Plenty Highway 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 its 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
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
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