When gold was discovered in Croydon in 1885, the town went through an overnight boom and became one of the biggest towns in Queensland, the scene of Australia's last major goldrush. But what was once a bustling centre is today a quiet town with a very interesting past worth exploring.
In 1885, after the other north Queensland goldfields had been exhausted, desperate miners flocked to Croydon. At the height of the gold rush, the town was home to more than 7,000 people - making it the fourth largest town in the colony of Queensland - and according to legend, home to more than a hundred pubs! Of course, most of these would not have been pubs in the modern sense, more likely just tents, pitched around the diggings, with a keg of beer and some bottles of whisky for the thirsty miners. Nowadays, Croydon's historic Club Hotel is the only remaining licensed establishment.
Croydon is the eastern terminus of the 'Gulflander' railway, also known as the 'old tin hare', which runs the 150 kilometre route from Normanton. The railway was completed in 1891, even utilizing specially designed metal sleepers, which allowed the train to travel immediately after major flood waters had passed. But Croydon's glory days lasted for only twenty years, before the goldfields were all but exhausted. Visitors to Croydon today may find this colourful history difficult to imagine. In its day, the town had its own aerated water factories, gas lamps lighting the streets, two foundries, coachbuilders and town criers. Today, the population of Croydon is just over 300.
And the Gulflander railway hasn't shown a profit since 1907!
The legacy of Croydon's bygone days is still very visible within the town. Restoration and conservation is ongoing on the town's historical sites. Colonial style buildings, heritage listed sites and characters from the past are all part of Croydon's outback charm.
Nearby Lake Belmore, just four kilometres from town, is a great place for a barbecue and a swim, maybe even to go waterskiing or catch a Barramundi. A regular stocking program to ensure future fishing has been implemented. Camping is not allowed but there are free barbecues, and toilets and showers.
Just outside town, on the road to Lake Belmore, you will find something that may seem a little out of place in the Australian outback; an archaeological site where a Chinese temple has been unearthed. During the gold rush, the town had a large Chinese population, and you can even see remains of a large pig roasting oven - used during Chinese celebrations and feasts. The site has numerous interpretative signs and biographies of Chinese families who lived here.