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Mt Isa & the Outback

Author: Carl from Pahrump
Email: carlball@yahoo.com (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: October 2006

sign welcome to queensland australiaMt Isa & the Outback Alice Springs to Cairns Oct 2006 Bird Watching Trip Report For the Independent Traveler.com
In 2006 and 2007 we spent 255 Days driving around Australia. We started in Darwin, drove south to Alice Springs, backtracked to Cairns, went down the East Coast to Rockhampton, cut over to Melbourne, went across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth, drove up the West Coast to Broome, and finished by crossing the Kimberely Region on our way back to Darwin -- 24,000 miles & 6 rental cars. Along the way we stayed in 56 cities and saw 693 bird species/subspecies.

This Trip Report covers the 4 days we spent bird watching while driving from Alice Springs to Cairns in Oct 2006 -- Barkly Highway, Mt Isa, Charters Towers, Townsville, & Ingaham.

From To State Miles Hrs Alice Springs Threeways Rdhouse NT 331 6 Threeways Rdhouse Mt Isa Qld 396 8 Mt Isa Charters Towers Qld 481 9 Charters Towers Cairns/Redlynch Qld 306 7

The purpose of this trip was to get from Alice Springs to Cairns without flying. Bird watching was secondary, but helped to make the drive interesting.

We saw 106 bird species at 8 locations:

City State Location Lat & Long Ti Tree NT Stuart Highway 22.131S 133.416E Tennant Creek NT Mary Ann Dam 19.610S 134.210E Avon Downs NT Barkly Hwy 20.025S 137.489E Mt Isa Qld Lake Moondarra 20.582S 139.574E Julia Creek Qld Flinders Hwy 20.657S 141.742E Charters Towers Qld White Mt NP 20.764S 145.029E Townsville Qld Bruce Hwy 19.595S 146.838E Ingaham Qld Tyto Wetlands 18.658S 146.161E

If you put these coordinates into Google Earth, you can see the locations I am discussing. Typically, there will be lots of pictures as well.

The places where we saw the most bird species were:

Location Bird Species Stuart Highway 16 Mary Ann Dam 27 Barkly Hwy 34 Lake Moondarra 29 Flinders Hwy 34 White Mt NP 7 Bruce Hwy 30 Tyto Wetlands 22 Total 106

The Barkly and Flinders Highways traverse a relatively hot and barren stretch of the Outback. Taken together, we were surprised to see 55 bird species in 2 days of driving and birding these highways -- mostly at rest areas.

If you exclude the drive from Alice Springs to Tenant Creek and birding Mary Ann Dam (places we had birded earlier in the trip), we saw 96 bird species driving from the Threeways Roadhouse to Cairns in 3 days.


Tennant Creek -- We stayed at the Threeways Roadhouse -- a combination gas station, restaurant and campground -- about 15 miles north of Tennant Creek (http://www.threewaysroadhouse.com.au/ 19.437S 134.208E). We had a deluxe Glendales room, which was pretty small but had a refrig. and air conditioning. There was a private bath but no washcloths. The meals there were Beautiful!!!

Mt Isa -- We stayed at the Abacus Motel (abacusmotel.com.au/ 20.700S 139.486E) just as you come into Mt Isa from the west at 163 Barkly Hwy. This was a good location for going to Lake Moondarra birding. Good restaurant on site.

Charters Towers -- We stayed at the Heritage Lodge Motel (heritagelodge.com.au 20.063S 146.284E) on the east side of town. Nice hotel, but no restaurants around.

If we were planning the trip again, I would:

Stay 3 nights in Mt Isa, more if I could find a good cottage out of town. This area has at least 7 good birding sites -- see www.birdsqueensland.org.au/gazetteer-other.php.

Break-up the 481-mile drive from Mt Isa to Charters Towers with nights in Cloncurry and Richmond. This would give time to drive the back roads in the Selwyn Range between Mt Isa and Cloncurry to look for the endemic Cloncurry Parrots and Kalkadoon Grasswrens that can only be found in the greater Mt Isa area.

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