Herberton is an element in a Perentie Tours Outback Tour and the more I visit, the more impressed I am with this remote mining village located in the foothills west of Cairns that was such an important element in the development of Far North Queensland. At certain times of the year, the town turns purple from the flowering Jacaranda trees and the transformation reminds me of Japan with its Cherry Blossoms. When visiting Herberton, I encourage a stroll down the main street to allow guests to soak up the history enhanced by the many storyboards along the way and a great introduction to the experience they are about to have at our next stop at Irvinebank.
John Atherton was alerted to tin deposits previously reported by Venture Mulligan in late 1870’s. Further prospecting led to the discovery of a rich tin lode outcropping on what was to become the site of the Great Northern Mine. As news of the find spread, diggers from the struggling Palmer River and Hodgkinson Goldfields flocked to the new field. The settlement that sprang up was named Herberton because of its location on the headwaters of the Herbert River. By 1881 new mining camps were springing up nearby to extract other mineral discoveries. Rations ran low throughout the district during the wet seasons and after much lobbying a railway was commenced from Cairns to Herberton in 1886. In the interim, a couple of enterprising ex-miners (Jack and Newell) opened a General Store, often allowing miners to pay for their goods with the minerals they mined – mainly tin. This form of trading was common and even colleague prospector Venture Mulligan opened a general store at Thornborough in 1877 where he traded in gold but never had the economic skills required and went into liquidation after just two years. As more minerals deposits were found, J&N established a network of General Stores bringing supplies up the Bump Track from Port Douglas. When the railway finally reached Herberton in 1910, the tin boom was over and by the 1950’s, although some mining was still happening, many relics were being sold off for scrap metal with old buildings being condemned and demolished.
Herberton Historic Village
A rather quirky collector by the name of Harry Skennar had a vision to preserve history for generations to come. In 1973 and as many villages were fast becoming ghost towns, he set about creating a replica historic village bringing the first building onto the site beside the Wild River. Fortunately for Harry, there were few regulations in place when relocating buildings so many more buildings and relics followed. Harry was asked to upgrade his fire safety after the Childers Backpacker disaster and being the exocentric person he was, Harry closed the village to the public. He then passed away and the village remained closed with the contents gaining more value until eventually the village was upgraded and reopened. Those who visit the Herberton Historic Village cannot be prepared for the extent of memorabilia that has been collected and for those who have even the slightest interest in Australia’s pioneering past, still want to see more after hours of strolling the streets of this unique venue. It’s truly a tribute for all who have been involved with its creation.
Your experience can be further enhanced with a visit to the Herberton Mining Museum at the site of the Great Northern Mine for a gold coin donation.
Spy Camera Museum
I can remember the first time I visited the camera museum back in early 2000 to deliver a message to the owner. I couldn’t think of anything more boring than to look at old cameras but eventuated in one and a half hours of total fascination. Michael’s collection of rare and unusual cameras is both pleasantly surprising and completely unexpected and is surpassed only by his dry wit and extensive knowledge as he explains the history of not only the cameras but also the town. This huge camera display is housed in a 130-year-old building where ‘Jack and Newell’ began their General Store Empire that serviced the mining villages up until 1970.
Although Michael offers a one hour tour, Perentie Tours often do a quick walk through whenever possible. “What is a place like this doing here?” one person asks. Although enlightening, this brief tour doesn’t do justice to the stories that each camera could tell.
More information about the Spy Camera Museum can be found at: http://www.spycameramuseum.com.au/Site/Home.html
To have the opportunity to view this historic town is true privilege and many are encouraged to revisit.
More information can be found at http://herberton.qld.au/
or have a look at the Perentie Tours home page