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Australian 4x4 Travel - The Plenty Highway

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The Plenty Highway

The Plenty Highway stretches from the Stuart Highway a little north of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory across east and into Queensland.

There are two starting off points for this trip. Mt Isa and, further south, Boulia in Western Queensland. The trip ends at Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Boulia to Alice Springs is about 800 km and from Mt Isa about 30 km longer. The longest stretch without fuel is on the Boulia to Alice Springs route and is about 460km, between Boulia and Jervois Homestead, although some fuel may be available at Tobermorey Station, best to phone and check (07) 4748 4996.

Boulia is famous for the Min Min Lights, a luminous glow that floats across the sky or appear beside the road or in paddocks. The locals reckon it's true but scientists and many visitors are skeptical. See what you think.

Leaving Boulia the first leg of the journey is on the Donohue Highway .

The Donohue Highway runs from Boulia to Tobermorey Station, about 255 kilometers, from here it becomes the Plenty Highway. If you are taking this route check with the locals first to see if there has been flooding at the river crossings further west as, if so, your trip could be delayed or cause you problems in crossing some of the creeks.

From Mt Isa your first leg will be on the Diamantina Developmental Road and then the Urandangi Mount Isa Road. Fuel can be obtained at Urandangi, which lessens the distance with no fuel to Jervois Homestead to about 330 km.

The route can be rough and sandy and is best travelled in winter and spring.

Originally just a cattle track the road was upgraded in the early 1960's on the Northern Territory end. Queensland followed with a sort of upgrade a short while later.

West of Boulia the dirt road passes through enormous grass plains and some scrub land. It is excellent cattle country around here, of which you will see adequate evidence.

Some distance west you will start crossing the channels of the Georgina River. If there have been heavy rains then the river could flood this crossing, meaning a delay that could last several days.

This is a good spot to stop over with shady areas and lots of bird life. Further west you could have the same situation at Pituri Creek if they have has rain.

You should be aiming for Tobermorey Homestead, where the road from Mt Isa joins your and at the start of The Plenty Highway and the purpose of this trip.

Heading west from here the countryside changes to very flat, scrub country with only the occasional hill or creek to change the scene as you head for Tarlton Downs Homestead.

As you head further west you will start seeing termite hills doting the countryside and you will pass interesting sounding landmarks such as Heartbreak Bore and Cockatoo Waterhole. The turnoff to Tarlton Downs Homestead is about 140 or so kilometers from Tobermorey and is about 15 km off the road although you are not able to obtain any supplies here.

Watch for the turnoff to Jervois Homestead as you will probably be wanting fuel and food by now which is available during the day. Accommodation and camping is also available at Jervois.

There is quite a river system around Jervois, although don't expect them to all be full and flowing, one of which, The Plenty River, crosses the highway at this point.

The Plenty Highway in fact runs parallel, and just to the south, of the Plenty River from here to Low Rock, way past the Harts Range Police Station, probably close to 200 kilometers.

About 80 km from Jervois Homestead the countryside starts to change as the Harts Range starts to appear to the south.

Once in the Harts Ranges there is a turnoff to Atitjere Aboriginal Community, situated just of the Plenty Highway. A little further on after this turn off is the Harts Ranges Police Station and you are about three quarters of the way through your trip.

If you are running low on fuel or supplies there is the Atitjere Aboriginal Community further on and off to the left, you will be about 600 km from Boulia at this point and three quarters the way through your trip. Here you can get basic requirements.

If you plane to be around here in early August try and make it the first weekend in August and visit the Harts Range Races at the racetrack to the south of the police station. I guess not many travellers would be able to add that to their "been there and done that" list!

If you are interested in fossicking a detour south towards Mt Palmer is one of Northern Territories premier fossiking areas. The area is dotted with mines and you will need a fossickers permit. The locals can probably point you to the best spots.

By now you are heading off westwards again towards Mount Riddock Homestead which is about 15km further on. The road conditions start to ease a little and a further 10km, at Ongeva Creek, the bitumen begins again.

About 14 km past Mount Riddock Hoestead is the Cattlewater Pass Track which leads down into an area that has the Quartz Mill Mine and ultimately on to the Ambalindum Homestead.

Further on from Ongeva Creek you will come to a junction at Mud Tank. This is a great fossicking area, particularly for zircons. The main fossicking areas can be found to the south along this track for about 10 kilometers.

If you don't want to fossick today then keep going for 6 or 7 kilometers to The Gemtree. Here you will be able to get fuel and provision supplies as well as find a decent camp site and cabin accomodation. Onto fossicking again and you can join guided fossicking trips here.

From Gemtree travel another 70 or so kilometers and you will come to the junction of The Plenty Highway and the Sturt Highway, which is the main route from Alice Springs to Darwin. Heading for Alice Springs? Turn left and just 70 kilometers more.

To Darwin about another 1400 km.

From here it is an easy, drive into Alice Springs. One of the attractions along the way is that you might like to take a rest stop at the tropic of Capricorn, travelling south into Alice you will find it on the right side and normally with several vehicles parked around the place.

So the home stretch will take you through the rolling hills into Alice Springs.

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Australian 4x4 Travel - The Plenty Highway

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