Charters Towers June 2009 - The Friendly Outback

Charters Towers Travel Blog

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Outside the Visitors Centre at the intersection of Mosman and Gill St
Introduction
Since we have just moved up to Townsville in the last few months, we are still discovering all the things the town has to offer, and have adjusted slowly from the 'bigger city' life of Adelaide. Geez, I never thought I'd be referring to Adelaide as a big city, but there you go. Context rules hey? Along with the town itself, there's a number of surrounding cities and towns which we have vowed to explore during our times here, you know, places that if we don't visit them while we're here and then leave, we will regret never actually coming here. Besides, what is the world if you don't explore it all?

So, doing a random search of the map we turned up with Charters Towers, a small city of about 8,000 people about 140km south west of Townsville, inland.
Inside the old Stock Exchange Arcade
At first I figured that the whole inland thing meant that it would be hotter and drier. Well, it was dry, but it was a lot cooler than Townsville - this is because of the higher elevation of the city (about 350m above sea level I believe).

Upon arriving after a leisurely 80 minutes or so drive, we pulled in to park on the main street of Gill St, which runs straight through the city centre. Parked deliberately at the end so we could walk the length of it, and away we went.

The first thing I noticed was how busy the place was compared to Ayr (another nearby city) and even Townsville city itself. A whole bunch of locals and tourists alike wandered around the streets. We were hungry since getting up early to arrive here and not having breakfast, so stopped in at a local cafe called "Jen's Country Break", which is a 'modern country style' cafe that really serves typical cafe fare.
The free Mining Museum within the Stock Exchange Arcade
I got the spaghetti on toast and Felicia got the eggs on toast for a simple breakfast. My flat white was scorching hot, and I had to leave half of it before I left. If I'd waited for it to cool down I wouldn't have left until lunch time.

Museum? Or Not.
We then walked the length of Gill St until we reached the T-intersection with Mosman St, so named after the man who discovered gold in Charters Towers way back when. Into the Visitors Centre we went and grabbed a few brochures about things to do. The first thing that caught our eye on the giant map outside was the Charters Towers Folk Museum, so we made our way due north towards the museum, which was only about a 5 minute walk away.
Outside the old World Theatre
Upon arriving at the museum we found that it was closed, when the signs clearly stated it was open 7 days from 10am - 3pm (it was about 11:00am at this point). Disappointed, we started to make our way back the way we came.

All of a sudden police sirens went off, we turned around to see that police had blocked off a portion of the street, and all the entry streets into Mosman. Why?? Well, turns out the Charters Towers Annual Motor Show was on this particular weekend, and the police were blocking off the roads so that all the cars in the show could essentially parade themselves through the city for all to see. It was quite interesting to see the different cars one after another, old and new, all shining with a level of polish so bright it would rival my camera flash. If we had actually gone into the museum, we wouldn't have seen this parade - proves that everything happens for a reason!

Stock Exchange Arcade
Next stop was the Stock Exchange Arcade, which was the first stock exchange not in a capital city back in the old days, and now it's lined with a couple of shops, the souvenier shop, and the Stock Exchange Cafe.
Panning for gold at the Miner's Cottage
It's not really as big and grand as what I thought it would be, but nevertheless it's an interesting look at a part of history. Bought some souveniers, and then ventured into the free Mining Museum at the back of the arcade. There was nobody in there, but a bunch of old mining equipment and information about the gold mining past of the city. Even large lumps of rock with gold veins were there for the taking, but as the sign said "there is not enough gold in here to make them worth pinching!" Fair enough.

On our way out of the arcade we spotted an entry to an upstairs gallery, the Don Roderick gallery, which displays a bunch of local artworks, some of which are quite spectacular. It also gave us an opportunity to talk to the wonderful old lady running the place, and walk out onto the boardwalk section where they used to announce the stock prices 3 times daily.
View from the lookout at Towers Hill


World Cinema
After the gallery, we went to the World Cinema, which used to show the old plays back in the day, but now just sticks to playing the regular movies. It has a dress code of no thongs or singlets to keep in line with the formality of the old plays, and the internal architecture is quite stunning. FYI - this is the place to go if you need a toilet in the city. The ones on the tourist map we found were locked and chained up, at least on the Saturday when we were there!

Miner's Cottage
The Miners Cottage was our next stop, and on the outside it doesn't look as flash or as interesting as the other places we had already visited. How wrong we were about first impressions! The inside hosts an array of old mining and generally old living items, such as old clothes irons, milk separators, gold ingot weighers, books, bedpans, tools, everything really! It's all compact, but gives you a whirlwind tour through history.
So. Many. Bats. Inside Lissner Park
The guide there, Tony, was an older bloke who obviously enjoys what he does, showing us around the cottage and telling us what everything was, as well as telling ghost stories, playing the accordion, and showing us how to pan for gold. I actually got some, too, but who knows whether it was real or fools? I'm a fool so I can't tell either way.

Towers Hill
A trip to the Towers Bakery was next, and I grabbed one of their "Award Winning Pies". Just a plain steak one, but I tell you, it was brilliant. One of the best bakery pies I've ever eaten - it really does deserve whatever award it won! I took my award winning pie and my award winning girlfriend to the top of Towers Hill; the site where gold was first discovered by Mr Mosman. They have built an ampitheatre here to screen info movies, and a nice little wooden walk lookout, which takes you over the hill for some spectacular views of the city.
The flood gauge at Burdekin River
There are a number of walking trails you could do to see the Pyrite Works, WWII bunkers, Mills, and other places, but we stuck to the lookout (and one WWII bunker in pretty bad shape). Oh yeah, watch out for the 'unexploded munitions' that lie about the place - there's even signs up warning you about them. Nasty.

Lissner Park
After this is was a short visit to Lissner park, which has a number of memorials from WWII, but these admirations were cut short by the absolutely massive bat population screeching around us. Apparently these bats have been a problem for some time and they won't go away. They certainly take the ambience out of the park and make it quite annoying to stand there. The screeching is still piercing my ears. In any case, it was time to leave, but not before a breathalyser test from the cops on the way out. But I ask you, who gets drunk at 2:00pm?? Maybe that's common in the Towers.

Burdekin River
Our final stop about 25km out from the town was at the Burdekin River, where they have the old flood markers. It's amazing to see how high the flood levels actually got throughout the years, and of course the main idea is to have your picture taken there, which we both did. The remaining drive back was a bit tiring but peaceful. In general it was a good day had by all, in a town that is a friendly as it is spectacular and historical. I'll be making my way back there at some point, at least for another award winning pie...

Edit - I should say that to get to Charters Towers it's a simple drive on the Flinders Highway away from Townsville, no turn offs or anything like that. Likewise you can get a bus from the Townsville bus terminal here, but I'm not entirely sure of the cost. The bus drops you off on the main street in the city (either Gill or Mosman). But really, it's best to hire a car if you're out this way, and go exploring some of the other places around as well! There is an airport here, but I think it's emergency/private use only, because I haven't seen any flights to Charters Towers since I've been up here.
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Outside the Visitors Centre at the…
Outside the Visitors Centre at th…
Inside the old Stock Exchange Arca…
Inside the old Stock Exchange Arc…
The free Mining Museum within the …
The free Mining Museum within the…
Outside the old World Theatre
Outside the old World Theatre
Panning for gold at the Miners Co…
Panning for gold at the Miner's C…
View from the lookout at Towers Hi…
View from the lookout at Towers H…
So. Many. Bats. Inside Lissner Park
So. Many. Bats. Inside Lissner Park
The flood gauge at Burdekin River
The flood gauge at Burdekin River
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photo by: lisabentley