Mount Isa is nestled in a valley in the deep red Selwyn Ranges in far western Queensland. Surrounded by a hot and harsh landscape with the cool Leichhardt River flowing through town, Mount Isa is aptly dubbed ‘the oasis in the desert’. With a population of 23,000, this is a town built on a mining boom. From the early days in the 1920s and the discovery of lead deposits, today, Mount Isa is one of the world’s top ten copper, silver, lead, and zinc producers.
Visitors can delve into this modern mining world, but there are plenty of other fascinating draw-cards in Mount Isa. This town is the perfect launch point for visiting spectacular Lawn Hill Gorge in Boodjamulla National Park, the world heritage-listed Riversleigh Fossil Fields and Lake Moondarra. Mount Isa has a dedicated arts and tourism precinct, and striking outback sunset views over the town are not to be missed.
Traverse the state of Queensland through Roma, Barcaldine, Emerald, Longreach, and Cloncurry to the Gulf of Carpenteria to experience an epic Gulf sunset and Sand Island dinner. See the outback come to life, learn about the heritage of mining, discover the indigenous culture, and ride the legendary Gulflander train as touring heads through Cobbold Gorge and Undara to tropical Cairns on this journey showcasing the best of Queensland.
There are so many things to do in Mount Isa. Start exploring the area with a visit to Outback at Isa on the Barkly Highway as you arrive from the east. This is Mount Isa’s award-winning tourism hub with an interesting visitor information centre and a host of Mount Isa attractions, including the Hard Times Mine Underground Tour, Isa Experience, and Outback Park, the Regional Art Gallery and Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre. This is a great place to get an overview and select a Mount Isa that suits you.
The Hard Times Mine tour is not to be missed. So don your overalls and cap lamps, join your ex-miner tour guide and descend to explore the history of mining and working life underground. There’s even a chance to try your hand at the air-leg drill!
If you don’t have time for the 270km drive to the Riversleigh World Heritage site in Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, pencil in a visit to Riversleigh Fossil Centre. The centre houses fossils from this globally significant fossil deposit and tells the story of the evolution of Australia’s mammals.
Each August, Mount Isa hosts the largest rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere. Drawing over 25,000 visitors, this world-class event is held in the red dirt of Buchanan Park arena. The week-long celebration includes a street festival, concerts, parades, markets and fireworks displays. So book early if you’re keen to take part in the rodeo action.
Mount Isa is just 200 km from the Northern Territory border, making it about as far west in Queensland as you can go. From Brisbane, it’s a 1,825 km drive on fully sealed roads or a 2-hour 40-minute flight. Another option is to board Queensland Rail’s Inlander for an overnight journey from Townsville.
Summer in Mount Isa is hot, and even though the humidity is relatively low, daytime temperatures range from 37 to 45 degrees. The winter months are generally accepted as the most beautiful time of year in Mount Isa, with crisp mornings, cold evenings, and daytime temperatures around 27 degrees. This is a perfect time for unearthing fossils, hiking, exploring, and getting your mining overalls on!
The mining city was named Mount Isa by prospector John Campbell Miles, who uncovered deposits of silver-lead ore in the region in 1923 and named the outcrop in memory of the Western Australia mine, Mount Ida.
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