If you’re travelling from Townsville to Darwin by bitumen, you’ll pass through the tiny outback town of Richmond, Queensland, woos weary overlanders.
It’s a humble sort of town with a quiet, bougainvillea-lined street and a laidback pair of pubs, but it’s Richmond’s worldwide reputation for digging up Australia’s finest prehistoric marine fossils, and the remarkable displays at Kronosaurus Korner museum.
Most of the museum’s growing collection of 100-million-year-old fish, turtles and ancient sharks and dolphins have been found within a 60km radius of the town, unearthed from the bottom of an ancient seabed that once covered most of inland Queensland.
1. FOSSIL HUNTING
Fossil hunting is the big attraction in town. You can fossick the local hunting grounds where all kinds of prehistoric discoveries have been made, and anything you dig up can be taken to staff at Kronosaurus Korner for identification. No permits are required, just head 12km from town to the council quarry.
Cross the Flinders River on to Mt Creek Road to reach two free fossicking sites where you might unearth sharks’ teeth, belemnites (a type of tiny squid), fish fossils and, more rarely, ammonite shells and the bones of turtles and a primitive type of dolphin called ichthyosaurs.
2. LAKE FRED TRITTON
We were delighted to find the aquatic life is very much alive in nearby Lake Fred Tritton. Stocked with 18 fish species, including sooty and gulf grunter, red claw yabbies, sleepy cod and spangled perch, this man-made lake opened in 2004 and locals swear the barramundi are huge.
The excellent bush tucker gardens impressed me with an incredible diversity of plants, all native to the region and each identified with informative plaques detailing traditional Indigenous uses.
Amongst the shady gardens you’ll discover gidgee stones and enormous moonrocks that are common to the area too. At sunset we strolled the walking track that circles the lake.
3. WALKING TOUR
Back on Richmond’s main street, don’t miss the chance to take a free, self-guided tour of Cambridge Downs Heritage Display Centre, a flagstone replica of a local homestead built in the late 1860s, the ruins of which lie 40km from town.
Packed with 150-year-old collectables, machinery and photographs, the displays offer insight into all aspects of Richmond’s history with a stable out the back housing Cobb and Co carts and a beautifully fragrant herb and flower garden. The heritage centre is open daily from 9am to 4pm.
Outback towns thrive on their big annual events, and Richmond locals enjoy a particularly action-packed winter, hosting the Outback Fossil Festival, the Richmond Rodeo and the Spouse Hunters Ball. We were fortunate enough to catch the Richmond Campdraft, a three-day affair luring the district’s best riders into the saddle to wrangle cattle and woo the crowds.
5. ROADS & RIGS
Richmond is located on the Flinders Highway, 488km west of Townsville and 407km east of Mt Isa. Is it totally accessible by bitumen roads, making it suitable for vehicles and rigs of all shapes, sizes and capabilities.
MEET THE AUTHOR
It’s been over 20 years since Catherine tackled her first Aussie Big Lap and she’s been recounting her travel tales ever since, working mostly with her partner, photographer David Bristow. The couple’s first book – Highway One, the Ultimate Australian Road Trip – was published in 2012.
With a background in journalism, magazine editing and as a newspaper manager, it’s long been the outback office that Catherine enjoys best. And when not exploring some dusty outback track, Catherine and her family live aboard a sailing catamaran in Cairns.
Photographer – David Bristow