On our road trip from Uluru to the Queensland coast we finally pass by the little town of Charters Towers.
Charters Towers has just some 8,000 souls to its name, but in its heydays it is was rather something around 30,000. The rise and fall (and quite recently, new rise) of Charters Towers is mostly founded in one single thing – gold. The story of gold here in this area is quite romantic – an Aboriginal boy named Jupiter Mosman discovered the first nugget on the foot of Towers Hill after looking for his horses that had been spooked during a massive thunderstorm. As it turned out, this area is graced with one of the richest gold deposits in all of Australia.
The little town that grew around the gold mines soon prospered tremendously, to a point that it was nicknamed “The World” – inhabitants of Charters Towers were able to find every service, every product needed here, there was no reason to leave the city anymore. At one stage, even a Stock Exchange was build.
By the beginning of the 20th century gold mining in the area had become uneconomic, and with the mines closing down people moved away. What remained is a set of beautiful old buildings along the major roads, that are well maintained and opened up to tourism.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a ghost town. The centre of Charters Towers is busy, the main roads lined with little shops and eateries. But the historic buildings that are now scattered around town are testament to the previous splendour and prosperity of the town, for example the City Hall, the Stock Exchange Arcade, the General Post and Telegraph Office, and the Australian Bank of Commerce.
Today, while mining activities did indeed resume in Charters Towers, it is a major centre for education (outback families would send their offspring to boarding schools here) and a popular tourist destination for visitors who are planning day trips inland from Queensland’s beach resorts.
It is thus not just the historic buildings that make Charters Towers very welcoming and interesting, there are a number of attractions such as the Miner’s Cottage Museum that make it worthwhile to come here. This little museum is stuffed with old books, maps, coins, spoons, dolls, clothes, mining equipment, and other everyday items and offers great insights into how people used to live in the olden days. Kids love the fact that you can also pan your own gold here – the staff will be excited to show you how to do it.
We had a fantastic break here in Charters Towers, what a beautiful little country town. After lunch in a great old pub stuffed with farming equipment, old photographs and pub memorabilia we return to our camper van.
Our next and second last stop of our outback road trip: sunny Townsville. For more ideas and stories about the outback, have a look here.