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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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Capricorn Coast National Park

Capricorn Coast, Livingstone Area
Free Entry
Capricorn Coast National Park has four separate accessible sections that can be enjoyed in a 30 minute drive between Yeppoon and Emu Park. Mangroves, dry rainforest, tussock grassland and open eucalypt forest provide a wonderful contrast to the blue waters of Keppel Bay.

Capricorn Coast Pineapple Rail Trail

Capricorn Coast, Livingstone Area
Free Entry
A popular track for walker, joggers, cyclists and families, the Capricorn Coast Pineapple Rail Trail takes visitors through picturesque bushlands and urban landscape. A recreational attraction and pedestrian/cycleway link, the asphalt path stretches four and a half kilometres from the Yeppoon town centre through bushland to the golf course and Club Estate.

Byfield National Park and Byfield Conservation Park

Capricorn Coast, Livingstone Area
Free Entry
Byfield National Park and Byfield Conservation Park extend over 15,000 hectares. Boasting massive parabolic sand dunes (the oldest reaching more than five kilometres inland) and rugged pinnacles, the parks offer remote coastal camping opportunities.

Byfield State Forest

Capricorn Coast, Livingstone Area
Free Entry
Byfield State Forest marks the start of the largest undeveloped area on the central Queensland coast. The endemic Byfield fern and Byfield grevillea thrive here. Ancient cycads survive among rugged mountains and beside pine plantations.

Capricorn Region

Rockhampton, Rockhampton Area
The Tropic of Capricorn is a unique address and the Capricorn Region is home to many unique places, experiences and people. There are a multitude of things that you'll never find anywhere else. The diversity of the region promises a varied and exciting holiday experience.

Capricorn Coast

Capricorn Coast, Livingstone Area
The Capricorn Coast is exciting, diverse and breathtakingly beautiful. Visitors to the Coast enjoy golden days and balmy, moonlit evenings with the brilliant sunsets and scents of the tropics as well as the crispness of a temperate climate.

Yeppoon

Capricorn Coast, Livingstone Area
Yeppoon is situated 38 kilometres north east of Rockhampton, and is the gateway to the Capricorn Coast and the wonders of the Southern Great Barrier Reef and Keppel Bay Islands. Wander along the town's picturesque esplanade with its backdrop of offshore islands, sparkling azure sea and clear blue skies and soak up the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
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