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