Plenty Highway

This is the most direct route from central Queensland across to Alice Springs in central Australia. It is a wide stretch of very red sandy soil that when wet can be impassible and is therefore a 4WD track only. The Plenty Highway really doesn't begin until you reach the NT border, but to get there you travel from Boulia in outback Queensland along the Donohue Highway (just a track).

West of Boulia the Georgina River makes a wonderful camp. At times this incredible river can be in full flood, flowing fast towards Eyre Creek. Once you reach the Qld/NT border it is 569km to Alice Springs. Other excellent camps are at the Marshall River (shade shelter and picnic table) and then further on at the Plenty River.

What You Will See

The countryside changes considerably along the track and although it lacks services and things to do it is certainly one of the prettier shortcut tracks that you can do in this area. The overwhelming difference is that although the soil is the same red sandy stuff of the Simpson Desert, the terrain is completely flat, the spinifex grass much greener, and if there's been recent rains then wildflowers line the roadsides. Billy buttons, bush daisies, poached egg daisies, yellow tops and native violets carpet the sides of the road where water collects in the gutters.

As you approach the Harts Range you begin to see the first mountains you've probably seen in quite a while. If you've come from Birdsville or Boulia for long your senses seemed to be bombarded, a result of having been surrounded by gibber, sand and dust.

Just past the Harts Range Police Station (next door to an aboriginal community), turn left (south) down a track to the "Racecourse". Probably deserted for 363 days of the year this racetrack becomes a mecca for the outback racing enthusiasts with a crowd of a few thousand on the last weekend in August.

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Just behind the racecourse a track leads south for about 10km and finally reaches the base of a few impressive mountains, the highest being Mt Palmer. Mt Palmer is the highest in the Harts Range and is a fabulous climb. It will take about 2 hours to reach the summit but on the way you can explore open gaps left by mica miners and soak up the impressive views. Black-footed rock wallabies live in the mine shaft (where two miners lost their lives in a collapse not long after it was opened) and many wildflowers grow amongst the rocky outcrops on the climb up.

This track called Cattlewater Pass is a 4WD section between the Plenty and Arltunga. The track winds through some of Australia's finest gemstone fossicking areas and private cattle property and is a great alternative to get to Alice Springs. It will probably take you about 3 hours to travel the 60km along the track, with the northern section being true 4WD conditions of varying type. Most people advise that is unsuitable to trailers or tall vehicles, however it can be done. The track is now pretty well sign posted, after being quite unmarked for many years.

Travel Distances

Boulia - Plenty Hwy (NT-Qld border) 246 km

Plenty Hwy - Jervois: 221 km

Jervois - Gemtree: 208 km

Gemtree - Alice Springs: 139 km

Total distance: 815 km

Total travelling time: 16 hours

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