Home  >     >   In the footsteps of Burke and Wills

In the footsteps of Burke and Wills

Duration

16 Days

Drive Grade

2

Drive / Rest day

14 / 2

Sealed / Dirt

48% / 52%

Distance

4,600 km / 2,870 mi


Victoria, NSW, Queensland & South Australia: Embark on one of Australia's most iconic journeys

Few exploratory journeys into the remote Australian interior can rival the epic Victorian Exploring Expedition, better known as the Burke & Wills expedition that traveled from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860 – 61. It is an iconic journey that was blighted by incredible bad luck, a dose of foolhardiness but an incredible sense of exploration that eventually ended in tragedy. No one else can show you this route like Compass Expeditions in our small 4WD convoy. Travel sections of the route that Burke & Wills took, see the legendary locations synonymous with this epic expedition, Cooper Creek, the dig tree, both Burke & Wills grave-sites and the Gulf of Carpentaria to name a few. Take a journey into an incredibly remote and silent landscape through the unimaginably vast interior following in the footsteps of Australia’s most famous explorers.

No info kit available

Dates and Pricing

Tour Highlights


Itinerary



Joining Day 1: Today is the joining day where you will meet your fellow drivers, passengers & crew.

Day 2: We take delivery of our 4WDs and it’s a short distance to visit the Royal Park where on Monday 20 August 1860 Burke & Wills departed, along with 20 tonnes of equipment on wagons and to the cheering from what was the biggest crowd Melbourne had ever seen. Burke & Wills only made 6ks that first day heading along what is now Mount Alexander Road to Moonee Ponds for their first camp. We however shall be making a little better time as we follow, as faithfully as possible, the original track as we drive to Swan Hill on the banks of the mighty Murray River and what was Burke & Wills fifteenth overnight camp.

Day 3: Departing Swan Hill, we cross the Murray and continue north taking remote back roads and tracks following the original Bourke & Wills route. Our route travels through the Yanga National park and crosses Wakool River, a river that took the expedition four hours to cross. Continuing we travel via Balranald then hit the dirt tracks via sprawling stations passing Tarcoola, where Burke abandoned the cumbersome wagons, they had dragged all the way from Melbourne. We continue north until we reach the UNESCO listed Mungo National Park where we shall stay overnight at a wonderful eco lodge.

Day 4: Although Burke & Wills travelled just south of Mungo, this magnificent, culturally iconic national park is not to be missed. Home to the 42,000-year-old Mungo Man & Mungo Woman, we take a two-hour NPWS aboriginal guided tour of this magnificent landscape of ancient lakes and towering sand dunes. Leaving Mungo, we re-join the Burke & Wills route that runs along the Darling River as we pass via Pooncarie before stopping overnight at Menindee. It was here that Burke decided to split the expedition into a base party where support expeditioners remained for nearly 16 months, and an advance party that was led by, of course, Burke.

Day 5: We start the day off by visiting the wonderful Kinchega Woolshed from 1875 constructed from corrugated iron and river red gums, it’s a classic piece of Australian pastoral heritage. The route Burke & Wills took from Menindee was due north, a route that is today not possible, instead we shall join the iconic Darling River Run from Menindee to Wilcannia before turning west and joining the Barrier Highway to the legendary Broken Hill where we shall spend the next two nights.

Day 6: One of New South Wales most legendary outback towns, Broken Hill came into being after the discovery of silver and lead in 1883, 23 years after Burke & Wills passed this way, and spawned one of the biggest mining operations in the world, BHP. We spend the day exploring this iconic city including a side trip to Silverton, the setting of numerous movies including Mad Max and a drink at the Palace Hotel that featured in Priscilla Queen of the Desert movie. No visit to Broken Hill is complete without a visit to the extraordinary Living Desert and Sculptures Park at sunset.

Day 7: Leaving Broken Hill, we take the Silver City Highway north before turning off and entering the stunning Mutawintji National Park located in the Byngnano Range. It was here that Burke & Wills made camp 40 of their expedition. We can take a 6k return walk to the beautiful Mutawintji Gorge that was visited and sketched by one of Burkes scientific officers Ludwig Becker before criss-crossing Burke & Wills actual route several times arriving at the wonderfully remote Packsaddle Roadhouse for the night. This is an extremely remote part of Australia with a breathtaking landscape of ancient rocks, low hills and red sands punctuated by spinifex, it’s the perfect image of the outback!

Day 8: More wonderful remote driving today as we drive further north visiting the wonderfully small town of Milparinka, population 65, and its award-winning heritage precinct. We drive past our overnight stop of Tibooburra as we make our way to the stunning wilderness of the Stuart National Park and enjoy a remarkable 100k Jump Up Loop Drive to Olive Downs before returning to Tibooburra that marks camp 47 of the Burke & Wills expedition.

Day 9: Today we cross into Queensland via the remote Wompah Gate, close to where Burke & Wills crossed on Sunday 4th November 1860, little more than a year after Queensland was declared a colony. Crossing the Bulloo River Overflow, that is generally dry, we drive northeast and cross the Bulloo River on our way to the small outback town of Thargomindah on the banks of the Bulloo River, a town proclaimed in 1874.

Day 10: It was just after Thargomindah that the aboriginal trackers left the expedition leaving “us to our own fate” as Wills noted. Leaving Thargomindah, we take the Bulloo Developmental Road crossing the Grey Range before reaching the Queensland heritage listed Noccundra Hotel which was Burke & Wills camp number 56 on the Wilson River which Burke had mistaken as the Cooper River. Continuing we cross the mighty Cooper Creek and continue to the legendary Dig Tree on the banks of the Cooper, Burke & Wills 65th camp. We visit the sombre spot where Robert O’Hara Burke died Monday 1st July 186. Crossing into South Australia we overnight at another tiny outback community of Innamincka on the renown Strzelecki Track.

Day 11: Not far out of Innamincka we shall visit the gravesite of Wills who died on the return journey at this very spot. We enter the Strzelecki Desert and cross the rugged Sturt Stoney Desert and follow, closely, the original route of Burke & Wills. We shall join the iconic Birdsville Track before once again crossing into Queensland and continue north to the legendary outback town of Birdsville and close to camp 76 on the Burke & Wills expedition. We spend two nights in Birdsville stunningly located between the eastern edge of the mighty Simpson Desert and Queensland’s famous channel country.

Day 12: Today we take a drive out to the magnificent sand dune known as “Big Red”. This 40m high sand dune is the first in a line of 1140 dunes that stretch to the horizon, we shall witness a magnificent sunset from atop this iconic dune before driving back to one of the most iconic pubs in Australia, the Birdsville Pub, for dinner.

Day 13: Leaving Birdsville, we enter the magnificent channel country and take a series of remote tracks before reaching the Diamantina Developmental Road. We cross the Tropic of Capricorn before reaching the outback town of Boulia, Burke & Wills 89th camp that essentially ended the great difficulties the expedition had endured finding water since leaving camp 76 near Birdsville two weeks earlier. In Boulia we shall visit the quirky Min Min light Museum that pays homage to the mysterious, not yet explained, natural phenomenon known as the Min Min lights, although many theories abound!

Day 14: Further north we turn off the remote Diamantina Developmental Road and cross the Standish Ranges and get our first glimpses of the rugged Selwyn Ranges where the Burke & Wills expedition camels struggled so much. Reaching the tiny outback community of Duchess we hit the Cloncurry – Dajarra Road where Burke & Wills actually crossed (well before it ever became a road) on the 18th January 186. We eventually reach the wonderful remote town of Cloncurry that’s steeped in not only Burke & Wills history but also the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the landing place for the first ever QANTAS flight. We shall visit the excellent Unearthed Museum while in “the Curry”.

Day 15: On Tuesday 22nd January 1861 Burke & Wills left behind the rocky rugged landscapes following a small stream that became a river, they would follow this river for the remainder of their trek north. We enter the vast Savannah Gulf landscapes of the far north following, roughly, the Burke & Wills camps from 103 to 112. We will overnight at the wonderful Burke & Wills Roadhouse

Day 16: Our final day on road as we travel yet further north on the Burke Developmental Road, Just before Normanton we turn west to visit Camp 119 on the Bynoe River. It was here on the 9th February 1861 that Burke, Wills, King & Gray made there northernmost camp, it was decided that Burke & Wills alone, with Billy the horse, would venture north attempting to reach to coast. The trekked 15 miles before reaching a flooded salt pan, abandoning Billy the horse, they proceeded a little further on foot physically unable to move any further north, they had made it an agonizing 20ks short of the coastline, unable to proceed they decided to turn back. We successfully reach the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria at Karumba and raise a toast to some of Australia’s most iconic explorers, Burke & Wills, and the exploration team from the Victoria Exploring Expedition (VEE)

Departure Day: We include a flight to Cairns, spend a couple of days in Cairns, explore the Great Barrier Reef or continue you onward journey.

READ MORE

Included


  • Airport Transfers
  • Normanton to Cairns flight
  • 4x4 rental
  • Fuel & tolls
  • 16 nights’ accommodation in hotels, motels, lodges & roadhouses
  • 16 breakfasts
  • 13 lunches
  • 12 Dinners
  • Services of Compass Expeditions leader and support staff
  • Access to Compass Expeditions App / Chock full of tour info, route maps & what to expect
  • Pre-departure material
  • Access to satellite phone, pay per minute
  • Compass Expeditions tour shirt
  • Entrances to all attractions & excursions mentioned in the itinerary

Not Included


  • Flights other than the included Normanton to Cairns flight
  • Visas (if required)
  • Personal Health/Travel Insurance
  • Tips and gratuities
READ MORE

Drive Details


Drive Profile


Tour Start/End

Tour Start: Melbourne, Australia
Tour End: Cairns, Australia

Climate

Starting in Melbourne it’s the very end of winter with daytime temperatures ranging from around 10°C / 50°F in 15°C / 59°F. It will be cold in the evening, especially in the deserts dropping to as low as 0°C / 32°F. Some little rain should be expected in the first few days then becomes dry as we travel north. As we enter the interior the weather warms up quickly with daytime temperatures ranging from 20°C / 68°F to 30°C / 86°F and a lot warmer nights with very little chance of rain.


Important Information

  • All drivers must have a valid car licence and at least two years driving experience.
  • It is a requirement that all clients have appropriate travel insurance for this type of expedition.
 
Drive Grade
2
 

Drive Distance
4,600 km / 2,870 mi

 

Sealed / Dirt
48% / 52%

Accommodation


  • 16 nights of accommodation.
  • Our accommodations range from a basic roadhouse room to 4-star hotels.
  • A flexible attitude is needed as standards, in remote Australia, are not always what we may accustomed to in the city.
  • All accommodation is on a twin share basis. If you are traveling alone, we will pair you up with another solo traveller. However, if you prefer single accommodation a single supplement is available: $???
 
READ MORE

Dining


On every day of the tour, we include breakfast. On mentioned drive days we provide a picnic lunch that we prepare ourselves or at eat at local restaurants / cafes. We include mentioned dinners in reliable restaurants, resorts or pubs.

READ MORE

Insurance


Accidents happen, luggage is lost and tour or flight cancellations can occur, so it is our policy that all participants of Compass Expeditions tours have an appropriate level of travel insurance to cover the unforeseen. This is not only compulsory when joining our tours, but it makes sense.

If choosing your own insurance – for motorcycle tours it is crucial the insurance policy you choose will offer a policy for riding a motorcycle OVER 250cc (including our bikes). This is a critical point to ensure when purchasing a policy.

Our experienced In-house travel team are happy to help with getting you the right insurance for your tour and for any other travel you might be doing before or after. Contact our in-house travel team.

So you’ve read all the info and think you’re ready?...