Charters Towers June 2009 - The Friendly Outback
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June 6th, 2009 – by: YuKai
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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