Ancient Outback - Mount Isa to Mount Isa

Multiple Locations

Follow in the footsteps of dinosaurs across and ancient inland seabed and experience the rugged beauty of some of the most dramatically changing landscape in Australia when you embark on this fascinating drive through Queensland's north west outback.

Fully sealed roads lead you from the largest inland city and mining heart of Australia, Mount Isa, on a round circuit through tiny unique towns where you'll hear the bush legends of yesteryear and meet the colourful characters that live and work here today. They'll greet you with a warm g'day and send you on the trail of dinosaurs where you can fossick for your very own valuable fossils.

While this drive can be conquered in a two-wheel-drive vehicle, some of the detours and side trips may be better suited to a four-wheel-drive. Whatever vehicle you're travelling in, be sure to check the road conditions before you head off on this adventure of a lifetime.

Journey Details

Duration
168 Hours
Distance
1210 Kilometres

Facilities

  • Car park

Activities

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking/Trekking

Full Itinerary

Days 1, 2 and 3: Mount Isa to Richmond

After arriving in Mount Isa, spend the afternoon exploring Australia's outback mining capital. The best place to start is The Outback at Isa visitor centre, where you can tour a replica mine built and operated by actual miners and head to the underground hospital for a dose of WW2 history.

Day 2 - Step further back in time by walking through a miocene forest brimming with peculiar looking creatures and hear Dreamtime stories whilst gazing at magnificent Aboriginal rock carvings and paintings at the Kalkadoon Tribal Centre.

Day 3 - As you travel east, the rugged Selwyn Ranges emerge from the horizon. Sprinkled with spinifex, they take on a different appearance every hour of the day as the sun arcs through the sky bathing them in changing light. View some of the oldest art on earth at Sunrock and then head on to Cloncurry.

Built on the copper and beef industries Cloncurry is home to the huge open mine pit of the Ernest Henry Mine, named after the bloke who first discovered copper in the area. Learn about the history of the outback's greatest savior, the Reverend John Flynn, who launched the Royal Fling Doctor Service in the late 1920s.

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Route Details

Route Type
One Way
Level of Difficulty
Level 1: Suitable for the disabled with assistance
Mode of Travel
Car
Days 4, 5 and 6: Richmond to Winton

Upon reaching Richmond, a visit to Kronosaurus Korner should be high on your list. Journey back 100 million years, when this whole area was below the water-line of a great inland sea. Study the remains of Australia's best-preserved dinosaur skeleton, Minmi, which takes pride of place alongside the Richmond Pliosaur, which is Australia's best vertebrate fossil and one of the world's finest Pliosaur skeletons.

If fossil fever takes hold, grab a map and head to one of the free fossicking sites close to town. Almost every stone overturned contains some form of fossilised material and impressive bones are still commonly found. Then have your finds identified by the resident fossil curator.

Next, it's off to Hughenden, which lies on the banks of Queensland's longest river. To greet you is a mammoth life-size dinosaur replica, locally referred to as 'Hughie'.

The next stop, Winton, is best known as the place where Banjo Paterson penned and first performed Australia's adopted anthem, 'Waltzing Matilda'. Hear the ghost of the swagman by the billabong and lots more at the fabulous Waltzing Matilda Centre. Spend the day exploring quirky Winton with its outback country pubs, the open-air Royal Theatre, Arno's Wall and the Music fence.

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Route Details

Route Type
One Way
Level of Difficulty
Level 1: Suitable for the disabled with assistance
Mode of Travel
Car
Day 7: Winton to Mount Isa

On the road to Mount Isa, pull over and have morning tea beneath huge red river gums and coolibah trees on Combo Waterhole, 145 kilometres out of Winton. This deep, semi-permanent billabong is believed to be the site that inspired the writing of Waltzing Matilda by Banjo Paterson in 1895. Afterwards walk across the stone-pitched overshot weir, built by Chinese labourers, more than a century ago.

Kynuna is just a couple of clicks down the road. You can't drive past the famed Blue Heeler Hotel and not have a peep inside. Some locals are keen to tell you that this is the bar where Banjo swigged beer and performed his verse. Buy a drink and earn the right to put your name up on the wall.

Next stop is the small outback town of McKinlay and, yes, another famous outback pub. While it's not actually in the fictional Northern Territory town of Walkabout Creek, McKinlay's Walkabout Creek Hotel is Mick Dundee's waterhole in the Crocodile Dundee films. The town is home to Australia's smallest public library and the BHP Cannington Mine is just down the road.

From here it's an easy run back through Cloncurry and into Mount Isa.

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Route Details

Route Type
One Way
Level of Difficulty
Level 1: Suitable for the disabled with assistance
Mode of Travel
Car

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Mount Fox

Ingham, Hinchinbrook Area
Free Entry
Located south-west of Ingham, Mount Fox was created by a violent volcanic explosion about 100000 years ago. In the explosion, a lava flow 10 metres thick spewed from the southern end of the crater and chunks of molten magma were thrown out of the volcano's vent.

Bees on Keswick Island

Keswick Island, Mackay Area
Free Entry
Keswick Island is home to thriving hives of purebred Caucasian bees. Unlike bees on the Australian mainland, these bees are free of many other diseases and are sometimes used as breeding stock for the mainland colonies.

Condamine Gorge '14 River Crossing'

Killarney, Southern Downs Area
Free Entry
Accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles only, the Condamine Gorge's '14 River Crossings' track is appropriately named after the 14 river crossings you have to make exploring this beautiful part of the Gorge.

Mothar Mountain Rockpools

Gympie, Gympie Area
Free Entry
Looking for a relaxing, sheltered place to while away some hours, you can't go past the Mothar Mountain Rock Pools. Located in the Woondum National Park, about a 20 minutes, 16 kilometres drive from Gympie's Central Business District, the Mothar Mountain Rock Pools day area provides the perfect family friendly location for a barbecue or picnic.

Art Gallery, The

Injune, Maranoa Area
Free Entry
Be ready to be awed by what awaits you on this walk in Carnarvon Gorge National Park, as The Art Gallery contains some of the finest Aboriginal rock art in Australia. Just 5.6 kilometres from the trailhead, at the junction of Kamoloo Creek, a signposted access track leaves the main walking trail upstream of crossing number 10, providing a gentle climb to the escarpment base where the site is located.

Minerva Hills National Park

Springsure, Central Highlands Area
Free Entry
A relatively small National Park near Springsure in Central Queensland, Minerva Hills is dominated by Mount Boorambool, rising 600 metres above sea level, and the larger cliff fringed Mount Zamia (560 metres), which offer panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Pinnacles, The

Hook Island, Whitsunday Area
Free Entry
Arguably the best dive site in the Whitsundays, with hard corals comparing favourably to those seen on the outer Great Barrier Reef. The best dive is off the western beach, adjacent to the Woodpile and swim east at a depth of seven to 15 metres.

Savages Crossing

Fernvale, Somerset Area
Free Entry
Looking for a quiet spot to drop a line or take the canoe or kayak out for a spin? Fish where the locals fish and visit Savages Crossing. Located along Banks Creek Rd, its just a short five minute drive from the township of Fernvale.
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Located just 20 minutes from the Ipswich Central Business District and 35 minutes' from Brisbane Central Business District, White Rock - Spring Mountain Conservation Estate features the distinctive, sculptured, rocky outcrops of White Rock and Spring Mountain.

Kinkuna Section

Bundaberg, Bundaberg Area
Kinkuna section of Burrum Coast National Park preserves a wilderness area of coastal vegetation and wide, unspoilt beaches, just 30 kilometres south of Bundaberg. The Burrum Coast National Park which also incorporates both Woodgate and Burrum River sections is part of the Great Sandy Region, of which Fraser Island is best known.
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