The ‘Matilda Highway
’ is a tourist route; the name given for a connection of highways; in this case, from Karumba
on the Gulf of Carpentaria to Barringun near the QLD/NSW border. The route passes through famous outback Queensland
country towns - not to forget, some great outback pubs!! From north to south, you can stop in at towns like: Normanton
, Tambo, Augathella, Charleville
, and Cunnamulla
, where you can then pick up the Kidman Way
through central NSW
. It's a region where dinosaurs once roamed; the inspiration for our unofficial national anthem ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was first played; and was the birthplace of Qantas. There are a number of highlights along this all-bitumen 1822km route making it one of the most popular highway treks in Australia
There are tourist information centres in most towns along the route and each will be able to provide detailed information on bookings, and times for local events, shows and attractions. The journey passes through an ever-changing landscape - from gulf plains in the north; Mitchell
grass plains and desert uplands in the central west; to undulating Mulga plains in the south. There are picturesque billabongs and vast inland river systems, rugged gorges, escarpments and many scenic National Parks to explore. The Matilda Highway
is custom-made for travellers keen for a taste of the ‘outback’ with its unique heritage
and good ol’ pubs, all served with some legendary hospitality and friendliness.
How to Use this Trek Note
Click the "Map" tab below to see the route we've provided. Icons on the map are the POIs you'll need for navigation purposes. Be sure to check the list of Nearby Places
on each POI page.
If you'd like to save this information there are a couple of ways to go about it, depending on what you're actually after:-
- Ideal solution - download the ExplorOz Traveller App from Google Play or the App Store. The app enables you to carry the ExplorOz Places, Treks, & Maps data offline in your mobile device ready for your adventures. It is a complete mapping, navigation and tracking app. For more details, read our ExplorOz Traveller page.
- You can print a paper copy of the text using the print icon button shown above, near the social media buttons. For the best output it is advised to open each tab/section to load all images and artwork. You will still need to click open each Place page (listed in Where to Stay, What to See) to print off all available information.
- If you have a Hema Navigator or use Mapping Software such as OziExplorer, or TrackRanger AND you are an ExplorOz Member, then you can click the Download Trek button at the top of this page to obtain the raw data files (eg. GPX) for this Trek.
- If you're not a Member, or you'd like to batch download the entire Treks database you can obtain this by buying a product called EOTreks Route Files from our online shop.
The climate from Karumba
in the Gulf of Carpentaria, to one of the hottest places
, is distinctly monsoonal with a winter dry season and a summer wet season. This bioregion is known as the Gulf Plains, and primarily consists of open woodlands
and grasslands; as well as coastal estuaries consisting of mangroves and saline herbfields, which do not occur elsewhere. The most extensive grasslands and open woodlands
occur on clay plains and associated major rivers. The grasslands in the north are predominantly blue grasses (Dichanthium spp.) with Mitchell
grass (Astrebla spp.) growing in the drier southern areas. The dominant land use is for cattle grazing on native pastures.Mitchell
grass dominates the region from McKinlay
, to Winton
and Tambo. The bioregion is dominated by Mitchell
grass (Astrebla spp.) tussock grasslands on rolling plains with some low tree over-storey of gidgee and other species. Around Winton
the terrain is predominantly Mitchell
grass plains punctuated by stony ranges and mesas known locally as jump-up country. During the summer months the temperatures may reach 45 to 50 degrees C. Travel in the region between October and March is not recommended due to high temperatures and possible flooding. Much of the region is dependent on the underlying Great Artesian Basin for water. Land within the bioregion is almost entirely dedicated to cattle grazing, due to the extensive occurrence of palatable grasses.
From Augathella to Charleville
and Barringun, the terrain is predominantly Mulga country. These lands are located within the heart of the Murray-Darling Basin, and feature flat to undulating plains. The region is dominated by Mulga (Acacia aneura) shrublands and low woodlands
. The river systems and associated lakes, creeks, swamps and wetlands are significant to waterbirds including large populations of brolgas and freckled duck. The climate is semi-arid with variable and unreliable rainfall, and the pastoral properties in the region are primarily used for sheep and cattle grazing.
The Matilda Highway
is a collection of highways merged as one tourist route, coined around the year 2000 as part of the Corridor Management Plan (CMP). The role of the CMP is to provide a basis for on-going development of tourist routes, with the intention of: increasing visitor numbers and expenditure along the way; to maximise driver confidence in regard to alternative route, road safety, and road efficiency; and lastly to raise heritage
and cultural understanding. The highways that make up the Matilda Highway
Highway, Landsborough Highway, and the Burke Development Road.
The Matilda Highway
was named after the bush ballad Waltzing Matilda written by Banjo Patterson in 1895, with the music written by Christina Macpherson. Waltzing Matilda is Australia
’s most widely known tune, often referred as ‘the unofficial national anthem of Australia
’. The song’s title is Australian slang for travelling by foot with goods in a ‘Matilda’ bag.
The song is about a swagman (itinerant worker) making a drink of tea at a bush camp
near a billabong (waterhole on the bend of a river), who ends up capturing a jumbuck
to eat. A jumbuck
is usually a large un-tamed and difficult-to-sheer wild sheep. When the jumbuck
’s ‘apparent’ owner arrives with three police officers to arrest the worker for the alleged theft (a crime punishable by hanging), the swagman drowns himself in the billabong and goes on to haunt the site. Interestingly enough about the story (and of the political issues of the times), the jumbuck
was never ‘owned’ by the squatter or regularly shorn, and thus, was not able to be ‘stolen’ by the swagman.