From harsh beginnings to a mining Mecca with a wild heart exemplified by a love of rodeo and outback adventure, Mount Isa is a city of extremes – and extremely popular despite its isolation.
Originally home to the Kalkadoon people, the lands around what is today Mount Isa first drew in European prospectors and pastoralists from as early as the 1860s. As settler numbers increased so too did the Kalkadoon tribe’s resistance to the invasion. By the late 1870s the most sustained period of guerrilla warfare in Australia’s history had arisen across lands to the south of the Gulf of Carpentaria, only giving way to mounting militarisation of the area that culminated in 1884 with a bloody last stand by Kalkadoon tribesmen at a rocky hill known today as Battle Mountain.
Little flourished in the years that followed as the protracted conflict, arid climate, intense heat, isolation, and scarcity of water made the region a harsh place for settlers seeking out an existence on the land either by raising stock or extracting ores. Then in 1923 a wandering prospector by the name of John Campbell Miles was led to an extensive untapped outcrop of lead and silver by a local Kalkadoon man, Kabalulumana. Miles wasted no time in realising he was on to a good thing, named the discovery Mount Isa (in reference to the Mount Ida goldfield in Western Australia), and staked out some claims with a few mates.
The following year a post office was built, the prospectors’ claims were bought out by the newly formed Mount Isa Mines Company, and the first turfs were turned for the railway line east to Townsville that opened in 1929. With the additional discovery of abundant zinc and copper deposits the mining industry boomed and an outback town like no other was born.
Today Mount Isa boasts a city status with a population of over 21,000. Mining is still very much at the heart of “The Isa”. Isa has the largest zinc resource base and biggest underground network of mines in the world. Employing over 4000 locals. However, ask anyone around what they really like the town to be renowned for, and they’ll tell you its rodeo.
Touted as the largest annual rodeo event in the Southern Hemisphere. The Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo is held every August as part of Australia’s professional rodeo circuit. It’s “where the romance of the Australian outback meets the grit of a mining town” as the promoters say. For three days the event triples the town’s population. The roar of trucks loaded with ore gives way to the thud of hoofs and the roar of the crowd.
But amongst the grit, its wild spirit and whir of industry, Mt Isa can also be a place of tranquillity. Just to the north Lake Moondarra has become something of a recreational oasis. Created by the damming of the Leichhardt River in 1958 to ensure a reliable water supply. All year round its calm waters and verdant scenery attract anglers, boaties, paddlers and sight-seers from near and far.
With many good reasons to make the trip deep into the outback and experience all Mt Isa has to offer. The locals like to ensure it’s a great place to stay. This includes some prize-winning accommodation.
RedEarth Boutique Hotel & Isa Hotel’s
Located in the heart of Mount Isa’s Business District you will find the popular RedEarth Boutique Hotel and Isa Hotel. The unique set-up of these two neighbouring hotels allows guests a mix of luxury and affordable accommodation. Along side a precinct of entertainment with first-class quality gaming. Plus an almost unheard of choice of food and dining previously only available in the coastal capital cities.
Both Hotels have received extensive refurbishments since purchased by the family owned and operated Hakfoort Group in the mid 2000’s. One of which changed the outlook of these two hotels was the 2009 refurbishment. When amalgamation via the construction of an undercover air bridge and alfresco deck took place. The amalgamation offered guests’ convenient access to the facilities of both hotels. Allowing guests to experience the best of both worlds; weather that be a cocktail in the RedEarth Cocktail lounge or a cold schooner in the Rodeo themed Rodeo Bar & Grill of the Isa Hotel.