Travelling Australia - Journal 2011
13-18 July 2011 - Normanton
We ended up spending a week in Normanton after extending for various reasons. The weather was the warmest we have had on this trip with daytime temperature in the low 30s and nights varying from cool (one blanket) to warm (no blankets and fan going). Van windows were mostly left open to make the most of the breeze. The wind frequently blew, often just a breeze but sometimes stronger. We were under a large tree covered with dry seed pods which rustled loudly making the wind sound much stronger than it was. A strong wind makes the van awning flap, despite supporting bars and de-flappers, and we didn't hear the awning moving so the wind cannot have been very strong. We didn't use the air conditioner at all; it is far too noisy to be used unless the temperature or humidity become extreme.

Although much of Australia south of us was experiencing a cold spell Normanton was in the middle of a typical Dry Season/Winter with little or no rainfall, average temperature range 29°C to 15°C and low humidity (45% to 55% in July).

Because this was our first spell of warm weather on this trip we kept a careful eye on refrigerator performance and frequently checked the internal temperature; a radio thermometer inside the fridge sends a temperature reading every three minutes to a display unit mounted on the van wall so we don't have to open the fridge to check the temperature.
Purple Pub The Purple Pub in the centre of Normanton is a frequent reference point for directions, such as "Turn left at the purple pub".

Normanton is the administrative centre of Carpentaria Shire which is a cattle grazing region stretching along the coast into Cape York. The shire has followed the trend of trying to attract tourists to boost the economy and emphasises history of town and region as tourist attractions. The caravan park we stayed at was usually full at night and at least half full during most days and caravans were often seen in the street although many vans were travelling to or from Karumba or Karumba Point 73 kilometres further on; both are renowned for recreational fishing.

Normanton's population is variously reported as 1100 to 1300, with 60% indigenous. It was established in 1867 as a port on the Norman River, flowing into the Gulf of Carpentaria, during the expansion into the good grazing land discovered by teams searching for Burke and Wills. The town was proclaimed in August 1868. At that very early stage of development internal lines of communication and transport were non-existent or rudimentary and the sea was the primary means of communication; ports were fundamental to daily life and well-placed ports prospered. Normanton was one such port and became the trading hub of the Gulf region.
Burns Philp Building The Burns Philp building was the heart of Normanton's commerce during the boom times and was the most profitable branch of the company before the decline.

Travelling Australia - Normanton - page 2
Normanton was the port for the Gulf of Carpentaria as well as the export port for copper from Cloncurry and gold from Etheridge. Two shipping lines ran twice weekly services between Normanton and Brisbane. Plans were being prepared for a railway from Cloncurry to Normanton to carry export copper ore and imported supplies for the mining town. Discovery of gold at Croydon in 1885 led to the railway line initially being laid between Croydon and Normanton with the intention of building the Cloncurry line in the future.

The Croydon gold field proved to be enormously rich and a full-scale gold rush developed there. After the Croydon-Normanton line opened in 1891 the port of Normanton handled passengers, goods and supplies bound for Croydon. Banks, business and public buildings such as hospital, school and council offices were established. By the mid-1890s Normanton was the fifth wealthiest port in Queensland.

But it was not to last. There was a depression in the 1890s as well as a severe drought. Croydon's gold began running out at the end of the 1890s and miners left in large numbers for other goldfields. Completion of the Townsville to Cloncurry railway line in 1907-08 took away the business generated at Normanton by traffic to and from Cloncurry. Normanton's boom time had ended and the population fell quickly. Pastoralism became the towns economic mainstay.
Normanton Railway Station Normanton Railway Station built to serve the Normanton-Croydon railway line is still is use as a tourist operation which also delivers mail to pastoral properties along the line.

Population declined steadily to a minimum in 1954 then began rising. In 1966 the punt across the Norman River was replaced by a concrete bridge. In 1968 a prawn packing factory was built at the wharf on the Norman River to pack prawns caught by Kurumba-based boats and transported by barge to Normanton where they were packaged and despatched to southern markets in freezer trucks. The prawn plant was swept away in the 1974 floods leaving only the concrete floor; by then processing was completed onboard the catching boats before they returned to Karumba and a shore facility was not required.
Krys Krocodile statue Statue in Normanton main street of Krys shot in the Norman River at Normanton in July 1957. At 8.63 metres long this is understood to be the largest estuarine crocodile ever shot. Crocodiles are now protected.

Normanton has settled into attracting and serving tourists during the winter (Dry Season) and is the centre of a cattle grazing region with a local meatworks supplying meat to the butcher; live cattle are exported from the nearby port of Kurumba. The township is spread along an ironstone ridge gradually rising from the wharf area; the built-up area is much larger than it appears from the highway. Theoretically this elevation protects against flooding but the 1974 and 2009 floods caused severe damage and required the town to be evacuated. The railway line to Croydon still operates, now as a popular tourist attraction, and the former Burns-Philp trading centre is Library and Visitor Information Centre with substantial displays of local information.