Cape Crawford To Barkly Homestead

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This desolate route follows the Tablelands Hwy due south from Cape Crawford to Barkly Homestead, passing just one station along the way. Note that no fuel is available along this 375km stretch.

Brunette Downs

Brunette Downs Station (§§ 8964 4522; Tablelands

Hwy), 245km south of Cape Crawford, covers just over 12,000 sq km. It is accessible by conventional vehicles with care.

This station would be no different from any other in the region if it wasn't for the Brunette Downs Bush Races, held in June each year. A cast of hundreds flocks in from miles around for a lively four days that includes a rodeo and ball. There is no charge for camping or to use the showers and toilets, and a professional caterer supplies meals and keeps the beer flowing. The race track is around 20km from the homestead.

It's a great outback event and one well worth the detour if you happen to be in the area. You can find out exact dates from www.barklytourism.com.au or the station itself. Note that the station can offer nothing in the way of facilities for travellers.

Connells Lagoon Conservation Reserve

This lonely reserve is on Ranken Rd east of Brunette Downs Station. Here, 256 sq km of pancake-flat land was set aside to preserve undisturbed Mitchell grass habitat. It may look pretty uninspiring, but there's a surprising range of botanical diversity - 189 plant species are known to exist in the area.

The namesake lagoon doesn't amount to much and, in fact, only fills after good rains. When it does, it attracts migratory wading birds, as well as grassland species such as flock bronzewings and pictorella manikin finches. The long-haired rat forms plagues after big rains here, when grass seeds are abundant. In turn, it becomes food for predators such as owls, kites and dingoes.

There's no drinking water and there are no visitor facilities within the reserve, with the exception of an information bay on the southern side of the 4WD access track between Brunette Downs and Alexandria Stations.

Barkly Homestead

The Barkly Homestead Roadhouse (Igl 8964 4549; www.barklyhomestead.com.au; unpowered/powered sites for 2 $16/23, budget s/d $65/75, motel s/d $85/100; (K)) is the last stop before the Queensland border. As a place to stay, it's not such a bad choice - there's a licensed restaurant (mains $15-20), which is open for all meals, clean accommodation and watered (though ant-riddled!) camping sites, and the shade trees are growing. However, it also has the most expensive fuel between the Queensland coast and Tennant Creek.

From the roadhouse, it's 210km west to Tennant Creek, 375km up the Tablelands Hwy to Cape Crawford (note: there's no petrol along this route) and 252km east to the border, followed by a further 13km to Camooweal in Queensland.

© Lonely Planet Publications 173

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© Lonely Planet Publications ^«wl 233

© Lonely Planet Publications ^«wl 233

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