Burketown is a tiny coastal outback town that proudly proclaims itself to be 'Australia's Barramundi Capital'. The town is very laid back with a very diverse cultural mix. You're sure to meet some real characters...
'Welcome to Karumba - population small'. Such is the sign that welcomes visitors to this remote town, which has only quite recently been discovered by outback travellers. Anyone whose seen a lot of Australia will tell you that there is no other place with quite the same atmosphere as Karumba in winter. Karumba is quite literally the end of the road; a small town of about 700 people, where the wide Normanton River meets the Gulf of Carpenteria. It's a friendly place, relaxed but still a little bit wild.
Normanton is an unusual, fascinating and delightful town, positively oozing with old world charm. Located close to the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Normanton is the major commercial centre of Carpentaria Shire, and is the northern terminal for Australia's most remote railway, the Gulflander. After the dicovery of gold near Croydon, the Gulflander was diverted from Normanton to the boom town. Today a three-car motor rail links Normanton and Croydon once a week. In the meantime, the Gulflander sits inside Normanton's station.
When gold was discovered in Croydon in 1885, the town went through an overnight boom and became one of the biggest towns in Queensland. What once was a bustling centre is today a quiet town with a very interesting past worth exploring.
Recognised as the centre of some of the best gemfields in Queensland, Georgetown owes its existence to gold which was found on the Etheridge goldfields in 1870. Nowadays, Georgetown is a sleepy little town but still is well serviced and a major point for visitors taking in the spectacular scenery and history of Australia's northern outback.
Undara Volcanic National parks is one of the highlights of Tropical North Queensland, and is less than 100 kilometres from Mount Garnet. The road is sealed all the way, except for the last four kilometres. You can also ride the historic Savannahlander from Cairns to Mount Surprise, just 50 kilometres from Undara.
Click on the link to discover more about Undara Volcanic National Park.
Known by locals as 'The World', Charters Towers was once said to have anything anybody would ever want so there was no need to leave the town. Charters Towers today is a scenic gold mining city with proud heritage and history, a perfect example of the real Australia, surorunded by sprawling cattle stations and intensely coloured sunsets.
Hughenden is a little town that takes pride in being the homeland of 'Hughie', the first entire dinosaur to be found in Australia. There are many attractions in the area, with gemfields, mountainous volcanic basalt country, sweeping black soil plains rich in fossils. Oh, the town is surrounded by four National Parks.
The town of Richmond has been recognised as one of the most attractive outback towns in Queensland, awarded with the title of Australia's Tidiest Town 2001 in the 'Keep Australia Beautiful' awards. Home to the world renowned Kronosaurus Korner Fossil Museum, Richmond and the whole area are rich in fossils as it was once part of Australia's vast 'inland sea'.
Home to the Julia Creek dunnart, Julia Creek is packed with social and sporting events all year round, including the Dirt and Dust Festival or the Dunnart Bush Festival, both a major feature of the town's lifestyle. Julia Creek is also home to BHP's Cannington mine, the largest producter of silver from a single mine in the world.
Cloncurry is known as the friendly heart of the great north west because it is a welcome crossroads with a sparkling community spirit. An historic outback town of only 3000 souls, Cloncurry offers lots of community activities to reward the curious traveller who decides to linger a while. Swimming in the river during the wet season and playing cricket in the riverbend during the dry. Street parades, horse races, football matches, and the legendary Curry rodeo and Merry Muster. It's all part of life in Cloncurry.
Described as the Oasis of the Outback - a luminous vision on the horizon for travellers coming from all directions - Mount Isa lies among the ochre-red Selwyn Ranges, on the borders of the Leichhardt River. Over the years, Mount Isa has gone from strength to strength, but the wild outback scenery has hardly changed and has become one of the major drawcards for tourists.
Chillagoe is a small outback town with a rich mining history, and still physically dominated by the mining smelters built in the early 20th century. But the town's most famous attraction must be the Mungana caves. Known as the 'reef of the outback', this cave system is the remains of coral that lived in the inland sea that covered this vast arid area millions of years ago.
Ah, the great Northern Outback, an untamed expanse of red earth, grass plains and arid landscapes, dotted by old mining towns with their typical Aussie bush pubs. It's an area rich in both ancient Aboriginal culture, and early pioneering history. The northern outback spans 425,000 square kilometres (almost the size of Spain) and in the north is crisscrossed with rivers and some of the continent's best 'secret' fishing spots. This is an ancient land where dinosaurs roamed; their fossilized remains can still be found. This is Australia's last frontier!
NOTE: THE MAIN ROADS THROUGH THE OUTBACK ARE SEALED. ONCE YOU LEAVE THIS MAIN ROAD, CONDITIONS DEPRECIATE QUICKLY, AND YOU MAY FIND YOURSELF ON A GRAVEL TRACK. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT OUR SAFE DRIVING SECTION.
The Gulf Savannah and the Northern Outback begin just west of Ravenshoe in the Atherton Tablelands, and extend across Queensland to the Northern Territory, and north to the Gulf of Carpenteria and the Cape York Peninsula. Once you've climbed the Great Dividing Range from the coast, you don't need to travel far before the lush forests start to thin out into woodland, and before you know it, you're in the arid grassland of the Gulf Savannah.
Less than ten percent of the Australian population lives outside the urban settlements on the coastal fringes. Towns out here in the outback are few and far between, and are mostly remnants from the mining boom of the late 19th century. It is a harsh country, and the towns have been shaped by a colourful and fascinating pioneering history.
The Australian outback is a confusing place for newcomers; with a city as big as Switzerland, a single school that covers almost a million square kilometres, and a doctor who travels hundreds of kilometres every day to makes house calls.
Visitors wanting to really experience authentic outback life can choose to stay on one of the working sheep or cattle properties that have been developed for overnight guests. A station stay provides much more than an accommodation option, but can be a holiday experience in itself, especial for city dwellers and overseas visitors. Apart from different styles of accommodation, station stays offer you the possibility to join in with the everyday activities of the station, such as drafting, mustering or shearing. There will likely be great fishing as well. For more information on Tropical North Queensland's range of farmstays and station stays, please visit our FARMSTAY ACCOMMODATION page.
There are just two seasons in this part of Australia; the wet season (December to April) when humidity is high and average temperatures range from 25 to 36 degrees, and the dry season (May to November) with little or no rainfall, and average temperatures of 15 to 29 degrees.
And on a side note... take extra care when proceeding to overtake a semi-trailer on outback roads. The truck you are intending to pass may not be quite what you expect.
GETTING AROUND THE OUTBACK
Not everybody will be up for the challenge -and this part of the country does provide its share of challenges - but we believe that the grandeur and vastness of the Northern Outback can be best experienced form behind the wheel of your own vehicle. For the freedom and flexibility to explore at your own pace, please visit our CAIRNS CAR HIRE page. We may be called Cairns Unlimited, but we can get you a great deal on a Cairnsrental car, four wheel drive or campervan anywhere! Simply fill out our obligation free enquiry form, and we will get back to you - usually the next working day - with the best deal on a rental vehicle to suit your needs.
The Savannahlander is a unique way to see Australia's outback. Once a week the classic 1960's rail motors head out from Cairns on their 4 day, 850km return trip to Forsayth. For much of the journey the Savannahlander has the railway line to itself and this allows passengers to experience a type of train travel that most won't have come across before. Want the driver to stop so you can take a photo? Just ask! The Savannahlander stops overnight in three different outback towns, Almaden (Chillagoe), Mount Surprise and Forsayth, each offering the traveller something different. Where to stay overnight? There are many options from the inexpensive to the not-so inexpensive. There are side trips to be done too. You can take a tour of the famous Chillagoe caves, take a tube tour at Undara or see the spectacular Cobbold Gorge.
Qantas fly to Mount Isa from the eastern capital cities, with a number of flights daily. From Mount Isa is then easy to get to any of the Northern Outback destinations listed on the right hand side column.
Check availability, compare prices and FIND THE BEST DEAL by entering your requested flight details in our simple Flight Finder above.
The Northern Outback is connected to the east coast (and to Alice Springs and Darwin) by a daily Greyhound bus service that runs from Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory through to Townsville, servicing Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Julia Creek, Richmond, Charters Towers, and a number of other smaller townships along the way. Greyhound also offers a daily service from Brisbane to Cloncurry and Mount Isa, which takes around 24 hours and passes through a number of interesting southern Queensland outback towns.
Queensland Rail covers the 1000 kilometres between Townsville and Mount Isa, stopping at most points along the way. Known as the 'Inlander' route, services operate westbound every Sunday and Thursday, and eastbound on Mondays and Fridays. The journey departs early afternoon, and takes just over twenty hours one way.
The tiny historic 'Gulflander' train travels once a week between the outback town of Normanton and Croydon - departing Normanton on Wednesday mornings, and Croydon on Thursday mornings. For more details on the historic 'Gulflander', also known as the 'tin hare', please visit our outback destinations pages for CROYDON or NORMANTON.