Our days in Tropical North Queensland had passed by so quickly, but our next adventure was awaiting- we were eager to drive from Townsville to Mt Isa! This route took us through the outback of Queensland via the Overlander’s Way and provided us with several surprises.
Our route from Townsville
Townsville is the third-largest city in Queensland, and we liked it so much our first time that we had to come back! We had planned to stay only one night in Townsville but ended up staying for three nights. And, we really would have liked to have spent more time there. This is why we decided on our journey from Tropical North Queensland to the Outback to stop for another few days in Townsville. We also squeezed in a couple of days on beautiful Magnetic Island, located just off the Townsville shore.
Located in the Great Barrier Reef region, Magnetic Island is only 25 minutes by ferry from Townsville and was unforgettable. We had booked a deal with an overnight stay at Bungalow Bay Koala Village that included return ferry tickets. We ended up staying one night longer and enjoyed the many beautiful beaches, the sweet little wildlife, and the breathtaking views during both strenuous and leisurely walks to the fullest.
You can read more about our two glorious days on Magnetic Island to find out what fascinated us and why you need to include this beautiful island on your route from Townsville to Mt Isa!
The Outback of Queensland Australia
After two very relaxing days on Magnetic Island, we were almost ready to tackle the Outback of Queensland Australia! But before the first leg would bring us to Charters Towers, we played a round of golf at Townsville Golf Club, the oldest golf club in Queensland.
The days of the gold rush era are still quite visible in Charters Towers. Historic buildings such as the Stock Exchange Arcade highlight the town’s former prosperity. Other impressive buildings that showcase the city’s wealth include the World Theatre, which was originally the Australian Bank of Commerce, City Hall, which was once the Queensland National Bank, and the Post Office.
We stroll along the main road admiring the buildings and end up at The Miner’s Cottage. This unique building is modeled after a typical cottage of the gold rush era. It serves as a museum, and you can even mine for gold there! We also do not miss out on visiting The Excelsior Library, which has been restored after a fire destroyed it. Charters Towers also has some beautiful City Murals. After admiring them, we decide to drive to today’s campsite.
It is already too hot in the Outback, and we’re hungry and tired.
Our home for the night will be behind the Prairie Hotel, just over 200 kilometers west.
The next morning, we take a very refreshing shower and are eager to continue, because for the next few days we will unearth dinosaur land! Hughenden, Richmond, and Winton together form the Dinosaur Trail.
Our dinosaur adventure begins in Hughenden at The Flinders Discovery Centre.
We visit the Flinders Discovery Centre in Hughenden. The museum costs $5 entry and houses a great collection of fossils, including a life-sized replica of Australia’s largest dinosaur, the Muttaburrasaurus! If you want to read more about the dinosaur discoveries in Hughenden, you can download this interesting fact sheet:
Porcupine Gorge National Park
Once again, we spontaneously choose a destination that was not in our original plan! Because while in Hughenden, we booked a stay at the Porcupine Gorge National Park. It was a slight detour from the Dinosaur Trail, but it was a decision that we could not have been happier about! If you want to know why the Porcupine Gorge National Park should be included in your Townsville to Mt Isa itinerary, click here to read our Porcupine Gorge National Park blog. Not only can you read all about our few days there, but you can also find a lot of useful information.
Just as you enter Richmond, you will see a big lake. With a small swimming pool, picnic tables, and a nice walkway that surrounds the lake, the entire area looks very inviting and we decide to go back later. Because first, we want to go to the Kronosaurus Korner. After all, it is the reason why we came to Richmond.
As part of the Dinosaur Trail, Kronosaurus Korner houses a really awesome museum with fossils that are up to 120 million years old! When you come, be sure to take a close look at Penny, the Plesiosaur. Penny’s fossils are in such great condition that you can even see what scientists think is a potential bite mark!
After our visit to the museum, we drive back to Fred Tritton Lake and have a wonderful walk around the lake. The sun is beginning to set, and the surrounding fields and trees are bathed in a beautiful golden light. It’s too bad that camping is not allowed here because, with the great views and even free hot showers and toilets, this would be an A1 campsite. We enjoy our dinner here before heading to our campsite.
We liked Winton quite a bit. And since it is strategically located between a couple of attractions that we wanted to visit, we stayed here twice. We divided up the Ten Highlights of Winton a bit so that we could really visit everything in our slow travel style.
Even if Winton is a bit small, you can spend a lot of time here. It is an easy place where you can end your days with an ice-cold beer or a milkshake in one of the many local pubs.
Winton day trips
Located approximately 100 kilometers south of Winton, the “street” was surely not the best for our campervan Putu. Over corrugated dirt roads, we bounced the entire way until we arrived at the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument at Lark Quarry. But it was absolutely worth it because it is the only place in the world where you can see a stampede of fossilized dinosaur footprints!
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs is found about 25 kilometers east of Winton. Thankfully for us and our campervan, on a sealed road. It houses the world’s most vast collection of Australia’s largest dinosaur fossils. In this museum, we witnessed the tedious and laborious effort that it takes to clean and prepare fossils.
Winton was the conclusion, but also the cherry on top of our great dinosaur land adventure.
Tip: Book your tickets in advance during the school holidays.
Of all the Outback towns that we visited, we enjoyed Longreach the most. Even though there was more to see in Winton, Longreach was a great change for us. It felt fresher and less dusty. We even washed Putu! In Longreach, we spent a day at the QANTAS Founders Museum, which was a special highlight for me as an aircraft lover.
Another attraction that Longreach has to offer is the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Center. We went there twice but did not have any luck getting tickets. School holidays had just begun and the museum was sold out while we were there.
While in Longreach, we also found an outback shop which was so great that we ended up spending more time there than we thought! There was just so much to discover, and honestly, it’s also a treat to be in an air-conditioned room during the Outback heat!
We always like reading the titles that the towns give themselves or are awarded. Cloncurry is known as “The Friendly Heart of Outback Queensland”. We were eager to find out if that is true.
From Longreach to Cloncurry it is almost a 350-kilometer drive, and we arrive tired in the late afternoon. We didn’t find a free campsite in town, but we found a good alternative in the Discovery Park Cloncurry.
Tip: The campsites are 25 dollars for an unpowered site, and 35 dollars for a powered site. The facilities are clean and there are a small workout room and a laundromat, which are both included in the price!! Even laundry soap is provided, and dryers are also available. So, if you have a lot of clothes, you have your money for the night back quickly!
Cloncurry City Centre
The next morning, we prepare our breakfast in the camp kitchen and then go into the city center. It is Sunday, and most shops are closed. We spot a bakery that is open and are lucky to find two pieces of cake remaining. I’ve been craving something like that for days!
The first Europeans arrived in Cloncurry in 1861. It was Burke and Wills, on their expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Later on, we saw the Burke and Wills Memorial on our way back to the campground.
Cloncurry is on my list because the first Qantas flight flew from Longreach to Cloncurry. That first flight occurred on November 3, 1922, with Alexander Kelly as the first passenger. He paid 11 pounds, 2 shillings for the flight. The Qantas Hangar is still in use, so James absolutely must drive me to the airport so I can see it!
Cloncurry is not only known for its connection with Qantas, but it is also the founding site of the Royal Flying Doctors Service, which began in 1928. The Reverend John Flynn had the vision of being able to reach and help remote places quicker to be able to help the sick. It took years, however, for his vision to become a reality.
Did you know that he is depicted on the 20 Dollar bill?
What else you can see in Cloncurry
Mary Kathleen Memorial Park (shows historic mining, railway, and farm equipment)
Colonial architecture such as the courthouse, post office, and hotels
John Flynn Place Museum & Art Gallery
Clem Walton Park & Corella Dam
Located 119 kilometers east of Mt Isa, we’re well into our journey of the Overlander’s Way. We know that we’re going to the Northern Territory soon, but we want to spend another couple of quiet days in Queensland. That’s why after we take a leisurely look at Cloncurry, we drive towards Clem Walton Park, a campsite that has often been recommended by fellow travelers.
The park is located directly on the Cloncurry River, off the Barkly Highway. We slowly make it over the bumpy, stone ladened dirt road, and park Putu directly along the river. The crocodiles are further down at the Corella Dam we are told. They are only freshwater crocs- harmless, the Aussie try to convince us.
The way to Clem Walton is beautiful, and we are stunned by how much the landscape has changed from Longreach to Cloncurry and now to here. From endless stretches of nothing to red rock formations that remind us of Phoenix, AZ in the USA.
Our favorite place
For three days we relax in Clem Walton Park, read, organize our photos, and go on a photo safari. Clem Walton Park is also known for its Red Claws and various fish. If you like to fish, this is the place to be. We are content with bird watching and even see a Cloncurry Parrot, which is only found in the Selwyn Range and here in the Cloncurry area of Northwestern Queensland.
At night we make a great discovery thanks to our friends Rhiana and Mitch from @randm_travels! They point out an Olive Python swimming in the water! It is heading directly towards us before settling on the riverbank. We soon see why. The python has had a very big dinner and can hardly move. It now makes itself comfortable on the riverbank, digesting its large meal. We are happy that it is no longer hungry and just wants to rest in peace, so we move on.
Rhiana and Mitch bring us luck, and through their good eyes, we also enjoy watching a young water monitor the next day.
The next morning we continue. Our stop in Mary Kathleen will be shorter than expected, as we can’t get far on the gravel roads with our camper. The abandoned Uranium Mine City is exactly as it is called: abandoned. Without seeing the dam, we continue to Mt Isa, the birthplace of golfer Greg Norman.
By the time we arrive in Mt Isa, the Outback heat has pretty much melted away our brains. Or why else would we suddenly have to be in such a hurry? We wanted to play golf here, find the birthplace of Greg Norman, write some blogs, and have the camper checked by a mechanic. But after five calls to all the local mechanics, we give up. We can’t get an appointment. Unfortunately, we also can’t find out where Greg Norman once lived. For some reason, we feel in a hurry to get to the Northern Territory. In the information center, we can fill our water bottles and have a shower. We withdraw money, get petrol, and buy some groceries at Coles. And drive rashly. We didn’t see much of anything of Mt Isa.
We found the drive over the Overlander’s Way to be simply fantastic and a very unique experience. The Overlander’s Way has taken us from Townsville to Mt Isa in Queensland. And we would go on to complete the drive at the Three Ways in the Northern Territory.
On this journey, we walked in the footsteps of dinosaurs that once roamed Australia more than 95 million years ago. We saw incredible night skies, littered with sparkling stars, the Milky Way, and the planets. Heat and dust were our constant companions, and on some days we really struggled. But the friendly Aussies that we got to know along the way outweighed any small downsides. Australia’s wildlife fascinated us more than once. We are a little bit bolder and less anxious about dangerous animals now than when we first arrived in Australia. The Outback towns have their own unique charm and are definitely different from the coastal cities. A must, we think, if you want to see the real Australia.
From Townsville to Mt Isa is approximately 904 kilometers. Including our detours to the Porcupine Gorge, Winton, Longreach, and the Clem Walton Park, our route from Townsville to Mt Isa was 1858 kilometers. Completing the Overlander’s Way to the Three Ways, our total route was 2484 kilometers. Wow! How long did it take us to do this? Seemingly forever!
We never thought that we would ever drive across Australia. But our drive would continue because we had decided to take the Explorer’s Way. Our next adventure would take us from north to south, from Darwin to Adelaide.