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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Hebel

Hebel, Balonne Area
In the little town of Hebel it feels like time has stood still, leaving behind tales of the Ned Kelly gang, Cobb & Co and dance halls. Hebel Hotel is a gem of a country pub. Colourful artwork by John Murray adorns the front of the pub, with the interior decked out in recycled furniture made from reclaimed bush finds.

Bollon

Bollon, Balonne Area
The soil gets redder as you approach the great little western town of Bollon, sitting on the banks of the peaceful Wallam Creek. At the free caravan and camping area there are toilets and showers and plenty of shady spaces to park the van for a few days on the edge of the picturesque creek.

Thallon

Thallon, Balonne Area
Thallon was gazetted in 1911 and was named after the Commissioner of Railways, Mr JF Thallon. The town is surrounded by prime grain growing country and draws grain in from Weengallon, Nindigully, Mungindi, Dirranbandi and Thallon.

Mitchell

Mitchell, Maranoa Area
Soaking in the soothing mineral springs at Mitchell is just one of the surprises that awaits you in this quaint town on the edge of the outback. Just 87 kilometres west of Roma via the Warrego Highway, Mitchell sits peacefully on the banks of the Maranoa River.

St George

St George, Balonne Area
From the moment you arrive to the time you leave, St George relaxes the senses in all the right ways. Perched on the banks of the mighty Balonne River, its just the place from which to explore the beautiful Balonne Shire.

Mungallala

Mungallala, Maranoa Area
Mungallala, said to mean 'food and water' is the site of a cypress sawmill, located about half way between Mitchell and Morven where the Warrego Highway crosses the Mungallala Creek. Mungallala originated as a railway town and is a wonderful place to stop for lunch and experience the workings of an outback town.

Dirranbandi

Dirranbandi, Balonne Area
En route to Hebel, stop for a coffee, a shop and a look around Dirranbandi, the town that marks the end of the South West rail line. As you enter town you'll pass by the levee bank, which is famous for having saved the town from flooding on more than one occasion.

Nindigully

Nindigully, Goondiwindi Area
Just 45 kilometres south east of St George, Nindigully or "The Gully" as it's locally known, is pretty much four houses and a pub on a riverbank. But what a pub, what a view and what characters you'll find!

Wallam Creek, Bollon

Bollon, Balonne Area
Free Entry
The soil gets redder as you approach this great little western town, and sitting on the banks of the peaceful Wallam Creek is the tranquil town of Bollon. At the free caravan and camping area there are plenty of shady spaces to park the van for a few days on the edge of the picturesque creak, and an easy 1.

Amby

Amby, Maranoa Area
Amby, originally called Amby Creek, became a township in 1883 and forms part of the eastern boundary of the Outback region. It can best be described as where the grain and the grazing belts meet. The Old Stage Changeover Shanty - known to the locals as Netting Hole - dates back to 1875 and is located on the northern side of town, along the Warrego Highway near Amby Downs waterhole.
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