Nuggets sparkle in dust

Mount Isa is a mine of things to do - above the ground, too

Domestic travel
RIDE ON TIME: The annual rodeo at Mount Isa is a thrilling event that draws thousands of visitors from all over Australia.

RIDE ON TIME: The annual rodeo at Mount Isa is a thrilling event that draws thousands of visitors from all over Australia.

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It's in the middle of the outback but the mining hub has bustle about it for visitors.

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IT STARTS out as a gleaming mirage on the horizon but get up close and the reality of this oasis in the red earth is just as remarkable.

Here are just some of the sights of Mount Isa in Queensland's Gulf Country.

For something very different, check out Mount Isa Underground Hospital. Built In 1942 by off-duty miners, it was set up to treat those in need safely away from the looming threat of Japanese air attacks.

After years of being forgotten, this hospital was restored to its glory days with original furnishings and medical equipment based on photo memorabilia. Join a guided tour and take a step back in time as you wind through the tunnels that make up the 40-bed hospital.

Another option is to check out big barras at The Hatchery, where the Mount Isa Fish Stocking Group runs hatching program to regenerate and restock Lake Moondarra, home of the Lake Moondarra Fishing Classic.

Scheduled for October 25-27, this event lures some of Australia's best anglers, includes 20 prize categories and offers entertainment such as a dragon boat regatta, yabby races and more.

Isa is best known, of course, for its mines - and there's plenty in that vein for visitors to see. For starters, perhaps join the Hard Times Mining Tour, squeezing into an Alimak cage to descend 15 metres and hear first-hand about subterranean life from an ex-miner turned guide.

Get a close-up look of mining machinery, such as jackhammers and mining trucks. Or roll up your sleeves and try your hand at the air-drill.

The Mary Kathleen Mine, meanwhile, is an old uranium mine that looks like something out of an old Hollywood western.

The mine and township operated from 1958 to 1981, when the community was dismantled and cleared away, leaving behind dirt roads and driveways leading to bare concrete foundations. Join a North West Tours to hear stories and visit and a open pit filled with water so turquoise it could rival the Amalfi Coast.

To bring you right up to date, call in at TheIsa Experience , which shows how mining has evolved from the discovery of lead, zinc, silver and copper in the early 1920s to the Glencore mine that operates today.

Displays and videos on multi-dual plasma screens will help give you a feel for things. Outside, explore Outback Park, an oasis of lush native plants, a central lagoon and a Lawn Hill Gorge-inspired waterfall.

More precious things from out of the ground can be seen at the Fossil Centre at Outback at Isa, where you l learn how fossils are extracted from the world-renowned Riversleigh site - without having to travel almost 280km to get there. Laboratory tours are held daily at 10am and 2pm. Or visit the site in person with North West Tours as part of its thee-day, two-night Adels Grove Tour.

For dusty stuff of other kind, Kick up your heels and visit the biggest rodeo in the southern hemisphere, the Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo.

Running between and August 9 and 12, the event, which in 2019 celebrates its 50th year, will include all the popular ring events plus street parades, market stalls, open-air concerts and more.

Pressed for time? Then jump on a city tour. You'll get to see traditional dwellings and the villa where the Queen once stayed - Casa Grande - as well a behind-the-scenes tour of Glencore mine.

After getting your photo taken with lead smelter and bore mill as your backdrop, it's off to the train station to see where the Darwin-bound "Progress and Prosper" rail tracks came to a halt. The tour finishes with a stop in at Buchanan Park.

Finish the day by venturing to City Lookout for a 360-degree view of the city. Try and get there in time for sunset to be captivated by outback sky. Even if you miss the sunset, it's just as magical in the stillness of night as silhouettes of the smelter stacks take over the sky, and the mine lights glisten in the distance.

Details click HERE or phone (07) 3535-3535.

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