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 unique towns such as Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Richmond, Hughenden and Winton. 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
N/A
Distance
1210 Kilometres

Activities

  • Birdwatching
  • Camping
  • Hiking/Trekking
  • Off Road Driving

Other Information

Family Friendly:

Family friendly – please refer to operator's website for services and facilities.

Full Itinerary

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.

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.

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
Mode of Travel 4x4, Car, Caravan, Four Wheel Drive
Distance 406 kms
Route Type One Way
Richmond to Winton, Via Hughenden

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
Mode of Travel 4x4, Car, Caravan, Four Wheel Drive
Distance 330 kms
Route Type One Way
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
Mode of Travel 4x4, Car, Caravan, Four Wheel Drive
Distance 468 kms
Route Type One Way
Level of Difficulty Level 1: Suitable for the disabled with assistance

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Flinders-Goolman Conservation Estate

Ipswich Area
Located 20 minutes drive from the Ipswich City, the Flinders-Goolman Conservation Estate covers over 2,200 hectares. The conservation estate supports extensive forests and rugged volcanic peaks and slopes including Flinders Peak, Mt Blaine, Mt Catherine and Mt Goolman.

Purga Nature Reserve

Ipswich Area
Free Entry
For a unique nature walk just 15 minutes from Ipswich, Purga Nature Reserve is a peaceful getaway. It has the largest remnant of Swamp Tea Tree protected in Australia, and there are short, self-guided walks amid the ghostly, ashen trees that are truly spectacular.

Mount Barney

Mount Barney, Scenic Rim Area
Lush rainforests, ancient trees, spectacular views, extensive walking tracks, exceptional ecological importance and natural beauty make this World Heritage-listed park an outstanding place to visit. Mount Barney is one of Queensland's highest and most impressive peaks, and is part of the Scenic Rim and Mount Barney National Park.

Mt Barney Lodge Country Retreat

Mount Barney, Scenic Rim Area
From AU$0 - 150
Nestled amongst the foothills of World Heritage-listed, Mt Barney National Park, Mt Barney Lodge is a unique country escape that offers a variety of accommodation and Eco Accredited adventure activities.

Moogerah Peaks National Park

Moogerah, Scenic Rim Area
Free Entry
Just over an hour from Brisbane, four ancient volcanic peaks in the fertile Fassifern Valley form the Moogerah Peaks National Park. The mounts—French, Greville, Moon and Edwards—are recognised for their unique shapes but revered as a spectacular bushwalking destination.

Queen Mary Falls, Main Range National Park

The Falls, Southern Downs Area
Free Entry
A landscape of rugged mountains, spectacular lookouts, exhilarating walks, dappled forests and unique wildlife is waiting to be explored. Settle in for a morning cuppa or barbecue picnic lunch at this shady spot nestled in fragrant eucalypt forest.

White Rock - Spring Mountain Conservation Estate

Redbank Plains, Ipswich Area
Free Entry
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.

Lake Maroon

Maroon, Scenic Rim Area
Free Entry
Just one hour's drive from the centre of Brisbane, Lake Maroon is located in the heart of the Scenic Rim, Boonah. Lake Maroon is ideal for camping and one of Queensland's most popular places for sailing, fishing, water skiing, parasailing and paddle boating.

Moogerah

Moogerah, Scenic Rim Area
Moogerah is located one hour's drive south west of Brisbane via the Cunningham Highway. For a little more scenery, take the route from Ipswich or the Gold Coast through Boonah's countryside. Just outside Moogerah, you'll find the spectacular Moogerah Peaks and five minutes away to the north-east, lies beautiful Lake Moogerah.

Mount Barney National Park

Mount Barney, Scenic Rim Area
Free Entry
The distinctive peaks of mounts Barney, Maroon, May, Lindesay, Ernest, Ballow and Clunie dominate the skyline in Mount Barney National Park. These rugged peaks are the remains of the ancient Focal Peak shield volcano that erupted 24 million years ago.
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