Day 6 – Dunmarra Destination


Albert Borella VC would not have stopped in Dunmarra on his journey 100 years ago, as Dunmarra wasn’t established until the 1930s.  But the Territory soldier-to-be would have been grateful to stop if he could. Dunmarra is the next stop up the Stuart Highway beyond Elliot, and it’s a shady and cool small Outback hotel of character.

Although started in the 1930s as a cattle property, the site was developed into a roadhouse around the beginning of World War II.  In 2004, the present owner Gary Frost took over, after some years in ACT service stations and aviation. He had travelled the Kimberleys in the 1970s after helping in the big cleanup after Cyclone Tracy, and fell in love with the Territory.

Dunmarra is an aboriginal pronunciation of Dan O’Mara, a local lost in the region in the early 1900s. Borella would have doubtless heard of this pioneer of the Outback. The name Dunmarra comes from the way the aboriginal trackers pronounced the missing man’s name.

Another famous – but also sad – name associated with Dunmarra is known as the Lost Boy story. In 1993 eight-year old Clinton Liebelt, son of the owners of the roadhouse, went missing trying to find a runaway horse. For two weeks 1200 searchers tried to find him. They slept beside their cars on the ground, or in tents; they were locals and passers-by.

It was an indication of how the bush gathers together to help. Two hundred and sixty people were injured or gave way to the heat. Poor Clinton was not found until after nine days when his body was located 23 kilometres west of the roadhouse.

In the Dry season tourism through here is very busy. There are eight units at the roadhouse. The bird life is prolific, with kites and wedgetails, and the occasional giant python sighted – owner Gary’s personal record is five metres for a female olive.

Borella’s horse would have been startled to see the tame buffalo, but Borella would have doubtless stopped for a pie – the Dunmarra home-mades are famous.

 The Borella Ride continues up the Stuart Highway.

By Dr Tom Lewis, Lead Historian for The Borella Rideblog posts