Normanton is an unusual, fascinating and delightful town. 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. Today a three-car motor rail links Normanton and Croydon once a week. In the meantime, the Gulflander sits inside Normanton's station.
Just over a kilometre out of Normanton, on the Normanton-Burketown road, you will see signs marking Camp 119, the northernmost point of the ill fated BURKE AND WILLS EXPEDITION from 1860-61. This was the first expedition to cross Australia from south to north, finding a route across the continent from the settled areas of Victoria to the Gulf of Carpentaria, a trek of 2,650 kilometres. At that time, most of the inland of Australia had not been explored and was completely unknown to the European settlers.
Normanton is 700 kilometres from Cairns, and less than 100 kilometres from the coastal town of Karumba, on the Gulf of Carpenteria. The town sits atop a high ironstone ridge, overlooking the Savannah grasslands to the west, and the wetlands to the north. Normanton started life as a centre for the Gulf region's cattle industry, but grew rapidly with the discovery of gold at Croydon in 1885. Before long, the small settlement's population had swelled to over 1,200. But the gold rush was short lived, and by 1947, the population had dropped to 234. The subsequent development of prawn fishing in Karumba, and an increase in tourism to the region has resurrected Normanton, and today, with a population of over 1,300, Normanton is the business centre of the gulf region.
If you needed any reminders that this is still very much croc' country... in Henry Park adjacent to the Shire Council Offices, you will see a life size replica of the largest crocodile ever caught. This beast, affectionately nicknamed 'Krys the Savannah King', was shot on the MacArthur Bank of the Norman River in 1957, and measured a staggering 8.63 metres! Although I am usually reluctant to convert for our non-metric friends, this equates to just under 29 feet! If you stand next to the statue, it feels more like you're standing next to some sort of ancient dinosaur, and it's a sharp reminder to be careful on and around the waterways.
But where there's crocodiles, there's Barramundi, and the Norman River is a great spot for fishing. In fact, Normanton is proud to call itself the 'Barramundi Capital of the North', with locals regularly catching fish in excess of five kilos. And if you've taken an interest in Australia's apparent penchant for "BIG THINGS" (the big pineapple, the big prawn, the big cow, the big mango and so on indefinitely) you won't want to miss Normanton's 'Big Barramundi'.
Normanton is also a popular spot for birdwatchers, recognised internationally as the location for an estimated one-third of Australia's migratory wading birds, such as Brolgas and Sarus Cranes. Check out our BIRDWATCHING page for other great birdwatching destinations around Tropical North Queensland, or open our BIRDWATCHING MAP in a separate window.
In the build up to the wet season, the weather can be changeable and unstable. But it's this time of year, around September to November, that visitors may be treated to a very unusual atmospheric phenomenon known as the MORNING GLORY.