museum, there is a wealth of entertainment to be enjoyed. This Outback town is an absolute must see and where we decided to spend a few days.
Longreach was named for its position near the long reach of the mighty Thomson River, that lies to the north with vast arid plains stretching to the west. Geographically it is located in the dead centre of Queensland’s central west region 1200 kilometres from Brisbane, 700 kilometres from Mt Isa, Townsville and Rockhampton.
Longreach points of interest include:
Longreach is one of those places that you need spend at least five days to enjoy all attractions, entertaining characters and unforgettable hospitality. There is a great travel planner brochure available from the Longreach Visitor Information Centre that sets out a five day itinerary packed full of good old fashioned outback fun.
We continued travelling in an easterly direction through the Central Queensland Gemfields via towns such as Anakie, Sapphire, Willows and Rubyvale. This gem stone-rich region has a mix of commercial mining, hand mining and fossicking for the gem of all gemstone, the sapphire. If you are into a bit of fossicking it is probably worth your while staying at one of these little towns and trying your luck.
We continued on to Emerald, that funnily enough is not named after the gemstone of the same name, but for the lush green pastures that once surrounded the town. It is located in Queensland’s Central Highlands area and is the hub for the vast and diverse agricultural and mining operations.
The surrounding region boasts sprawling national parks with towering escarpments, gorges, rainforests, waterfalls and sweeping views of the endless plains. Carnarvon Gorge is one such national park that is worthwhile visiting. There is also a huge expanse of water called Lake Maraboon near the town of Emerald, that is a holiday destination in itself. So naturally we thought we would mosey on out there to take a look.
The must dos in Emerald are:
This was the last stop for us before we hit the region’s major city, Rockhampton and the picturesque beaches and islands along the Capricorn Coast. We thoroughly enjoyed our outback adventure and would highly recommend the experience to every Australian or overseas tourist who wants to get a taste of the “real Australia”.
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.
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Lee-AnneAugust 29, 2014
Gorgeous photos – enjoying my foray into the outback via email!! :)
KathyAugust 29, 2014
I’m glad you enjoyed my pictorial of the Outback. For a place that has hundreds and hundreds of vast expanses of nothingness, it was a rather interesting place to visit. It does have a certain beauty.
janAugust 30, 2014
Wow – a huge post and a wonderful resource for anyone heading out west. We have been to all these places and hope to revisit some of them in the not too distant future. Great Post.
KathyAugust 30, 2014
Thanks Jan. It was a massive area to cover and that was without going off the beaten track too much. I can’t imagine how long it would take you to travel to all of the places in the Outback of Queensland. I would probably need at least another six months.