Camooweal, only 12km from the Northern Territory border, is an outback country town with a surprising amount of services considering its size. It once had bullock trains travelling down the main street, and memories of those times are still alive in historic photographs displayed at the shire hall.
Camooweal is considered the home of the drover. When you visit the town’s droving museum, the Drovers Camp, the past is all but brought to life before your eyes. In fact, this town was once the drovers’ capital of Queensland. Today, the Drovers Camp shares the story of droving in a way that can keep visitors enthralled for hours. The main tours start in May and give people an unusual opportunity to hear stories straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Old drovers who lived and loved the life bring total authenticity to the tales of how droving operations actually worked, from the days of early pioneers like Kidman to more modern times. Each tour starts outside, where a map is set up and the old droving routes are explained. Inside the shed, the gear required for droving is laid out and the guides flesh out the picture of this travelling life. The third highlight of the tour is a setting of a packhorse/drovers’ camp to indicate the day-to-day happenings. The final stop on the tour is an air-conditioned gallery with plentiful portraiture and droving history display boards plus a shop where people can buy souvenirs. The Drovers Camp is open every day in the season and there are usually three tours a day. (You can also visit at other times. The manager’s doors are pretty much always open.)
Drovers will be the stars of the show at the 20th Drovers Reunion in August. Come and savour the humour, music, history and action. The traditional drovers’ lunch is by invitation only for drovers and their partners, but for everything else, the more the merrier! The festival kicks off on Friday afternoon with the street parade and charity mail race, where $1000 goes to the winner’s charity of choice and the runner-up’s charity receives $500. Festival entertainment will include bush balladeer Tom Maxwell, bronco branding and a big concert on Saturday night, while the local jockey club has its annual race meeting on Saturday afternoon in conjunction with the festival. A photography competition is held during the festival and the winning local landscape entry becomes a postcard that is then sold through local outlets in Camooweal.
Grab your supplies at the Camooweal Roadhouse, which provides fuel, food and accommodation
Popular with visitors is the Georgina River, and fully self-contained campers can camp on the banks for free for about 8km along the river.
When there’s plenty of water, the birdlife is incredible, with pelicans, ducks, brolgas and swans among the abundant birdlife. There are actually about 50 species, so you might need to get out your bird book. There are two lovely waterholes, Lake Francis and Lake Canellan, where the birds congregate.
The Barkly Tablelands were discovered by William Landsborough in 1861 (there is a commemorative cairn in town), but its history goes back much further … before the birth of man, in fact. Back in the Cambrian era about 500 million years ago, rare sinkhole caves were formed in the district. They can still be seen today at the Camooweal Caves National Park about 20km south of Camooweal. The park is home to many birds, and there is a little billabong beside the camping area. There are toilets but no power. If you intend to camp there overnight, take your own water (you need to be totally self sufficient). Make local enquiries before going out.
Outback at Isa
Phone (within Australia) 1300 659 660