Great Barrier Reef Feature
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Queensland's Outback is a vast and exhilarating place filled with real-life Crocodile Dundee types. Everyone lives in very isolated townships, so locals are used to relying on each other.
Heading west from Townsville along the Flinders Highway (aka Overlanders Highway), stop at once-prosperous gold-mining town Charters Towers —a beautiful city with 60 or so historically significant buildings. Farther west is Hughenden, showcasing significant ancient fossils found in the region. Continue via Cloncurry to Mount Isa, a surprisingly multicultural city of around 23,000 people, where you'll find the sprawling Xstrata Mount Isa Mines; Australia's deepest mine (at 6,234 feet), it's one of the world's largest producers of copper, zinc, silver, and lead. The drive takes about six days, one-way.
When traveling any of these routes by car, take practical precautions. Use a four-wheel-drive vehicle—many roads in the region are unpaved and become slippery after it rains. Always carry spare water, a first-aid kit, a good local map, and sufficient fuel to get to the next town (which may mean carrying spare gas cans). If you're traveling into remote areas, advise local police or other responsible persons of your travel plans and report back to them when you return. If you have an on-road emergency, call 000 from the nearest public phone (or 112 from mobile phones) to reach an ambulance or the police.
The Overlander's Highway stretch of the Flinders Highway is a great drive for experiencing a small slice of the Australian Outback, but how did it come to be, exactly? The name gives it away; "overlander" is a term used to refer to someone who helps move cattle from one place to another, and this route used to be used for that purpose. The word has found its way into general usage to describe other distance-traversing feats; a small sampling includes Overland magazine which focuses on 4WD vehicles, the town of Overlander in Western Australia, the Overland train that runs between Adelaide and Melbourne, and of course this great drive.Updated: 07-2013
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