The story of Cliffdale Station &

Hell's Gate Roadhouse

The beginning

Cliffdale Station was divided off from Westmoreland Station in 1959. It was first taken up as a separate lease in 1960 for an annual rent of Three Hundred and Four Pounds and Four Shillings, or Nine Shillings per square km per annumapproximately 34 cents per square km. Cliffdale Station is 1710 square km or 171,000 hectares. 

Bill & Leona Olive and their partners, purchased Cliffdale Station's lease in 1973. At the time, the number of cattle were unable to be estimated as all the stock were feral. No fences had been built nor any buildings erected, except one round paddock of approximately 2.58 square km, and one small set of yards made out of bush timber. The fence and yard had been built for the purpose of running brumbies; possibly to be broken in and become work horses.

Shortly after the purchase of the lease, the 1974 beef crash happened. This led to an all time low in beef cattle prices. A 300 mixed herd of cattle was inspected and valued at $30'000 which would have helped with the purchase debt. Unfortunately the actual sale only made $3000. With this slump in cattle prices, there was no point in continuing to develop the property. The station laid idle until 1980.

In 1980, one of the original partners retired and a new partner entered into the agreement. With $10,000 made available as a working capital, the next chapter of Cliffdale Station began. Since 1980, some 322 km of fencing has been erected and 4 dams constructed. No easy task as lines and sites had to be cleared through thick tea tree scrub. 

The Roadhouse

The completion of the B.T.E.C (Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign) left the cattle herd completely depleted. Facing a period of six years of extremely low income, the decision was made to establish the Hell's Gate Roadhouse. 

In 1985, building materials were purchased and the profusion of red tape applying to the setting up, building, gaining licenses and permits for the roadhouse, were finally untangled, translated into understandable terms and overcome.

Luckily the building was completed before the onset of the wet season.

On April 5th 1986, ‘Hell’s Gate Roadhouse’ was officially opened.

A dream had materialised. As was befitting to a location with such a name, the official party consisted of  Padre Bob Heathwood (United Church), Father John Flynn (Catholic Church) and Sister Joan (Dominican Order of Nuns).

By now Cliffdale Station had re-established a herd of some 400 tested cattle ‘behind wire’. This herd was tested and certified clean and free of TB in early 1991.

Why we are here

Located in the Northwest of Queensland, 50km from the border to the Northern Territory, the roadhouse plays an important role in assisting all travellers to reach their destination safely. The remoteness of its location gives local and overseas travellers an understanding of the lifestyle in the outback as well as the history of the pioneering spirit of the Australian Bush. 

Where does the name Hell’s Gate originate

The roadhouse got its name from a small gap in the escarpment about 1km south where the road passes through that gap called Hell's Gate. 

In the early days of the Gulf settlement the police would escort settlers and travellers from Corinda at the Nicholson river to the portal of Hell's Gate. In those days people travelled either on foot or at best mounted on horses. It was named Hell's Gate because once passed the gap, the travellers were on their own until they reached the safety of police protection at Katherine in the Northern Territory. Considering that roads, 4WD's or two way radios didn't exist then and the land passed Hell's Gate was largely unexplored and considered to be dangerous, the name was quite appropriate. 

In 1881, the legendary explorer, overlander and bushman Nat Buchanan travelled on that same road through Hell's Gate when he guided the first settlers to take up and settle the first two cattle runs in the Northern Territory. 


John and Jenny Hays and family took over the ownership of Hell's Gate Roadhouse and Cliffdale Station in December 2015. 

Hell's Gate Roadhouse view from helicopter