Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations
1 million Australian readers every month      list your event

Top 7 Reasons to Visit Cloncurry

Home > Townsville > Escape the City | Family | Fun Things To Do | Unusual Things to do | Weekend Escapes | Lists
by Gayle Beveridge (subscribe)
Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published September 9th 2021
What do copper and the Flying Doctor have in common?
We were on an eighty-day autumn and winter road trip when we visited Cloncurry, a small Queensland town of around 3,000 people, just a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Brisbane. Cloncurry is a quintessential outback town, 120kms east of Mount Isa and 770 kilometres west of the city of Townsville via the Flinders Highway. The town, which has its roots in copper mining, was founded in 1867 but draws most of its fame as the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). We stayed over to give ourselves enough time to explore Cloncurry's history and mining, and we were not disappointed. Here are my top seven reasons to visit Cloncurry.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
Watch the colours of the rock change as the sun sets – Photo by Gayle Beveridge

1. Dramatic Landscapes. We shared the driving and made the 568kms from Longreach in one day. The land between Longreach and Cloncurry is, for the most part, open plains. There are long, straight and monotonous stretches in the road. Now and then we come upon high rocky outcrops springing up from the plains. There is a road stop at one of the more impressive ones and we take some time for photos and to stretch our legs.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
A rocky outcrop rising up from the plains - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

2. Wildlife and Pastoral Stock. We spotted some camels in a large paddock but weren't sure if they were wild. We saw a flock of emus, but of kangaroos saw more as road kill than we saw alive. Large numbers of black-breasted kite feed of each carcass, but my attempts to take a good photo before they flew off were not successful. There is stock in the paddocks along here, brahma cattle and some large flocks of sheep.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
Interesting rock formations springing up from the barren plains - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

3. Termite Mounds. We pushed on to Cloncurry where the landscape was greener and there was bushland. We started to see termite mounds in abundance on either side of the road. Unfortunately, there is no good place to pull over for photos as the verges were sloped and rocky. I was able to get a much closer look at the termite mounds in town, as there were many on the land adjoining the Cloncurry Caravan Park.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
One of many termite mounds - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

4. A Mining Town. After we settled in, I walked into town to the post office. The Cloncurry ambience was indeed one I would expect of a mining town. I looked down one of the side streets where I could see a slag heap from the copper mines.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
Mining in Cloncurry - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

Copper was discovered here by Ernest Henry in the 1860s and gave rise to the Great Australia Mine, located 2kms south of the town. The mine operated until 1919 when the practicalities of this remote area forced a closure but it reopened in 1995 and is now operated as an open cut. Notably, this 19th-century mine has yielded up a new discovery in the 21st century in the gem Cloncurryite, only recognised in 2006 and aptly named after the area. This is a sky-blue gem with clusters of needle-like crystals which is associated with native copper.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
Cloncurryite found only in Great Australian Mine - Image by Leon Hupperichs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today there are a number of mines in the area including Mount Colin Mine, Mount Frosty Mine and Ernest Henry Mining, which is a copper, gold mining and processing operation, 38kms from town. Although we didn't have time during our stay, visitors can get a fossicking licence and a fossicking mud map from the Visitor Information Centre at Cloncurry Unearthed in McIlwraith Street (Flinders Highway).

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
Cloncurry Landscape - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

5. John Flynn Place and Art Gallery. We started our first full day with a visit to John Flynn Place. John Flynn, who came to be called Flynn of the Inland, was a Reverend in the Presbyterian Church. It was his dream to create a mantle of safety for the people of the outback, and he fulfilled this with the creation of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The RFDS began here in Cloncurry on May 15th, 1928. The first flight took off two days later in 'Victory', a bi-plane leased from QANTAS for 2 shillings per mile flown. John Flynn Place is located on the corner of King Street and Daintree Street, Cloncurry. They can be contacted on (07) 4742 4153. Click here to visit the Cloncurry Council John Flynn Place page.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
A quarter scale model of 'Victory' the first flying doctor plane, supplied by QANTAS - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

The museum walls are lined with storyboards of his work and there are many artefacts to view, including his Magic Lantern projector, which John Flynn, a keen photographer, used to show slides in his promotions of the Flying Doctor Service. There is a quarter-scale model of 'Victory' and a restored 1924 Dodge which is the same as that used by Flynn on his outback travels in the 1920s.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
A replica of the 1924 Dodge used by John Flynn in the 19320's to promote his idea for the Flying Doctor - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

The lower level of the museum is dedicated to Alfred Traeger and his invention, the pedal radio. Traeger's radio solved the problem of a workable communication for the Outback. One of these early radios is on display, along with another of Traeger's inventions, the Morse code typewriter. Radios from the 1930s and 1960s are also on display.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
Pedal radio - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

There are movies to watch and we press the button for The Inlanders, a 1949 movie that follows the travels of the Reverend Kingsley 'Skipper' Partridge. You would not believe where he went in his ute; it would put many a modern 4WD to shame.

6. Cloncurry Unearthed (Mary Kathleen) Museum. After lunch, we wandered through the Cloncurry Unearthed (Mary Kathleen) Museum. We saw a short movie on the history of Cloncurry and then viewed the mineral and gem collection that is claimed to be one of the most comprehensive in Australia, with more than 16,000 specimens. The rocks and fossils are indeed beautiful, but much of it is lost on us. An avid collector would no doubt be very excited to be here. Outside, we climb concrete stairs to a lookout across the town and countryside. Click here to visit their website or call on (07) 4742 1361. The Cloncurry Visitor Information Centre is at Cloncurry Unearthed, which is in McIlwraith Street (Flinders Highway).

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
Copper at Cloncurry Unearthed Museum - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

7. A Rock of Changing Colours.At 5.30pm we went to the edge of town, across the road from the Cloncurry Caravan Park, to view a large rock outcrop at sunset. The locals had told us it changes colour, and they were not wrong. They call it their Uluru. The colour changes over the course of a half-hour were dramatic. Just before sunset, the rocks were a deep rich red.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
Colour changes in the rock with the setting sun - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

Where to Stay. We stayed in a cabin at the Cloncurry Caravan Park. The grounds are expansive. There is a shaded seating area, a pool, a gym, an activities room, a laundry and a camp kitchen. There is also a restaurant if you don't fancy cooking. Click here to visit the caravan park website or ring them on 1800 635 559. Alternatively, there is another caravan park and a number of motels. Click here for a Google list of accommodation options.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
Post Office Hotel Cloncurry - Image by www.gondwananet.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Getting There. The quickest way to Cloncurry is by plane with flights out of Brisbane taking about two and a half hours. You can travel there by train from Brisbane via Townsville, by bus from Brisbane (a long trip) or by car. Click here for more details of travel options from Brisbane.

Cloncurry,Outback Queensland,Outback holidays,Royal Flying Doctor Service,Copper mining,Outback road trip,Things to do in Cloncurry,Things to do in outback Queensland,John Flynn,North queensland holidays,
Everywhere you look, the landscape is dramatic - Photo by Gayle Beveridge

If you're travelling in the area, don't pass Cloncurry by on your way to somewhere else; it's definitely worth at least a full day for exploration, and indeed probably more. Click here to visit the Cloncurry Discovery page for visitor assistance and information and click here for a tourism booklet.
Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  59
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Why? An interesting mining town which gave birth to the Flying Doctor Service
When: Any time but I would recommend autumn and winter
Phone: (07) 4742 1361
Where: Cloncurry is a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Brisbane, 120 kms east of Mount Isa and 770 kilometres west of the city of Townsville via the Flinders Highway.
Your Comment
How amazing does Cloncurry look? I might get there one day!
by Paula McManus (score: 3|3780) 247 days ago
This another great example of the variety of places to visit in our vast land.
by Roger (score: 2|783) 249 days ago
Great article - thanks 4 sharing.
by T. A. Rose (score: 2|517) 249 days ago
Who would have known this was out there, I'd never even heard of this town before.
by betty (score: 2|662) 246 days ago
Articles from other cities
Popular Articles
Categories
Lists