Newcastle Waters is practically a ghost town now, but was a busy place, frequented by drovers as a stopover on their gruelling journeys, as well as well sinkers and others in bygone days. Three stock routes interesected there – the Murranji from the north west, the north/south route along the telegraph line and the Tablelands Track from the east. The historic buildings, the Jones Store and Junction Hotel remain and are well worth a visit. No services are available.
The expansive watercourse is easily accessible and makes a pleasant stop with prolific birdlife, shady trees and gas BBQs. Stuart was relieved to reach it after crossing large tracts of arid country in 1861 and described it as "a splendid reach of water".
Drovers Park in the centre of town celebrates the life of drovers with a large bronze statue. A huge book mounted on a massive slice of rock commemorates 150 years since Stuart's exploration party's epic crossing of the continent and celebrates Aboriginal people's contribution to the area. An ideal spot to picnic.
The Murranji Track, between Newcast Waters and Top Springs, was perhaps Australia's most difficult route. It was notorious because of lack of waterholes and the dense thorny lancewood and bulwaddy scrub along it. This same thorny scrub had frustrated Stuart in 1861 and 1862 as he proceeded northwards.
Murranji Track was pioneered in 1882 by Nat Buchannan. Dry stages were up to 180 kms long and at times men and animals perished. Bores were later sunk along the track. The limestone ground also had the effect of making a drumming sound, spooking cattle.
After the 1950s, cattle were trucked to market in roadtrains. Droving became a thing of the past, it was the end of an era.