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Newcastle Waters, NT

Ghost town and famous Northern Territory cattle station

Newcastle Waters is the name given to the ghost town now known as Newcastle Waters Historic Township; to the a large and historic cattle station; and to the river, prone to flooding in the wet season, which runs north from Lake Woods which passes through the station. The main attraction is the Drovers Memorial Park which has an impressive statue of a drover.

Location

Newcastle Waters is located 790 km north of Alice Springs and 716 km south from Darwin.

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Origin of Name

The location was named by the explorer John McDouall Stuart. On his journey across Australia he reached the area on 23 May, 1861 and set up camp. He wrote: "We came across a splendid reach of water about 150 yards wide. This I have named Newcastle Waters after His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, The Secretary for the Colonies".

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Things to See and Do

Newcastle Waters Historic Township
Located 3 km from the Stuart Highway, and very clearly signposted, the Newcastle Waters Historic Township is the remnants of the Newcastle Waters township and the Drovers Memorial Park. The highlights are Jones's Store, originally known as  George Man Fong's house, which has excellent signage about the history of the town, and the Junction Hotel which was built in the early 1930s by Jack Sergeant. The hotel in the early days is recalled in the description that "the raucous history of this drover's pub had begun in the early 1930s when Jack Sargent gathered a bunch of his debtors and put them to work building a hotel out of scraps of old windmills abandoned at stock route bores. It was a fair exchange for in the finish Sargent had his hotel and his helpers names were wiped off the slate at the store." It was closed in 1960. The nearby waters are known, particularly after "The Wet", for their impressive flocks of birds. For more information check out https://www.discovercentralaustralia.com/newcastle-waters-historic-township.

Stockman Statue
Created as a Bicentennial project the Drovers Memorial Park features a sculpture of a stockman which is probably based on the legendary stockman, Nat Buchanan. The Monument Australia site (https://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/technology/agriculture/display/80223-stockman-statue) notes of the statue "Nat Buchanan was the first to overland cattle across the Barkly Tablelands and later the Murranji Track, the "ghost road of the drovers" (when he established Wave Hill Station). These two tracks were vital for the industry and both cattle and human lives were lost, as there was minimal or no water on these major stock routes. Many places on The Track were vital to the adventures of Buchanan and others. A typical example was the original Newcastle Waters and then Newcastle Waters the settlement. In 1911 the Commonwealth Government took over the NT and in 1917 established a depot at Newcastle Waters for the construction of 13 bores across this waterless land (which took seven years to build)."

Newcastle Waters Station
The huge station, owned and operated by CPC () is not open to the public. The website explains its size and function: "Newcastle Waters is a 1,033,101 ha breeding property in the west Barkly region of the Northern Territory. Its open plains, flood country and timbered sand hills can carry 65,700 head of cattle including 20,000 commercial Brahman breeders. The property is home to Newcastle Waters Brahman stud, which comprises 4,000 stud females. Annually the stud produces 1,000 quality, acclimatised herd bulls for CPC's Northern properties. Its annual turnover of 25,000 - 30,000 head are finished according to market demands, with the steer portion being taken at five to seven months for fattening as Jap ox on the Queensland properties or finished on Lake Woods for export to Indonesia via Darwin port." See https://www.pastoral.com/en/content/newcastle-waters for more information.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Elliott
Located 27 km to the south of Newcastle Waters is the tiny settlement of Elliott - a caravan park, police station, food outlet, hotel, health centre, school, service station and vehicle repair shop on the Stuart Highway halfway between Alice Springs and Darwin. One of the few delights of the town is the excellent Jim Rennie Memorial Park which is ideal for picnics. It also has an unusual War Memorial which commemorates the fact that the township was established during World War II as a staging camp for troops heading north. The town was named after the camp commander, Captain R.D. 'Snow' Elliott.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of the Europeans the area was home to Jingili First Nation people who were part of the Pama-Nyungan language group.

* The explorer John McDouall Stuart reached the area on 23 May 1861 and recorded in his diary: "We came across a splendid reach of water about 150 yards wide. This I have named Newcastle Waters after His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, The Secretary for the Colonies". Stuart established a base camp near the present site of the station.

* The development of the Overland Telegraph saw the establishment of a relay station at Newcastle Waters in 1870-71.

* In the early 1880s the pastoral lease at Newcastle Waters Station was taken up by Dr. W. J. Browne from Adelaide who had earlier established Springvale station near Katherine.

* In 1883 D'Arcy Uhr overlanded cattle from western Queensland to stock Newcastle Waters.

* Dr. Browne's pastoral investments failed and in 1895 he sold the Newcastle Waters Pastoral Lease to John Lewis of Adelaide. The Lewis family held the lease for over 50 years.

* In 1886 G. R. Hedley successfully traversed the Murranji track from Victoria River to Newcastle Waters. A few months later Nat Buchanan and Sam Croker took the first stock across the route. They were guided by Mudbarra Aborigines.

* In 1917 the government let a contract for the sinking of bores along the Murranji track. This helped the growth of Newcastle Waters. The town became a depot for the construction teams.

* Syd Peacock won the contract to complete the 13 bores between Anthony's Lagoon to the east and Yellow Waterhole to the west. His plant consisted of six horse drawn wagons and a stationary steam engine.

* Ross and Keith Smith's flight from England to Australia in 1919 required the construction of a number of airstrips for refuelling. The aeroplane refuelled at Darwin, Katherine and Newcastle Waters. A ground crew under the leadership of Hudson Fysh was employed to organise the airstrip.

* Work on the Murranji track bores was completed in September 1924. The 13 bores along the stock route were spaced every 30 km.

* In 1926 Newcastle Waters was made the theoretical capital of the Territory of North Australia. The decision was repealed in 1931.

* In 1930 the Government resumed one square mile from Newcastle Waters Station for a town site. The area already contained a Police Station and Works Department depot.

* The Junction Hotel was built in the early 1930s by Jack Sergeant.

* By 1935 Qantas Empire Air Services was using the Newcastle Waters landing strip as a link in its mail and passenger

* The runway proved unsatisfactory for QANTAS and the service was halted in November 1937.

* By 1942 62,000 cattle were being driven along the east-west stock route.

* By 1944 140,000 were using the route which became seriously overcrowded.

* Road trains effectively saw the end of droving and this meant that by the early 1960s Newcastle Waters had become a virtual ghost town.

* By 2016 there were 64 people living in the area of Newcastle Waters station.

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Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information Centre.

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Accommodation

There is no accommodation.

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Eating

There are no eating facilities.

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Useful Websites

There is useful information at https://northernterritory.com/tennant-creek-and-barkly-region/see-and-do/newcastle-waters-historic-township.

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Got something to add?

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3 suggestions
  • I’m pretty sure the bronze statue was created by Eddie Hackman. He also created the one at The Stockmans Hall of Fame in Longreach Queensland.

    Sandra Fishlock
  • Elliot is a small town with 400 Indigenous locals living either side in what are known as North Camp and South Camp. It’s year round billabong is a white clay coloured delight in the middle of this parched spot between Darwin and Alice Springs and best of all, the racist redneck who asked me where I was going replied “Elliott, there’s nothin’ there” so you won’t find him or his mates at the campsite. Also if Auden is correct and “poetry makes nothing happen” that nothing is good enough for me.
    It’s the home also to a fine local fire brigade and a fine local AFL team and the hometown of Jake Neade of the North Ballarat Rebels AFL. A great little spot.

    Rik Jurcevic
  • When the book came out (I think by the Jones) it didn’t have much about the missionaries of the AIM church where there should have been. My parents are Rev Walter Fejo and Beryl Fejo (nee Holtze). Both passed away had 3 children Daniel, Andrew, Lynette Fejo. We grew up that way and have stories and family connection through our mother’s father George Holtze. They were the missionaries at Elliott/Newcastle Waters. My grandfather George Holtze was born that way. His father Vandermeer Holtze (Wallaby Holtze) working at the telegraph station.

    Lynette Fejo