Burketown lies on the Albert River at the base of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is of course, named for Robert O'Hara Burke, of Burke and Wills renown and the Burketown district is brimming with the history of the explorers who came to rescue them. Frederick Walker and William Landsborough both searched the Gulf country for Burke and Wills. Walker located Camp 119, the pair's most northern waypoint, but he contracted Gulf Fever and died days later. Walkers grave is on Floraville Station. Landsborough arrived in the Burketown area aboard the brig 'Firefly' which suffered through a cyclone north of Cairns. Firefly was hastily repaired and made her way up the Albert River. Landsborough was to return to Melbourne via an overland route and blazed a tree with the word 'DIG'. Supplied were buried at it's roots. The year was 1866. Sadly, in 2002 the tree was set alight by vandals. The tree's remains and a fence are visible as well as an information board. Nearby lies the rusting ruins of the 'Boiling Down Works' where beef was reduced in brine and shipped out via the Albert River.
William Landsborough was the police magistrate when Gulf Fever decimated the community of Burketown and he organised the population to be relocated to Sweers Island. Burketown never achieved the dizzy heights predicted for it at settlement. The town was virtually quarantined for 18 months after 'the fever' and a cyclone levelled the settlement in 1887. It was a wild place, full of the pioneer spirit, remote and prone to natural disaster and vulnerable to crooks, thugs and degenerates.
Burketown's population has never really risen above 250 people and today the town consists of a large council depot, a store-cum-post office, caravan park, fuel depot and the pub. If you hadn't been to Burketown prior to 2012 then you've missed the chance to have a beer in an iconic outback pub. It was the customs house before converting to become the Burketown Hotel. It has been unceremoniously destroyed by fire.
So what brings people to Burketown apart from a bit of explorer history, a museum and the government bore from 1897? Barramundi for one. Burketown has proclaimed itself the 'Baramundi Capital of Australia' and providing you avoid the north's big crocodiles you can snare some decent fish here. The stunning Adel's Grove and Lawn Hill are just around the corner and then there's the 'morning glory' - a roll cloud moving at 60kph and towering 2km high. It can stretch 1000km across the Gulf of Carpentaria and brings hang gliders and gliders to Burketown to 'surf' this natural daybreak phenomenon.
If you plan on visiting Burketown in the 'wet' season then it pays to check the weather and road conditions before departing. The Gulf country is prone to getting extremely wet and boggy and it's not uncommon for the residents of Burketown to become landlocked after heavy rain.
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