About Northern Queensland Outback, Inland from Townsville
From Townsville the Flinders Highway leads west across the Great Dividing Range, giving access to northern Queensland outback: one of the most desolate and remote regions of the Australian interior. This is one of the least explored trails of Australia’s interior, one of the best places to visit for those who want to get away from it all. It also contains much history of the ‘real’ Australia.
This vast and empty region has been mining territory since the middle of the 19thC. It experienced several gold rushes, which attracted footloose gold prospectors from all over the world. Ravenswood is a typical old gold-rush centre, now an atmospheric ghost town.
Further inland you come to the large copper- and lead-mining centres separated from each other by miles and miles of empty outback. Cloncurry is as hot as anywhere in Australia, and in the 1970s Mount Isa produced more lead than anywhere else in the world. At Mount Isa you’re almost 1,000 km from Townsville and halfway to Alice Springs.
Travelling from Townsville to Mount Isa will take you at least two days. If you’re travelling on to Alice Springs, you’ll need a 4WD, a winch, and your own supplies – the direct route will take you a week or so.
Regular long-distance buses link all the main towns along the Flinders Highway, taking a numbing 12 hours to reach Mount Isa, we recommend Greyhound (www.greyhound.com.au). The Inlander train (www.queenslandrailtravel.com.au) covers the same route, taking 18 hours. But the best way to explore the outback is in your own vehicle.