One of the great things about meeting people as you travel, is the knowledge they share about where they’ve been, which alters your plans with interesting additions. Croydon was such a place.
As we entered the old gold mining town, we followed the signs to Lake Belmore and wound our way up to the town’s fresh water source and recreation area. It is a huge area, with very good amenities for water sports, picnicking, fishing and bird watching, but you cannot camp there. The obligatory far north croc sign was up, again.
We returned to town via Diehm’s Lookout and, on advice, went to the True Blue Visitor Information Centre.
Apart from having excellent information, The Visitor Centre had strong wifi on the verandah. We spoke to the attendant and watched the short video, to set the scene before heading out to the Heritage Precinct.
The town has done an amazing job of restoring some eight or so of the original buildings and including written information at each, with artefacts at many. In the courthouse, you can hear a recording of a real trial that was held, and stand or sit in one of the areas of the court to imagine what it would have been like. It is definitely worth doing and doesn’t go for too long, if you have young children.
The court house walls are corrugated iron, as it was originally, and the practice continued in Australia well into the 1900s, because wood was scarce and termites very hungry. I can’t help but imagine, in these buildings, what it was like in 30 – 40C heat, swathed in petticoats, girdles, neck-to-knee close-fitting dresses. It’s a miracle more women didn’t die of asphyxiation and I now understand the fixation historical script writers have with women swooning.
As you progress to the police station, hospital and schoolroom, you can appreciate the advancements we have made in the 100+ years, especially in medical care, and easily imagine yourself cast back in time.
Each house is next to the other, along the length of one of the main streets, so it’s easy to navigate.
The town surpassed a population of 6500, including 300 Chinese, and the original owners, the Mayi-Kulan Aboriginal people have been scattered, so that it is believed there are no more Mayi-Kulan remaining and the culture is lost. A few photos remain of some original owners and the families they started with European settlers. At the 2016 census the population of Croydon was 258.
To complete your historic tour, visit the Club Hotel, said to be the last pub remaining in town, from the 36 that existed in its heyday, or the train station, where you will see the Gulflander.
The Gulflander travels 4 and a half hours from Normanton to Croydon on a Wednesday, and returns on a Thursday, taking passengers through country that they are unlikely to view otherwise. It is an historic railway, built on steel sleepers to withstand the flooding and termites, both of which devastated previous attempts to move a train. The brainchild of George Phillips, the bridges were also designed to handle submersion.
You might even decide to view the huge display of old mining equipment.
There are shops, service stations and park accommodation, so if you want to stroll at a more leisurely pace or spend longer at lookouts and displays, you can spread it over a couple of days. You never know, this might not be the only nugget you find out here.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last abandoned mining town and there are more to come, as wealthy companies divest Australia of its hidden wealth, setting up huge towns to be left as a reminder no-one heeds.