Oasis in the Outback
Explore the fascinating history of Mount Isa, Queensland’s ‘Oasis of the Outback’, with glorious scenery and exhilarating activities on offer.
Mount Isa is an iconic Australian mining town. From its earliest years as a raw frontier settlement, the region has attracted people from many nations (at last count there were more than 50 nationalities represented here), and this blend of nationalities has given ‘The Isa’ a cosmopolitan character that sets it aside from many other outback centres. The city is dominated by the sprawling Mount Isa Mine with its 270m exhaust stack from the lead smelter. Mount Isa Mine is the nation’s deepest underground mine and is still the largest single producer of copper, silver, lead and zinc in the world.
Iconic Australian Mining Town
Get a bird’s eye view of Mount Isa from the city’s Hilary Street lookout. The lookout, with its global signpost, offers a 360-degree panorama and is an especially good spot to take sunset photos or evening mine shots.
The Underground Hospital is a ‘must see’ during your visit to Mount Isa. It was built in 1942 after the bombing of Darwin. Built by volunteers, the Underground Hospital is tunnelled into the side of a hill behind the Mount Isa Hospital and stands as a monument to the ingenuity, tenacity and determination of the people of Mount Isa.
Attached to the Underground Hospital is the Beth Anderson Museum which features a collection of antique medical equipment, colourful stories and rare historical items that will amaze and bemuse you. The National Tent House is also at this location and is the last of Mount Isa’s original housing.
Other attractions include the Mount Isa School of the Air, the Family Fun Park which is free to use and Lake Moondarra. The lake is a good spot for birdwatchers, picnickers and fishing enthusiasts. (You don’t need a fishing licence but there are bag limits.)
Mount Isa puts on the largest, richest rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere. The Isa Rodeo is held annually on the second weekend of August.
Outback at Isa
One of Mount Isa’s most talked-about tours is part of the Outback at Isa experience. Located within the Outback at Isa Visitor Information Centre is the Isa Experience Heritage Display, Hard Times Mine Underground Tour, Riversleigh Fossil Centre, Outback at Isa Café, Regional Art Gallery and Outback Park as well as the Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Dress in miner’s gear for this hands-on interactive journey through the day-to-day activities of an underground mining operation as you explore the Hard Times Mine, which mine comprises 1.2km of tunnels. While not as large as its big brother (the mine operated by Glencore Mount Isa Mines has 1,000km of tunnels!), each tunnel in the Hard Times Mine is approximately 4 metres high by 4 metres wide, big enough to drive a 50 tonne mucking unit through! The mine is accessed by an Alimak Cage (mine elevator) and contains a vast array of mining machinery, from three-boom jumbo drills to hand-operated air-leg drills.
The story of the remarkable Riversleigh area and its astonishing fossils awaits you at the Riversleigh Fossil Centre. Palaeontologists and scientists from the University of New South Wales have been studying Riversleigh for more than three decades, so there’s a lot known about the site and the animals.
Discover how Mount Isa came to be the multicultural, prosperous city of today by visiting the old days at the Isa Experience Heritage Display. It’s a self-guided display with an array of fascinating exhibits dating back to the earliest inhabitants of the land, the Kalkadoon indigenous tribe, through to the city’s pioneering and mining past.
Incorporating the Outback Park with its spectacular lagoon and waterfall, comprehensive native gardens and prolific wildlife, the Isa Experience is refreshingly different from the usual museum visit.
Your Isa Experience admission also includes entry to the Rodeo Hall of Fame, another must-visit to include on your itinerary. There, you’ll learn about the history of the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo – the biggest and richest rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere.
Outback at Isa’s Art Gallery, open seven days, has free entry and features artwork from local and regional artists during various exhibitions through the year. Outback at Isa also has a visitor information centre, gift shop, café and amenities including showers, free wifi and easy parking. It’s a one-stop spot for visitors.
Pack a picnic lunch to bring along or grab something from the Outback at Isa Cafe. After taking in the water features, you can cross the bridge over the lagoon and follow the paths to find your favorite shady spot to sit, eat and relax in the fresh air.
Riversleigh Fossil Centre - Outback at Isa
Phone (within Australia) 07 4749 1555