Travel starts with your hometown. Why not tell Vagobond readers about why your hometown is a great place to visit? Tell us about hotels, attractions, cheap flights that come or go from there or just how good life is in your hometown. Colin Burnett tells about his hometown in this guest blog.
Charters Towers is a small country town in North Queensland, Australia. It is situated approximately 134 kilometres by road inland from the city of Townsville which is the biggest city in North Queensland and on the coast. The Towers, Charlie’s Trousers or CT as its locally know is my home-town. It is also nicknamed The World but more on that later.
How do you get to Charters Towers? It has a relatively small airport compared to Townsville and also Cairns which is bigger again. From Brisbane, Sydney or Darwin it is easy to catch a cheap flight to Townsville and then to take a bus, train or car to get to the Towers. By road it is located on a four-way crossroads with the Gregory Developmental Highway and the Flinders Highway. The Gregory travelling north-south and the Flinders east to Townsville and west extending through the city of Mt Isa, with a population of 23,000 people, into the Northern Territory. From there you can use connecting highways to drive south to Adelaide or north to Darwin.
The Gregory Developmental Highway goes north to Greenvale and south to Clermont. Approximately 200 kilometres south of CT is the Belyando star service station situated on the banks of the Belyando river. This is where where I grew up on a cattle station called Nairana on the southern side of the river. This highway is famous for bad funding and pot-holes so caution must be taken when taking this route. There is also bus and train services available to get to CT from every direction, but they have declined in recent years.
So now for some brief facts about the Charters Towers. The population is around 8 thousand people but this can vary depending on the time of the year and tourist season. The climate is typical for North Queensland (NQ) with the majority of days providing high temperatures around 35 to 40 degrees but without the high humidity of of the near by coastal city of Townsville. The rainfall is approximately 5 to 600 ml per year. Originally the Towers was a gold mining settlement and has a great history with the gold rush years.
Charters Towers is famous for being called ‘The World’. These words you will find written on the main town water tank upon Alabama hill located on the western edge of town. It is called this because over the decades CT has been affected greatly by different cultures and is said to have everything there that man could want from around the world. Being settled in the gold rush days the town once had a population of around 30 000 people and over one hundred pubs making it in the late 1800’s the largest city in Queensland outside Brisbane. Once the gold-rush days were over around the time of the first World War, the town started a gradual decline. There are also places that you can go to to see the effects of the American soldier occupation of the town during the Second World War.
Today the town is vastly different. It has a much smaller population and boasts only around 8 pubs. There are still many interesting historical buildings left like the old stock exchange and the post office. Mining is still present in and around the town with varying results. Charters Towers is now regarded as a centre for the beef industry, with a sale yards complex trading cattle from a vast area extending into the Northern Territory and as an education centre, boasting 4 major secondary schools. Columba Catholic College(CCC), All Souls and St Gabriels(ASSG), Blackheath and Thornburgh College (BTC) are the 3 boarding schools for both primary and secondary education. There is also a State High School. The boarding schools are very popular with the rural children from the surrounding cattle stations. The children come to be educated from up to 1000 kilometres away and they like the town for its country feel. Another major advantage of Charters Towers’ location is the nearby University in Townsville providing great tertiary education. As a centre for the beef industry it provides major services to the cattle stations like health, sport, stock feed, vet, clothing, hardwares, major banks and entertainment services. There is the world theatre in the main street providing up to date films and also a drive in theatre on the eastern edge of town on the road to Townsville.
Two major events that the town is famous for are the Country Music Festival and the Goldfield Ashes Cricket Carnival. Other events include the Easter rodeo and horse races throughout the year. These are very popular with the tourists along with the historical tours available. They give you a basic idea of the old mine practices, you are shown the maze of old tunnels and mine shafts under the town and you can even fossick for gold yourself in the old tailings. There is a famous story in an office in the old Stock Exchange where tourists can see where a shooting took place and the blood stains are still left in the old wooden table.
Charters Towers offers great well priced hotels, cheap well looked after hostels and also camping grounds and caravan parks. There are a number of nice parks, a golf course on the northern side of town and numerous sporting fields with the main sporting team coming from the town being the Charters Towers Miners Rugby League Club competing in the Townsville and District Rugby League Competition. The town offers other great sporting facilities such as a swimming pool, indoor sports clubs, cricket fields and many tennis courts. There are also farm stays outside the town if you are looking for the rural experience and want to ride horses or motorbikes and muster cattle.
A popular place for camping around the town is the Burdekin river which is approximately 40 kilometres east of the town which also has the Burdekin dam. The Burdekin is renowned as a high and fast flowing river with its head waters north in a higher rainfall area. On the highway crossing to Townsville you can see the record flood levels which are extremely high. This is a place where people go in search of barramundi. And other fish. It is also popular for the younger generation to get in the wide spanning dry and very sandy creek beds with their cars and motorbikes and test their skills. Another local secret is the place they call flat rock. It is a nice place people go fishing and they often come back with great hauls. ‘The Big Bend’ is another place in the Burdekin river, about 50 kms north of CT and is another a popular camping place for the school excursions and other people.
You could say that Charters Towers is a little more expensive than Townsville when it comes to making major purchases but the general living costs are very affordable. The range of items available is a little smaller than in bigger cities but that is the same with all country towns. It is a very nice place to pass through or spend some time in. You will need more than a few days to see all of the historical sites and participate in the varying activities. Charters Towers is a very popular and well renowned place and is a must to see at least once in your life time.
As for travel and tourist businesses there is the Charters Towers Visitor Centre on Mosman Street with daily opening hours from 9 to 5.