Sun-drenched beaches and seas of sugarcane instantly spring to mind when you mention Mackay, in tropical north Queensland. The region is also about cattle, coal and even gold – but to discover those you need to head south-west, away from the coast.
Col Adamson of Reeforest Tours can do all the driving for you – and share a wealth of interesting tales along the way. His guided “Nebo Outback” tour takes you from tropical palms to dusty plains in a matter of hours.
Past grazing properties and coal country, dramatic mountain scenery opens up. It’s the back-drop to a curious historical site that could be the very definition of a “flash in the pan”.
In 1881, gold was discovered in Oakey Creek and it wasn’t long before the bustling town of Mt Britton had settled on its banks. At its peak, more than 1500 fortune-seekers and their families lived there. The town boasted doctor surgeries, schools, telegraphic offices and no fewer than 6 pubs. But less than a decade later, every trace of it was gone. The gold had petered out so the townsfolk packed up everything – buildings included – and left for more lucrative ground.
Their hasty departure left behind just a few rusty relics and the dusty layout of the town’s original streets. The ghostly feel of this forgotten gold town is palpable, thanks to information panels set out at the original sites of the town’s landmarks. The panels include photos captured in the 1880’s by Ricket and Mills – a pair of enterprising souls who’d come from Brisbane to set up a photographic studio in town. Their extraordinary images captured for posterity the town that came and went in a flicker.
The much livelier settlement of Nebo lies about 93 kilometres south-west of Mackay – and is next on Col’s tour. Nebo has a well-kept historical village to explore with rustic ringers’ quarters and colonial courthouse among the heritage buildings. The latter serves as an art gallery these days, displaying beautiful prints that depict daily life in Mt Britton before the town vanished into oblivion.
Hungry for more history? Settle in for a generous counter lunch at the town’s heritage hotel. Nebo’s classic country pub was built in 1886 and served double-duty in the old days as a dance hall. Today, it’s hearty country tucker that packs in the crowds.
If you’re visiting Mackay, check out Reeforest Tours’ range of excursions – and plan an adventure that stretches from coast to country.
For more info, visit www.reeforest.com.au or call 07 4959 8360.