Strap the kids in and dust off their dinosaur books! We’re heading west to the land of Cowboys, Dinosaurs and Prospectors. You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a five year old boy’s dream road trip, there’s something for the whole family on Overlander’s Way! While the kids hunt prehistoric creatures at Hughenden, Dad can try his hand at underground mining in Mount Isa and Mum can soak her worries away at Julia Creek. Forget the sea change, next school holidays head west and just see what you can find!
Townsville to Charters Towers
1.5 hours driving
The shortest stretch of this drive, Day one is full of things to do. Firstly, take your time exploring the stunning city of Townsville. If time permits, make a date to dive, snorkel or swim off the coast and get to experience the wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef. We recommend a few nights here to see all the reef has to offer and visit vital operations such as the Turtle Hospital. For dinner, pick up some local cuisine at the North Shore Farmers Market or treat yourself to The Strand where you’ll find dining and café choices galore!
If you have time, shoot off to Magnetic Island and explore the stunning sunsets, vibrant locals and full moon parties as well as one of the most populated colonies of koalas in Australia.
Before leaving Townville to head West, pop into the Museum of Tropical Queensland and learn about the HMS Pandora or visit the world’s largest coral reef aquarium, Reef HQ.
Along the way to Charters Towers, turn off the highway at Mingela – just 40km away hides Ravenswood, a heritage-listed, working mining town complete with old mullock heaps, tall chimneys and 19th century pubs and other buildings. View the operations at the open cut mine from the lookout, or book a walking tour.
Charters Towers to Hughenden
2.5 hours driving
Upon arriving in Charters Towers, soak up the history of this 19th-century Gold Rush town, including the ‘ghosts of gold’ Heritage Trail. Start at the Visitor Information Centre then follow through to the Stock Exchange Arcade to see the “Calling of the Card”, an audio presentation re-enacting the trading of shares that once took place in this very arcade. In the evening, visit Towers Hill to view a 30-minute film presentation of “Ghosts After Dark”, which tells even more fascinating stories about the people who lived here in those days of gold, grandeur and greed.
This gold-mining town was once the largest city in Queensland (after Brisbane) and boasted 65 hotels and 29 crushing mills during the Gold Rush. One Square Mile, the beautifully preserved city centre, showcases the prosperity of this era and is well worth a visit.
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, the Aboriginal boy who helped discover gold at Charters Towers.
From Charters Towers’ throwback to the Gold Rush, travel to Hughenden and delve even further back in time to the Jurassic Period to witness some prehistoric discoveries.
Along the way, Burra Range and Mount Walker lookouts are a stunning vista for an uninterrupted view of the densely wooded buffel (grass) country.
Hughenden to Richmond
1.25 hours driving
The heart of dinosaur country, Hughenden sat on the shoreline of a great inland sea in prehistoric times. 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-sized Muttaburrasaurus replica. This rare find, the first entire dinosaur skeleton found in Australia, catapulted the area into international fame. ‘Hughie’, as the skeleton was nicknamed, is on display at the Flinders Discovery Centre.
Porcupine Gorge, known locally as ‘Australia’s little Grand Canyon’, is 63 kilometres north of town, and Blackbraes National Park, with its unique basalt features, is around another 90 kilometres north.
Venture ‘underwater’ into the prehistoric inland sea to Richmond, the fossil capital of Australia.
Richmond to Julia Creek
1.5 hours driving
In Richmond, explore the amazing collection of marine reptile fossils at the award-winning Kronosaurus Korner. The museum is home to Australia’s best-preserved dinosaur skeleton, Minmi, and the Richmond Pliosaur, one of the world’s best skeleton fossils. See the fossil preparation area, then grab a map and fossick at one of the free designated sites and have the fossil centre curator identify your find.
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.
Richmond’s business district of yesteryear can be discovered on the Heritage Walk, which includes a replica of an original 1860s homestead.
Stop in at the quaint little town, Nelia, approximately 50 kilometres east of Julia Creek. Here you will find the world’s largest brolga sculptures and Corella Creek Country Farm Stay, which offers a variety of accommodation options and Outback experiences.
Head further west to Julia Creek for spectacular Outback sunsets and a chance to gaze at a thick blanket of stars that covers an Outback night.
Julia Creek to Cloncurry
1.5 hours driving
Julia Creek has experienced somewhat of a renaissance in the last few years. With the new outdoor bath houses at the Julia Creek Caravan Park and the ever-popular Dirt ‘n’ Dust Festival, it’s become a highlight of Overlander’s Way. If you’re visiting between April to September, enjoy award-winning Bush Dinner nights each Monday – all you need is your own chair and cutlery for a night of local produce, great laughs and entertainment!
Whilst in Julia Creek, you have to visit At The Creek, the visitor and interpretive centre where information on local endangered marsupial the Julia Creek Dunnart lives. This centre is built from recycled materials sourced from local railway fettlers’ cottages and focuses on the themes of water, Country and people.
Follow the nature trail or take a historical walk through the township. The remains of a WW2 radio direction finding installation can be seen near the airport.
Cloncurry to Mount Isa
1.5 hours driving
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.
Mount Isa to Camooweal
2 hours driving
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!