Mount Isa is a mining town like no other. Originally home to the Kalkaboon Aboriginal Tribe, this city of 22,000 is one of the largest producers of copper, zinc, lead and silver in the west. Founded by John Campbell Miles in 1923, Mount Isa offers history, unique culture and some of the best natural exploration around. There’s no better way to explore it than with these spectacular parks.
BOODJAMULLA (LAWN HILL) NATIONAL PARK
If you’ve never heard of Lawn Hill National Park, you’re not alone. Until recently this hidden gem was under the radar – amazing considering its outstanding beauty. It wasn’t until Crocodile Dundee came to town in the 2018 Tourism Australia Super Bowl ad that the world got to see the stunning red sandstone walls that drop into striking emerald green waters. Today, 40,000 people pack their bags for a visit.
Boodjamilla (Lawn Hill) National Park offers 28,200 hectares of postcard-worthy views. The dense forest oasis is no mirage, bucking the outback red dirt trend with its windy watercourse that gives it its name. “Boodjamulla” means “Rainbow Serpent Country” in the local Indigenous language. Discover it by taking one of seven walking trails or experience it with a guide.
RIVERSLEIGH AUSTRALIAN FOSSIL MAMMAL SITE
The isolation of almost 35 million years makes Australia one of the most biologically distinctive continents in the world and Riversleigh is one of the world’s most important fossil sites. Riversleigh D Site, superbly preserved in the Boodjamulla National Park, is the only part of the Riversleigh Australian Fossil Mammal Site that’s open to the public and while it’s a 120km drive from Mount Isa, it’s well worth a visit. Its fossils are from the late Oligocene period, dating back 25 million years.
Situated just 17km from the city center, Lake Moondarra is a popular place for locals and tourists to go swimming, boating, kayaking and fishing for barramundi. Access to the lake is by a sealed road and offers a picturesque shoreline drive. There are several scenic picnic areas located around the lake with large shady trees in abundance. There are also free BBQs, so pack some snags for the trip too. If you’re a keen birdwatcher, look out for pelicans, cormorants, galahs, and ducks or pick up a species guide from Outback at Isa.
Lake Moondarra is a freshwater fisherman’s dream and is home to magnificent sunsets over the water. It’s also a hiking paradise if you want to pack the boots.
There’s no better place to get a view of ‘the Isa’ then at Telstra Hill. Just 2km out of the city it offers breathtaking views day and night. Not signposted from the road it can be hard to find for first timers, and bear in mind you will need a 4WD. Look for the big telephone tower on the hill to your left as you’re heading to Cloncurry on the Barkly Highway and you’ll find an old bitumen road on the way up to the hill. Once there, take the 3km round trip walk from the bottom and then soak in the sunset. Some parts are steep but it’s suitable for anyone with moderate fitness. The best time to walk the hill is morning or evening as there is no shade as you walk.
BALLARA MINING HERITAGE TRAIL
If you are traveling between Mount Isa and Cloncurry along “The Overlander’s Way” (Barkly Highway); you come to the Fountain Springs Rest Area. Here you can stretch your legs on the Fountains Spring Loop, also known as the Ballara Mining Heritage Trail. Bear in mind that the trail is located on private property and that all NO ENTRY signs should be adhered to. Beware of stock on the track and leave gates as you find them.
The rest area is also across the road from the entry to one of the best 4WD tracks open to the public in the Mount Isa region. The drive is spectacular with the quartzite Fountain Range on one side and volcanic Mount Phillip on the other.
Known as the “Friendly Heart of the Great North West”, Cloncurry is rich with history and museums. The birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS), the John Flynn Place Museum and Art Gallery is a must-visit. Another must is Mary Kathleen Memorial Park, home to beautiful parkland, a playground, amenities and shaded picnic tables. A ten-minute walk up the lookout past the unique water feature allows you to take in the spectacular panoramic view of Cloncurry and the surrounding rugged landscape. You’ll also find a free outdoor display featuring historic mining, rail and farm equipment including a 1941 Ford V8 Rail Ambulance.
WEE MCGREGOR MINE
Located 50km from Mount Isa, Wee McGregor Mine is a hotspot for gemstones and fossicking. You’ll need a 4WD to get there and enjoy the breathtaking views. Stop at Ballarra Cemetery, established in the early 1900s. Once a booming mining town, the last train in Ballara was in 1927, making it a ‘ghost town’ in the Mount Isa region. If you do take this journey, look for the infamous Maltese cross along the way.
CLEM WALTON PARK AND CORELLA DAM
Corella Dam was constructed on the beautiful Corella River in the late 1950s for the purpose of supplying water to the township of Mary Kathleen. Today you can enjoy the tranquility of the area while trying your luck at fishing or enjoying a swim in the dam. There’s also free BBQs if you’d like to take some lunch with you. Clem Walton Park is a peaceful free campsite and a great place to relax and recharge the batteries. The birdlife is spectacular – a bird watcher’s paradise.
CAMOOWEAL CAVES NATIONAL PARK
The 13,800 ha of semi-arid Barkly Tablelands that make up Camooweal Caves National Park (a 2-hour drive from Mount Isa) are characterised by open eucalypt woodland, spinifex, turpentine wattle shrubland and extensive areas of Mitchell grass plains. The caves and sinkholes formed when water percolated through 500 million-year-old layers of soluble dolomite creating caverns linked by vertical shafts up to 75 m deep. Visitors should be extremely cautious around the edge of the sinkholes.
While public entry is not permitted, a safe viewing area can be found at Great Nowranie Cave. At Camooweal, turn south at the Post Office Hotel, onto Urandangi Road. Travel for 15km, following the signs, to the park turn-off on the left. From here, the Nowranie Waterhole day-use area is 6 km and the Nowranie Caves car park is 8 km.
MAKING MOUNT ISA YOUR BASE
With breathtaking outback country all around it, Mount Isa is a true icon in the outback of Australia. Approaching its 100th birthday, the Isa is still growing strong, enjoying the longevity that’s unheard of when it comes to typical mining communities. Make Mount Isa the base for your outback exploration and you won’t be disappointed.
After a long day exploring the beauty and taking in the absolute splendor of Northwestern Queensland, the Redearth Boutique Hotel is the best place to rest. Not only do we have lavish accommodation, but we have a number of convenient facilities such as a fantastic bistro and bottle shop. Within the heart of Mount Isa, now is always the best time, so book now!