One of the best destinations in the Gulf Country.
Normanton was once the port for the Croydon gold rush and is, even today, the terminus of the historic Normanton to Croydon Railway. It is the second oldest town in the Gulf and is the government and administrative centre for the Carpentaria Shire, which stretches from the Mitchell River in the north to the Leichhardt River in the west.
Historical Sites Around Town
First stop for visitors should be the Burns Philp Building at the northern end of town. The building houses the Normanton Visitor Information Centre and Library as well as the town’s heritage centre, where you can browse through the interesting displays. Pick up a brochure on the Town Walk and discover the history of Normanton as you view 30 well preserved historical sites including the Normanton Railway Station, complete with a museum, original rolling stock and the famous Gulflander which still travels the line between Normanton and Croydon.
The Burns Philp was constructed in 1879 and still has its original strongroom and safe. While on your tour, see the handsome two-storey Carpentaria Shire Council chambers, learn some of the history of the river and Aboriginal burial grounds then visit the lookout, Normanton Hospital, Mrs Loys, school, general store, aerodrome and TAFE. Visit the old wharf where some original sections still stand. The boat ramp dates back to the 1880s when a winch punt was used for river crossings.
If you enjoy fishing, there is a jetty next to the boat ramp or there is a fishing bridge over the river, with barbecue facilities nearby. Get advice on where to fish and take every precaution possible, as this area is home to the dangerous saltwater crocodile.
To the north of town, on your way to Karumba, are many lakes and waterways known as the Muttonhole Wetlands. The wetlands cover more than 7000 hectares and extend inland for about 30km as a series of meandering saltwater tidal estuaries. They are home to a variety of birdlife and are especially important as a nesting region for migratory birds – a great attraction for birdwatchers.
Take care, as saltwater crocodiles are also found in this area.
Normanton Railway Station
Victorian architecture, nostalgic rail travel on one of Australia’s most famous little rail motors and a railway line that has its own place in the history books make the Normanton Railway Station one of the most loved attractions in town.
RM93, known as the Gulflander, pulls out of the Normanton Railway Station every Wednesday at 8.30am to travel along the most original railway line in the world. The trip from Normanton to Croydon is rich in Gulf landscape and the area’s past. If you don’t have time to do the full Normanton-Croydon trip, charters run regularly for a shorter nostalgic rail experience.
The grand old Normanton Railway Station is an attraction in itself. It was constructed in 1889 and is still in mint condition. Don’t miss the other star attraction, a former Gulflander known as RM60. It’s been around since 1931! With a museum, souvenir shop and a multi-award-winning garden, it’s well set up for day visitation.
Platform 1 Souvenirs
Platform 1, which is owned and operated by Niani, a local indigenous resident. The name of the shop was chosen because of its proximity to the only platform at Normanton’s railway station.
The shop offers a range of unique, quality souvenirs at affordable prices. A range of local indigenous art is on display and for sale. A visit to Normanton would not be complete without a ride on the historic Gulflander train and a souvenir from Platform 1.
Krys the Savannah King
Normanton is home to a fellow who is not the kind of creature that gives you the warm and fuzzies. He’s more likely to make you feel a shiver down your spine! This life-sized replica of an 8.63m saltwater crocodile is Krys the Savannah King, named after the country’s first full-time female crocodile hunter, Krystina Pawlowski. Krys the Savannah King can be found in the beautiful and shady L. E. W. Henry Park next to the council chambers.
Krystina and her husband Ron were considered the finest crocodile husband-and-wife team in the history of crocodile hunting in Australia. Krystina holds the record for the largest crocodile taken in modern times (it’s in the Guinness World Records), the fellow after whom this replica was modelled. She killed the crocodile with a single shot to the head in 1957 on the banks of the Norman River. Krystina later became more of a ‘crocodile grower’. In 1965, the Pawlowskis established Australia’s first experimental crocodile farm at Karumba. They experimented with breeding crocodiles from eggs collected in the wild. They studied the crocodiles’ feeding habits in an effort to find out how various types of food affected skin quality.
Burke and Wills Camp 119
More than 150 years ago, explorers Burke and Wills were here during their attempt to cross Australia’s unmapped inland from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria and return. Camp 119 (B/CXIX), established in February 1861, was the most northerly campsite of the expedition party and is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register. It is just 34km from where the town of Normanton now lies and is accessible from an access road off the Normanton-Burketown Road.
Services and Accommodation
At the Top Service Station you could easily find yourself being served by an Aussie sports heroine. Diane Reeves, winner of a Commonwealth Games gold medal for trap shooting is one of the owners of this ‘top’ business. The service station offers 24-hour diesel and unleaded (card purchase) and has a fully equipped workshop.
If you want to be able to say you caught the biggest barramundi in Normanton, just set up your line with the larger-than-life Big Barra statue in front of the Gulfland Motel and Caravan Park. Once you have the photographic evidence, you can happily book into your accommodation, either at the motel or the caravan park area. The caravan park has places for big rigs, shady campsites, laundry facilities and barbecue area. There’s even a small pool for a refreshing dip.
Normantion Visitor Information Centre & Library
Phone (within Australia) 07 4747 8444