Below is a day by day itinerary for the Diamantina Burke and Wills expedition. Diamantina have been offering expeditions following Burke and Wills for many years. It is a wonderful heritage trip following an extraordinary story that panned out as a gothic melodrama. You will be travelling in a small convoy of modern desert equipped expedition four wheel drives on a trans continental odyssey.
We pick up from all Melbourne CBD hotels and head out to Royal Park to commence our expedition to cross the continent at the plinth that marks the spot where the original Burke and Wills Expedition set off. At this historic site we will hear some of the speeches and accounts of the spectacle that accompanied the Expeditions departure back in 1860. Through Melbourne peak hour traffic, we turn onto Mt. Alexander Road and shortly pass the site of Camp One at Moonee Ponds. Aside from a detour around Essendon Airport, we faithfully follow Burke and Wills exact route north through Romsey and Litchfield, across the Great Divide to Elmore in Central Victoria. Here we leave the bitumen and the country opens out to vast plains as we follow wheat roads to Terrick Terrick and on to lunch beside the Murray River at Swan Hill. We cross into New South Wales and on to Balranald, and then take the Prungle Mail Road to our first nights camp in the Mallee.
Past Prungle Lakes we head to Mungo National Park. After look at the visitor’s interpretive centre and the impressive woolshed, we drive across Lake Mungo and take a boardwalk before ascending the dunes at the Walls of China. We continue on through the Cyprus covered dunes of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage area until we reach the Darling. We turn north and head to Pooncarie where we lunch beneath River Red gums on the banks of the Darling. In the afternoon we continue north to the Menindee Lakes. We visit the site of the base camp at Pamamaroo Creek – then on the edge of civilisation. We also visit the Maiden Hotel, on the original expedition known at Pains Pub. Some sections of the original hotel are still standing.
We head out across the Irrigation regulator and head for Broken Hill. After a brief drive through town we head east Broughton Vale Station. In the shadow of Scropes Range we arrive at Burkes Cave. There is some faint Aboriginal art and plenty of ancient graffiti, and the cave looks identical in the watercolour painted by Beckler. We climb back over Scropes Range to Broughton Vale homestead and out to the Little Topar Pub on the Barrier Highway. We take station tracks north past Waterbag to Mutawintji National Park. Here we take a short walk to see the cave where Brahe painted his initials over ancient Aboriginal art. We camp north of Mutawintji.
We travel through some spectacular rangeland, past Noonthorangee Creek affording some grand views of Koonenberry Mountain that so struck Wills on their journey north. We meet the Barrier Highway just south of Packsaddle and continue north to historic Milparinka for a visit to the excellent museum. After lunch we visit Depot Glen, where Charles Sturt was hemmed in by drought in 1844/5. As the waters receded and scurvy set it, one of his party-Poole-died. We visit his grave; beneath the very Grevillea striata they buried him under all those years ago. At Tibooburra we visit the family hotel, where artist Clifton Pugh’s murals adorn the walls of the front bar. The lowering sun turns the iron-clad plains of Sturt National Park deep red as we cross the Queensland Border and the Dog Fence at the Warri Gate and head to camp.
We turn east past Rotten Swamp and shortly come to spectacular breakaway country at Grey Range, looking out over the vast Bulloo Swamp. We descend to Old Tickalara and take station tracks through to Bulloo Downs Station and out to a lonely desolate site on the banks of the Bulloo River at Kooliatto Waterhole where Becker, Purcell and Stone died. We continue on to the town of Thargomindah for a shower and then on to camp beneath the Grey Range
We travel through the oil and gas fields of Nockatunga and Jackson, finally crossing the wide floodplain of the Cooper beyond Naccowlah oil field. We lunch at Bullah Bullah Crossing on Nappa Merrie station, the site of the famous Dig Tree. The famous blaze is still visible, and there is a small interpretive museum here. We continue on to Cullymurra waterhole and visit Burke’s memorial at the site where he died. After a stop at Innaminka and perhaps an ice cream at the general store or a beer at the pub (whichever takes your fancy) we travel north to Kudriemitchie Outstation to camp on the banks of the northwest branch of the Cooper.
We visit the world heritage listed Coongie Lake, and extraordinary wetland in the desert, home to many wading birds and desert species – a birdwatchers paradise. We travel northwest through the white clay and statuesque coolabah trees to Walkers Crossing. We camp on the Cooper floodplain.
The floodplain gives way to a few sandhills, and in no time we are enveloped in the gibber plains of Sturts Stony Desert. Vast ironclad plains and a shimmering horizon punctuated by the occasional creek bed, we cross the desert to the Birdsville Track. Skirting Goyder Lagoon we head north on the Outside Track to Birdsville. Here there is the chance for a shower, and to visit the iconic Birdsville Pub. There is plenty to see and do in this classic Outback town. We camp of the floodplain of the Diamantina River.
We visit the Dingo Caves, commanding a wide view of the surrounding desert, including a large patch of the rare Waddy tree (Acacia peuce). We continue north through Channel Country, past Lake Mahattie - usually dry - to Bedourie and on to Boulia, the home of the Min Min lights…. We camp on the Burke River outside Boulia.
We take the Selwyn Road across desolate country to the Phosphate Hill mine and on to The Monument mining town. We are now entering hilly country, leaving Channel Country behind. We are in the traditional land of the fearsome Kalkadoons. The road climbs up to the railway siding of Duchess, where we stop at the quaint pub for refreshments. We camp outside Duchess.
We descend out of the rangeland to Cloncurry. Ever northward we break at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse before crossing the Flinders River and arriving at Normanton.
We travel across the gulf savannah to the Bynoe River, and visit Camp 119, where King’s blazes on several trees are still visible. This was the expeditions northernmost camp, although Burke and Wills had one further bivouac in the mangrove swamps to the north. This marks the point where we celebrate our crossing of the continent. We head north to Burketown on the Gulf, named after Burke even though he never visited it and then swing south to Adeles Grove.
Today we have a full day to explore Lawn Hill. There are numerous walks around the gorge, and a magnificent canoe paddle and swim beneath the deep red walls of the gorge on turquoise water. At Adele’s Grove there is a café/bar for relaxing.
We depart Adeles Grove and visit Riversleigh. Fossil fauna from the Riversleigh site have altered our understanding about Australia's mid-Cainozoic vertebrate diversity. We will take an interpretive walk around the fossil field. We head for Mt Isa and drop off at Mt Isa hotels late afternoon.