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From reef to red dirt: the Overlanders Way

From reef to red dirt: the Overlanders Way

Explore the Sunshine State’s diverse landscapes on the Overlanders Way, travelling east to west from the tropical beaches of Magnetic Island to the outback desert near the Northern Territory border.

Townsville and Magnetic Island

Starting our journey in tropical Townsville, it’s hard to believe that we’ll soon be worlds away in the hazy dry heat of the desert. Before you dig your boots into the rich soil, it’s time to dig your toes into the sand. Townsville itself is a beachside haven, surrounded by cascading ancient rainforest and the most breathtaking beaches. While Townsville is certainly worth exploring, why not take in the tropics in full force with a day trip to nearby Magnetic Island? It only takes 40 minutes via ferry to reach Magnetic Island – but once you arrive, you’re met with the most incredible strip of white sand that melts into aquamarine waters. The surrounding Coral Sea has some of the clearest water along the Great Barrier Reef, and the island’s location makes it a great base for some epic snorkelling adventures.

Charters Towers

Once you’re back on the mainland, travel just over 90 minutes south-west to Charters Towers, a regional town teeming with history thanks to its gold rush past. In its goldmining heyday, Charters Towers was the second-largest town in Queensland. Today, the town’s shiny past is commemorated with stunning heritage buildings and museums, including the Historic Ambulance Museum, which dates back to 1903 and houses the oldest continually registered ambulance in Australia. There’s also the Zara Clark Museum, where you can explore the many displays and artefacts that depict what life would have been like more than a century ago.

Porcupine Gorge National Park

If you’d prefer something a little more rugged, head 65 kilometres north to Porcupine Gorge National Park, where a plethora of hiking, swimming, camping and animal adventures are on offer. The gorge’s impressive landscape sees ancient outcrops form a natural pyramid shape that mimics the great wonders in Egypt. Come here to admire the colourful layers of sandstone rise and fall in peaks and troughs, before flattening next to Porcupine Creek. There are so many walking and hiking opportunities here, with countless views and animal sightings to keep an eye out for.


Affectionately known as ‘The Curry’ by its beloved locals, Cloncurry whisks you back into the remote outback. The landscape here is equal parts spectacular and relentless (a ‘cold’ winter day is about 25 degrees Celsius and sunny), and the small town is the setting for many historical Australian stories. In fact, Cloncurry is the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which was founded by Reverend John Flynn in 1928 as the world’s first air ambulance. You can explore more about Flynn and the Royal Flying Doctor Service at the John Flynn Place Museum and Art Gallery.

Mount Isa

This incredible mining town is renowned for its unbeatable sunsets, dazzling night skies and rich community culture. Outback at Isa is an all-in-one destination for tourism, where history buffs can explore the town’s mining culture at the Hard Times Mine Underground Tour, and can admire its fossilised prehistoric remains at the Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre. If you’re an art fan, Outback at Isa is also home to the Mount Isa Regional Art Gallery, which displays an array of works from local, regional and Indigenous artists.

The Autumn 2023 edition of Caravanning Australia is out now!

Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

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