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Ageing Traveller Series

The Ageing Traveller series is written by Rose Howell, who has been traveling the world for over 40 years, beginning with New Zealand and then the ‘Hippy trail’ in the 70’s. Her travels have taken her to; Asia, Middle East, UK, Europe, Africa, South America, USA, Canada, China and the Pacific Islands. In total she has visited 67 countries plus all the states of Australia except Western Australia, and her goal is to make the century club. Her passion for travel is documented on her Facebook page.

Click here to find out more about Rose.

Cairns to Normanton, Karumba and Mt Isa

Savannah Way

The final stage of our outback experience before returning to Mt Isa gave us a real taste of the Outback.

You know you are in the outback when you see the ant hills. Many are dressed in clothing. Photo by Rose Howell
You know you are in the outback when you see the ant hills.
Many are dressed in clothing.
Photo by Rose Howell

From Cairns we followed the Savannah Way to Normanton then onto Karumba Point where we reconnected with the Ocean.

‘The Savannah Way is Australia’s Adventure Drive, linking Cairns in the North of Queensland with the historic pearling town of Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley, via the natural wonders of Australia’s tropical savannahs and the Northern Territory’s Top End.
The 3,700 kilometre route links 15 National Parks and five World Heritage areas. You can explore just a section or cross the continent enjoying its wide horizons, ancient gorges and abundant wildlife connecting with Aboriginal and pioneer heritage in today’s friendly outback.’

The weather was ideal with sunny days and not too hot. April to October (we were there in June) is the dry season and the best time for daily sunshine, cool nights and very little rain.

The first part of the journey was through the Atherton Tablelands, we didn’t stop because we had both been here before and we didn’t have the time to spare. ‘The tablelands are beautiful and because they were formed by volcanic activity you will discover – volcanic cones, crystal clear crater lakes and deep rich volcanic soils. It is home to Australia’s widest waterfall ‘Millstream Falls’ and refreshing and picturesque ‘Millaa Millaa Falls’ (great for swimming).

Nature lovers find the Tablelands to be a birdwatchers paradise, with over 370 bird species across varied habitats.  There is a viewing platform at Yungaburra which offers views of platypus.’ (Information from the Gulf Savannah 2017 Tourist Guide)

We made a stop at Atherton and had a quick look around. I mainly wanted to have a look at the Crystal Caves.  Inside you will find a crystal museum and shop. A display of a lifetime’s collection of precious crystal and fossils. I didn’t buy anything because I couldn’t decide and it was time to get going. You know, it is one of those moments when you get home and say I wish I had bought it. My loss.

Crystal cave at Atherton. Photo by Rose Howell
Crystal cave at Atherton
Photo by Rose Howell

Ravenshoe near Atherton. Photo by  Rose Howell
Ravenshoe near Atherton
Photo by Rose Howell

After an overnight stay at Mt Garnet, the next town is Mt Surprise. We didn’t stop here but maybe we should have. Evidently it is the centre for gem fossicking with topaz, quartz, spinel, garnet, cairngorm and aquamarine to be found. We could have found our fortune.

The reason for all these beautiful gems is because it sits on the edge of the Undara lava field which was caused by ancient volcanic eruptions in the McBride Plateau. Check out for more info.
You can hire equipment or buy gems at Mt Surprise gems

Mt Garnet Caravan Park all to ourselves. Photo by Rose Howell
Mt Garnet Caravan Park all to ourselves
Photo by Rose Howell

Whizzing through Georgetown and Croydon, we made it to Normanton where we decided to settle for a few days.

Normanton the second oldest town in the Gulf is situated on the Norman River and was the port for the Croydon gold rush. It is more of a tourist town now and the major service centre in the Gulf Savannah.

Information Centre in this Historical building. Photo by Rose Howell
Information Centre in this Historical building
Photo by Rose Howell

I love this place. It had a real sense of being in the outback.There is a range of preserved historical sites to visit on a self-guided walking trip around town. Pick up a map from the Information Centre situated in the historical Burns Philp building. Visit ‘Kris the croc’ beside the historical Council Chambers. The croc is so big it is hard to imagine coming face to face with it.

In July 1957, Krys, an attractive blonde Polish immigrant then aged 30, killed Australia’s biggest known crocodile with a single shot on the banks of the Norman River near the Gulf of Carpentaria town of Normanton. The saltwater crocodile measured 8.63m, a size unheard of in Australia. Yet it was also the shot that she later regretted, a split-second that took the life of a two-tonne saurian that was almost certainly unique among the tens of thousands that populated Norther Australia. “I would never shoot one like that again,’ she said later. “It was such a magnificent specimen.” (Death of a monster, written by Robert Reid 2008)

I have to admit when I saw Kris (see photo of life size model) I was in awe of a woman bringing down such a large animal but then I thought how sad. Unless it was threatening her or others it isn’t a good enough reason to shoot such a magnificent animal. I am glad that after she shot it she was sorry.

Kris the croc, with Ron. Photo by Rose Howell
Kris the croc, with Ron
Photo by Rose Howell

What else is there to do in Normanton?
One of their must do’s (we were unable to because their times didn’t match our itinerary) is to travel to Croydon on the Gulflander train leaving from the Historic Normanton Railway Station. Even if you don’t do the train trip the station is worth a look. Beautifully kept and restored. Check it out at

We spent a lot of time at dusk looking for crocodiles. We found them and made sure we kept Jasper in the car as crocs love dogs. I also made sure I didn’t get out of the car cos they may have found me to be a good feed too. I am not brave at any time and I don’t like to tempt fate.
We began at the town bridge where locals fish and were told there are often crocs lurking about. We saw a couple but they were quite small and too far away. A short drive over the bridge to the River bank area was more productive. Not only did we see a couple of crocs but also a kangaroo and an abundance of birdlife including a Jabiru.

We spoke to a local who was in the water catching bait (must be nuts!!!!) and asked if there were crocs nearby and he said no. We believed him, after all he was only in shorts and in the water and was a local. But not far from where he was we saw two crocs. Maybe the locals tend to get a bit slack with their safety. Who knows? I wasn’t going to get out of the car at any cost.

Where did we stay in Normanton?

Quirky shower block and dump point Normanton Caravan Park. Photo by Rose Howell
Quirky shower block and dump point Normanton Caravan Park
Photo by Rose Howell

Shady spots for caravans. Photo by Rose Howell
Shady spots for caravans
Photo by Rose Howell

boat in a tree at the caravan park
Boat in tree????(Caravan Park)
Photo by Rose Howell

Gulfland Motel and Caravan Park, home of the “Big Barramundi.” Situated close to the town and pet friendly. This was one of the best and most interesting caravan parks we have stayed in. I won’t even try to describe it but the photos will give you an idea.

The only part of staying at Normanton that I didn’t enjoy was on our last night. There was a plague of locusts which came through the park. I decided to go for a shower just as it got dark. Bad move. Not only did I have locusts hitting me all over and getting stuck in my hair, but I was stepping on toads and frogs. I quickly did a turn around and told Ron I will have a shower in the morning.

So in the morning off I go again and once in the shower cubicle I had to swat locusts and ensure the frogs were high up on the wall nowhere near me. I wasn’t sure where the toads were and it was my quickest shower ever. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It won’t put me off staying there though.

We did a day trip to Karumba as it was only an hour or so away. I have to say for me I didn’t like it as much as Normanton but if you fish you would love it. Point Karumba is nice with a bar on the beach overlooking the most beautiful aqua coloured water. The water looked so inviting as it was a hot day but the thought of a croc jumping out to get me soon brought me back to reality. We would have had a drink at the bar but dogs weren’t allowed and it was too hot to leave Jasper in the car.

Karumba Point bar. Photo by Rose Howell
Karumba Point bar
Photo by Rose Howell

Karumba is situated on the Norman River. At Point Karumba there are views of the Gulf of Carpentaria and beautiful beaches. If fishing is your thing this is the place to do it. If it isn’t then check out ‘The Ferryman’ for Cruises for croc spotting, bird watching or to see the most spectacular sunsets. ( Once again we were unable to go because of Jasper. Later in the day we stopped at the Information Centre and found out they dog watch at $15 per hour. So we could have gone for a cruise. Maybe next time.

On our way back to Normanton we checked out a water hole for crocs and sure enough there they were. We didn’t venture off the road to get a closer look, but took some photos.
We also saw some brolgas on the way back to the park.

Croc spotting. Photo by Rose Howell
Croc spotting
Photo by Rose Howell

Normanton Rodeo promotion. Photo by Rose Howell
Normanton Rodeo promotion
Photo by Rose Howell

The next day after my experience with the bugs (that wasn’t the reason for leaving), we headed back to Mt Isa via the Matilda Highway. A quick stop at Burke & Wills three ways roadhouse and then back to our family at Mt Isa.

What a great trip it was. The next part of the journey is South from Mt Isa to Adelaide.

For more info go to:


Rose Howell Biography

Rose has been traveling the world for over 40 years, beginning with New Zealand and then the ‘Hippy trail’ in the 70’s. Her travels have taken her to; Asia, Middle East, UK, Europe, Africa, South America, USA, Canada, China and the Pacific Islands. In total she has visited 67 countries plus all the states of Australia except Western Australia, and her goal is to make the century club.
She has taken all kinds of transport and accommodation from budget to luxury. She has travelled through war zones, survived a bus accident in the Andes and visited areas that are no longer available to tourists, such as the Khyber Pass and Bamiyan Statues in Afghanistan.

Rose wants to inspire others to travel and offers free advice to all travellers in particular those who are embarking on their first travel experience. She has a passion for travel and since retiring from an Adult teaching position with TafeSA, has recently resumed clocking up kilometres interstate and overseas.
Her daughters have inherited the travel bug from their parents. The eldest daughter is a travel journalist/documentary maker based in a beautiful area called ‘Byron Bay’ in New South Wales and with her husband, has two globetrotting toddlers who at the age of 5 and 2 also love to travel. Her youngest daughter and fiancé have recently returned from 2 years working and traveling in the UK and Europe. They have only been home a couple of months and are already getting restless. Oh the travel bug!!!!

You can see more of Rose's travels on:


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