Although Birdum Creek (not the present day town of Birdum) had been the end of the line for the North Australian Railway ("the line to nowhere"), the area was subject to flooding during the wet season. After World War II when all the military personnel left, Birdum Creek was abandoned; however, in 1952 the hotel was dismantled and moved to its current location in Larrimah ~8 km to the north. The railway line closed in 1976. The Larrimah Wayside Inn (formerly the Birdum Hotel then Larrimah Hotel) now has a roadhouse, hotel/motel rooms, a caravan park, and the "Pink Panther" outback pub. A signboard near the Larrimah Museum says "The Wayside Inn was partly constructed from the materials of the dismantled Birdum Hotel, from which it was often stated that the war was directed. Reports emanated from 'the porch of the Birdum Hotel,' as this was the headquarters of the American base established there during 1942."
Daly Waters is a small town located ~4 km off the Stuart Highway, 373 km north of Threeways and 273 km south of Katherine. Zig (1+1) and I made a quick stop at Daly Waters on the second day of our trip back to Darwin from Alice Springs on 25 Aug 2010. We actually made three stops: the Pub, Stuart's Tree, and the Aerodrome. There are also a few remnants of the old telegraph station near the Tree. Daly Waters is in the Virtualtourist destination taxonomy. See also my tips and travelogues in that location.
The Wiki Australia Travel Guide has a good writeup on Daly Waters: "Daly Waters is located 274 kilometres south of Katherine near the junction of the Stuart and Carpentaria Highways. Despite the tiny population of the settlement, the Daly Waters’ Pub is one of the Territory’s most famous watering holes. The Pub is one of the oldest buildings in the Northern Territory: a quaint place armoured with corrugated iron, draped with bougainvillea and decorated with decades of memorabilia. The annual Daly Waters Rodeo is a Northern Territory institution not to be missed.
Daly Waters also has the distinction of being Australia’s first international airfield. It has an interesting aviation history. It was a centre for the London to Sydney air race of 1926, a World War II air force base and a refuelling stop for Qantas. The Daly Waters Hangar exhibits interesting facts, photographs and equipment from the area's former aviation glory days.
The area’s traditional Aboriginal owners, the Jingili people, believe the Dreaming tracks of the Emu and the Sun travelled through here on their way to the southern parts of the Northern Territory. When John McDouall Stuart explored around Daly Waters in the late 1800s, he and his party became lost in the region and were desperate for water, making their discovery of a small creek leading to a series of waterholes particularly significant."
The Hi-Way Inn is located ~4 km south of the turn to Daly Waters where the Carpentaria Highway from the East meets the Stuart Highway. Zig (1+1) and I did not stop but I did take a couple of pictures as we drove by. From its Facebook page it looks like the Hi-Way Inn can be "interesting" at times.
I had been to Dunmarra before. The Greyhound bus stopped at Dunmarra at ~21:30 on 7 Aug 2010. I had caught the bus again and headed on south to Alice Springs after I had stayed at the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort for a couple of days. Going north with Zig (1+1) on 25 Aug 2010, we did not stop but I took a couple of pictures as we passed by.
Connecting the Continent has an excellent web page on the Sir Charles Todd Memorial. The Memorial is located ~74 km north of Elliott (~27 km south of Dunmarra) on the Stuart Highway, 1 km east of Frew Pond where the northern and southern portions of the Overland Telegraph Line met. Charles Todd did not erect any poles nor did he survey the route. He was not at Frew Pond when the final join was made on 22 August 1872, but he planned, organized and supplied the eternal drive that carried the project through to its successful end. He also sent the first telegraphic message: "We have this day, within two years, completed a line of communications two thousand miles long through the very centre of Australia, until a few years ago a terra incognita believed to be a desert..."
According to Monument Australia the inscription reads "This column was erected to the memory of Charles Todd KCMG, MA, FRS, FRAS, FRMS, FSTE. Postmaster General of the Province of South Australia. His gallant construction teams, operators and linemen under RC Patterson, AT Woods, WH Abbott, BH Babbage, RC Burton, W Harvey, RR Knuckey, GG MacLaughlan, GR McMinn, W McMinn, WW Mills, AJ Mitchell, R Rutt and explorer John Ross. The Northern and Southern parts of this epic overland telegraph line were finally joined about one mile west of this spot by RC Patterson engineer at 3.15 PM on Thursday 22 August 1872. Thus making possible for the first time instantaneous telegraph communications between Australia and Great Britain. FINIS CORONAT OPUS. / This memorial was constructed and erected by the line training school PMG Department South Australia."
In the same field as the flowering hibiscus plants (~10 minutes south of the Sir Charles Todd Memorial on the west side of the Stuart Highway and east of the Newcastle Waters Station fence line), there were some interesting ant mounds and more flowering plants.
We were about 40 minutes north of Elliott (~10 minutes south of the Sir Charles Todd Memorial) when Zig (1+1) spotted a field of blooming hibiscus plants. Evidently they seldom bloom in such a dry climate, so we stopped and took pictures. They were in a field on the west side of the Stuart Highway and east of the Newcastle Waters Station fence line. There turned out to be some interesting ant mounds and more flowering plants in the same field (see also the next tip).
The Wiki Australia Travel Guide tells us that "Elliott, the halfway point between Darwin and Alice Springs, 250 kilometres north of Tennant Creek, is predominantly a service provider to surrounding pastoralists. The town has a population of 700 and was named after Army Lieutenant Snow Elliott who established an army staging camp in the area for northbound troops during World War II. Prior to this, Elliott was just ‘Number 8 Bore’ on the massive Newcastle Waters Station. Kulumindini is the traditional Aboriginal name for Elliott and the town lies on important Dreaming tracks. Educational walks through the Jim Rennie Memorial Park, organised through the Elliott Council, offer insight into the area’s indigenous heritage. Elliott has a well kept nine-hole golf course, and a quick round or two is a popular way for tired travellers to stretch their legs. A range of accommodation is available."
Zig (1+1) and I did not stop in Elliott, but I took a couple of pictures as we passed through on the Stuart Highway. Elliott is ~90 km north of Renner Springs on the edge of the Newcastle Waters Station and is ~23 km from Newcastle Waters, a town located near the Station's homestead at the junction of three important stockroutes. The mostly dry Lake Woods is nearby.
We were there in the morning, so of course the bar was empty. It had a great hat collection and a very interesting bulletin board. You may also leave comments and suggestions in their suggestion box, LOL. Please note that a picture of one of their typical patrons is on the outside door. See also a YouTube Video about Jasmine, a bar maid at Renner Springs, by Mark Shea's Overlander TV.
Zig (1+1) and I had left Threeways early in the morning. The sign said 136 km to Renner Springs and we arrived around 09:15. After seeing all three, I would say that the Renner Springs Desert Inn is a much nicer stop than Threeways and maybe better than Wycliffe Well. Of course, I am a person who likes quiet places. Surely the site was a sacred site to Aboriginal people, but I have been unable to find its original name from the Dreamtime. The site is currently named after Dr. Frederick Renner, who was the doctor for the men working on the Overland Telegraph Line in 1871, 1872 or 1877 (all three years are mentioned online). His diary indicates that he saw a large number of birds and while investigating he discovered the Mud Springs. We only spent a few minutes at Renner Springs, but the next time that I stop, I want to walk to the lagoon at Mud Springs and observe the wildlife there. Another plus that I did not realize until I saw their web page is that their cook makes homemade bread every day. A couple of things are clear even though we only spent a small amount of time at Renner Springs: it is a unique place in a mostly dry area and the owners have a great sense of humor (see the bar tip).
All of the motel rooms at the Renner Springs Desert Inn have ensuite bathrooms and are non-smoking rooms. The rooms are 90-100 AUD for a single, 105-117 AUD for a double, and 140-150 AUD for a family, depending on the number of children. They have 15 powered sites and 60 unpowered sites in their caravan park with BBQ facilities, hot and cold water and a clean amenities block. There is plenty of fresh clean drinking water available from their underground springs. Powered sites are 15 AUD per person, unpowered sites 10 AUD per person, and children under 15 years 5 AUD each. Children under 5 years old are free in both the motel rooms and campsites. From the online TripAdvisor reviews, it seems that the road trains passing by on the Stuart Highway at night can be noisy. Rooms and campsites further from the highway might be a better choice. Also, at sunset many birds fly in to roost in the trees at the lakes around Renner Springs.
The shop at the Renner Springs Desert Inn is open from 06:00 until 23:00. The shop has a mini-market with basic groceries and souvenirs, as well as home made bread, pies, sausage rolls, soft drinks, cigarettes, ice cream, fuel and takeaway meals. The restaurant has a separate dining area and an extensive menu. Internet access, public phones and a book swap table are available at the shop. Since we were just making a quick stop, I had a takeaway, day-old homemade sausage roll (6.50 AUD), which was still quite good and unexpensive! My orange-mango juice was 4.95 AUD.
According to the signpost at the Threeways John Flynn Memorial, Banka Banka Station is located 76 km north of Threeways and 60 km south of Renner Springs. The Station was established in 1885. Banka Banka was also an Army staging camp during World War II. Zig (1+1) and I did not stop but I took a couple of pictures as we passed by on the Stuart Highway. They have a bush campground but one of the signs at the Station gate said no fuel and no power for campers.
The Threeways Roadhouse Bar was packed. I did not go in, so I cannot say much about it. I only found out later that "pokies" are Australian poker machines. I am guessing that the bar and pokies are popular with the many road train drivers that stop at Threeways, where the major north-south highway (Stuart) meets the major highway to the east (Barkly). The end of the roadhouse where the pokies are even has a road train mural.
Since it is located at the intersection of the Stuart Highway and the Barkly Highway from the east, Threeways is another important Northern Territory destination that is surprisingly not in the VT destination taxonomy. There is even a memorial to John Flynn, the Flying Doctor, located at the original intersection of the two highways. The Threeways Roadhouse is where Zig (1+1) and I camped on the first night (24 Aug 2010) of our trip back to Darwin from Alice Springs. It is a full service roadhouse with a caravan park, air-conditioned motel rooms and cabins, "glendales," campsites, swimming pool, restaurant, bar, and fuel. There is also a regional Tourist Information Center. Because of its strategic location, it is very popular with road train drivers.
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