HERBERTON to IRVINEBANK
American historians claim that by the late 1890's, the American frontier had closed. The wild, wild west was wild no more, and all that was to be won had been won. But on the other side of the world, here in the highlands of North Queensland, a new frontier was just being born. Hopeful souls made their way to Herberton and Irvinebank from around the world, for the promise of a new life.
FOR ALL THE BEST LOCAL ATTRACTIONS, ACCOMMODATION AND DINING AREAS IN THIS REGION, USE THE LINKS ABOVE OR SCROLL DOWN. TO OPEN AN INTERACTIVE MAP OF THE ATHERTON TABLELANDS IN A SEPARATE SMALLER WINDOW, CLICK HERE.
HERBERTONThe drive from Herberton to Irvinebank need only take around thirty minutes, but it is steeped with century old pioneering history. At one stage, Herberton was the richest tin mining field in Australia, home to as many as 20 pubs, two local newspapers and a brewery. But tin mining ceased in Herberton in 1978. The story of this part of the Cairns Highlands, as the Atherton Tablelands are often referred to, is remiscent of so many other North Queensland mining towns, but not only history buffs will be drawn to linger along the way. Herberton today is a quaint town set among jacarandas and towering eucalypts, and with views to both sides of the Great Dividing Range, this 'Village in the Hills' is a 'must see'.
Herberton is the oldest town on the Tablelands, and the Royal Hotel is proud to be one of the two oldest licensed hotels in Queensland, dating back to 1880. A number of original buildings from the frontier mining town of the 1880's and 1890's still stand to this day, including the shops at the Heritage Corner, which was previously the Jack and Newell building, the School of Arts building, Police Station, Courthouse building and the churches.
Modern day Herberton is the location of Queensland's only tropical vineyard. Being 1,000 metres above sea level, the Herberton area enjoys are mild climate with winter temperatures of about 14 degrees Celsius and summer temperatures averaging 29 degrees Celsius. Other crops - notably potatoes and maize- form the basis of the local industry. Herberton is particularly pretty around October, when the jacarandas that line the town's streets are in full purple bloom.
SERVICES: Herberton has a petrol station, a convenience store, cafe, and two hotels. There is a police station, a medical centre, and a post office with an ATM. Public toilets can be found on River Terrace.Just a short drive southeast of Herberton is the Mount Hypipamee National Park which includes scenic Dinner Falls and Mount Hypipamee Crater, 82 metres deep, and 61 metres across. The sheer walled crater - or 'diatreme' - is a volcanic pipe formed by the eruption of gases from an ancient volcano. It is believed that the violent explosion blasted through the thick layers of solid granite, and certainly bushwalkers can find huge chunks of solid rock, some weighing as much as a couple of tonnes, scattered in the surrounding rainforest. This National Park is well worth the visit, with the high altitude rainforest a home for many species of possum and birds.
PLEASE NOTE: The road between Herberton and Irvinebank is only sealed for about the first 16 kilometres. After that, the surface is still suitable for conventional vehicles, but can be rough and corrugated. Be aware that rental cars will generally not be covered by insurance off sealed roads. It might pay to double check with your rental company.Some 30 kilometres west of Herberton, past the tiny hamlet of WATSONVILLE, is Irvinebank, originally founded as a tin settlement in the hills behind the main mine at Herberton. Driving into Irvinebank, population 100, it can be difficult to imagine that this was once the fervent heart of a mighty mining empire. But this a town filled with character and outback folklore.
Irvinebank began to grow steadily after tin was discovered in 1882. In 1883, a Scottish born entrepreneur named JOHN MOFFAT purchased the original mining claims, and named the town Irvinebank to remind him of his birth place of Newmilns, on the river Irvine, in Scotland. By the following year, Moffat had established a battery and smelter which was to become the largest smelter in Australia for a number of years. In 1889, the so-called 'Vulcan lode' was discovered, and it grew to be Australia's deepest and richest tin mine. The population reached a peak of 3,000 in 1907, the year that the local tramway was extended to Irvinebank. The Vulcan lode went on to yeild over 10,000 tonnes of tin concentrate during its 40 year working life, and was responsible for defining Australia's future in MORE WAYS than anyone at the time could have realized.
Irvinebank has been described as a 'living museum', and, in fact, it can feel very much like time has stood still as you stroll by the Heritage listed buildings, and cast a gaze over the old tin mill and railway station. A number of the historic buildings are open to the public, notably the Old Police Station, built in 1886, and the 1884 Loudoun House, the oldest high set timber and corrugated iron house in North Queensland. Loudoun House was John Moffat's home, and is now operated as a museum, a journey into the town's vibrant past.
Irvinebank is also famous for being of the only known locality of two rare, and significant plant species, an orange-red flowering grevillea, and the world's only purple flowering wattle. If you don't catch a glimpse of these unique flora while you're in Irvinebank, they are most accessible in the Jumna Creek area, by taking the Stannary Hills turnoff just east of town
SERVICES: Fuel, postal services, and eftpos can be found at the relatively new Irvinebank Tavern, as can of course food, alcohol, and accommodation.
ATTRACTIONS AND THINGS TO DO - HERBERTON AND IRVINEBANK
Post Office Street, Irvinebank, Phone (07) 4096 4020
Open seven days a week, except Good Friday and Christmas Day, from 10.00am to 4:00pm.
Built in 1884, the Loudoun House Museum is the former home of John Moffat, Queensland's greatest mining entrepreneur. The house is also the oldest high set timber and corrugated iron (QUEENSLANDER STYLE) house in the north. Nowadays converted into a museum, the house provides an insight into the town's past, as well as a display of an important mineral collection and a very extensive collection of photographs, depicting the town and life from the early years of the last century.
The headstones from the pioneering days tell a vivid story of the region's history. One grave site in particular is visited by many locals. Every year, on ANZAC DAY, people visit this site because the man who is buried here, Canon Arthur Ernest White, is credited with originating the tradition of the Anzac Day dawn service. His grave is site number 20 in row 27 in the Church of England section.
Continuing with the Anzac legend, nearby Watsonville is noted for its large ANZAC day celebrations held near what has become known as the 'ANZAC tree' which was planted in 1917.
SCHOOL OF ARTS TOWN HALL
Herberton-Petford Road, Irvinebank. Phone (07) 4096 4009
Open to the public only by appointment.
Officially opened in December 1900 with a grand ball, this beautiful building is the thirds School or Arts for Irvinebank. The building has been used for many different social events as well as different kinds of entertainment. A feature to highlight about this magnificent building is all the autographs performers have been leaving throughout the years. The Irvinebank School of Arts Hall is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register and the Australian Heritage Register of the National Estate.
QUEENSLAND NATIONAL BANK BUILDING
Jessie Street, Irvinebank
Built in 1905 by John Moffat, the old Queensland National Bank is the only brick building still standing in Irvinebank. After 1923, when it closed due to the decline of business, the Queensland National Bank became a private residence and still remains as such. The downstairs bank chamber had to be changed recently, but until then, it still was in its original condition. The Queensland National Bank is also listed on the Queensland Heritage Register as well as the Australian Heritage Register of the National Estate.
IRVINEBANK STATE SCHOOL
High Street, Irvinebank. Phone (07) 4096 4187, Fax (07) 4096 4115. Visitors are welcome
It wasn't until 1889 that a State School was opened in Irvinebank. Before that date, Irvinebank only had a private school (1885) and a provisional one (1888). The Irvinebank State School has been operating ever since it was open and it prides itself in being one of the smallest schools in Queensland, being a one teacher school with the latest technologies.
OLD POST OFFICE AND TELEGRAPH OFFICE
Corner High Street and McDonald Streets, Irvinebank. Phone (07) 4096 4009.
The official Post Office was transferred to Irvinebank from the town of Montalbion in 1899. But not until 1907 was the new Post and Telegraph Office building constructed (until then the post and telegraph services were conducted from Jack and Newell's Store). Since the Post Ofice was closed in 1933, postal services are operated from the Irvinebank Tavern, and the previous building operates as Tin Town Gallery, featuring local arts and crafts.
OLD POLICE STATION AND COURTROOM
Built in 1886, the Irvinebank Police Station rapidly became too small for the area and, in 1906 a new courtroom as added. Although it was closed in 1933 due to falling population and the Depression, the Police Station was reopened in 1935, only to be closed permanently in 1965. Now it is a private property. The station has courtroom and police displays, with the stories of justice and injustice, local crafts and products for sale.
The Freenthinker Cottage is one of the numerous historic workers cottages located in Irvinebank. It is not open to the public.
Built in 1916, the cottage is famous for being one of the tiniest houses in the world. The Mango Cottage gets its name after the mango trees which grow beside it. It is located in Irvinebank.
In this graveyard visitors can spot the graves of many personalities from Irvinebank's past. Residents such as missionary, surgeon and astronomer Doctor MacFarlane or Constable Edward Lanning, shot while execution of his duty, amont others, rest in this cemetery.
The Loudoun Mill was built by John Moffat in 1885 and showcases the history of tin mining technology in North Queensland from its inception in 1880 to the present.
The Queensland State Government purchased the Loudoun Mill on the 25th October 1919 and renamed it the State Treatment Works. The works remained in the hands of the Queensland government until 1984 when it was occupied by a private operator. The Queensland Government regained control of the works in 2004. The State Treatment works is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register and the Australian Heritage Register of the National Estate.
Built in 1907, Irvinebank Tramway Station housed a little tramway that ran from Irvinebank to Stannary Hills and from there to Boonmoo, on the Mareeba/Chillagoe line, five times a day at its peak. It was used to carry paying passengers as well as freight.
Once the deepest and richest tine mine in Australia, the Vulcan Mine was working for over 40 years, having yielded around 10,200 tons of tin during that time.
TIN TOWN GALLERY
8 High Street, Irvinebank, Phone (07) 4096 4009.
The gallery is a showcase for local artists. Built a century ago by the government as a Post and Telegraph Office for the thriving town of Irvinebank, this structure is among many similarly aged buildings still in constant use. From post office to mining accommodation to providing light teas and lunches with a historical bent for those interested in the old society way of life.
If you are interested in volcanic formations - and who wouldn't be - don't miss a visit to Mount Hypipamee National Park, only a few kilometres out of Herberton. This park offers one of the most interesting of all the volcanic formations on the Tablelands. The park is home to a crater formed by a single violent explosion, believed to be around 95,000 years old. The atmosphere surrounding the crater pool has an unnatural, eery feel thanks to the green waters below and the tropical vegetation clinging to the crater walls. For more deatils about Mount Hypipamee National Park CLICK HERE, or for information about all of Tropical North Queensland's national Parks, please visit our NATIONAL PARKS page.
WILD RIVER PARK
Visitors to Herberton can also enjoy a delightful day in a quiet retreat very close to the town centre, the Wild River Park. Equipped with barbecue facilities, the park is a perfect place to enjoy a picnic or a haven for birdwatchers, with more than 100 species of birds in the wild.
BUSHWALKINGHerberton is a fantastic place for bushwalking, with many different options to choose from. Have a look at the ones we have listed below and go for the one that suits you best.
SPECIMEN HILL LOOKOUT WALK
From the far end of Grace Street, the Specimen Hill Lookout Walk will lead you along a gravel bush track that leads you out a shoulder of Specimen Hill. The track finishes at a tunnel driven into the Hillside with other mines visible below. Good views of Herberton can be seen all along the walk, but undoubtedly the best ones can be obtained from the top of the Specimen Hill. Be aware that altough it is an easy walk, the track can be steep in some parts. Allow around 1.5 hours for the 1.5 kilometres track.
COPPER MINES WALK
From the junction of Grace and Jane Streets, following a gravel bush track along the sides of a little stream with a rocky bed, the Copper Mines Walk, suitable for everybody, will take you to the base of a hill where you can spot evidence of mining. Copper was the main mineral here, responsible for the strong discolouration in the area. Up to here, the walk is easy, however, the most adventurous might be tempted to follow the faint Bridel Trail, a horse trail, to the right. This trail finishes at Anniversay Falls, used as a retreat in the early dais. Allow around 1 hour for the 1.5 kilometres trail.
THE GREAT NORTHERN MINES
Starting at the Great Northern Carpark, besides the Herberton Mining Visitor Centre, the Great Northern Mines walk will take you past the three mineshafts responsible for the tin ore production, the mainstay of the Herberton economy. This trail will take you to Prospectors Gully, where Iron Ore was discovered for the first time in 1880, Gully shaft, the Eastern shaft and other important sites, including the No. 3 shaft and building, the last producer of the Great Northern Mining Claim in this area until mining stopped in the 1950's. All along the way you can spot interesting mining relics. This trail shouldn't take you more than 45 minutes and it is suitable for everybody.
MOUNT IDA FIRETRAIL
This walk is an extension of the Great Northern Mines walk, following the trail up to the Herberton Firetrail. If this walk is too long for you, at the top of the trail there is a turn to the left that will lead you to a shorter return path, known as the Magazine Escape Trail. If you want to go up to Mount Ida, continue past this turnoff onto the Mount Ida firetrail. The Mount Ida Loop offers magnificent views across Herberton and the surrounding valleys. To go back, continue on the firetrail up to Mowbray Road, returning you to the town.
This trail is strenous and you should allow around 2.5 hours to complete the 5.7 kilometres trail.
UPPER GRACE STREET LOOKOUT
Commencing from the junction of Grace and Jane Streets, this short walk accross the Wild River bridge and up the next hill will take you to this beautiful lookout. From this vantage point, you will have spectacular views over Herberton and all the way down the Wild River Valley. It should take longer than 30 minutes to walk the one kilometre trail.
In order to do this walk, you can start from any end of town, allowing you to walk through the streets of Herberton and pass nine photoposts reliving scenes from the early history of the town. A guide is not necessary to see the differences between past and present in Herberton. Although the track is very short, no more than 800 metres, allow between one and 1.5 hours to enjoy the buildings and the town's atmosphere to its fullest.
This community festival organized to raise money for the preservation of Irvinebank's historical buildings comprises a whole weekend of fun activities and competitions. It is usually held the weekend after John Moffat's birthday on the 26th of May.
HERBERTON 8 HOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE CHALLENGE
Usually during August, solo riders or team are challenged to complete the 13 km loop of the Tepon Equestrian Park. But there are fun activities for everyone, as well as plenty of prizes.
For more details of special events throughout the year, please check out our TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND EVENTS CALENDAR.
46-48 Grace Street, Herberton (MAP)
Phone / Fax (07) 4096 2231
website link coming soon
The historic Royal Hotel was first established in 1880, today it is the oldest continually licensed hotel in Queensland. Located in the centre of town on the hertiage walk, close to all facilities. Royal Hotel offers comfortable bed and breakfast accommodation.
Miners Cafe Bar Restaurant is open Monday - Saturday for a la Carte dining. With an ever changing menu and extensive wine list, dine with a log fire in the cooler months, or cool garden atmosphere in summer.
WILD RIVER TOURIST PARK
Public transport is quite limited throughout the region and it is generally recommended that visitors who do not have their own vehicle should hire a car. Why don't you let us sort out this for you and save yourself the hassle? Visit our CAR HIRE page and we will do all the hard work for you. After all, you are coming to Tropical North Queenland to relax, aren't you?
Trans North Coaches services the Atherton region, and connects the Tablelands with Cairns, operating a number of daily services on the Cairns - Kuranda - Mareeba - Atherton route. Connections are available with Kerry's Bus Service from Atherton to Ravenshoe and Herberton. There is no bus service to Irvinebank. There are also connections with Chillagoe Bus Service along the Wheelbarrow Way to Chillagoe. In Mareeba, the Trans North agent is Mareeba News. Catch the bus at the Old Railway Station.
In Cairns, the route begins/ends at 46 Spence Street, but passengers can also also hail the bus at bus stops along Sheridan Street, or anywhere else along the route, provided it is safe for the driver to stop. Discounts range from 20% for tertiary students to 50% for pensioners and primary school children. Details of Trans North Coaches latest timetable and fares can be found on their website.
- MT. MOLLOY - JULATTEN
- MAREEBA - CHILLAGOE
- ATHERTON - LAKE TINAROO
- YUNGABURRA-CRATER LAKES
- MALANDA - MILLAA MILLAA
- RAVENSHOE - MT. GARNET
- HERBERTON - IRVINEBANK
In case of emergency only, dial 000. In all other cases, phone the local service for Herberton:
Ambulance (07) or 131233
Hospital (07) 4096 2222
Police (07) 4096 2200
EMERGENCY SERVICESIn case of emergency only, dial 000. In all other cases, phone the local service for Herberton:
Ambulance (07) or 131233
Hospital (07) 4096 2222
Police (07) 4096 2200