Population: Approx. 30
Standing on the verandah of the pub looking over to the old railway station it is hard to imagine today, that in 1907 over 1000 construction workers were gathered for the building of the Etheridge line. Or, that in 1929, Ernest Atherton, a former Almaden baker and butcher, was appointed to the position of Minister for Mines in the Queensland cabinet. He was the only cabinet minister representing the northern interests of the State.

Atherton and the Tablelands were named after John, of the legendary Atherton Family who, as pastoralists, played an important role in the development of the region. They opened up vast tracts of land, paving the way for the small miners, prospectors, and the entrepreneurs. The Tableland’s link with the Cairns Outback is its volcanic geology.

Interestingly, the ghosts of the Atherton area are distinctly oriental. The Hou Wang temple is traditional Chinese on the inside, pioneer Australian on the outside. A glimpse into their past is truly fascinating.

Imagine a mystical landscape. A place created eons ago, when a now outback land was washed by the warm waters of an ancient sea. A coral reef flourished; tall sea lilies swayed with the current, and jawless fish darted in the shallows. Down through the ages, Mother Nature carved a wondrous cave system from the limestone, remnants of that early coral reef.

Violent volcanic eruptions thrust rich ore deposits upwards to the surface, only to refold and thrust them downward, deep into the earth’s layers. Slowly, the land surface cooled. The climate changed. Rainforest gave way to open savannah lands. Aboriginal people camped under protected limestone ledges. They hunted the mega fauna, which roamed the vast grasslands.
Discover the beauty of this ancient landscape. View world famous caves and a specialized fossil collection. Be amazed at the myriads of stars in the night sky and at dusk listen to the ghosts at the old State Smelter Reserve. – Town Information Website
Download – Chillagoe Town Map in Detail

Dimbulah is the gateway to the Hodgkinson Goldfield, which was settled in1876, and lead to the establishment of Cairns as a port. The township of Dimbulah grew up on the Walsh River in 1900 as a watering place for locomotives on the Chillagoe Line.
Mines at Wolfram Camp and the rail from Mount Mulligan coal mine aided development. Late1930s Dimbulah became a thriving township based on tobacco farming. With the completion of the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme in 1963 the scope for farming expanded. Many other crops have now replaced tobacco


For the visitor Dimbulah offers:

  • A friendly, comfortable caravan park with onsite cabins
  • Museum with tour info and daily Driver Reviver facility
  • Themed painted power poles
  • Tyrconnel Historic Gold Mine
  • A Well stocked general store with internal ATM
  • Bendigo Bank with ATM
  • New Post Office & Chemist supplies
  • Café
  • Corner store with Fuel.
  • Time to relax.



In the mid 1890s, famous Australian painter Ellis Rowan visited North Queensland. In her book ‘The Flower Hunter’, she describes her adventures in a series of letters written to her husband. Included is the Cobb & Co stagecoach trip she undertook from Herberton via Emuford, to Chillagoe… ‘Said to be the roughest road in Australia, the coach dropped from one boulder to another, along the steep track.’ Little wonder that the passengers opted to walk. Fortunately this is not the case today!


Established in 1880, Herberton is a charming heritage-listed town, with a wonderful climate, and a fair share of ghosts from its tin-mining past. You can sense their presence as you marvel at old pictures on the Photo Post walk, or when visiting the peaceful cemetery, where many pioneers are buried. Herberton boasts the oldest buildings on the Tablelands, museums, picnic spots, and a range of accommodation and services. Since the decline of tin-mining, Herberton has become renowned as a centre for bush walking, mountain-biking and horse riding, and the flora and fauna – including wildflowers and over 100 species of birds – make for a memorable experience. Base yourself in Herberton and explore the extensive walking trails, and the old Army campsites in the area – headquarters of the 6th and 7th Australian divisions during WW11.

Originally set up as a mining camp (1882) Irvinebank was to become the centre of a vast empire. Legendary entrepreneur John Moffat purchased leases and set up his headquarters in the heart of the mining field. John Moffat’s homestead was open to his staff, which made up small dance parties, or stood around the grand piano, or browsed among the books in the cedar lined library (G C Bolton). Today, Irvinebank with its old buildings still retains a certain sense of grandeur. A visit to the Loudoun House Museum, historical home of John Moffat, will bring the sense of yesteryear alive in your mind. Irvinebank is famous amongst plant enthusiasts for two species, which are found only in that area a purple flowering wattle and an orange-red flowering grevillea. Free camping is available on the Town Common for bona fide travellers.


Although not included in the Cairns Outback region, Julatten is tucked away in a pocket of rainforest, in the cool mountains just back of Port Douglas. This location offers a milder climate and is central to a diverse range of habitats. It is famous worldwide for its bird life.



Driving from Cairns up the Kuranda Range, Mareeba is the gateway to the Wheelbarrow Way. Founded by pastoralist John Atherton, it was his son William who, in 1888, applied for pastoral leases in the Chillagoe area, with the intent of supplying beef to the spreading mining camps.

Mareeba played an important role during World War 2; the original airstrip was constructed for the defense of Australia. Mareeba was home base to many American servicemen, the RAAF’s 100 squadron, which conducted bombing missions, and Australian’s first parachute battalion.
Today Mareeba is a big country town, with a multicultural population. In 1958, with the introduction of the irrigation waters from the Tinaroo Dam, a scheme which cost $12,666,000, Mareeba became a prosperous farming community. Some of those farms welcome visitors (see below).


Mutchilba is located just before Dimbulah, here the Savannahlander train stops to gain onwards permission to travel the line by collecting a ‘staff’ from a railway cabinet. Mutchilba is a small service centre with a Community Hall, Park , Convenience Store and Post Office.

The Cairns Outback’s ever changing scenery opens out into a startling vista. The golden hues of the expansive savannah country can only hint at the vastness and the grandeur of the landscape stretching to the tip of Australia. Mt Carbine is the most northerly of the Cairns Outback region, and gateway to Cooktown and Cape York.
Mt Carbine was also a part of the fabled John Moffat empire. In 1906, Moffatt developed the wolfram deposits at Mt Carbine (GK Bolton). Wolfram is used to harden steel. Mt Carbine region is also home to over 290 species of bird life.

Mt Molloy was named to honour teamster Patrick Molloy who, in the mid 1880s, found the copper outcrop whilst searching for stray bullocks. For four years he worked it as a one man show, then amid murmurs of “claim jumping,” it changed hands. In 1901 the Irvinebank Company purchased the leases and by 1903, Mt Molloy was one of North Queensland’s leading producers. However by Christmas of 1908 production ceased due to a lack of ore.

Mt Molloy too, has its share of ghosts … James Venture Mulligan, discoverer of gold on the Palmer River and on the Hodgkinson field, silver at Silver Valley and tin in several locations, at age 70, embroiled himself in a fight during the construction of the Mt Molloy-Biboohra tramway, received an unlucky blow and died. The Irish explorer’s body rests in the Mt Molloy cemetery (GK Bolton).

Today, Mt Molloy’s fame is with its bird life. Almost 300 species have been recorded within a 15 km radius of the town. It is also the home of the Great Bowerbird.

Owned by the KuKu Djungan Aboriginal people, Mt Mulligan is a stunning sandstone escarpment 18 km long and 300 m high. Located 54 km north of Dimbulah (25 km from Tyrconnell) on unsealed road, the base of the mountain was once home to the coal mining township of Mt Mulligan. In 1921 a coal dust explosion killed 75 men underground, Australia’s third largest mining disaster. The mine reopened and finally closed in 1957. Although little remains in the town, Mt Mulligan makes for a fascinating visit with its poignant cemetery and haunting beauty.

The new Colony of Queensland was proclaimed in December 1859 opening up a new horizon in the settlement of the North. Exploration parties fanned out across unknown territory, blazing tracks through the back-country. In 1864 Ezra Firth, a former stonemason from Yorkshire, established Mount Surprise Station as a sheep property. It marked the northmost frontier of Queensland. Eight years later William Hann and his party of five men set out from the Firt’s out-station of Fossilbrook to explore the country further to the north. It was this expedition, which changed dramatically the direction of the history of North Queensland – the discovery of gold on the Palmer River. Today Mount Surpris’s special appeal is gem fossicking. Pick up a license and try your luck at Topaz, garnet and other semi-precious stones.

Petford is the home of Living Treasure, Mrs Doreen McGrath. Doreen’s home is located close-by the old Petford railway siding. Call in and have a chat.
Petford is also at the junction of the Petford- Chillagoe and Petford-Irvinebank roads (see map).

Ravenshoe, the highest town in Queensland, can usually provide cool weather and a warm welcome. The Visitor’s Centre, a Rainforest Interpretive Centre, provides much more information on local history, waterfalls and windfarm.
In the main street good food is provided at the bakery, two hotels and cafes, while the Gallery, craft shops and wine works provide for other interests, Accommodation includes two motels, B&Bs, caravan park with budget units while there is limited space for caravans in the railways yard near our steam train, Capella.
Ravenshoe has many pleasant surprises for the appreciative visitor.