Mt. Garnet in Brief
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 so as the 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 little town.
If you’re an experienced adventure traveler, you will understand what it means to explore and go to places where no-one dares to visit. This drive, adventure travelers to explore places that are unadventurous and unattractive for many travelers. For me, it is all about going on a self drive tour and exploring unusual places to learn more about the towns and attractions unique to the area. Next, is to be inspired to holiday there.
Within the space of a three-hour drive from Cairns, leaving 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 along the Savannag Way. Savannah Way is one of Australia’s most incredible drive journeys from Cairns to Broome. From one side of the continent to the other, covering almost 4,000 kilometres of true-blue Australia outback with unimagiable experiences along the ‘gulp country’. My section of the Savannah Way from Cairns to Mt Garnet was easy with plenty of drive-in, drive-off points, including must-do and must-see attractions and sceneries and detours along the way.
Leaving Cairns, just before sunrise, I headed south of the city to Gordonvale (20kms) out of Cairns and turned west inland up the Gillies Range with almost 20 kilometres of windy road. Without stopping up the range bypassing Lake Barrine, a popular stop for tourists and beautiful township of Yungaburra before reaching Malanda township, my first stop for breakfast with a cup of coffee at the only local bakery in the town – my favourite place for a short break.
My next stop – Ravenshoe township, a place where I spent most of my time away from the city of Cairns. This is my relaxing getaway retreat countryside home in this tiny outback town. Just under 50 kilometres of drive from Malanda, I reach Ravenshoe township before 11:00am, in time to unpack my car and an hour break from driving before heading off to explore Mt. Garnet township.
Just only packing my camera, I left Ravenhoe township just past midday and drove along the Savannah Way – the beginning of the dry land and away from the lush tropical scenery of Cairns and Atherton Tablelands. The drive, approximately 50 kilometres of bitumen road with no attractions nor detours along the way, except arid land. Within, 20 kilometres of drive, I reached Innot Hot-Springs, a very tiny spot renowned for its spa-bath where I had a stop-over for hot spa bath before continuing my drive. Just a short 11-minutes drive from Innot Hot Springs, I reached Mt Garnet township. A town, I wanted to explore which I heard so little about.
As I drove into Mt Garnet township, it reminded me of an old western movie where John Wayne on his thirsty horse riding down the quiet main street where people or residents in the movie are afraid to come out. Here, I was, driving the down the main street, only greeted by deserted main street with old houses and buildings on either side of the street. There was hardly any activity nor moment of people. Feeling no stranger to an atmosphere like this, I drove in and out of few streets to have a quick scan of the township. Though the town is located on Kennedy Highway where the main highway runs through the centre of the town and is the gateway to the Savannah Way, surprisingly, it is still a very quiet town with little traffic and very dry.
However, 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 traveler 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 is the perception that many travelers have in their mind when there is little activity or attractions to capture travelers curiosity.
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.
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. During this time of the year, it is impossible to find a spot at the caravan park, cabins or motel rooms in the town. 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 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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