Apart from dinosaurs (see my previous post), this stretch of highway offers a couple of other gems worth writing about.
Definitely worthy of a leg stretch is the Julia Creek visitor information centre. Not only does it have great facilities for a picnic stop but it also showcases the region’s arguably most famous inhabitant – the Julia Creek dunnart. This tiny, wide-eyed, endangered, nocturnal marsupial was only discovered in the wild in the early 90s. Before this, it was thought to be extinct.
The visitor centre houses one and you can hand feed it if you get there early enough (10am). At other times, for a small entrance fee, you gamble on the little guy coming out to investigate the vibrations of your voice, thinking it’s more breakfast. We were lucky; probably because the Knights are nothing, if not loud. Regardless of whether he comes out to meet you, the site features video and interactive interpretations and your entrance fee goes to supporting a community hit hard by drought and recent floods. The visitor centre said farmers would not receive any income from cattle for at least the next 4 years, so the area relies heavily on tourists making a stop.
Further along the Overlander’s Way is Richmond and its major drawcard – fossils. But the town has made pains to establish other areas of interest too. There is Cambridge Downs cottage and stables, recently refurbished to showcase a fully restored Cobb & Co. coach and the tough life the pioneers faced centuries ago.
And the town also has moon rocks.
These limestone boulders appear, on first sight, to be shaped by the environment. But in fact they have grown around a grain of sand or fossil fragment, much like a pearl. Some grow quickly, some grow slowly and can be anywhere from golf ball to car size. Dug out of the earth, they are now visible all over the town, more plentiful even than the dinosaur bins.
Charters Towers, which was our overnight stop day 11, is also worthy of an afternoon’s exploration. Towers Hill was surprisingly interesting. There’s a great lookout
but also an interesting displays of the town’s role in WWII hosting American troops. 30 cement bunkers still pepper the hill, a few of which have been converted to audio visual displays. There’s also the remnants of the pyrite factory, where dirt from the gold fields was sent to extract microscopic gold fragments through the use of chlorine.
Charters Towers offered up one final treat too. The Tor Drive-In theatre was just a few moments away from our accommodation. And as double serendipity would have it, it was showing my favourite movie – Ghostbusters! There’s not much call for drive-ins in wet and cold England so this was a first for Stephen, and although there are still 2 drive-ins in the greater Brisbane region, the kids had never been either. So despite us spending most of our day in the car, we took the opportunity to spend yet more time in close confines and experience this novel cinematic style – although I must admit, we didn’t stay for the double feature.