Often known as the ‘oasis of the outback’, Mount Isa is regularly referred to as a gleaming mirage, nestled among the ochre-red Selwyn Ranges. The city is a bustling melting pot of culture and industry, sitting on the banks of the Leichhardt River. Also, a little fun fact about Mount Isa: it’s home to the world’s third largest rodeo.
While the city has grown over the past few decades, the landscape remains mostly unchanged, being a big draw-card for visitors every year. There’s plenty to see and do in Mount Isa, with the biggest attractions being the Lawn Hill Gorge in Boodjamulla National Park and the world heritage listed Riversleigh Fossil Fields.
And the good news is, there are plenty of ways to travel to the majestic destination.
Being such a popular destination, Mount Isa is accessible via direct flights from many of Queensland’s cities including Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns and the Gold Coast. There is also a flight available from Darwin. Accessing the city from anywhere else generally requires a stop-over in one of these ports. Of course, this depends on the airline you choose and the days you wish to travel.
Bear in mind though, flights in and out of Mount Isa can get expensive with airfares averaging between $350 to $450 one-way.
The good news is though, that the main city centre is just eight kilometres away from the airport, so once you land, it won’t take long to get to your accommodation.
If you’re keen for a road trip, there are a few options on using the car to get to Mount Isa. The added bonus here is that once you’re in Mount Isa, you’ll have your car to help you explore the region, which is always helpful.
If you don’t feel like driving yourself, there are bus options from Brisbane and Townsville. These options will set you back between $100 to $200, depending on the route you want to take and your starting point. There are two main companies that service the area – Greyhound and Bus Queensland. Of course, there are also charter bus services if you have a big group and you want to travel together on a private bus.
If you’re keen to crank the tunes and get driving though, Mount Isa is about 900km west of Townsville and just under 2000km west of Brisbane, depending on which way you go. It’s 2400km from Sydney and from Melbourne, you’re looking at just over 2500km of driving to do.
The good news is, the main highways in and out of Mount Isa are excellent and suitable for any kind of car or vehicle you may be driving. Plus, the scenery on the way is magnificent with savannah grasslands, ranges and even the remnants of an inland sea.
While driving does sound like an economical option, remember you can’t do it all in one day. In terms of budget, you’ll need to factor in petrol, food stops along the way and accommodation to rest so you don’t get too tired. You may think you can keep going overnight but we can assure you the locals don’t recommend it. Kangaroos are very common on the road at night and we all know what can happen if we accidentally hit one – yes, your car will come off worse. Other wild animals also roam around at night including emus, pigs and cattle so it’s best to avoid driving in the dark.
The key landmark to look for when driving along the highway into Mount Isa is the smokestacks. Once they’re up ahead, you’re almost there.
The train can be an excellent option for those wishing to see a bit more of the outback. It’s really a wonderful way to sit back and enjoy the journey as Queensland’s natural treasures pass your window.
Train trips are scenic and comfortable and you honestly, don’t have to think about a thing once on board. The Inlander route from Townsville to Mount Isa by QueenslandRail takes about 40 hours and costs between $300 and $600, depending on class. Of course, you have to get to Townsville first so always factor that into your decision-making.
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Driving is probably going to take you the longest. Not only is it generally the slowest mode of transport, but you’ll be stopping along the way for rest breaks and overnight so that will slow you down.
While flying will be your fastest route, there will be stop-overs on the way, especially if you’re coming from a different state. The same goes with the train service, as the main route starts in Townsville, so you have to get there first before you can even start your journey to Mount Isa.
In terms of comfort, it all comes down to personal taste. Some people may hate the idea of flying, and therefore a train, bus or car will be the preferred option. On the same vein, some people may not want to be at the wheel for so long, but flying may be out of the budgetary question, so it will be a toss-up between the bus and the train. At the end of the day, it’s all about how you want to travel and how you want to spend your time. Remember though, sometimes the holiday is just as much about the journey as it is about the destination.
However you choose to get to Mount Isa, it’s undeniable that you’ll have an excellent trip. With so much to explore and so much to do, you’ll be absolutely spoilt for choice.
Once you’ve arrived at the historic Mount Isa, you might need to unwind and relax by having a couple of beers and a mouth-watering steak. Head on over to the Isa Hotel for some of the best pub food in the region!