|Trip Length: 6 days Total Distance: 1863 km|
The Great Inland Way - a jewel in Queensland's crown of highways - takes you from the ochre coloured outback to the crystal clear waters of the Coral Sea.
The 1,863 km route from the border village of Hebel to tropical Cairns has been attracting southern travellers preferring the quieter flat western roads leading north and those wishing a fascinating return from the tropics.
It is rated as a 'must do' drive and it's not hard to see why. From pubs where members of the Kelly Gang once stood swigging beer, through wide open plains, over rivers brimming with prize fish, into pioneering history and much, much more. Step back in time and marvel at the historical architecture lovingly protected or explore the vibrant art and craft markets of the Atherton Tablelands.
Travel the Great Inland Way over the Great Dividing Range, past National Parks each diverse and unique, World Heritage listed rainforests exploding with beauty. You'll pass through towns, big and small, all welcoming you to their special spot in paradise. Visit communities where mining still runs in the blood, though be warned, travellers have been known to be lured by the array of sparkling gems and precious metals on offer taking up fossicking full time!
There is no doubt The Great Inland Way sounds true the line in the Australian anthem 'nature's gifts of beauty rich and rare,' - it is full of them every step of the way.
The whole route is fully sealed and with plenty of choices for accommodation. Don't be in a hurry, there is too much to do and learn on this wonderful drive, plenty of locals to share a chat with and some interesting short drives radiating from the original route. It's a drive that will relax you as you escape the hustle and bustle, you see, there is no busy traffic along the Great Inland Way.
So make the time to unwind and let yourself be shown one of the most exciting drives Queensland has to offer today's traveller - you won't be disappointed.
Hebel, on the border of New South Wales and Queensland, has been doing border duty for a long, long time. Originally, called Kelly's Point, as Dan Kelly and Steve Hart, members of the infamous Kelly gang once resided in the area, this quaint outback village epitomises outback Queensland - great characters, unique sites, and the peace and quite dreams are made of.
The Hebel Hotel should not be missed. Pull up to the hitching rail out front and take a tour of the unique artworks adorning this outback pub. There's a drunken looking emu, (obviously from too much billabong water!) half a dozen dogs, a cocky toasting you with cola and a lamb welcoming you to the public 'bah'. Push open the wooden door and be welcomed by Mary Lou, a sixth generation 'Hebelite' and partner Chris Connelly who has the motto of 'we never see anyone go short here.' Chris can guide you to a fabulous spot on the banks of the Bokhara River where you can dangle a line. The Bokhara River, from which great fishing tales have evolved, is also home to giant blue-green yabbies.
However, it's not all art and history in Hebel, let your taste buds be tantalized with a visit to the Crafty Yum Yum Cottage. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, Hilmer and Monica Becken cook up a storm with array of cream puffs, home made cakes and on weekends full meals including the hearty 'Farmer's Breakfast'. The cottage also sells handicrafts, opal and wood turned souvenirs, artworks including works by the famous Aboriginal painter Tom Rose and other bits and pieces artfully created by the local rural people.
Culgoa Flood Plain National Park is 47 km to the west of Hebel. An isolated park with no facilities it offers nature lovers a rare and undisturbed interpretation of an important Queensland wetland.
Once you can bid the friendly folk in Hebel farewell, travel 65 km to Dirranbandi, a town built on the growth of cotton with reputedly, the largest privately operated irrigated cotton farm in the world, Cubbie Station, nearby. You may just meet the 'Dirranbandi Dandy' as immortalised in song by the legendary Slim Dusty.
St George, the fishing capital of inland Queensland, 97 km on is the next stop, but don't forget Nindigully on the way. The Nindigully Pub is legendary throughout the Western Downs (but a big hint... don't leave your mobile phone on the bar, 'cause if it rings, it's your shout!) You can also camp for free along the river.
Next stop St George, see you there!About the Drive
|Duration:||1 hr 15 mins|
St George on the banks of the lovely Balonne River is held in high esteem within fishing circles. This is a river where big fishing tales are true with catches of Murray Cod and Yellow Belly.
While in town visit Steve Margaritis and be amazed at his talent for carving emu eggs - his collection is impressive. Or indulge yourself at Riversands Winery and Cafe, the most western winery in Queensland, see a working rock melon farm, take a town tour and explore the murals, St George Heritage Centre and picnic on the grassed river banks near the centre of town.
Rosehill Aviaries is well worth the 64 km drive west to visit. For a very reasonable admission price, you will see the most complete collection of Australian parrots in the world!
From St George, the Great Inland Way almost follows the Balonne River to Surat, 108 km north. Don't miss seeing the 25,000 litre freshwater aquarium at the Cobb & Co Changing Station. The complex includes an immaculate museum with plenty to admire including a replica 14 seater passenger Cobb & Co coach, art gallery and tourist information centre.
While in town check out the Aboriginal Bush Garden featuring plants used by the local people for food and medicine, the Cobb & Co Corduroys and pretty Beranga Creek 3.5 km north of Surat on The Great Inland Way where in late summer pretty purple lilies bloom - make sure the camera is ready! And of course, there's superb fishing along the Balonne.
Roma, 78 km further on is the next stop.About the Drive
Roma, on the junction of The Great Inland Way and the Warrego Highway deserves an overnight stop to take in all it has to offer - there's a lot to do and see here.
Start at the Big Rig, which combines the Tourist Information Centre, a display on oil and gas exploration, historical buildings and gardens for a picnic. Romavilla Winery, Queensland's first wine making enterprise, is just past the main street and still producing a fine drop or two.
For an up and close rural experience, call into the Roma Bungil Saleyards - the largest store cattle selling facility in Australia. Every Tuesday and Thursday witness the sites and sounds of live cattle auctioning from the purpose built catwalks and then try a steak sandwich from the canteen - they know their beef in Roma.
It doesn't stop there - call in and see the heritage listed Mt Abundance Homestead, the amazing Ace Drapers No. 2 store, take the Hospital Hill Walk, and the court house where Captain Starlight was finally sent to trial in 1872.
When its time to hit the road for Injune you have two alternative routes. The first takes you straight up the highway, the other does a loop through sand hills covered in grass trees, past giant bottle trees - it is a recommended four-wheel drive route only - just follow the Tourist Drive Signs starting 16 km north of Roma.
Then into Injune - the gateway to the Carnarvon.About the Drive
Want to hear a yarn? Then don't miss a session at the Injune 'Struth' Hotel where the locals are always ready for a chat. Injune is a great base to explore the nearby natural wonders of the area. Call into the visitor information centre where you can get all the advice and maps you need.
Take a self-drive tour of the historical old buildings, best seen either early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun's golden rays exhibit the timbers at their best. Adventure into Lonesome and Beilba National Parks - discover the European and Aboriginal history of the once great cattle properties, see spectacular scenery of the Arcadia Valley from lookouts to gorges and sandstone candlesticks as well as flora and fauna unique the district.
Carnarvon National Park, renown as one of Australia's most spectacular wilderness areas and important Aboriginal cultural sites, north-west of Injune, covers a vast 298,000 hectares, and is broken up into numerous sections.
The Carnarvon Gorge is just one of these. The Mt Moffatt section, best accessed from Injune, as well as exhibiting spectacular gorges is also one of Australia's first verified Pleistocene sites. This remote section has interesting stencil and free hand Aboriginal art and the Kenniff Cave, a hideout for the infamous bushranger brothers.
Nuga Nuga National Park, 151 km north east of Injune, contrast sharply to the Carnarvons. The main feature of the park is Lake Nuga Nuga - the largest natural body of water within the sandstone belt of Central Queensland. Popular with bird watchers, the lake puts on a magnificent display each year when the water lilies burst into flower across it.
From Rolleston, 171 km north of Injune access the Ka Ka Mundi, Salvator Rosa and Carnarvon Gorge sections of Carnarvon National Park - each with stunning weathered sandstone cliffs and gorges. Visit the Staircase Range and find the Chinese hand built cuttings in the side of the mountain.
Then onto Springsure, 70 clicks on from Rolleston and another access point to the Carnarvons.
While you're in town have a look at the Federation Arcturus Woolshed and information centre and the National Trust listed Old Rainworth Fort 10 km from town. Emerald, the hub of the Central Highlands is just 66 km down the road.About the Drive
|Duration:||3 hrs 10 mins|
Salute Emerald! The heart of the Central Highlands and Sapphire Gem fields does not get its name from the regal green gem, rather the green fields as seen around the area when it initially was named.
Emerald is sunny sunflower territory and for proof have a look at the world's largest painting on an easel - its Van Goughs sunflowers standing 23 metres high! First stop should be the new purpose built environmental straw Information Centre. The friendly locals with a strong passion for this colourful district will arm you with all you need for a day or two of sight seeing.
On the list to visit will be graceful National Trust listed Railway Station with wrought iron work, the 250 year old fossilised tree, the Emerald Botanic Gardens on the Nugoa River, School of Distance Education and the native flower farm.
Lake Maraboon and Fairbairn Dam are very popular for fishing, redclawing and water sports. Have your camera ready to capture the sunset over the water - they can be spectacular.
The gem fields serviced by the towns of Rubyvale and Sapphire are a great outing from Emerald. Armed with fossickers licence try your luck at finding the big one - many visitors go home with rewards of zircons and sapphires - not a bad souvenir.
54 km north along the Inland Way the next stop is the friendly village of Capella. You'll most probably notice the pole murals along Peak Downs Street. Take special notice of the one outside the pub - it commemorates the fact that placing emu plumes in the hats of the Australian Light Horse Brigade began right here during the Great Shearers Strike of the 1891.
The pioneer village is worth a visit as it includes the Peak Downs Homestead, the Gordon Downs woolshed and store, and an extensive collection of vintage agricultural machinery.
The Peak Downs Ranges form a backdrop to a maze of multi coloured fertile fields. A lookout 1 km south of town is a popular stopping spot to grab that photograph.
Then drop the thoughts of gems undiscovered to the south - turn your dreams to gold, for over the Tropic of Capricorn an easy 54 km north is Clermont!About the Drive
|Duration:||1 hr 10 mins|
Clermont, a rich agricultural community where visitors must be warned - many get an attack of gold fever and some never leave!
The town was originally by Hoods Lagoon, but moved after the devastating floods of 1916 in which 65 people died. Hoods Lagoon is now parkland and a great place to stop and relax or for the more energetic get the metal detector out and start looking for that gold nugget. Up in a tree nearby sits a replica piano marking the height of the ruinous floodwaters.
Gold fossickers should call into the Clermont Detectors at the Caravan Park for a fossickers licence, map of areas available, gear if needed or book a guided tour to the sites with renowned deposits.
The world's largest seam of steaming coal is located at Blair Athol, 23 km from Clermont. Tours of the mine are conducted each Tuesday, and Friday, bookings through the Tourist Information Centre are essential.
Theresa Creek Dam, south of Clermont provides Clermont and Blair Athol with water and is a popular water sports and picnic area. Nearby see what's left of Copperfield, 7 km south of Clermont. Copperfield was Queensland's first copper mine and all that remains from the hustle and bustle of its boom days is the smelter chimney stack and store.
Miclere, 18 km to the north, is another area well known to metal detecting buffs and has been known to yield a nugget or two. Have a good look in the trees around here, as there is a large population of koalas claiming the tall gums as home.
Within 70 km of Clermont is Mazeppa National Park, - a strictly no camping park - and home to an acacia scrub that is one of the slowest growing and densest timbers in Australia - Gidyea. Characterised by the pungent odour it exudes, especially after rain, the National Park has become a haven for birds and unusual reptiles, spiders and frogs. Those who adore the double-bar and plum-headed finches should be rewarded. Brolgas are often seen in the surrounding paddocks as you drive towards Belyando Crossing - their ritualistic mating dances a real treat.
At Belyando Crossing there is a caravan park on the seasonal creek and fuel available. From here, its 203 km to historical Charters Towers. Remember you are sharing the road with some big cattle trucks so always pull off and give them the bitumen - they need it more than you and by doing so you won't get showered in stones.About the Drive
|Duration:||3 hrs 45 mins|
Often described as a 'living museum', Charters Towers was founded on the discovery of gold and flourished to become the second largest city in Queensland with a population figure of over 35,000 during the height of mining. Today the city is much smaller in population but just as huge in pride, community spirit and the desire to protect the magnificent buildings around the town that reflect the richness of a bygone era.
At the Visitor Information and Orientation Centre - one of the many beautifully restored buildings in Charters Towers - you can sort out the best way to take in all this charming city has to offer. One of these should be either a self-guided or guided tour of the buildings around town - they are worthy of admiration. Try The Ghosts of Gold Experience for a full virtual tour of the key attractions including the Stock Exchange, Towers Hill and Venus Battery. From charming miner's cottages to ornate two storey dwellings - the list of buildings to view is long.
While on tour, picnic at Centenary Park where sculptured works depict the discovery of gold in Charters Towers or Lissner Park with Boer Memorial and historic rotunda.
World War ll bunkers can be explored on Towers Hill and for those who just can't get enough of the history, a visit to Pioneer's Cemetery will give an interesting insight into the lives of those in the area from 1872 to 1895.
For something different, a great day trip is a drive to the Great Wall of Basalt formed by a lava flow thousands of years ago; the township of Ravenswood (the whole town is heritage listed) or maybe a little fishing on the Burdekin River or at Burdekin Dam but be aware salt water crocodiles have been found here. Two big events in town each year are The Goldfield Ashes - the biggest amateur cricket carnival in the Southern Hemisphere over the Australia Day weekend each January - and the Charters Towers Country Music Festival - the largest amateur music quest in Australia.
When its time to bid farewell, the road continues north through Greenvale, 252 km to The Lynd Junction. From here its only 91 km to the turn off to Undara Volcanic National Park where you will find the one of the geological wonders of the world - the largest lava tube system in the world.About the Drive
|Duration:||4 hrs 35 mins|
Take a big breath when you arrive in Ravenshoe - you are now officially in the highest town in Queensland!
On the doorstep of Ravenshoe is a World Heritage listed rainforest to explore. The Ravenshoe Koombooloomba Information Centre has a great display on the areas timber cutting past and an exceptional display on the nocturnal animals - in this one area 12 species of native possum have been identified.
The Tully Falls Road takes you south (about 25 km is unsealed) to a parking area then it's a short walk for a remarkable view over the 293 metre Tully Falls at Tully Gorge. 9 km further along is Koombooloomba Dam where camping, skiing and fishing all year round for Barramundi is permitted.
Millaa Millaa, 26 km east of Ravenshoe has more rainforest walks, waterfalls, lookouts and markets. Centre of the 17 km long Waterfall Circuit (one drive everyone should do) which includes Mungalli Falls, Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls and a host of others. Most of the waterfalls are all within 10 km of Millaa Millaa, are accessible by two-wheel drive and have picnic facilities. The drives in this area are rated as some of the most scenic across the plateau and you won't need much more proof of that after going to the Millaa Millaa Lookout with its stunning 180 degree views - just make sure you have plenty of film in the camera!
The road continues north and at nearly every turn there is something else to discover from natures beauty to quaint arts and crafts centres along the route to Atherton and beyond. Visit Hypipamee National Park and Crater, journey to Malanda, a rich dairying area and see the ancient Bromfield Swamp - birdwatchers heaven. Pay homage to the platypus, indulge in more tableland arts or enjoy the Malanda Falls cascading over moss-covered rocks. The Malanda Environmental Centre explains the geological history of the breath taking Tablelands.
Next stop, the town after which the tablelands were named - Atherton.About the Drive
Atherton, surrounded by cinder cones left from a tumultuous volcanic past called the 'Seven Sisters', is centrally located to many of the attractions across the tablelands and a popular base for visitors to explore the pristine beauty of the area, coffee houses, craft and art centres.
From Haloran Hill Lookout, gather another spectacular photograph for the holiday album of the view across the town of Atherton, the tableland, and volcanic ranges. See the restored Chinese Joss House, a unique mineral museum called the Crystal Caves and the 2.6 km Wongable Botanical Walk, an interpretive rainforest trail, is a worthwhile stroll.
Catch a steam train for an exciting journey to the once bustling tin mining community of Herberton - the train often has open carriages just great for getting the perfect picture of Carrington Waterfalls and views across the tablelands.
North east of Atherton is Lake Tinaroo. With more than 200 km of shore and an 8000 hectare state forest surrounding the Lake, it is a treasure. Here the rainforest meets the shore and provides many secluded coves and beaches. Take the forest drive and keep alert for the platypus and tree climbing kangaroos. Birds are in abundance and with no closed season, the Lake is a popular fishing spot. Houseboats and dinghies can also be hired.
There is plenty to see while you are here - the Cathedral Fig tree, Mobo Creek Crater and Gillies Lookout, Lake Eacham and Barrine are just a few close by.
Just north of Atherton the Great Inland Way passes through an area known as the 'Tolga Scrub'. Along the 700 m walking track through the rainforest you may see Tree Kangaroos, Red Legged Pademelons, and at night the nocturnal Coppery Brushtailed Possum (only found on the Tablelands), Green Possums and a colony of Spectacled Flying Foxes.
Mareeba, encircled by coffee plantations, the best exotic tropical fruit orchards and lush sugar cane fields is next, 34 km along the plateau.About the Drive
The Mareeba Heritage Museum and Information Centre is a 'must stop'. Organise a tour of a coffee plantation, a scenic hot air balloon ride over the plateau or just sit and relax on the veranda with a superbly brewed coffee - all your worries will seem a long way behind.
A couple of trips of note from Mareeba are Granite Gorge, 7 km south-west and internationally renowned Mungana Limestone caves in the National Park near Chillagoe, 140 km west. On this particular byway you could allow an overnight stay and explore towns such as Almaden where cattle often roam the street.
Then to pretty Kuranda with colourful markets, butterfly sanctuary, the Barron River Falls, picturesque Davies Creek National Park and the world famous Kuranda Scenic Train, as well as lots more!
Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, is then only a short drive and the end of our journey along The Great Inland Way.
In this modern tropical city, shop-a-holics will be at home among the maze of shops and boutiques.
Cairns is a premier base to explore the Great Barrier Reef - the world's largest reef system - the heavenly exotic islands off shore and idyllic long white beaches stretching from the north to the south. There is something for everyone with over 600 differing tours departing from the city each and every day!
What a place to finish the mighty Great Inland Way - you can't get any better!About the Drive
For those of us travelling to the tip, there is one area worthy of at least a few days stop-over either on the way up or the way back. That area is Cooktown. Just a short drive from Lakeland, along the newly named Mulligan Highway, you will find one of the best kept secrets of Cape York Peninsula.
The Cook Shire occupies some 80% of the Cape York Peninsula region of Tropical North Queensland. The Shire’s main township is historic Cooktown which was established at the very site where in 1770 Lt. James Cook careened his ship the H.M.B ‘Endeavour’ for much needed repairs. A life-size statue of the famous explorer now stands at the very spot where he stepped ashore.
Cooktown itself is a beautiful, unspoilt, small coastal town surrounded by stunning countryside. One of Australia’s most historically significant townships, Cooktown nestles between Mount Cook and the mouth of the Endeavour River. Easily accessible from Cairns via the fully sealed Mulligan Highway the drive takes less than three-and-a-half hours. Cooktown is the perfect location from which to base yourself as you explore the rugged beauty of the Cape York Region.
The surrounds of the township offer an abundance of natural features, including magnificent waterfalls, deserted beaches, walking trails and tropical rain forest. The Little Annan Gorge is a spectacular waterway carved by nature from black granite. This nature feature is well worth a visit, and picnic facilities are available in the area. Just up the road you will find the Black Mountain Lookout. Black Mountain is a geological wonder, being made up of thousands of large black boulders. Local Aboriginal elders have stories about the creation of this unique place.
The town itself offers visitors many opportunities to walk or drive to a range of interesting sites. The historical James Cook Museum is a heritage listed building containing some of Lt. James Cooks personal items, as well as one on the cannons and the anchor from the Endeavour. History buffs will be able to spend hours in this beautifully restored building.
Another historical ‘must-do’ is the award winning display at The History Centre on Charlotte Street which also offers family research facilities.
Cooktown is famous as a world class fishing destination with close proximity to a myriad of angling environments. River and reef as well as land based fishing options guarantee a great experience for the whole family.
The Nature’s Powerhouse Visitor Centre and Café can provide travellers with all the information they will need regarding accommodation, sites to see and tours to make their visit enjoyable. The Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery located at the facility is also well worth a look.
No visit to Cooktown would be complete without visiting the lookout at Grassy Hill which offers breathtaking 360 degree views – particularly spectacular at sunrise and sunset.
Join the locals for a drink at one of the heritage listed pubs, dine out at one of the variety of restaurants in town, or buy prawns direct from the wharf and have a BBQ at your campsite.
There is accommodation for all budgets including campsites, farm stays, motels and hotels.About the Drive
|Duration:||3 hrs 30 mins|
|Road Conditions:||Inland route is fully sealed on the Mulligan Highway, Coastal route via the Bloomfield Track is 4WD only after Cape Tribulation|