Herberton, a village in the Hills, has been described as the Switzerland of North Queensland, a reference to the mild climate resulting from the town’s altitude.
Herberton is a pretty little town set in the rolling hills of the EvelynTablelands. It seems to stretch out along the hills and meander across the ridges. Located 122 km south of Cairns and 915 meters above sea level, it is now a quiet town with a population of about 1500. There are only hints that it was once the most important mining town on the Tablelands. Founded in 1880 as the result of the first discovery of lode tin in Australia, the town quickly expanded and became the focus of the coastal ports of Port Douglas, Cairns and Innisfail (then known as Geraldlton) resulting in a government decision to build a railway from the coast which eventually reached Herberton in 1910.
The town is hertitage listed and many historic homes and buildings remain. Many other historic buildings of the region have been saved by relocation to the Herberton Historic Village where they, and many other exhibits have been restored and are displayed in their heritage contexts for the interest of generations of visitors.
Herberton and Irvinebank were the centre for mule and horse packing transport teams with at many small teams and and at least three large teams totalling over 175 pack animals operating from here before the introduction of motor trucks.
The army trained pack horses, mules and donkeys in the area in preparation for service in the SW Pacific Campaign. The 2nd Independant Pack Company was located at Wongabel before deploying to Port Moresby for service on the Kokoda Track.
A Sub-Section of Drivers and Their Pack Donkeys on a Road in the Jungle, North Queensland, 1942
What is there to do?
- Tour the Herberton Visitor Centre and Tin Mining Museum to learn the story of mining in North Queensland. See the mineral collections or walk some of the popular community walking trails. The walks start at the Tin Mining Centre, located on the original reward tin mining lease of the Great Northern Mine.
- Visit The Camera Museum with a collection of spy and other unusual cameras located in the original Jack and Newells miner's store the corner of Grace and Jack Streets.
- Savour a freshly brewed coffee and a sandwich or pastry at The Gallery Coffe Shop, next door to the Camera Museum.
- Look for some of the 115 species of birds recorded for the area. The combination of high altitude, proximity to rainforest and East Coast migratory path of birds crossing through this area provides for an unexpected mix on the regional bird list. A copy may be obtained from the Mining Centre.
- Savour a quiet moment at the Lions Picnic area at River Terrace on the Wild River, opposite the gully where lode tin was discovered in 1880.This also the site of a low weir built by the town's miners to form a swimming pool so that the town's aspiring swimmers could practise in readiness for the first Olympics! There are tables and public toilets here. Turn left immediatly before crossing the Wild River bridge if approaching the town from Atherton.
- Enjoy a picnic at Wondecla at the sports oval and Recreation reserve, marked by the distinctive Bunya Pines, There are public toilets, shelters and picnic tables provided. The Wondecla Roadhouse is convieniently placed opposite the entrance to the sports oval. A marker records this as the location of the 6th Australian Division Headquarters during training for the New Guinea Campaign and Kokoda Track battles in 1942/43.This was also the location of public sluice boxes for use by tinscratchers in the heady alluvial tin mining days of the district.Bunya Pines produce very large seed cones which ripen and fall from the trees after the wet season.Seeding is generally on a four yearly cycle. Beware of falling cones, do not park cars or walk beneath these tress without checking above for the prescence of these large cones that can weigh several kilgrams.
- Try some of the many mountain bike tracks and trails in the hills. Information obtainable from the Herberton Visitor Centre or from several websites. Try Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing (DNPSR) Mountain Biking or TTT Information Sheet. Kalinvale farm (where WildEx agist our donkeys) backs onto a network of tracks suitable for mountain biking. Perhaps you can combine a mountain bike and donkey trek in Herberton.
- Country markets are held at Wondecla Oval on the third Sunday of the month.
- Drive to Irvinebank to tour the centre of John Moffats mining empire and the many heritage buildings that remain including the Loudoun House Museum. 27 km south of Herberton. The Tavern has reopened in 2016 and serves refreshments, lunches and dinners. Camping is permitted on the Irvinebank town common.
Herberton was the centre for training Australian Army units of 6th Australian Division before they embarked for the famous Kokoda Track campaign in Papua New Guinea. Signs mark the 1942/43 locations of 6th and 9th Division Units campsites along Longlands Gap Road, the southern link between Herberton and the Kennedy Highway.
Herberton's Facilities include:
- A real wooden heritage Queenslander Hotel - The Royal, first licensed in 1880, the first on the Atherton Tablelands, at one time was one of 17 pubs in the Main Street.
- Next door,The Australian Hotel, a modern building that replaced another heritage building that burnt down in the 1960's. The Australian has motel units at the rear.
- Jacaranda Cafè.Home made pies, traditional hamburgers and fish and chips.
- A luxury B&B in the heritage Post Office Building.
- A small but comprehensive supermarket.
- A real butcher shop - local beef, locally smoked hams and bacon and locally made sausages.
- Post Office.
- Hardware shop.Located in what was another of Herberton's 17 hotels - The Herberton Hotel.
- Caravan park.
- Visitor Information Centre co-located in the Mining Centre .
- The Service Station has reopened in June 2016. Both diesel and petrols are sold. Mechanical services are available.
- The Wondecla Roadhouse located opposite the Wondecla Oval and picnic area, This is one of two fuel retailers in the Herberton locality. Both diesel and unleaded fuels are stocked.
- Fuels are also sold at the Irvinebank Tavern.
- Equestrian centre and riding arena at Tepon (three kilometres south of Wondecla). Various horse sports are held here including endurance trails over a very extensive network of roads and tracks.
- Extensive network of community walking tracks (see Herberton Visitor Centre link below).
- Extensive network of multi use tracks suitable for horse riding and mountain bikes.
The drive to Irvinebank with more mining heritage is a mere 26 km west from Herberton. The tavern has reopened in 2016 under new management. The drive to Irvinebank may be extended to Emuford and Chillagoe but allow for a overnight stay as the roads beyond Irvinebank may be rough, or join a Jungleman's Walk or Packers' Ghost Trek to take a roundabout and more scenic route.
Contact or visit local information centres for further information and more Tableland attractions:
Website links are listed below:
Herberton enjoys a temperate style climate as can be seen in the chart below. The NW Monsoon brings most of our rain in the "wet season" which generally occurs in December to March. This is convienient as the wettest and hotest period of the year co-incide. Summer temperatures are held down by the overcast monsoon skies, and the altitude of 900m ASL ensures lower temperatures and humidity than the adjacent Coast for the remainder of the year.
Herberton may suffer frosts from May to September which is a novelty in the tropics. Frosty weather brings beautiful clear blue skies and ideal walking conditions. I have been on trips where we swam in the Wild River in sunny 24oC temperatures at 4pm and sat around a firewatching the stars that night in (-) 6oC temperatures.
The two tables below illustrate the typical climate of the region.Parada was a DPI Research Station to the North-West of Herberton and is included for comparison as many of our walks are located west of Herberton.
Mural Depicting Herberton's History - south side of squash courts, Grace Street