24 Hours in Mt Isa
Located in the Queensland outback, Mt Isa is a far way away from anywhere else in Australia. And this has given the small mining town its own unique culture and outlook on life. For travellers road tripping or hopping on and off the Greyhound service from Cairns or Townsville to Darwin, Mt Isa makes a convenient place to stop and stay a while.
Where is Mt Isa?
Mt Isa is located in the Queensland outback. It was originally established as a mining town after silver, copper, and zinc were discovered there in 1923. The closest points of interest on either side of Mt Isa are Townsville, 904 kilometres to the East, and Tennant Creek, 661 kilometres to the North West. I travelled to Mt Isa with a Greyhound Mini traveller pass which allowed hop on hop off service from Cairns to Darwin.
24 Hours In Mt Isa
Morning – Outback at Isa Centre
The Outback at Isa Centre is the main tourist attraction in town. The centre includes two museums as well as the starting point for the Hard Times mine tour. Book your mine tour early to make sure you have a spot, but book it for the afternoon. Might as well be underground during the hottest part of the day. You can purchase a museum pass which includes the mine tour for a discounted price.
The museums included in the package are the Riversleigh Fossil Centre museum and the Isa Experience museum. The Riversleigh fossil centre is a small museum showcasing some of the fossils of ancient Australian animals that have been discovered in the region. One interesting feature is the diorama and video documentary recreating the sort of Australia that these giant beasts once roamed in.
The Isa experience museum is a social and historical museum showing what life has been like throughout the history of Mt Isa. Attached to this museum is the outback garden, a small outdoor area with native plants, water features, and benches. It makes a great place to relax the mind after some museum time.
Afternoon – Hard Times Mine Tour
The Hard Times Mine Tour has limited spaces on its scheduled tours, so make sure you book ahead to ensure your place. The entertainment began before we even descended into the mine, as we all got to dress up in orange jumpsuits (which you get to keep!), rubber boots, and a helmet with head lamp. Sexy outfit!
The mine in which you tour was never a working mine. It was built solely to show tourists what life was like for the workers in the mining industry. Decommissioned mining equipment was brought into the mine for demonstrations. The mine is not as flashy as a modern mine, and shows what life was like for miners back in the day.
The elevator which takes you into the mine is one of the original elevators. We had to do several trips as it could only take so many people at once. The mine is completely dark, we all needed to have our head lamps on. If we turned them off, we would be plummeted into darkness.
The equipment in the mine is still in working order, and our tour guide demonstrated how each piece of machinery worked. We even got to have a go at using the giant drill. My conclusion – I will need to develop a lot more muscles if I ever want a career underground!
Evening – Sunset at the Mt Isa Look Out
Mt Isa is known for its colourful and vibrant sunsets. The lookout, located not far from the centre of town, is the best place to view it. Unfortunately the sky was cloudy and overcast on the day I was visiting, so I didn’t get the best of views. But the picture below from creative commons shows just how amazing this sight can be, and a great way to end a busy day in Mt Isa.
Alternative Mt Isa Activities
One alternative Mt Isa activity available is the underground hospital and museum. The museum showcases artefacts from the early hospitals and clinics around Mt Isa and is interesting if you are into medical history, or gruesome looking devices.
The underground hospital, which is part of the grounds, was originally built in 1942 in response to fears of being targeted during the Pacific conflict during WW2. The tunnels were later abandoned and started to collapse, before volunteers began working to restore them. You can now tour the tunnels as part of your admission fee to the museum ($10).
This didn’t make it into my recommended 24 hours in Mt Isa itinerary due to the fact that it will only be of interest to a very specific type of person.
I visited Mt Isa using my Greyhound mini traveller pass. My pass was provided complimentary by Greyhound, but all opinions remain my own.