Travelling Australia - Journal 2011
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21-26 June 2011 - Hughenden
Hughenden is a small town (population 1,154 in the 2006 census) on the Flinders Highway between Townsville and Mt Isa; it is the administrative centre of the Shire of Flinders.

The region has a dry, tropical climate with hot summers (up to the low 40°sC during the day) and warm winters (to mid-20°sC during the day but down to about 5° at night when frosts are not unknown). Average annual rainfall is about 490 millimetres, more than three-quarters of that between November and March. Variability in annual rainfall is extreme.
Approaching Hughenden Entering Hughenden across the Flinders River on the Ernest Henry Bridge named after the pastoralist who named the property. The windmill marks the regions reliance on artesian water for prosperity.


Hughenden lies near the edge of the Mitchell Grass Plains stretching away to the south. These plains appear to merge with river flats around the Flinders River in continuous grassland around the town. To the north lies different topography with elevated plateux carrying a layer of hard basalt rock protecting the underlying softer rock. Canyons and gorges have formed where streams have eroded the basalt then rapidly eaten away the softer rock below almost down to the level of the grassland to the south. This basalt country is covered predominantly by ironbark woodland with tussock grass ground cover and is also suitable for grazing. This is cattle tick country and brahmin strains of cattle are preferred because of their tick resistance.

Mitchell Grass Plains Mitchell Grass Plains south of Hughenden seen from the top of Mt Walker.


Hughenden is at the centre of pastoral properties. The region was opened up in the nineteenth century when Ernest Henry selected land and applied the name Hughenden to his property after his grandfather's house in England. Henry sold the property to his cousin Robert Gray in 1865; Gray replaced cattle with 3,000 sheep beginning a long association of the town with the wool industry.

In 1876 Gray allowed a friend to build a hotel to cater to travellers to and from the Cloncurry mining area; the hotel was soon joined by a store, blacksmith and butcher shop. The township, named Hughenden after the property, was surveyed in 1887, in that year the railway line from Townsville reached Hughenden which became a railhead.

Pastoral development around Hughenden was initially limited by lack of water. The Flinders River is a dry bed of sand for much of the year and useless for regularly watering stock. Initially the existence of the Great Artesian Basin containing millions of litres of water beneath their feet was unknown to pastoralists and providing water for stock was an insoluble problem limiting the land available for grazing. The first artesian bore was drilled in Queensland in 1887 and the water problem was solved. Flinders Shire around Hughenden developed into a flourishing pastoral region relying on the grassland around the township and artesian bores for water.

Travelling Australia - Hughenden - page 2
Many pastoralists followed Robert Gray's lead and concentrated on sheep. For decades the profitable production of wool dominated Hughenden and the Shire of Flinders. Between 1957 and 1965 there were about a million sheep in the shire but then a combination of factors led to wool falling out of favour. By 2006 there were only 156,000 sheep in the shire and cattle were widespread. One impact on Hughenden was a population reduction by removing the demand for shearers who had based themselves, with families, in the town. The population reduction caused by the shearers leaving town has been quoted as reaching 1,000 people.

Windmill Shelter This unique windmill based sun shelter in the middle of Hughenden marks the historical reliance of the region on artesian bores to provide water for stock.


Hughenden remains a centre for the pastoral industry as well as a railway workshop town. Major employers are the Shire of Flinders and Queensland Rail. There is also a growing awareness of the economic value of tourism and Hughenden is developing nature tourism as well as displaying dinosaur bones, especially Muttaburrasaurus. So many Muttaburrasaurus bones have been found that a statue of that animal has been erected in the main street and a copy of the skeleton of one animal is displayed in the Discovery Centre.
Muttaburrasaurus Muttaburrasaurus statue in Hughenden's main street. This herbivorous animal roamed the shores of an inland sea where Hughenden now stands and the statue was presented to mark the large number of dinosuar bones collected from this area. There is a reconstructed Muttaburrasaurus skeleton in the Flinders Discovery Centre.


Shopping street One of Hughenden's main roads. Centre parking is widely used


Travelling Australia - Hughenden - page 3
Hughenden township has a range of shops needed by travellers. There is a hospital with doctor, pharmacy and a variety of automative support businesses (tyres, etc). Shops are spread over several blocks and some businesses are not readily found. It is worth driving around the shopping area to see what shops are available and where they are.

The major tourist attraction is probably Porcupine Gorge about 63 kilometres north of Hughenden on a generally good road being rapidly improved. The Council plans to complete sealing this road in the near future. The view of the gorge from the well-built lookout is spectacular and well worth the drive there. A camping ground a further 11 kilometres along the road is the beginning of an access track down to the bottom of a different part of the gorge.

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