Words Jamie Jansen


You don't need to be a history buff to visit these stunning historic places in your own backyard. Chances are high you’ve passed the following local landmarks many times, but did you know they actually have an interesting history and heritage behind them?

The Bump Track

Of all the wagon roads that opened up the frontiers of Queensland, few were as important or as colourful as this old Port Douglas Road - now known as the Bump Track.

Blazed in 1877 by prominent bushman Christie Palmerston, his friend William C Leyton and Indigenous local guide Pompo, the Bump Track provided an essential route to the Hodgkinson Goldfields.

The opening of the track led to the establishment of Port Douglas, which operated as a key port for the Hodgkinson Goldfields and Herberton tin field from 1877 until 1891.

Next time you hike up the track, take the time to read the signs at the start of the track, which also explains the history of the Bump Track.


The Bally Hooley Railway

Even though nowadays the train no longer rides, the Balley Hooley railway has been an important connection to the proud sugar history of the Douglas shire.

With the Mossman Sugar Mill being built in 1897, also a tramway was developed to take the sugar to the wharf in Port Douglas.

In 1979 the Mossman Mill started to get involved in the tourism industry by establishing a small tropical orchard in the mill grounds. For the first time, tourists were encouraged to visit the mill and free guided tours were provided.

The company then embarked on building a tourist centre, converting the Ranch, which provided meals for staff, workers and locals, into a station complete with an operating steam locomotive and tourist train.

A Bundaberg Fowler steam locomotive, Dobbin, was purchased from Qunaba Mill, and renamed Ballyhooley, after a settlement in Mowbray valley at the bottom of the Bump Track.

The Mill continued to operate the Ballyhooley Steam Railway until late 2002 and was then purchased privately by John Morris and family.

The train stopped running in October 2019 due to Covid and since 2021 the steam trains function as a trendy dining experience at the Marina Station.


The Daintree ferry

In 1873 Scottish explorer George Dalrymple sailed up the coast searching for a suitable route to the inland Palmer River Goldfields.

He named the river for Richard Daintree, the Government Geologist, who was by then Queensland’s Agent General in London, and had never visited the Daintree.

Dalrymple sent glowing reports of rich stands of cedar and soon timber getters were sailing into the Daintree River, because cedar was needed for the building of Cooktown.

In 1878 John Whitehead Stewart, a timber getter and cane farmer, applied for a selection on the Daintree River and so began European settlement.

A weekly mail service by boat began operating in 1881 between Port Douglas and the Daintree River. The vessels were sailing ships, relying on the strength of the wind.

Fortunes for Daintree improved when in 1924 a butter factory was built and the cream was rowed to the butter factory three times. Settlers used their boats continuously because river transport was often quicker than by road.

In 1926, brothers Arthur Chap and Eric Osborne built the vessel Daintree, which became the workhorse of the community, carrying goods, passengers, crops, patients to Port Douglas hospital, livestock, exporting butter to Cairns and running fortnightly to Low Isles.

However, the Daintree to Mossman road was completed in 1933 and access was no longer only by the river and the regular boat service to Port Douglas ceased in 1938.

The first transport across the Daintree River leading to Cape Tribulation was a wooden punt operated by George Quaid and his son George Jnr in the early 1950s to service their Mossman logging company's operations.

In 1958 the Douglas Shire Council took over the Daintree River ferry operation and built a new vehicular vessel. They shifted operations to the site used today.

All the above information is derived from the website of the Douglas Shire Historical Society.