The Plenty Highway is a partly sealed outback highway that pumps travellers to and from the beating heart of the Red Centre through Queensland and the Northern Territory's shifting outback landscapes.
|Grading||May need high ground clearance|
|Distance||811km, Boulia to Alice Springs|
|248km, Boulia to Tobermorey Station|
|Facilities||Boulia, Tobermorey Station, Jervois Station, Atitjere, Gemtree, Alice Springs|
|Best time of year||May to October - avoid summer months|
|Warnings||Stony road surfaces. Flood risk on the Queensland section (Donohue Highway).|
|Permits and fees||Camping fees apply|
Tourism Central Australia, Alice Springs Ph 1800 645 199, (08) 8952 5800, www.discovercentralaustralia.com
Boulia Visitor Information Centre Ph (07) 4746 3386, www.boulia.qld.gov.au
Harts Range Police Ph (08) 8956 9772
What to expect
The Plenty Highway runs all the way from Queensland’s western edges to Alice Springs. This road offers travellers the chance to traverse a partly sealed track right through to the heart of Australia’s Red Centre, while taking in the shifting landscape as scenes from the outback flit past their window.
The road was originally used as a cattle property access road and over the years it has been upgraded, although many areas continue to be prone to floods, particularly in the eastern areas of the highway.
The 498 km track contains large portions of unsealed roads and it’s important that travellers take note of road conditions before starting out on the track. This information can be obtained from the Harts Range police station, which is situated about 112km from the Stuart Highway.
The road quickly deteriorates to earth, bulldust and rock once four-wheel drivers are past the Jervois Station, and potholes become a frequent obstruction on the track. The track requires at least two or three days in order for visitors to really be able to appreciate everything that it has to offer.
Image: Jervois Station along the Plenty Highway
The Harts Range
Harts Range, situated about 215km from Alice Springs, is home to an indigenous population who live in nearby Atitjere. One of the most popular activities taking place in Harts Range is the racing meet, which has been held yearly since 1947, which has expanded to a three-day festival that is now called Harts Range Bush Sports Weekend. Anyone visiting the area might find this festival to be an exciting distraction and opportunity to immerse themselves into the local culture of the area.
Camping on the Plenty Highway
There are a variety of opportunities for camping on the Plenty Highway. Gemtree happens to be one of the most popular destinations. Located about 672km west of Boulia, the camping grounds offer travellers the chance to stock up on groceries and fuel. The site also boasts a caravan park. Camping at Jervois Station limits visitors to refreshments, but also offers a fuel station and camping (fees apply). The Tobermorey Homestead and Atitiere camping grounds both require payment, but also offer fuel facilities.
The Min Min Lights
The Min Min lights are a highly unusual outback light phenomenon that have reportedly been seen for more than a century, although it's an event that is still not entirely understood. The existence, appearance and frequency of the light remain a veritable mystery, however stories of the lights within the region have consistently arisen since their initial sighting. The lights derive their name from the place they were originally seen - where the current Min Min Hotel is situated.
Fossicking for Gemstones
The areas to the east of Gemtree are well-known for fossicking, and visitors who are lucky enough to get their hands on gemstones can have them evaluated by a local gem cutter. Some of the most popular finds are red garnets, as well as the rarer zircon.
The Plenty Highway continues to draw in four-wheel drivers and it happens to be one of the most popular destinations for travellers to the Northern Territory. As the highway continues to be upgraded, it will continue to open up the road to more visitors, but for now it is important that travellers are well prepared for the journey.