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Ancient Outback Mount Isa Loop

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

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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Accommodation
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Henderson Park Farm Retreat

Rockhampton, Rockhampton Area
  • Free WiFi
From AU$195 - 275
Henderson Park, a fifth generation family run working cattle property, is uniquely positioned just 10 minutes off the East Coast Highway and 30 minutes north of Rockhampton, Central Queensland. Join an educational property tour, simply unwind or take a break from travelling.

Hay Point Country Bed and Breakfast

Hay Point, Mackay Area
  • Free WiFi
From AU$140 - 140
Relax and escape to this tropical country retreat located only 25 minutes south of Mackay. Access roads are all sealed - only 10 minutes from the highway. The air-conditioned self-contained unit provides a convenient home-base while you explore the Mackay/Whitsunday region's rainforests, reefs and many other unique tourist attractions.

Central Tourist Park Mackay

North Mackay, Mackay Area
  • Free WiFi
From AU$30 - 95
Located just two kilometres north from Mackay's city heart, the Central Tourist Park offers a range of budget accommodation, from tent sites, van sites (drive thru), to fully air-conditioned self contained units and villas.

Sunlover Lodge Holiday Units and Cabins

Capricorn Coast, Livingstone Area
From AU$90 - 130
Sunlover Lodge Holiday Units and Cabins have got something different, real peace and quiet! Sunlover Lodge is designed for complete relaxation. People seek them out because they are so quiet, set off the main highway, close to the beach in over an acre of lush, tropical award-winning gardens and only a short walk to lovely Kinka Beach.

Rubyvale Motel and Holiday Units

Rubyvale, Central Highlands Area
  • Free WiFi
From AU$120 - 190
Rubyvale Motel and Holiday Units provides luxury AAA 4 star accommodation. An oasis for guests wanting the perfect place to stay while discovering the Sapphire Gemfields. Guests are offered much more than a great nights sleep with a relaxed, quiet and tranquil haven set amongst three acres of landscaped bush gardens.

Rosslyn Bay Resort and Spa

Capricorn Coast, Livingstone Area
  • Free WiFi
From AU$135 - 230
Rosslyn Bay Resort is your complete holiday and function destination. Situated on the shores of Kemp Beach, they offer unprecedented access to Great Keppel Island and the realms of the Southern Great Barrier Reef through Keppel Bay Marina.

Gee-Dees Family Cabins

Karumba, Carpentaria Area
  • Free WiFi
From AU$120 - 170
Gee-Dee's Family Cabins at Karumba Point offer affordable family-style, couple or fisherperson accommodation on the Gulf of Carpentaria at the mouth of the Norman River. Your stay will be in family owned and operated, motel-like self-contained cabins, or a three bedroom holiday house, that offers you the latest in modern, clean, air conditioned rooms.

Blackall Caravan Park

Blackall, Blackall-Tambo Area
  • Free WiFi
From AU$27 - 160
The Blackall Caravan Park offers powered and unpowered sites, fully self-contained cabins and units. There are two amenity blocks, a laundry, dump point, pets are welcome, free wi-fi and drive through shady grass/slab sites.

La Solana Holiday Apartments - Mackay

Blacks Beach, Mackay Area
  • Free WiFi
From AU$110 - 180
Moving to Mackay? Working in Mackay or feel like a mini beach break? Their spacious apartments provide a comfortable home away from home, so that you can truly settle in and enjoy your stay. Whether you simply need accommodation for yourself or for your whole family, whether you’re on a work placement or on an extended holiday, you can rest assured knowing that La Solana Apartments can meet all your short or long stay accommodation needs.

Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina

Mackay Harbour, Mackay Area
  • Free WiFi
From AU$189 - 299
The Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina is considered as Mackay's premier hotel. Located on the relaxing waterfront setting of the picturesque Mackay Marina, the hotel is only a short drive from Mackay's city centre and 20 minutes from Mackay Airport and is Mackay's only hotel with marina views over the tropical blue waters of the Coral Sea.
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Note: Information on listed products and services are provided by the operator and were correct at the time of publishing. Rates are indicative based on the minimum and maximum available prices of products and services. Please visit the operator’s website for further information. All prices quoted are in Australian dollars (AUD).