Karumba, Gulf of Carpenteria, Qld

Travelling west from Undara Lava Tubes we stopped overnight at Croydon. The road into Croydon is interesting as there are a number of sections of new two lane road alternating with sections of single lane road. The single lane sections mean getting off the road when ever a car or road train came from the other direction, not pleasant with a caravan. Apparently the council do a section each time some funding comes through, quite practical not to start at one end and work to the other as it keeps drivers alert on an otherwise monotonous straight flat road and provides passing opportunities.

Due to a four year drought, the rivers and creeks are dry, even during the recent wet seasons. The mirage was the largest water vision we saw for many kilometres.

The Croydon Visitors Information Centre is excellent. We went to the pub for dinner and to watch the NRL finals (National Rugby League). Brisbane Bronco’s v’s North Queensland Cowboys; being in North Queensland every one was a tad excited when the Cowboys won. The mural on the pub’s water tank was quite impressive.

The next day we passed through the small town of Normanton.  Two pubs, one grocer who also sells petrol, takeaway food and coffee, and a couple of other shops.

This is a life size model of the largest recorded salt water crocodile in the world. It was killed near Normanton in 1957.

The Normanton Visitors Information Centre is excellent, well worth visiting.  They have a great exhibition on the history of Normanton and surrounding districts as well as information on the local flora and fauna.

On our way into Karumba we saw some cattle mustering.

We also saw a couple of road trains in a paddock which seemed to have just delivered some cattle.

Not far along the road we came to a small body of water beside the road, don’t know where it came from but the bird life was enjoying it. Pelicans, about a dozen brolgas and a sole Jabiru (which we didn’t recognise at the time but identified it at the information centre).

The termite mounds are very different here to elsewhere. Very narrow and pointed.

We finally arrived at Karumba which is situated at the mouth of the Norman River on the Gulf of Carpentaria.


We stayed at Karumba Point Tourist Park for four nights. It has lovely large mango trees to camp under giving some reprieve in the 38º days.

Wallabies were abundant in the park, lots of joeys in pouches. Some were the ‘Agile Wallaby’ with the pretty markings on their faces. We left a bucket of water beside the van for them. Any mangos that dropped on the ground quickly got eaten by the wallabies. The drought has seen the town population grow as they search for water and food.

This little fellow was around a lot. So small and very cute, not sure where his mum was.


Grasshoppers are in plague proportions. At night its impossible to sit outside for too long as there are hundreds of them jumping around like fire crackers in every direction. If only the wallabies could learn to eat the grasshoppers.

At this time of the year most Southerners head home after the winter and before the wet season which often brings cyclones and floods (although floods are not likely this year). Karumba is a fishing town and the fishing season is over so it’s a bit like going to the snow fields in summer. Most tourist places have closed down and tours have ceased. Tourist leave their boats covered and stored  at the caravan parks until next season.

The locals have really big boats.

Pics from around the town.

A lot of businesses here are family run. This restaurant also sells fresh seafood. The husband takes his boat out overnight and the wife sells it cooked or fresh the next day. They had the best prawns ever.

The port of Karumba has, in the past, been a busy place with the export of zinc and live cattle. Due to the drought, most of the cattle are being taken by road as they wouldn’t survive by ship. There were a few waiting in quarantine.

The zinc mine has temporarily closed and the last of the zinc stores are being shipped out. As the gulf is very shallow, the ship in these photos takes the zinc out to a much larger ship. It takes 8 loads from this one to fill the larger ship. As the zinc is loaded and the larger ship sits lower in the water, it needs to move 20 miles out to sea for it’s last load. We didn’t see the mother ship but it must be mighty big.

Because the Karumba Golf Course has its own water supply it is very well populated with the small and pretty faced ‘Agile Wallabies’ and a collection of birdlife; brolgas, ibises, eagles and a collection of others.

The highlight of our visit was a chartered fishing trip in the gulf.  We were up in the predawn light heading for the boat ramp. The day was perfectly still, just superb. There were two boats each with 7 guests and one crew (a father and son team).

The first catch of the day was a blue salmon.


Between us all we caught a variety of fish the most common being the steel back salmon but also one large blue salmon, one flathead but as they are scarce in these parts it was thrown back, one grunter, one large catfish cut up and used for bait, a couple of puffer fish thrown back of course, a couple of black jewfish and scaly jewfish.


Tim’s catfish was used for bait and the pelicans enjoyed the scraps.

One lady hooked a very large and powerful turtle. Mathew, our crew, was desperately trying to bring it in so as to get the hook out of its mouth. It flew out of the water twice like a tornado, quite high and eventually came free on his own. It must have been about a metre long. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo but this is his splash.

We were suprised how shallow the Gulf of Carpenteria is. Mostly we were fishing in water 1 or 2 metres deep, very mudy looking water. At low tide a lot of the gulf near Karumba is above water. However the fish are big and plentiful (as are the crocodiles).


We were back on land just after midday and headed home to clean and fillet our fish (some were donated by the second boat who had surplus). The camp ground uses all the fish scraps to make fertilizer for their gardens.

A visit to Karumba would not be complete with out seeing the sunset over the Gulf from the ‘Sunset Tavern’.

And so this morning we say farewell to Karumba and head south via the inland route toward Brisbane.

cheers for now, Helen and Tim