Hartley’s Creek

Hartley’s Creek

Back in about 2000,  when I owned a tourist facility in Chillagoe, West of Cairns, a family often visited to ‘get away from it all.

Hartley's Creek Wildlife Park

As I got to know them better, I came to know them as the owners of the Hartley’s Creek Crocodile Farm. They appeared as unlikely owners of such a facility but the more I got to know them, the more I saw the qualities that made them the success they are today. Back then, Peter and Angela were just beginning work on their new facility ‘Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures’ with their loyal staff doing most of the labour to developed and landscape a new site adjacent to the original “The Hartley’s Creek Zoo”. Peter’s Dad had acquired Hartley’s in 1986 and the family now own most of the wildlife facilities in the Cairns region and I would imagine those young and playful boys (who are now teenagers) would be very entrenched in the business with the same admirable ethics of their parents. Because of my outback skills and knowledge of Australian wildlife I once considered asking to join their team but after visiting Hartley’s Creek, I immediately realised that the staff were exceptionally skilled and didn’t follow through with the request.

Hartley’s Creek today

The multi-award winning Harley’s Creek Crocodile Adventures is not just crocodiles but totally dedicated to all Australian wildlife. Your initial admission charge covers all the displays and presentations that follow on from each other all day in an environment as close as you can get to a natural habitat. Perentie Tours can offer a private charter to visit this wonderful facility.


Hartley's CreekHartley’s Creek Crocodile Adventures began way back in the 30’s as a teahouse and the business had a number of owners. In the 60’s the new owner had compassion for the plight of the crocodile that was being hunted for skin and after learning all he could from those hunters, traveled around remote areas of Cape York collecting specimens to farm for conservation purposes. This had never been done before and in 1974, it led to the recognition that the croc numbers were critically low and it was decided by government to declare them a protected species.

More information can be found at http://www.crocodileadventures.com/

 To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page




We pass through Dimbulah on the way to Chillagoe on one of my Two Day Outback Tour. The name Dimbulah is thought to be a local aboriginal word meaning long water hole as the Walsh River runs close to the town and always becomes a series of waterholes during the dry season. Dimbulah was originally established in late 1800’s to service the Hodgkinson Gold Fields to the North and a little later Wolframite (Tungsten) was discovered closer to town. The mine was named Wolfram Camp and when Tungsten prices crashed in 1906, mining came to a halt although the Tyrconnell Gold mine and BatteryTyrconnell on the Hodgkinson Gold Field continued to operate. The Catholic church at Wolfram Camp was dismantled and moved to Dimbulah (and later to Chillagoe in late 1990’s). Coal was discovered at Mount Mulligan and a tram track was constructed in 1915 to connect to the Chillagoe line.There were many Chinese (for the gold) and Afghan cameleers in the region resulting in half cast aboriginal children. During that shameful time in Australian history, many children were forcible removed from their parents and the local tribe scattered. Australia adopted a ‘White Australia’ policy and an influx of Italian migrants began to grow tobacco in the area. Tinaroo Dam was constructed in the 50’s to irrigate the area and the town prospered – it was difficult to get a park in the main street but as late as 1998 the British and American Tobacco Company stopped leasing the properties and the industry came to an abrupt halt. Tea tree was quickly planted to ensure a continuance of income but the market became top heavy creating little demand for the oil. It was a dark time for Dimbulah and the town has never fully recovered. I can remember going to a few town meetings and making recommendations to local council about the restoration of the old railway station. A few other projects assisted to regenerate town pride such as the SavannahlanderSavannahlander Train Train, the Great Wheelbarrow Race  and  Wolfram Camp was revived for a while. These days Dimbulah is the hub of fruit and vegetable growers with mangoes being the primary produce.

More information can be found at http://www.whereis.com/qld/dimbulah#session=MTU=

To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page



ALMADENCairns Day Tours

There are scores of small towns that came about due to the mineral boom of Far North Queensland in the late 1800’s created by the Palmer River Gold Rush sparked by J V Mulligan. Most have simply vanished, but a few remain for various obscure reasons. We pass through the tiny town of Almaden on our way to Chillagoe on my Two Day Outback Tour along the Wheelbarrow Way and guests are amazed that such a town still exists as there were no significant mineral deposits. Locally know as ‘Cow Town’, it consists of just a few buildings and most living there would make claim to being the unofficial Mayor. The Railway Hotel represents the petrol station, post office, shop and town hall and the school is now a small Caravan Park. The pub is also in control of what television station (singular) is watched in the town with the transmitter located in a locked room at the Railway Station. Did I say Railway Station? Now you are picturing a larger town but the train only comes through Almaden twice a week – same train, different direction. It’s the historic Savanahlander and the railway line is directly related to the creation and survival of the town. A private railway completed in 1901 was constructed to service the nearby Chillagoe smelter and for a few years Almaden became a Cob & Co stagecoach stop until a rail branch was completed to the south in 1908 to access further minerals. The line was subjected to flood damage and bush fires often destroying the timber trestle bridges. Almaden was the obvious base for the railway repair crews and junction for the transfer and control of rail traffic.

AlmadenIn 1927 a cyclone caused all sorts of damage and in 1931, flood damage was so bad that consideration was given to close the line to the South but Almaden continued to survive. Almaden’s other claim is the home of infamous Vince Kinnear who became the first Ranger and Post Master at nearby Chillagoe and is one of the stops during the Great Wheelbarrow Race.

More information can be found at http://www.whereis.com/QLD/ALMADEN#session=MTQ=

 To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page


Rusty’s Markets


Rusty’s MarketsRusty's Market

I always tell my guests about the iconic Rusty’s Markets. My memories of Rusty Rees was a small and happy gent, always dressed in a colourful outfit while chatting to the stall holders. Rusty began this venture in 1975 with just a few stalls and I often wonder what he must have thought as  it to grew in popularity to over 180 stalls. Rusty’s Markets is a market in the true sense of the term with fruits, flowers, vegetables and everything else you would expect at a market with a carnival atmosphere and friendly stall holders. Rusty has passed away now and I’m not sure if he was still the owner when I met him, but the neighboring Gilligan’s Backpackers Hotel and Resort are now the owners and continue to operate it without any obvious changes. 

What I like most are the exotic fruits that are ripe enough to eat Rusty's Marketimmediately – ideal for travelers who wish to experience the tastes that they have (or have not) only heard of. The markets are located between Grafton and Sheridan Street at the southern end and are open Friday to Sunday. Activity begins early but things don’t really get going until about 8am. Definitely worth a look but purchasing bulk items can be an issue unless you bring your own trolley. I reckon you should get there as early as possible to not only pick the best fruit and vegies but ensure that you have the rest of the day free to visit more of what Far North Queensland has to offer. Of course, Perentie Tours often pull over if there are fruit or vegies for sale on the side of the road so if you don’t get to Rusty’s there is still no need to miss out.

More information can be found at  http://www.rustysmarkets.com.au/

To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page


William Bligh

William Bligh

Although William Bligh was  best known for ‘The mutiny on the HMS Bounty’ in 1789 and he was a notable figure in Australia’s early history, why would I do a blog on him on my Perentie Tours website? Well, inevitabley Bligh’s name came up during my research about Captian Cook.  His first indirect connection with Australia was as a sailing master on James Cook’s final voyage when Cook was killed in Hawaii and more directly as Governor of New South Wales to deal with the rum trade. He was a controversial figure who had earnt a reputation that would become his trademark of being a firm disciplinarian  and this would’ve been his undoing if it weren’t for the continuing support of his superiors to uphold the respect of officers.

The Mutiny

William Bligh

Breadfruit Tree at Cape Tribulation

There are many theories surrounding the mutiny on the Bounty, even that it may have come about due to a more than friendly relationship breakdown between Bligh and his first mate. Bligh had confidence in his navigation skills that he had perfected under the instruction of Cook and when he was discarded from the Bounty, rather than sail to the nearest port, he choose to undertake the seemingly impossible 3,600 nautical mile voyage to the nearest European outpost at Timor via Torres Straight naming Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Islands along the way. Although only losing one crewman who was killed by natives, several others died soon after from sickness, possibly malaria.

Bligh’s final years

Bligh was honorably acquitted of any wrong doing in regard to the mutany and the mutineers were eventually discovered at Pitcairn Island and suffered a varieties of punishments – 3 were hung. In 1791 Bligh again undertook to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies. This time he was successful. Although Bligh was obviously an excellent seaman and fought notable sea battles under the command of Admiral Nelson, he had a number of future confrontations of a similar nature and was nicknamed the ‘Bounty Bastard’.  He was offered the position of Governor of New South Wales where his attempts to stop the practice of private trading subsequently  provoked the wrath of many influential settlers and officials and resulted in yet another mutiny that installed a rebel government. Bligh was again acquitted only to face two more court marshals throughout his remaining career. Bligh died in 1817.

More information can be found at http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bligh-william-1797

 To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page


Wujal Wujal/Bloomfield


Wujal Wujal/Bloomfield

Wujal Wujal is located at the Northern end of the Bloomfield track (coast road from Cairns to Cooktown) and is theBloomfield Track community of the Kuku Yalanji people. Wujal Wujal has a neat tourist facility with cafe, art center and public toilets and is at the beginning of an access road to the impressive Bloomfield Falls. 

Bloomfield Track

Bloomfield Crossing


Wujal Wujal (formerly the Lutheran Bloomfield River mission) first came about in 1887 during a time of rapid settlements in the Cooktown area after Williams Hann and Venture Mulligan’s discovery that led to the Palmer River gold rush. Much to the resistance of white settlers in the area, the incentive to set aside an aboriginal reserve stemmed from racial tension at a nearby settlement (Ayton) between Chinese, Malayans and rainforest aboriginals (Bama)  The mission had two living quarters, 17 small native dwellings and a thriving 640 acre garden consisting of bananas, coffee, tea, maize, coconuts and tobacco but eventually the intensive agriculture exhausted the soil and crops began to fail.

Bloomfield TrackBy 1889 there were about 200 Bama in the mission area and when a 50 square mile hunting reserve was allocated to the mission – local timber cutters petitioned the government to rescind the reserve. The mission staff felt that the English Timber cutters objected to their presence because of their German heritage but the mission remained sound with a government subsidy supplemented by the sale of coffee and other produce although there were doubts regarding the records of expenditure of the subsidy.

As well as other ‘white man’s’ moral issues, in 1891 physical punishment was apparently introduced in the school and aboriginal parents strongly objected until the Bama Rainmaker declared that if the missionaries persisted in striking any of the children he would refuse to make any more rain. The rains failed and the mission had to rely on their well for irrigation.

Discontent and allegations become rife among mission staff and the mission was described as a spectacular failure. In 1901 the mission was dismantled and the Bama were taken to Cape Bedford (Hope Vale) but most of them returned and remained in the area in several camps.

Wujal Wujal

In 1957 a grant was allocated to re-establish a reserve at the Bloomfield River. It became the settlement of Wujal-Wujal and now has a population of 300 plus. This is where we often spot Crocodiles at low tide.

More information can be found at http://www.douglashistory.org.au/Bloomfield-Wujal-Wujal.27.0.html

 To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page


James Cook

James Cook

Cooktown is named after Captian James Cook and I am truly bewildered as to why there are so many different accounts about Cook’s shipwreck off Cape Tribulation when there are three separate diaries recording the day by day happenings. Perhaps some are just repeating what they heard from others or maybe adding their own twist. Nevertheless, this is my understanding of what happened.

There were two main contributing factors: 

Cooktown Tour

Grassy Hill where Cook took his bearings

  • The Trade Winds were blowing from the South East that meant Cook had to sail North up the coastline of Australia
  • The Endeavour was the ship of choice as it had a shallow keel to allow him to get close to the coastline for mapping purposes and could undertake repairs without a dry dock

The Ship Wreck

In June 1770, Cook had been at sea for about two and a half years and was sailing up the east coast of Australia when he hit a reef just off Cape Tribulation  (hence the name). He ran aground at high tide so floating off was not an option unless he lightened his ship. Notably he threw six cannons overboard with boys attached so that he could retrieve then at some later date. The ship was taking water and all aboard did shift work on three pumps to the point of exhaustion to keep afloat. Fortunately when the ship was finally dragged into deep water by pulling against pre-positioned anchors and his longboats, the leak didn’t increase and they were able to do a quick fix by pulling a sail filled with wool, rope fragments and anything else available to them under the bow to plug the leak. It did the job and they were able to slowly sail towards to shore with the longboats taking the lead to check for further obstructions.

The Endeavour River

Fortunately, they came across a river mouth that provided an ideal place to repair their vessel. Cook ran aground a couple of times getting into position before laying the ship to one side to access the damaged area.  A piece of coral about the size of a fist was found lodged in the hole it made and was the reason why the ship didn’t take more water when it was pulled into deep water.

Although Cook was fanatical about making sure that his crew didn’t contract scurvy, a few sailors were showing early symptoms and were put ashore while some of the crew  hunted for food and searched for vegetables for their shipmates. The botanists on board took advantage of this time to collect as many plants and animals as they could.

It was here that Cook first uncounted the kangaroo, dingo and fruit bat and had meaningful exchanges with local aboriginals but nowhere near enough to judge them as nomadic and, therefore having no claim to the land.

It took seven weeks to repair his vessel and he named the river where the repairs took place the Endeavour River after his Ship. After the repairs were completed, bad weather prevented his departure for some days. He had no option but to sail North through unknown waters because of the prevailing winds and was pessimistic about getting safely  back into deep water so had his longboats tow him while he perched in the masthead giving directions. From here he sailed to the tip of Queensland where he claimed the East Coast of Australia in the name of Britain on what is now know as Possession Island.

Cook’s final years

This was not the end of his journey and he faced more difficulties with repairs and sickness before returning to England six months later. His superiors were convinced that there was a great southern land and asked Cook to undergo another voyage of discovery. This time, he disproved that such a body of land existed and mapped most of the southern hemisphere. He was seduced into what was to be his final voyage to discover the suspected  North West Passage (a passage of water over the top of America). His ship wasn’t well prepared due to the shipyards commitment to supply vessels for use in the war with America. During the voyage, the leaking ship required continuous repairs and while moored at Hawaii to repair a broken mast, a long boat was stolen by natives. In an attempt to get the boat returned, Cook decided to take their chief hostage but was killed in the attempt. William Bligh (infamous for the mutiny on the Bounty) was one of the officers who took charge of his ship and returned to England.

More information can be found in my blog on Cooktown and at http://www.the-great-barrier-reef-experience.com/captain-james-cook-journal-june7-13.html

 To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page


Mount Carbine

Mount Carbine

The Mount Carbine hotel is often a meal stop during the return journey along the inland road back fromCooktown Day Tour CooktownMount Carbine consists of nothing more than a pub and a Caravan Park. An open cut mine and small processing plant are the only indications of its past history where the population twice grew to over 400  and was determined by the price and demand of tungsten.


Tungsten is very rare and heavy stone (formally known as wolframite) and has many uses including steel hardening, in the military for penetrating projectiles and light bulb filaments due to its very high melting point. These days it’s most commonly associated with high-speed cutting tools such as drill bits and the balls in the end of ballpoint pens.


It is said that a miner by the name of Carroll Walsh named Mount Carbine after the 1890 Melbourne Cup winner – Carbine. Wolframite was officially discovered in the area in 1891 and by 1900 there was a substantial community of over 400 as miners came from the failing Palmer River and Hodgkinson gold fields. The Mount Carbine deposits were mined by John Moffatt who had many mining ventures in the area including Irvinebank and Chillagoe.   In 1906 Wolframite prices crashed and like so many remote mining towns, Mount Carbine vanished until mining was recommenced in 1971 with about 60 men. The mining camp again grew to about 400 and boasted an Olympic size swimming pool opened by Dawn Fraser with the mine producing exceptionally high-grade concentrates but again in 1980 prices began to fall and by 1993 the mining camp and equipment was auctioned to the highest bidder – the swimming pool was emptied.

Mount Carbine today (2014)

Cooktown Day TourWith deposits still relatively unexplored and quality comparable with other large deposits around the world, in 2011 due to new technology operations began yet again extracting minerals from the old tailings with the intentions of future hard rock mining.  Perhaps the swimming pool will again be used. There have been plenty of interesting happenings when I’ve called in – once a patron had a 2 mtr python at the bar and there always seems to be a friendly Blue Heeler out front.

More information can be found at  http://troyspro.com.au/mining-towns-in-australia/queensland/mining-towns-in-queensland-mount-carbine-australian-mining-towns/

 To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page


Tyrconnell Gold Mine

Tyrconnell Gold MineTyrconnell (3)

There are many historically marked locations of former mining towns and Cooktown still has some historical buildings. Fossicking still goes on at the old gold rush areas of the Palmer and Hodgkinson  Rivers – the later being the site of Tyrconnell about 150kms west of Cairns where a mining venture began over 130 years ago. It is my opinion that the Tyrconnell gold mine and battery is the most significant landmark still existing from those ‘boom and bust’ years in the late 1800’s.The battery was established in the 1870’s but unlike the nearby towns of Kingsborough and Thornborough, was not only a mine but also a well run battery Tyrconnell (49)that crushed the gold rich quartz. Because of the nature of mining in those days, buildings and machinery were readily dismantled and moved onto other areas of mineral discoveries so Tyrconnell’s survival was something of a miracle due to the remote location, ongoing discoveries of small amounts of gold and the passion of the current owners. Tyrconnell has survived to be an excellent example of those early days and is now open to the public as a remote accommodation facility. Like Chillagoe, Herberton and Irvinebank, I have seen many shafts in the immediate area and if you have an interest in such things, most have a written history report describing depth and amount of mineral produced. 

Cairns Day Tours by Perentie Tours


Palmer River Gold


Palmer River GoldPalmer River Gold

The Palmer River Gold fields are a major component of the history on Cooktown. It all began way back in 1872 when Billy Hann set out on his overland journey of exploration and announced that he had found traces of gold in a sandy bed of a river he named after Arthur Hunter Palmer (the then Premier of Queensland). This inspired the explorer/prospector Venture Mulligan to investigate further and in 1873 he confirmed the discovery that sparked a huge gold rush, drawing prospectors not only from Australia, but also from around the world, mostly China. The Chinese miners would re-work the diggings of Europeans as they moved on to find richer diggings. As gold reserves were extracted, anti-Chinese sentiment grew. There were several confrontations between the settlers and the Aborigines from the area. The conflict became known as the Tong Wars.


The main settlement on the gold field was Maytown which began as a camp in 1873, and then grew into a town that served as the administration center for the area. The gold find on the Palmer River was felt to be so significant that the Queensland Government forwent the usual protocol and began preparing the mouth of the Endeavour River to service the gold field giving rise to Cooktown. By the late 1880’s many of the established gold claims began to fail, which resulted in the return of many Chinese to their beloved homeland.

Palmer River Gold

I always see the directional sign to Maytown on my way to Mt Carbine after visiting Cooktown  and the more I research the history of the area, the more I am drawn to see the remains. I am led to believe that although most of the surface gold has long since been prospected, there remain a handful of deeper mine projects in the area.


Cairns Day Tours by Perentie Tours