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The last place of any size on the journey west from Roma is CHARLEVILLE, a busy country town whose broad streets and shaded pavements are flanked by some solid buildings constructed when the town was a droving centre and staging post for Cobb & Co. It's well known as a victim of contradictory weather – in November 1947 a hot summer afternoon was interrupted for twenty minutes as a blast of massive hailstones stripped trees, smashed windows and roofs and killed poultry. In 1990 the town centre was struck by five-metre-deep floodwaters from the Warrego River, requiring mass evacuation – a dramatic end to years of drought.
The weather doesn't deter the area's wildlife: the National Parks Centre, right on the Warrego Highway as you come in from Mitchell on the eastern side of town (Mon– Fri 9am–4pm; free), is dedicated to studying and breeding populations of regional rarities such as the absurdly cute bilby and the graceful yellow-footed rock wallaby, both of which are on show. The lack of industrial light and pollution, combined with a low horizon, also makes Charleville's location ideal for star-gazing. Three kilometres south of town, on Qantas Drive (off the Matilda Highway), the Cosmos Centre and Observatory (April to mid-Oct daily 10am–6pm, with night shows at 7.30pm; Nov– March Mon– Sat 10am–5pm, with night shows Mon, Wed, Fri & Sat at 8pm; day/night/combined shows $10/20/26, closed mid- to late Oct; Tel:07/4654 7771, Web:www.cosmoscentre.com) provides visitors with the opportunity to observe the night sky through powerful Meade telescopes.
Charleville's small hub centres on the intersection of Wills and Galatea streets. Most services – banks, shops and post office – are along Wills, and trains and (in this direction) buses also terminate here. The visitor centre is situated within the Cosmos Centre. Comfortable rooms can be found at the peaceful and modern Charleville Motel (Tel:07/4654 1566; $76-100), near the train station on King Street, or the town's historic Corones Hotel on Wills Street (Tel:07/4654 1022, Web:www.hotelcorones.com.au; under $100). To camp, head for Bailey Bar Caravan Park, on King Street (Tel:07/4654 1744, Web:www.charlevillebaileybar.com.au; camping $21, powered sites $24, cabins $76-100). The best meals in town are at the Corones Hotel, whose timber-and-stained-glass dining rooms have been refurbished to original 1925 condition.
Moving on from Charleville, sealed roads head north to Blackall and Longreach (covered by Brisbane– Mount Isa buses), south via Cunnamulla to New South Wales, and further west to Quilpie. Flights to eastern destinations as far as Brisbane, and western destinations as far as Birdsville, leave from the tiny strip outside town.