Our Drive from Mary Kathleen to Croydon Including Mines, Monuments and Mangoes

On our way to Cloncurry, which was our next overnight stay, we called into Mary Kathleen. Mary Kathleen was once a busy uranium mining town but is now basically a ghost town. There is a road that leads you towards the entrance of the town one way and  the abandoned open cut mine site the other. We had seen pictures of extremely blue water in the mine and were keen to have a look for ourselves. We could only get so far down the trail before we had to unhitch Stanley and leave him behind. A short, bumpy drive later we came to the disused mine site and it was amazing just how blue the water was, apparently this vivid colouring is caused by Copper Sulphide.

Blue water at abandoned Mary Kathleen mine

Reardon getting the 'guest book' to sign

After having a good look around, we headed back to pick Stan up and then check out the town side of the road. Pretty much all that remains are  streets and concrete pads, where dwellings once were. We had heard that there was a book in a letter box somewhere that people could sign to say they had been there. After driving round for a while we found it. Inside the book was a brief history of the family that used to live in that particular house. It was very cool and we enjoyed adding our names to those already listed. We decided to find a shady spot and stay here for lunch. There was some kind of spillage in the van – I can’t recall what it was  (it wasn’t the washing machine). Anyhow, we hung a wet towel and wet floor mat over some bushes to dry. Of course I’m sure they didn’t take too long to dry off and perhaps if someone else is visiting Mary Kathleen anytime soon, they could check for us! Thanks!

Next we made our way to Cloncurry where we dropped Stan off at Wal’s Camp ($15 a night) before driving to McKinlay to visit the Walkabout Creek Hotel. This is the hotel from Crocodile Dundee and although it has been remodelled there are still a few bits of movie  memorabilia around, which were fun to look at. We had a beer and said cheers to Mick Dundee (although I think Paul’s was more directed at Linda Kozlowski and her g-string) before leaving.

We have  seen a number of places featured in the first Crocodile Dundee movie and I shall now start dropping hints that we need to visit places featured in the second  -should have left it well alone – movie but as it was filmed in New York I don’t like my chances!

In Walkabout Creek Hotel

Walkabout Creek Hotel

Cloncurry has quite an interesting history. Burke & Wills passed through on their expedition, the original QANTAS hangar is here and it is also where The Royal Flying Doctor began, so we were keen to have a look around, though typically, most things were closed.

Several people we have met on the road recommended we visit Karumba so we headed north, passing through Normanton, to get there. It was here that we saw a life size replica of the biggest known crocodile killed in Australia (by a woman, with one shot). It was massive and apparently measured 8.63m.


Krys the monster croc

Karumba is  a fishing Mecca and apparently gets extremely busy in peak season, with lots of people setting up camp for months. Similarly to Broome it is supposedly very difficult to get a booking during this time. The road from Normanton to Karumba was very average and the visitor centre here was also closed when we arrived. We had a good look around town and for us it was a long way to come for very little. Now, if you are a bird watcher or avid fisher then you would probably love it. One thing we were excited about was getting to see the Gulf of Carpentaria, we also had a really nice fish and chips dinner. If you are interested there is also a Barraumdi Discovery Centre to visit at Karumba.

Gulf of Carpentaria

Reardon at sunset waiting for fish and chips

One of the blazed trees at Camp 119

A lesson on Australian history was next on the agenda as we headed to Camp 119. This was the most northerly camp used by Burke & Wills on their ill-fated expedition from Melbourne to the north coast . From this camp they trekked as close as they could through the swamps to the Gulf of Carpentaria. They also buried a few items here and Burke blazed a ring of trees around the camp before heading off on the disastrous return trip.  You can still some of the trees but the blazes are no longer recognisable. There is an information board with details about the trip and also a monument. That’s pretty much it, not really a lot to look at but such a significant place to visit.

The fabulous town of Croydon was next. What a great little place. Once upon a time Croydon was a booming gold mining town. It has one of the best Information Centres we have visited (with an awesome DVD presentation, complete with hologram) and the pride of the townspeople is very obvious. We spent a few hours following the Croydon Walking Guide which leads you around the town, visiting buildings such as the town hall, mine museum and jail. There are other sites to visit around or just out-of-town and we enjoyed looking through a house built by one of the original families. It’s easy to see that the design was influenced by the Chinese heritage of the builder and surprisingly, someone actually lived there until the 1980’s!

One of the original houses in Croydon

One of the mouth watering mango trees

Not far from Croydon is Lake Belmore where the kids really enjoyed a fun cool off. The only downer while we were in town was the fact that our timing was not good enough to take advantage of the abundant mango trees dotted around town. They were all laden with mangoes – literally thousands – but they weren’t quite ripe yet.

Lake Belmore Fun

Next stop Undara Volcanic National Park where we celebrated the six month mark of our road trip by  walking in lava tubes and standing in the crater of a dormant volcano!


4 responses to “Our Drive from Mary Kathleen to Croydon Including Mines, Monuments and Mangoes

  1. Can’t believe that you have been travelling for 6 months now! Have enjoyed your posts. Wondering how you are feeling…everyone still enjoying the trip?

  2. Thanks Jo. Everyone is still happy and enjoying being on the road. It is as though this has become our new kind of normal. The only things we miss are people and our dogs. Our only regret that we didn’t do it sooner, oh and maybe that we don’t have a money tree or golden egg laying goose! We seem to constantly be filling the diesel tanks, our trip to the red centre in particular was a killer.

  3. Wayne Kerr II

    I lived at Mary Kathleen from 1975-1983. Have revisited a few times to dig around where my sandpit was under a treehouse. I’ve managed to unearth some matchbox cars and lead soldiers. Was surprised to observe backpackers swimming in the open cut water. Everything from the mine processing plant which was too contaminated to sell at the auction was thrown into that pit when the whole operation was dismantled and sold.Yes, we’re talking radioactive contamination here. Different times then..

    • Hi Wayne. How cool that you were able to unearth some old treasures. Can’t believe the backpackers swimming in the open cut water. Admittedly it looked nice and refreshing, but still? The mind boggles!! Thanks for the comment.

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