In 1644 Dutch seafarer and explorer Abel Tasman mapped the northern coastline of Terra Australis and sailed past the Norman River. Over two hundred years later a site was chosen for a township on the Norman River.
In 1868, after three quarters of the population of Burketown had perished from 'gulf fever', the township moved to Carnarvon on Sweers Island. Approximately 2 years later the present site of Normanton was established. It grew to become the administrative centre for the Gulf and an important inland river port following the discovery of rich gold deposits on the Etheridge and copper ores at Cloncurry.
In the late 1800's Normanton was a boomtown and by 1891 boasted its own railway when the line to service the Croydon goldfields was completed. From Normanton the famous Burns Philp & Company spread its empire into the South Pacific.
Karumba, just 79 km on sealed road from Normanton and at the mouth of the Norman River, is the centre of the Gulf's fishing industries. This lively town also marks the end of the Matilda Highway.
Karumba was once a refuelling and repair stop for the Empire Flying Boats, which connected Sydney to Great Britain. The port also served as an RAAF Catalina base during WWII.
Nearby wetlands extend 30 km inland in a series of meandering saltwater tidal estuaries and flood plains, the habitat for saltwater crocodiles and a vast array of bird species, including pelicans, brolgas, black swans and sarus cranes.
After the sun has set, sky watchers are delighted with the unimpeded view of the night sky - the Milky Way and man's satellites clearly visible without the aid of a telescope.
The Carpentaria Shire is located along the south eastern edge of the Gulf of Carpentaria stretching from the Mitchell River in the north to the Leichhardt River in the west. The countryside ranges from vast, flat plains inland to mangrove fringes, deltas and saltpans along the coastal edges of the south-east Gulf.
Normanton is 500 km (6 hours drive) north of Mt Isa and 700 km (8 hours drive) west of Cairns. It has common boundaries with the Shires of Burke, Cloncurry, McKinlay, Croydon, Etheridge, Mareeba, Cook and the Aboriginal community of Kowanyama. The shire covers an area of 68,950 km2.
The Carpentaria Shire's local government and administrative centre is Normanton. Both Normanton and Karumba are growing commercial centres with an expanding tourism industry and export of live cattle and minerals through the port of Karumba.
For the Carpentaria Shire the average maximum temperature ranges from 35°C in summer down to 32°C in the winter months. The average minimum temperatures range between 24°C in summer and 18°C during winter. Average annual rainfall is around 920mm.