Alright, we’ll own it: Australia’s a baby. Our old-timey buildings don’t exactly stack up to the Ancient Greek Parthenon or old Scottish castles.
Don’t despair, dear history buffs: where Australia falls behind in old monarchs and marble pillars, we more than make up for it in ghost towns.
From abandoned gold mines to creepy campsites, Queensland’s deserted towns will raise the hairs on the back of your neck and set your teeth on edge. Enter at your own risk.
One hundred years ago, copper prices collapsed. The first World War had ended, spelling disaster for Australia’s mining industry—and death for Kuridala. Today, the abandoned town is an eerie spectacle for curious travelers and camping groups. You’ll find it along a dirt road 65km south of Cloncurry, marked in the distance by the towering smelter chimneys. It’s a chilling glimpse into what was, once upon a time, a booming miner’s town for over 2000 residents. On your adventures, you’ll discover old railway lines, cemetery plots, and the mine’s old blast furnace. Watch your step: signs caution visitors to keep a wary eye open for unmarked mine shafts.
Shout-out to the history buffs: this one town will cross seven heritage-listed sites off your bucket list. Sitting around 25km east of Herberton and just over 100km south of Cairns, Irvinebank is a hidden treasure trove steeped in Australian mining history. Today, a sleepy population of 310 residents play host to campers and day-trippers. You’ll wander through preserved tin buildings—a nod to the town’s tin mining history—as well as the old national bank building, town mill, tramway terminus and museum.
Fair warning, Cracow is far and away from any form of civilization, but this time warp is well worth the trip. After trundling 485km north of Brisbane (or around 250km from Rocky), you’ll arrive at this gold mining town with a spine-chilling secret. A dwindled population of 89 residents stand among abandoned streets and storefronts, relics of the 1850s gold rush. It’s enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, but pales in comparison to the stories pouring from the old Cracow Hotel. At first glimpse, the classic country pub is just that—a watering hole toppling with bric-a-brac and old town yarns—but at night, visitors have reported sightings of the resident ghost. Wrapped in a nightgown, the long-time resident of Room 1 reportedly wanders the halls in the dark, the oldest standing memory of an ancient gold mine.
Today, an off-kilter sign marking ‘Maytown’ is a chilling welcome to the old capital of the Palmer goldfields. In its heyday, the town was home to hotels, storefronts, police barracks, and a hospital—a bustling centre for miners and families in the 1870s gold rush. Today, you’ll need a 4WD to make the full journey, around 280km northwest of Cairns. Once there, you’ll have the opportunity to wander through the old streets, spying the old baker’s oven, storefronts and a museum of relics. Spend the night at one of the town’s deserted campsites…if you dare.
If HBO’s Chernobyl series had you hanging on tenterhooks, the abandoned town of Mary Kathleen might be right up your alley. Halfway between Mount Isa and Cloncurry, the town became famous for its uranium mining after the ore was first discovered in 1954. In its heyday, Mary Kathleen was home to around 1200 residents, sporting everything from a post office to schools, cinemas and sports ovals. Today, you’ll step onto deserted streets; the town square empty and silent. Less than 10km down the road, the uranium mine lies dormant beside a stunning, vibrantly blue dam. It’s a popular ‘grammable spot for tourists—but cautionary tales warn to steer clear of its radioactive waters.
Selwyn and Mount Elliott
Just 25km down the road from Kuridala, an old rival stands silent. The old chimney stands as a marker to Mount Elliott, founded after the discoveries of copper ore at Kuridala. The mine’s success sparked the birth of Selwyn, a bustling town of 1500 residents. Today, the streets stand empty, guiding groups through silent tours of the old smelters, brickwork mining structures and a graveyard.
As you step onto the streets of Ravenswood, it’s tough to believe that over 4000 residents once paraded through the town. Today, only around 100 remain to guard the silent streets, a monument to the 19th century gold miners who once called this town home. You’ll find Ravenswood less than 100km from Charters Towers, boasting hours’ worth of exploration. Tour through the Courthouse Museum, the ruins of the old Mabel Mill and the towering Imperial Hotel.
Looking for creepy tours a little closer to home? Check out 7 of the most haunted spots in Brisbane.
Image credit: Chris Ison