We rolled into Mount Isa quite early in the morning, so there wasn’t much open other than a coffee shop offering free Wi-Fi. After a coffee, we strolled around town to get our bearings before heading to the information centre to get the lowdown on the town.
Fuel was fairly cheap in Mount Isa, with diesel sitting at around $1.57 when we were there. As mentioned earlier, there are places around town that offer free Wi-Fi, including the library, which is a great place to hang out to escape the heat of the day. Coles and Woolworths offer relatively cheap groceries, a dump point with access to drinking water is located by Buchanan Park and both Optus and Telstra reception are available.
After checking out a few points of interest, we visited several op shops and went to the post office to collect a package that our friend in Melbourne sent us for our birthdays. Thanks for the gifts, Chris! Juz did some work in the library while Dave replaced the front shocker rubbers on the Troopy, and we were on our way to camp by around 4pm.
As the usual story goes, someone found lead ore while in the Mount Isa region in 1923. A lease was pegged on the area as soon as possible, which was also named after Mount Ida – a WA gold field. As the news spread, there were 118 new leases by the end of 1923.
With the establishment of Mount Isa Mines in 1924, a town was required to service the workers of the mine. It started off as a camp and slowly more accommodation and a pub was installed. Then a hospital, courthouse and school were built before the State Government moved in to turn it into a real town.
In 1943, the mine started to mine for copper to cater for WW2, and in 1946, both lead and copper were mined. By 1955, Mount Isa Mines was the largest mining company in Australia, which meant that Mount Isa was growing and so Lake Moondarra was constructed in 1958. The population boom was so great, that in 1968, Mount Isa town was declared a city.
- Mount Isa’s population is around 23,000 people.
- The main industry is mining, which is made obvious by the enormous mine in the centre of town. It is in the top two of the largest copper mining and smelting operations in Australia. Mining of silver-lead-zinc is also done at the mine.
- According to the locals, there are two sides of the city, the Mineside and the Townside.
Points of Interest
This spot provided great 360° views of the city, including the mine and the information centre. A signpost gave the distance and direction of various capital cities, and there are picnic tables nearby for those who are looking for a picturesque location for lunch.
Riversleigh Fossil Centre
Located at the Outback In Isa Information Centre, the Riversleigh Fossil Centre displays various mammalian bones collected from the Riversleigh Fossil Fields, as well as dioramas of what life and the environment would have been like tens of thousands of years ago. The displays include diprotodonts, the largest marsupial ever to have lived in Australia, as well as the skull of a fangaroo! The entry fee is $12 for adults, or if you’re a member of YHA Australia, you get backpacker rates.
Located about 120km south east from Mount Isa, Cloncurry is a small town with a big history. It was the home of John Flynn, the guy who established the Royal Flying Doctors Service and earned the honour of having his face put on the Aussie $20 note. There is a museum in town that commemorates his work.
Mary Kathleen Memorial Park includes the Information Centre and a shaded picnic area with free BBQs, as well as a great outdoor display. Stroll through the various historical machinery that was used for farming and mining, and learn about Australia’s first rail ambulance, a unique 1941 Ford V8 converted to a rail ambulance that operated until 1971. There is also a rock collection next to the Information Centre to peruse. Mary Kathleen was a nearby mine, named after someone’s wife of course.
Information & Accommodation
Outback In Isa Information Centre is a great place to start to get information about the surrounding area. Visit the Riversleigh Fossil Centre and Historical Museum, or book a tour through the Hard Times Mine. There’s a café, gift shop and art gallery as well.
Fountain Springs Rest Area – 60km E from Mt Isa. This rest area is about halfway between Cloncurry and Mount Isa and includes flushing toilets, fire pits and bins. If you’re lucky, you can get some Telstra reception but make sure you get there early as the rest area can get a little crowded.
WW2 Airfield Rest Area – about 50kms W from Mt Isa, this spacious rest area offers overnight stays with toilets, bins, picnic benches and plenty of space.