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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Nine Mile Reef Dive Site

Coolangatta, Gold Coast Area
Free Entry
Nine Mile Reef, off Tweed Heads, has a reputation among locals as being a “sharky” spot. All year long, a good population of wobbegongs call the reef home, but are joined by leopard sharks in summer and grey nurse sharks in winter.

Snapper Rocks

Coolangatta, Gold Coast Area
Free Entry
Snapper Rocks is a small rocky outcrop on the northern side of Point Danger at the southern end of Rainbow Bay on the Gold Coast. Snapper is a point break forming the first part of the man-made Superbank which extends from Snapper Rocks Point, through Rainbow Bay, Greenmount Point, Coolangatta Beach, and Kirra, for a distance of around two kilometres.

Kirra Reef Dive Site

Kirra Beach, Gold Coast Area
Free Entry
Not far from Kirra Beach, one of the Gold Coast’s top surfing destinations, is one of its most interesting dive sites; Kirra Reef. Consisting of scattered rocky outcrops covered in kelp fronds, there are scores of hidden gems throughout the reef.

Kirra

Kirra Beach, Gold Coast Area
There's variations on what the word Kirra actually means, but some believe Queensland Aborigines named it after a boomerang. Which makes sense as Kirra wraps evocatively around the bend separating Coolangatta and Kirra beaches and in front of Kirra Hill.

Currumbin Waters

Currumbin Waters, Gold Coast Area
Currumbin is an inspiring beachfront community where the epic Currumbin Creek waterway links to the pristine rainforest mountains of the region when heading west. Currumbin Creek and the Alley, the entrance to the ocean, offer a protected and patrolled haven for all kinds of active water sports, particularly stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking.

Cook Island Dive Site

Gold Coast, Gold Coast Area
Free Entry
Cook Island, a short boat trip from the Gold Coast, is an accessible and appealing dive site for all experience levels. Hard and soft corals cover the bottom in some areas, with boulders forming walls and caves descending to the sandy sea floor in others.

Coolangatta

Coolangatta, Gold Coast Area
The southern Gold Coast's famous sandy beaches and world-class surf breaks conclude at Coolangatta, renowned for its casual beach-side culture. Spend the day surfing, SUP or swimming with the locals at Coolangatta, Greenmount, Duranbah, Palm Beach and into southern Rainbow Bay.

Tugun

Tugun, Gold Coast Area
Just when you thought the Gold Coast couldn't get any more relaxed you arrive over the hill and into Tugun. This southern Gold Coast suburb is so laid-back that locals fondly call her Tugz (pronounced choog-s) while ancient Aborigines referred to Tugun as a place of "breaking waves".

Currumbin Valley

Currumbin Valley, Gold Coast Area
Heading into the Currumbin Valley is a little like entering an Aladdin's Cave of adventure. From the coastline, head southwest into another world along Currumbin Creek Road which leads to Tomewin Mountain Road winding up to Tomewin Mountain.
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