Escape to two of Australia’s most remote and untouched wilderness areas in style, rich with age-old wisdom and sheer raw beauty as your expert field guides connect you to the land, the sky and to a rich history. Incredible intimate experiences, gourmet surprises and comfortable wilderness accommodation form just part of your journey. This is a voyage which combines 4WD exploration and trekking, etched with indigenous culture, rare wildlife encounters and is accented with rustic luxe touches - Epicurean meals, sundowner drinks and sustainable, private glamping accommodation. Embrace time out from your busy lifestyle - free from mobile phone coverage and interruptions from the outside world. Witness rare, millennia old artworks as well as an insider’s glimpse into life on one of Australia’s largest cattle stations. Here, the skies are vast and the scenery spectacular – let the land work its magic on you as you explore some of Australia’s most remote and untouched landscapes. Your guides will showcase their secrets spots, recount stories of people and indigenous inhabitants, explorers and settlers who created the human history of this area. The end of each day will reward you with spectacular sunsets before you are mesmerized by the dancing campfire beneath a canopy of stars and retiring to the sounds of the Australian outback. This is an experience like no other – soft adventure with a touch of perfect indulgence for those looking to experience the natural beauty of outback Australia.
Day 1 - Arrival Cairns to Port Douglas
Welcome to Queensland! You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel in Port Douglas where the remainder of the day is yours at leisure. Port Douglas was the traditional home to the Yirrganydji people before it was converted into a fishing village after European settlement. Enjoy exploring the marina and strolling along stunning beaches or simply relax at your hotel.
Your accommodation this evening is one of National Geographic’s ‘Unique Lodges of the World’, located on a private headland between Cairns and Port Douglas. Complimentary experiences are provided for guests including nature/wildlife walks, star gazing nights and specialist talks from local experts. Why not dine in the treetops this evening, at the hotels popular Ospreys Restaurant?
Overnight Thala Beach Nature Reserve Resort or similar
Day 2 – Rock Art and Indigenous Culture
An early start this morning as you set off into the Queensland outback with your expert indigenous guide. Learn all about the region you are traversing and its history. Stop at a quirky café for morning tea at Mt Molloy as you start to set the scene for your outback adventure.
Continuing on, you will reach the old Jowalbinna Station where you can see Red Bluff in the distance, aka Jowalbinna, which is a mountain of cultural significance to the local indigenous people. Nearby is the historic Cobb and Co staging post and the Patrick Mail Hotel site with the remains of the sandstone floor and kitchen. Cobb and Co were a true pioneer for Australian travel in the gold rush years taking travellers between colonies and mining towns as well as further into the outback. Cobb & Co were also instrumental in setting up the mail delivery system in Australia.
Along the way, following the 4WD only Laura – Maytown Coach road adventure track, you will see the pickaxe marks in the sandstone from the ‘old timers’ who forged the road. Natural formations in the sandstone like Jockey Cap will also be seen. Hop out of your vehicle, stretch your legs and head into the bush to learn about native bush tucker, traditional bush medicine, as well as many other interesting facts about the Australian bush with your passionate guide.
Arrive at your bush camp around lunch time. Enjoy lunch and be shown to your comfortable camping tents. After lunch, venture on a short walk as part of your interpretive guided rock art tour. Be educated about the Indigenous history of your guides people through the rock art – the stories are there in red, yellow and white. These incredible rock artworks form a 20,000 year old gallery called ‘Magnificent’ and they are certainly magnificent. A true library of your guides people’s ways. There are 450 paintings that will captivate and mesmerise.
Following your guided tour, you will have some free time to wonder and explore the wilderness or simply enjoy the jaw dropping scenery from the lookout. Wash off the day’s red dirt in our hot water bush shower overlooking the deep gorge and rocky cliff-faces. In the evening, curl up around the fire as the sounds of the Yigi Yigi (didjeridoo) echo through the valley while your roast dinner cooks on the coals. Then it’s billy tea and yarns around a campfire.
Slip into nightfall and become part of the incredible landscape – roll out a swag or cosy up in your tent with beds that will make you forget you are camping. Five star? How about a billion stars? (B,L,D)
Overnight Private Bush Camp
Day 3 – Outback – On Country
Wake up and watch the beautiful sunrise coming up over red sandstone, escarpment country. A hot bush breakfast over the campfire will be served followed by some free time to wander and explore this rugged outback and soak up the views. Enjoy a day of exploring this incredible escarpment country with a guided hike to more remote rock art sites with incredible stories and mythology attached to them. Learn of their history and enjoy your time immersed in nature.
Another evening under the stars lays ahead, with a delicious camp oven meal. (B,L,D)
Overnight Private Bush Camp
Day 4 – Return to Port Douglas
Awake to the rustle of the wind through the leaves, the echo of the breeze in the escarpment and warm glow of the sun peering over the land. Following breakfast, when you are ready, journey back to Port Douglas. Enroute, time permitting, stop at Split Rock in Quinkan Country just outside Laura, which takes its name from the spirit figures which are featured in an array of rock art galleries, located across the belt of sandstone which dominates this landscape.
Although the exact age of these galleries is yet to be determined, they are believed to be between 15,000 and 40,000 years old. They are included on the Australian Heritage Estate, are inscribed on the National Heritage List and are listed by UNESCO as being among the top 10 rock art sites in the world.
The Laura rock art is unique for its quantity, quality, variety and age. The galleries have hosted artists over hundreds of generations. Some creating new works over old, others beginning new galleries in separate overhangs and shelters.
These ancient rock art sites provide historical evidence that Aboriginal people have lived in the Laura region for many thousands of years, prior to first contact with European explorers in the 19th century.
Handed down by their ancestors, these sites provide a visible link with the past and demonstrate the link between people, community and country. Return to Port Douglas in the early evening. (B,L)
Overnight Thala Beach Resort or similar
Day 5 – Fly to Mt Isa - Stockcamp
This morning, you will be transferred to Cairns airport for your flight to Mt Isa. Fly over the rugged outback terrain as you venture inland. Mt Isa is one of Queensland’s longest-running mining towns. At night, the surrounding cliffs glow and zing with industry; the view of the twinkling mine lights and silhouetted smokestacks from City Lookout is strangely pretty. The surrounding country has a stark red beauty about it.
Proud locals embrace life in the dusty heat and the geographical isolation. There is a similarly proud Indigenous history here; these are the traditional lands of the Kalkadoon, and Aboriginal people comprise nearly a quarter of the town’s population. On arrival, you will be met and drive 190km to Camooweal where you will pause for a short break. Camooweal proudly declares itself as the ‘Gateway to the Northern Territory/Queensland’. The road from Mount Isa to the town, known to locals as ‘Tojo’s Highway’, was built during World War Two with American funds and was originally designed as a link between the southern states and the theoretical ‘front line’ in the Northern Territory.
The explorer William Landsborough, was the first European to pass through the Camooweal area. At the time (1862), he was looking for Burke and Wills. His reports led to the area being settled by pastoralists, but it was not until 1884 that the town of Camooweal was gazetted. It grew as a service centre for the surrounding properties, but the growth of Mount Isa meant sustained growth was not possible. The Barkly Highway between Mount Isa and Camooweal is considered the longest main street in the world at 188 kilometres long! Continue northward towards the Stockcamp, stopping for some sightseeing and a picnic lunch along the way. The scenery is golden and sparse. This is the true Aussie outback.
On arrival, settle into your luxurious eco tents which are set up in a spectacular location, designed to expose you to the surrounding country. Enjoy some free time for a relaxing dip in the nearby waterhole, a lush and welcoming paradise amongst the harshness of the land, or simply relax around your camp site. As the sky starts to change colours, head to the Old Station for sundowner drinks as the sun continues to dip. Each evening, you will be wined and dined with a meal carefully prepared using only the finest local produce under the canopy of the night sky – another truly Australian luxurious experience. (B,L,D)
Overnight in Glamping Bell Tents
Day 6 – Pinnacle Trail
Enjoy an early hand-cooked breakfast with a tea station that could rival the Hilton, served at 7am before you set off for the day. Today you will hike the 9km Pinnacle Trail. Hiking isn’t always about getting from point A to point B, it’s about exploring and learning. Your path today has only been travelled by a select few. There is an incredible amount of history along the way and our expert guide will educate you as you walk. You will be lead through this incredible environment as you look out for a range of endemic flora and fauna. Explore deserted camps and discover what it was like living so remotely 50 years ago. You will traverse the sparse spinifex hills, be amazed by the sheer expanse and never-ending views. Be sure to have your camera handy! Jump in your vehicle and drive to The Big Gorge for a gourmet picnic lunch with an incredible view. The Big Gorge is just one of the breath-taking sights you will encounter. The sheer magnitude of the colourful landscape will capture your heart and soul. This afternoon, you have free time to swim in the waterhole or relax on the rocks with a cold drink and enjoy the birdlife and peacefulness. This region is well known for vibrant green and gold wild budgerigars which quite often flock to the waterholes for a drink. Enjoy wine and cheese as the sun starts to dip. Tonight, we are doing things a little differently. You will overnight at the gorge, on a remote escarpment where you will enjoy a traditional Australian stockcamp dinner – think camp oven, billy tea and damper. A rare and private experience that will immerse you in the story of the land. Watch the rockface and gully change colour with the setting of the sun. Relax around the crackling campfire and enjoy the uninterrupted night sky – we call this evening the ‘star-bed’ experience and it is often the highlight for many. Tents and sleeping mats supplied. (B,L,D)
Overnight in Tents
Day 7 – River View Walk
Awaken this morning to the changing colours of the rising sun as you are greeted with spectacular views. Absorb the breath-taking natural treasure that is before you. After breakfast, transfer back to camp where you can freshen up before enjoying a hike to a local waterhole. Here, you may see freshwater crocodiles bobbing on the surface in the stunning landscape. Enjoy morning tea along the trail. Along the way, be sure to stop and take in the immense natural beauty of your surroundings. Remember that you are a member of a very small club who will ever get to experience this part of the country. Your expert guide will continue to open the secrets of their country and reconnect you with the bush. Their passion and knowledge of the environment will simply inspire you. The craggy sandstone bluffs watch over you, the incredible topography and the rivers lined with gums, continue to deliver that quintessential outback landscape. You will return to camp for a long lunch. Be spoilt by our team whilst you relax and enjoy great conversation, cold drinks and delicious, sustainably sourced food. Drive to the Border Waterhole and explore the untouched beauty of the landscape and enjoy an afternoon of exploring and relaxing. As the escarpment begins to glow in that red-gold rich light of the sunset, return to the Stockcamp where dinner is served after the most satisfying hot shower under the dimming sky in Australia’s remote outback. Sit down to a safari styled dinner table adorned with white linen, crockery and a beautiful bottle of wine. Be spoilt by yet another night of delicious dining and relaxing. It is these luxurious touches of hot water showers and sundowners, paired with evenings around a campfire, a selection of beverages and expertly crafted menus, that deliver key comforts for an immersive bush experience. Retire to your deluxe bell tent, your legs and body slightly aching from the days trek throughout some of the most remote landscape that most people will never get to experience as the Australian bush sounds coo you to sleep. (B,L,D)
Overnight in Glamping Bell Tents
Day 8 – Lost City
Today you will transfer to the Lost City, a 2km walk from where you leave the vehicle and will explore the one-of-a-kind rock formations in this ancient area. The Lost City is something you need to see with your own eyes in order to comprehend just how magnificent these natural rock creations are. These layered looking towers will spire over you. Time will fly as you look in wonder at the 530 million year old Cambrian marine limestone stacks. Enjoy a picnic lunch at The Look Out before you transfer back to camp for some free time to relax and the opportunity to take in the magical views whilst stand up paddle boarding! The river is wide and flat. Shade leans over you from the river gums and red cliffs tower overhead. This is tranquillity at its best in some of Australia’s most remote waterholes. For those still feeling active, there is the option for a 4km hike to Stockcamp Gorge. This evening, enjoy your final dinner together, celebrating a fantastic week spent with friends as together, you created lasting discoveries and connections with the natural world exploring this beautiful landscape. (B,L,D)
Overnight in Glamping Bell Tents
Day 9 – Mt Isa
Savour your last outback breakfast before making your way back towards Mt Isa. Enjoy a short break at the Herbertvale Station homestead for morning tea and an insight into life on a working cattle station before one last gourmet lunch. Enjoy a tour of the cattle yard and if mustering is taking place, witness the spectacle of the round up process of moving livestock from one location to another. You may see mustering done by helicopter, stockmen on horses and of course hear the thunder of the running cattle. Return to Mt Isa for an estimated 4pm time of arrival. Why not enjoy dinner in the Mount Isa Hotel this evening with the locals? (B,L)
Overnight Red Earth Hotel or similar
Day 10 – Departure
Your tour ends after breakfast this morning, as you transfer to Mt Isa airport for your onwards flight. The stories you have learned and created will echo as you relive and share your journey with those back home. (B)
- Private transportation
- 2 nights accommodation in Port Douglas
- Private professional, local and experienced outback guide
- 2 nights bush camp including morning tea, lunch, camp oven roast dinner, all beverages (non-alcoholic), hot breakfast and lunch (day 2/3/4)
- All daily activities, permit and entry fees
- One way domestic flight Cairns/Mt Isa– Economy Class
- 1 night accommodation Mt Isa
- 4 nights glamping at Stockcamp (sleeping bag, pillow and towel not included)
- Return transfers to/from Mt Isa
- Gourmet meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner – days 5-9)
- International and domestic airfares not mentioned above
- Optional excursions
- Travel and medical insurance
- All services, meals other than those indicated above
- Sleeping bag, pillow and towel for days 5 – 8
- Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program.
- All items of a personal nature e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone calls, tips etc.
**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 6 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of 30% per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.