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Published: September 19th 2012
Outside the Information Centre and historical Display which was absolutely fantastic
Savannah Way 5. > Croydon > Georgetown > Ravenshoe > Atherton
Leaving Karumba we had to retrace our route back through Normanton to join the Gulf Development Road or Kennedy highway, which is all part of the Savannah Way from Broome to Cairns, confused? Anyway we had to go back through Normanton to head towards our next stop, Croydon. The country we passed through was mostly light woodland, all cattle country, but we also started to see and drive over some ‘moundy things’, apparently they are called hills. Yes it has been a while since we have seen a hill to drive over, but I didn’t know what else to say about this part of the world other than it is remote. The road is now all sealed, which is also a novelty for us, and yes we have seen clouds today, real ones, that take up a fair amount of room in the sky thus limiting the blue stuff we have become so accustomed to over the past 6 months or more, damn we are back in the East!
155klm from Normanton we roll into Croydon, a town that could in all sincerity be ‘blamed’ for
The Old Police Station and Residences, part of the Heritage Precinct.
the opening up of the Gulf country, (along with the cattle duffers). In 1886 Walter ad Dick Alderidge struck gold while digging holes for fence posts working on Croydon Downs Station. I only ever struck tree roots or rocks when I had to dig fence post holes and Boorowa was an old gold town, of sorts! This gold strike led to the development of a rich booming town which was supplied from the ports of Burketown and then Normanton. Gold fever was sweeping the world, well Australia and America specifically and gold miners poured through these two ports as well as Townsville to come to the Croydon gold fields. Croydon in its heyday housed, foundries, schools and 36 hotels. Of the 122 liquor licenses issued on the Croydon goldfields only one is still operational today, The Club Hotel, so we had to go in and have a XXXX or two, (remember Queenslander’s cannot spell beer!). Built in 1887, the last hotel in Croydon was a great pub full of memorabilia and the most amazing staircase.
Croydon, like Normanton, has some amazing heritage buildings and many have been restored and have historic displays housed in them and they are all
The Old Courthouse.
open to the public. Some of the buildings we visited were the Police Sergeants Residence built in 1896 which now fully restored and magnificent building now the centre of the Heritage Precinct. The Police Station (1896) and the Croydon Courthouse (1887) which are now both museums with displays and artefacts, telling the story of law enforcement during the feverish times of the gold rush. The Courthouse was a magnificent restoration and from the size of the public gallery a busy and noisy place at times. The Old Town Hall (1890 and next door to the Courthouse), must have been another building that underwent a lot of activity and was used as a Picture Theatre, Dance Hall, Live Music and Travelling Show venue. The Croydon General Store was another must see, it is the longest continuously running store in Queensland, built in 1894. The store not only sells groceries, fuel, tyres, hardware and sweets it also houses a large local collection of memorabilia. The old gold trading counter complete with scales is still in position ready for the next ‘rush’. Other magnificent old buildings we saw were the Male Ward from the original Hospital and the replica of the original old
The Old Court would have seen some hectic days I imagine, Check out 'Her Honour'.
Croydon is an amazing town to stop in and walk the old historic precinct with all its heritage buildings and learn about the history of the Croydon Gold Fields. Whilst here we also went out to see Lake Belmore which provides an aquatic oasis for the area, particularly, I imagine, in summer. There are two more striking things about Croydon I should mention, the first is the Federation/Anzac Park with its steel sculptures depicting the town’s unique heritage of Aboriginal Culture, Chinese settlement during the gold rush and its pastoral industry. And the second thing is this, it has eight, yes 8, public toilets and all of them are amazingly clean and well looked after, (well Trish was impressed anyway!).
The Gulf has had a diverse history of mining activity, including gold, zinc, copper and several precious stones and our next stop, Georgetown is the centre for the Etheridge Goldfield which still yields gold nuggets and semi-precious stones including Topaz and Garnet and Sapphires. The area was first known as ‘Poor Man’s Goldfield’ because gold nuggets could be picked up from the ground without expensive equipment. Seems a bit of weird name to me, if gold
The Oldest trading General Store in Queensland.
nuggets were just lying around on the ground you would not be poor for long, Easy Goldfield, or, Stub your Toe Goldfield would seem better names to me! Today Georgetown is a service centre for local Pastoralists and mining activity and is home to the Ted Elliot Mineral Collection, an array of over 4500 minerals, gemstones and fossils. If you are a bit of a rock-hound, apparently this is a must see. The Wenaru Hotel served a good cold XXXX and was opposite the beautifully restored Shire Hall. We spent the night here in Georgetown at a very small caravan park, it was within walking distance of the few shops & the Hotel, but its saving grace was the fantastic swimming pool. At the end of a long, hot, dusty day a swim in the pool is just what is needed!!
Our next planned stop was at Mt Surprise, an old railway town on the old Cairns Forsayth Railway line. Mt Surprise is our last town in the Gulf Savannah and also marked for us our entry back into the ‘civilisation’ of the Eastern Coast of Australia. Still surrounded by wooded savannah grasslands Mt Surprise is now a centre
An amazing piece of history, as N.G. would say 'Heaven on a Stick'
for gem fossicking and a base to explore the Undara Laval Field in the McBride Plateau. In Queensland we have come across a number of strategically placed under-body vehicle high pressure wash bays, which in theory are there for all vehicles to use to wash off weeds seeds to limit their spread throughout the state. Mt Surprise had one of these and after about 5 passes through the wash bay we were pretty pleased with how well the Trakkie and Troll came up. We have used them before and think that not only is it a good idea (to attempt to limit the spread of undesirable plants) but also it provides a fantastic service to ‘us travellers’ thank you and let there be many more of these around Australia!
As we make our way through Innot Hot Springs, there are mountains and the tablelands looming in front of us. After our first climb in, well 9 months, we reach Ravenshoe and have to dismantle the Troll and Trakkie to find tops, long stored away, to put on, it was cold, down to mid 20’s and looking like rain! Our dream run of amazing weather looks to have come to
General Store, I did not realise how much yellow is used in packaging!
an end at last as we walk the streets of Ravenshoe, the highest town in Queensland. At 920 metres it is also home to Windy Hill wind farm, 20 turbines that generate enough power to supply 3500 households. We were impressed with this town and its main street façade of buildings that would more than rival many heritage precincts we know such as Piper Street in Kyneton or the township of Maldon. Originally a timber milling, mining settlement, today it is the service centre for agricultural enterprises that include, beef and dairy farming, horticulture and timber as well as being an interesting destination for travellers and fossickers. Ravenshoe had a ‘good feeling’ about it, interesting buildings, magical tableland scenery and mountains and yet so close to Cairns and the coast.
We had decided to stay at Atherton that night so we drove on across the tablelands, speechless; after months of flat, dry, sandy, ‘outback’ remoteness we were in rolling green hills with dairy herds, and surrounding all this were lush tropical rainforest valleys and mountains, unbelievable and so greeeeen!! And yes, it did rain that night and we had the doona on the bed all night - that was
The Gold weighing 'Department' in the General Store. Everything is still there!
all very different.
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