After our ten day detour to the red centre (which was thoroughly worth it!) we were quite looking forward to getting back into traipsing-down-the-highway-and-pulling-into-free-rest-stops mode again. For a start it's a bit kinder on the bank balance but also, strange as it may sound, there's a certain serenity to just pulling into a stop beside the highway (even with the road trains rolling past), in the middle of nowhere (with a whole lot of other people) and enjoying the nowhere-ness.
Today we did just that in a rest area a few hours north of Tennant Creek called Newcastle Waters, but not before stopping in Tennant Creek itself for a couple of hours. We were hoping to learn a bit more of the gold mining history of the place, and catch a mine tour, but when we turned up at the Battery Hill information centre we found the only daily mine tour leaves at 10 each morning, and our drive from Devils Marbles had left us too late for that one. Still, we took the opportunity to access the museums they had there and spent a while in the social history one, learning about life in Australia's last gold rush town. Interestingly, despite the name, there is no creek at Tennant Creek and so the biggest issue for many years was getting a decent supply of water.
The rest stop at Newcastle Waters is on the Stuart Highway but, as we found out from signs at the stop, the deserted town of Newcastle Waters is a few km off the highway. So the next morning we took the detour. It was a town that existed almost solely to serve the droving industry, and so the death of droving spelt the end for the town too. The place was somewhat restored as a bicentennial project but that's 25 years ago now and I don't think too many people take the time to pop in (in the hour we were there we had the place to ourselves, and this is high season!). The kids got quite a lot of enjoyment out of exploring the old general store and pub, and a couple of other buildings.