Queensland’s Burke Developmental Road connects a string of historical and natural wonders as it meanders its way through station country from the Reef to the Gulf.

Story by Ian Glover and Photos by John Denman

Named after hapless explorer Robert O’Hara Burke, Queensland’s Burke Developmental Road (BDR) unfolds like the pages of a dry, dusty book; each chapter monotonously similar but subtly different. Tropical vegetation merges with savannah and then becomes scrub, tar becomes occasional then non-existent. It’s an exciting potpourri of bone-jarring corrugations, washaways and completely smooth surfaces. Officially, the BDR runs from Mareeba to the Gulf of Carpentaria and down to ‘The Curry’ (Cloncurry), but for our purposes, the journey ends at Karumba, a laid-back Gulf town where the sun sets over the sea and mud crabs and banana prawns beckon – salty, fresh and cheap.
John Atherton (after whom the Atherton Tableland is named) founded Mareeba when he built a rest house for travellers heading for the tin fields on the Wild River. These days, tourism still plays a vital part in the town’s economy, with a crowded information centre-cum-museum providing all the information about the district that visitors could possibly want. The Mareeba district, promoted as ‘where the rainforest meets the outback’, boasts coffee plantations, macadamia farms, thundering waterfalls and spectacular gorges, a wine and food trail and even a tropical fruit liqueur distillery where exotic drinks are created from coffee beans, mulberries, lemons and bananas.

This story excerpt is from Issue #50

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2007