The Shire of Burke is in far North West Queensland on the Gulf of Carpentaria, adjoining the Northern Territory border.
Burketown is 2,115km to the north west of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, and 2,100km from Darwin. The Shire lies on the southern coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria and and shares a border with the Northern Territory.
The Shire covers 40,127 km², approximately 40 times larger than the area of Brisbane City Council.
Watch the video that gives you a snapshot of experiences in the Burke Shire.
The shire has a strong rural base and two townships; Burketown and Gregory Downs. There is a resident population of around 550 people in the shire. Communities are diverse with significant indigenous populations from the Gangalidda Garawa and Waanyi traditional owner groups. There are several large cattle stations in the Burke Shire, each with their own fascinating history.
Burketown is the larger township in the Burke Shire with around 170 residents. About a six hour drive from Mount Isa, the town is located on the Albert River, about 40km south of the coast.
Approximately 20 percent of the Shire’s population lives in Burketown and Gregory, whilst the remaining 80 percent live on cattle stations or at roadhouses and tourist attractions.
Facilities in Burketown include a Visitor Centre, medical clinic, police station, pub, caravan park and lodge accommodation, library (with free Wi-Fi access Monday to Friday between 9:00am and 4:00pm), Post Office / convenience store and fuel. The town also has a State School from Prep to Year 6 as well as a kindergarten.
Only a short drive from town, the Burketown wharf and boat ramp provide easy and safe access to the Albert River.
A comprehensive list of local businesses and services can be found on our Tourist and Visitor Information page.
Burke Shire is considered a remote living environment. Given seasonal influences (the wet season) the townships and properties can experience extended periods of isolation, including road access.
Burketown has grocery supplies provided through two small outlets, but it is common practice for residents to phone orders into grocery stores in Mount Isa or Cloncurry. These ‘country orders’ are then delivered for a fee by the mail service or other transport providers.
Most roads in the townships are sealed and some have curb and channel (gutters). Burketown itself is very flat and less than a metre above sea level.
There is road access to Mount Isa and Cloncurry outside of wet season closures. There is an all weather airport, with regular scheduled weekly services to Mount Isa and Cairns.
Gregory Downs (population approximately 50) is a small town located near the beautiful Gregory River, 120km south of Burketown. The hotel motel provides meals and accommodation. The pub is worth a visit in its own right, as it has a rich history.
Gregory Downs is famous for its horse sports events held during the cooler months, as well as the Gregory Canoe Races. The Gregory Downs Jockey Club and the North West Canoe Club both hold their annual events at Gregory Downs on the May long weekend.
Facilities at Gregory Downs include public toilets, a waste dump point for caravanners, a children’s play ground, medical centre (visited fortnightly by the Royal Flying Doctor Service), tennis courts, community hall, race track and airstrip.
Century Mine at Lawn Hill operated from 1999 to 2015. During its operational life, Century was Australia’s largest zinc mine, employing over 1,000 people from across the Gulf. The mine lease and infrastructure are currently in care and maintenance with rehabilitation the main focus of activity.
Access to the mine lease is by permission only. Contact details for the mine owner, MMG Ltd, are available on the company website.
Usually between August and November a rare meteorological phenomenon known as Morning Glory long, tubular clouds, some up to 1000km in length, can be observed in the skies above Burke Shire. The local indigenous name for the cloud is Mabantha.
The Morning Glory clouds attract people from across the globe, including glider pilots who soar above these amazing clouds. The appearance of the clouds is difficult to predict as they are dependent on certain synoptic conditions. When they do appear, it is usually between 6:00am and 9:00am. the tell-tale signs of the arrival of a Morning Glory are northernly winds the previous day as well as heavy overnight dew. The aerial photo above is courtesy of pilot Jordan Westerhuis from Savannah Aviation.
Burke Shire is also home to world class Barramundi fishing, an abundance of bird life and well fed crocodiles.
The Gulf of Carpentaria is home to two species of crocodiles, the dangerous Crocodylus porosus (saltwater crocodile) and the relatively harmless freshwater variety. The latter usually only bites when handled or cornered with the bite, although nasty, rarely fatal. Visitors should take extreme care when swimming in any waterways in the Gulf of Carpentaria and obey all warning signs. The fact that you can’t see a crocodile doesn’t mean it can’t see you.
The Burke Shire’s remoteness is also an advantage, with residents and visitors saying that they enjoy relaxed, stress and hassle-free lifestyle without the big city’ negatives such as pollution, crowds, traffic congestion, serious crime and overcrowding.
Positive aspects of living in Burke Shire also include access to great fishing spots, the ability to ‘pop home for lunch’ during the working day, long stretches of flat roadways for bike riding, plenty of places for horse or off-road motor bike riding, social sporting fixtures and a small pool complex that has six mini-pools.
The Burke Shire offers a quintessentially Australian experience of the Outback. If you love long drives with big skies, camping experiences and an enormous variety of wildlife and unique characters, then the Burke Shire is where you need to be.