Mt. Garnet once a booming town in the 1900s is now a deserted and sleepy little town with very little activity for its visitors. To the travellers it looks like nothing more than a couple of pubs and service stations and a few shops and houses in the middle of nowhere.
A Town almost on the brink of extinction
Within the space of a three-hour drive from Cairns and the pristine beaches of the Great Barrier Reef and through the lush tropical rainforest and farmlands of the Atherton Tablelands, you will find yourself in the town of Mt. Garnet.
Mt Garnet, a town with only a population of around 400 with 35% being Aboriginals is located about 110km south-west of Cairns and only 45km from the township of Ravenshoe. This town is situated in the mineral area known as the Herberton Tin field is surrounded by the dry sclerophyll forests of the north Australian savannah. It was once a booming mining town mainly tin and several minerals found in the area including copper, zinc and garnet made it one of the second-largest inland town (Charters Tower being the largest) in the 1900s.
When the collapse of the tin-mining industry and many people moving away, the town became deserted and almost on the brink of extinction. Today, there is very little activity and action in this quiet sleepy town.
Having just only packing my camera, I headed for this town to explore more of this township which I heard so little about. As I drove into the township there was hardly any active activity about except greeted with deserted township with fully grown lawn on the main street of the town’s footpath and old buildings.
With a quick scan of the township and even though it is on Kennedy Highway, I found this area very quiet town with little traffic and very dry compared to around the coast areas. This area is a haven for a person dreaming of a new life. A life away from the rat race of work, demanding careers and simply trying to survive day-to-day living as they try to save their pennies for a typical Australian retirement. Mt Garnet town that is very quiet with less people makes one of those towns that is easy to pass through without stopping. To the traveller it looks like nothing more than a couple of pubs and service stations and a few shops and houses in the middle of nowhere with no traffic lights. Why slow down? There is nothing to see.
Bottom part of the town
The bottom end of the town has a service station, motel, caravan park, clinic, old neglected buildings and old style building residential houses.
Middle part of the town
The middle part of the town which is the main street is on a slope with Mt Garnet pub and motel, grocery store, takeaway and a non-grocery shops on one side and on the opposite side has the town hall, CWA, fire services and old style building residential houses.
Top part of the town
The top of the town has the police station, small public pool, state school and top-shop with cafe, bakery, newsagency and service station.
Though the quietness of the place, the appeal of the town lies in the beautiful Warrumu Swamp on the eastern edge of town which at times can be alive with vast number of black swans and impressive displays of water lilies. This town is also popular with the rock hounds and there a few working sites. Still the township attracts gold fossickers and gem collectors today but the main attraction is the Mt Garnet Races and Rodeo event which is held each May. During this time, this town is transformed when approximately 3500 people descend on the town to attend its annual racing carnival
This makes Mt Garnet races a very social environment, as many owners and trainers live at the race track during this period. This social atmosphere is still an important ingredient of the Mt Garnet race environment today.
From the personal perspective: From what I have seen and observe, there a few remnants of the mine that are still in evidence. Though little is left there is enough to show the scale of the operation at the turn of the century. To me, the most inspiring that I want to experience is the locals way of life. Why they live the way they live in this tiny village.
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