This is the real remote Outback, skirting the Gulf of Carpentaria from the border with the Northern Territory to Cape York. Coming from the east along the Gulf Developmental Road the landscape changes from the lush country east of the Great Dividing range to the dry outback, from Mount Surprise to Georgetown. Continuing west for almost 150 kilometres, the town of Croydon is reached. In its heyday in 1890 as a gold town it had a population of 35,000, but by 1906 the gold had all but run out. Its claim to fame is now that from here there is still a weekly train to Normanton, another 150 kilometres further west. The Gulflander railway line was built in 1907. About 70 kilometres further on is Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria. It used to be a telegraph station and a base for the Empire Mail Service, when flying boats stopped here on their way to and from Europe. Nowadays it is a port for a commercial fishing fleet.
Normanton started as a port on the river leading to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1867 and it became prosperous when gold was discovered in Croydon. Today it is still a service and administration centre and the "Purple Pub" is a well known landmark. Almost 230 kilometres further west along a dirt road is Burketown, settled in 1865 as a real wild west town. The town is nowadays the centre of the cattle industry but still has a frontier feel about it. It is considered the Gateway to the Gulf, as from here fishing expeditions can be organised. About 90 kilometres further on, halfway to the Northern Territory border and on the Nicholson River is Doomadgee, an Aboriginal community, started as a mission station of the Christian Brothers but now self-governing.
South of there, along a bumpy road about 100 west of Gregory Downs, on the border with the Northern Territory, is beautiful Boodjamulla or Lawn Hill National Park with its wonderful gorges, waterfalls and cool swimming holes, a veritable oasis in this otherwise arid landscape. The Waanyi Aboriginal people have strong cultural ties with the park. At the eastern end of the Gulf Development Road is Undara Volcanic Park, one of Australia's greatest geological wonders. It is 275 kilometres south west of Cairns on the Gulf Development Road and has the best preserved and largest lava tube system on Earth. "Undara" is an Aboriginal word meaning "a long way". Its story began some 190,000 years ago, when it erupted and the molten lava flowed into a nearby dry riverbed. The external lava quickly cooled and crusted, but underneath, a fiery flow snaked it's way through, leaving a drained, hardened exterior to create long, dark, hollow tubes.