The Overlander's Way: The Queensland camping trip every Aussie should take

Published
29 Jul 2022
Image credit
Tourism and Events Queensland

More famous for sparkling beaches and island paradises, another side of Queensland awaits on The Overlander's Way.  

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TOWNSVILLE TO MOUNT ISA

From the aqua blues of the Great Barrier Reef to the deep red sand of north-west Queensland, the Overlander's Way takes you through towns rich in history, dinosaur discoveries and some of Australia’s most unique events.

Commencing in the coastal hub of Townsville, make your way inland approximately 1,100 kilometres to reach Mount Isa and experience Outback Queensland’s unique way of life, superb scenery and top notch hospitality. 

Distance to Travel: 1,100 kilometres

Recommended Trip Length: 8-10 Days

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Hit the open road to central Queensland. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Named in honour of the first colonial Australians, who began droving cattle to Central Queensland from the Northern Territory in the 1800s, the Overland Way is steeped in country folklore.

Best completed in the cooler months, time your Overland Way trip to coincide with any number of popular regional events: 

Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo  
The Australian Festival of Chamber Music Townsville 
Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival

TOWNSVILLE

At home in the tropics and just a short ferry from the koalas of Magnetic Island, Townsville has that tropical Queensland feel you won’t find anywhere else.

Suggested length of stay: 2-3 nights

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Magnetic Island is a must do. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

If you’re into activities as diverse as scuba diving, horse riding, market browsing or just plain beachcombing, you’re going to love Townsville.

The Strand and Castle Hill are not to be missed as places to soak up the Far North Queensland atmosphere, while the incredible Magnetic Island should be on everybody's must-do list.

3 things to see and do in Townsville

  • Magnetic Island
  • Street Art Trail
  • Castle Hill

Visit Magnetic Island

The World Heritage listed Magnetic Island or 'Maggie' is only a 25-minute ferry ride away from Townsville.

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Bay hop on 'Maggies'. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Explore the hinterland on numerous nature walks including the historic Forts Walk and keep an eye out for sleeping koalas. Cool off with a swim at any of the island’s pristine bays. Hire a jetski or kayak and circumnavigate this stunning marine sanctuary.

Explore the Street Art Trail

Escape for an hour or so and discover 20 large scale murals that are hidden in the laneways and alleyways of Townsville. Commissioned by the city of Townsville, artists from around Australia and the world have contributed to this living exhibition.

Summit Castle Hill

Just metres short of a mountain, Castle Hill is a giant pink granite monolith that stands proud in the centre of Townsville.

Summit this and be rewarded with 360 degree views. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

As well as offering vehicle access, Castle Hill provides a number of popular walking tracks and 360-degree views of Townsville from the top. Take your time at sunrise or sunset.

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Queensland hinterland is simply stunning. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

TOWNSVILLE TO RICHMOND

(via Charters Towers and Hughenden)

You'd be silly not to break up the trip from Townsville to Mount Isa, especially with so much fascinating history and unique nature to explore.

If you were to set off early from Townsville, there's no reason you couldn't hit all three of these spots in one day, or over a couple of days, which we highly recommend.

Distance to Travel: 499 kms

Suggested stay: 1-2 nights

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Get wild in the Queensland outback. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Charters Towers is an old gold mining town 136 km outside of Townsville and is a beautifully restored part of the region's history. 

Porcupine Gorge National Park near Hughenden is a step back in time to the dinosaur era, while Julia Creek between Richmond and Cloncurry is famous for its spectacular outback sunsets. It also plays host to the annual Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival, which is an awesome weekend for anyone trying to sample the best (and weirdest) parts of Outback Queensland!

3 Things to See & Do from Townsville to Richmond

  • Towers Hill at Charters Towers
  • Porcupine Gorge National Park
  • Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival

Towers Hill at Charters Towers

Once the second largest city in Queensland, this gold rush era settlement has been preserved as a monument to its former bustling self. Enjoy its wide open main street and grand old architecture reflecting the former prosperity of this historic outback town. 

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Gold Rush era archictecture at Charters Tower. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

At 420m above sea-level, Towers Hill Lookout offers a panoramic view over Charters Towers. It is also the site at which an Aboriginal boy named Jupiter first discovered gold in December 1871!

Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival

Held in April each year, the Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival is a celebration of live music, the country’s toughest triathlon, bog snorkelling, horse racing, PBR Bull riding and Australia’s Best Butt competition! 

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A normal day at Julia Creek Dirt n Dust festival. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

This is the Outback at its best and funniest.

Porcupine Gorge National Park

Known locally as ‘Australia’s Little Grand Canyon’, Porcupine Gorge is made up of towering sandstone cliffs that have been carved into the landscape over time by the surrounding creek.

It's also a goldmine for anyone who loves finding dinosaur fossils!

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Porcupine Gorge. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

JULIA CREEK TO CLONCURRY

Burke and Wills found beauty on their 1861 expedition here - now it's your turn!

Distance to Travel: 137 kms

Suggested stay: 1-2 nights

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Mural art punctuates the Queensland outback. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

‘The Curry’ is the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), launched by Reverend John Flynn in the 1920s. Learn how Flynn harnessed the emerging technology of pedal radio to pioneer outback communication.

Stop into the Mary Kathleen Memorial Park and Museum to view Robert O'Hara Burke’s water bottle, observe local history and photographs, as well as a celebrated rock and mineral display.

2 Things to see and do in Cloncurry

  • See the first QANTAS hangar
  • Visit the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctors Service

QANTAS HANGAR

Visit the original hangar of the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service (QANTAS) from which its first commercial passenger was flown in 1922! 

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The humble QANTAS hangar. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

The unassuming hangar in the remote Queensland town of Cloncurry is the home of Australian civil aviation.

From here the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd, better known as QANTAS, took to the skies for the very first time.

John Flynn Place Museum

In honour of the extraordinary efforts and achievements of Australia’s early pioneers, the Cloncurry John Flynn Place Museum pays tribute to Reverend John Flynn and his team for their dedication and success in overcoming isolation and bringing communication education, and health to remote Australia.

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John Flynn Place Museum. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

The museum takes you on a journey following in Flynn’s footsteps from conception, birth and the legacy of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, born in Cloncurry in1928 to improve quality of life for rural Australians.

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Porcupine Gorge National Park. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

CLONCURRY TO MOUNT ISA

This may be the outback, but you’ll still have a river view!

Distance to Travel: 121 kms

Suggested stay: 3-4 nights

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Wholesome fun on Lake Moondarra. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Set by the banks of the beautiful Leichhardt River, Mount Isa is an excellent place to immerse yourself in Australian outback life.

If you’ve never experienced a rodeo, you’ve come to the right place too – Mount Isa is renowned as the Rodeo Capital of Australia and their annual event is fast and furious fun.

For a well-rounded taste of this rugged mining country, head to Outback at Isa, don a headlamp and descend into a purpose-built mine, then visit the fascinating Riversleigh Fossil Centre. Got kids? They'll love Queensland’s largest all abilities playground, Mount Isa Family Fun Park. 

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3 Things to See and Do in Mt. Isa

  • Mt. Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo
  • Lake Moondarra
  • Mount Isa Family Fun Park

Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo

This is the number one event of the year in Mount Isa. 4 days of rodeo action are the feature of this annual festival of all things Outback Queensland.

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Mount Isa Rodeo is an iconic eventl. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Watch local cowboys ride bucking bulls and enjoy the thrills, spills and exhilaration of the biggest rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere. This is a huge community event from August 11-14, 2022.

Lake Moondarra

The spectacular Lake Moondarra is 17km north of Mount Isa and is a popular spot for swimming, boating, sailing, canoeing and fishing, and has a wide variety of native wildlife.

There are several scenic picnic areas around the lake with large shady trees and these are some of the best places in Mount Isa to have a barbecue. The barbecues are free of charge and have a woodpile that is stocked regularly.

Mount Isa Family Fun Park

The Mount Isa Family Fun Park is the largest all-abilities playground in Queensland!

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Opened in 2009, the park cost more than $4.25 million to design and build, and offers locals and visitors alike the perfect facility to play, relax, and enjoy.

The Family Fun Park is built to be accessible to everyone, regardless of their level of ability or movement and to have something for everyone to play on.

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