Far North Queensland has a rich vein of gold mining history and visitors can get a taste of the gold rush by taking a tour at Tyrconnell Historic Gold Mine or sleeping in a miner’s cottage.
Three hours north of Cairns and just west of Dimbulah, Tyrconnell Mine was once a working mine and the most famous mine on the Hodgkinson goldfield.
Today it’s a museum where you can learn about the history about the region and for those who want to stay a while and enjoy a bush retreat, there’s also cottage or camping accommodation.
History of the Mine
Tyrconnell Mine was discovered in 1876 by Ireland-born Australian prospector and explorer James Mulligan, who was paid by the Queensland Government to find gold fields.
It’s been said he discovered the Palmer Goldfield, among many goldfields, and he discovered Tyrconnell Goldfield when he came across quartz gold just laying on the ground while he was camping at Thornborough.
He then moved to Tyrconnell and took out a lease with his friends William Redmond and Charles McVeigh and they started to mine by hand with picks and shovels.
Unlike alluvial gold (hard gold nuggets), quartz gold is found inside rocks and needs to be crushed to extract the gold.
So James, William and Charles had their quartz gold crushed at a mine just down the road in Kingsborough called ‘The General Grant’.
Cartage costs were expensive as the rocks were loaded by hand and often gold would go missing, as crushing at someone else’s plant meant people would often be tempted to steal gold as it wasn’t a very honest trade.
Eventually in the early 1900s a battery was built at Tyrconnell Mine so quartz could be crushed on site.
The shaft at Tyrconnell was a hive of activity with a depth of 210 metres with lots of tunnels and caves, but today nobody goes down there as the wooden frames of the shaft and tunnels are deteriorating and may collapse.
In its heyday of the 1930s around 100 people worked at the mine, earning about three pounds a week. Everybody came here to find the ‘Eldorado’, to strike it rich, but when their money ran out they moved on to the next town.
There is still gold in the area, even though the mine is no longer in operation.
Visitors can pan for gold in the Tyrconnell Creek when the creek is running and full of water (dry season creek often dries up), and when you stay at Tyrconnell a tour of the mine is included.
The Miner’s Cottages
Sleeping in a miner’s cottage at Tyrconnell Mine is all part of the experience.
The three cottages are spread around the property with amazing views of Mt Mulligan ridge and the outback savannah.
Each miner’s cottage has a balcony where you can sit and watch the sunset, and believe me the bush sunsets with their deep reds, ochres, oranges and yellows are definitely worth watching.
The miner’s cottage we stayed in had two bedrooms, both opening out onto the back verandah with French doors to let in a cool evening breeze.
Our room had a Queen size four post bed and the second bedroom had two single beds, all with mosquito nets. There were also lots of other lovely touches similar to what the miners would have had back in the day.
Our cottage also had two bathrooms, one off each bedroom. Our bathroom had a clawfoot bath with a shower over the bath and the other had a stand alone shower.
Both bathrooms opened via French doors onto the front verandah.
The main living area was an open plan room with a kitchenette along one wall, a dining table and small lounge area.
We loved the stained glass windows and French doors, the views and the overall serenity.
We also liked cooking dinner on the barbecue on our back verandah as we watched the sun go down.
It was magical and incredibly relaxing.
Camping at the Gold Mine
The campground is also a great option and is incredibly spacious with plenty of trees for shade and a fantastic amenities block. The creek runs along the back of the campground and when its flowing you can swim in it and pan for gold. Unfortunately the creek can dry up in the dry season, but wet or dry, this is a great place to camp.
Things to do at Tyrconnell
There is a lookout a short distance away where you can take in a panoramic view of Tyrconnell Mine (just follow the pink flags tied to trees for directions).
If you are feeling energetic you can walk here from Tyrconnell, otherwise it is about a five minute drive. The view is definitely worth it!
There is a small graveyard down the road with many unmarked graves. Turn off at the Kingsborough Cemetery sign and its just a few metres on past the sign.
One grave that is marked belongs to someone named ‘Minogue’. We were told it was a distant relative of Kylie and Danni Minogue and that Kylie had actually visited the grave site and stayed in the very same miner’s cottage we were staying in. But I can’t confirm if this is true or not, although everybody likes a celebrity story.
Kingsborough is another camping spot with a popular creek for swimming, kayaking and panning for gold. However, the creek does sometimes dry up if there hasn’t been a lot of rain.
While the camping area is currently closed, you can visit the old Mount Mulligan township which is known for being the site of Queensland’s worst mining disaster in history, killing 75 miners when there was an explosion in the coal mine. You can still see the old buildings and walk around the old town.
Travel nq fast facts:
- Tyrconnell is a 2.5 hour drive west of Cairns