Australia All Over


Our Camper
Our Caravan

Palmer River - Cape York Peninsula

After leaving Atherton, we headed for the Palmer River Roadhouse on lower Cape York Peninsula, keen to embark on some sightseeing and metal detecting for gold.

The Roadhouse, and a small caravan park, is located on the banks of the Palmer River, adjacent to the Peninsula Development Road (Mulligan Highway), approximately 122km inland (southwest) from Cooktown and 154km nnw of Mareeba.

History of the Palmer River Goldfields

In 1872 William Hann led a Government sponsored expedition to Far North Queensland to determine the nature of the country and the mineral resources. He subsequently named the Palmer River and reported the first finds of gold in the area.

In the following year, James Venture Mulligan and six of his chums departed from the Georgetown goldfields in North West Queensland in search of payable gold along the Palmer River.

In three weeks the party found over 3kg (102 oz) and the rush was on.

The Palmer was one of the most remote and harshest fields worked by early Australian miners. Skirmishes with the indigenous population were numerous and they had to overcome disease, floods, lack of supplies, isolation and climatic conditions which ranged from tropical heat to monsoonal rains.

A heavy influx of Chinese diggers to the Palmer fueled anti-chinese feelings and they were subsequently excluded from reef mining activities by the authorities.

Despite these restrictions, the Chinese became the principal producers of gold on the Palmer - being industrious, organised and more disciplined than their white counterparts.

Several gold stamping batteries were commissioned between 1876 - 1890 close to rich reef deposits discovered in the in the Maytown area in 1875. In its inaugural year of operations the first battery commissioned, the Pioneer Mill, crushed reef stone which yielded 466kg of gold.

By 1890 there were some 158 reef mines in operation on the Palmer and alluvial deposits along its length were being worked in earnest.

The financial crisis of 1893, problems in controlling ground water and declining reserves, saw the steady decline in reef mining on the Palmer over subsequent years and the last mine (shaft) ceased operation in 1976.

However, numerous alluvial claims are still worked today along the Palmer, and its tributaries, and over recent years metal detecting has been the point where it has largely outlived it welcome.

The selfish and thoughtless actions of some metal detector enthusiasts has seen property owners along the Palmer reluctant to provide access for fossicking. And who can blame them, when people enter their stations without consent, leave gates open, camp near stock watering points, shoot cattle, leave garbage littered around, dig holes that are are not filled in again...and even conduct burning off operations to make detecting easier!

Our stay on the Palmer

We consider ourselves particularly fortunate to have been able to camp in an idyllic spot on the banks of the Palmer River.

We are indebted to John and Tanya and George and Joyce who so generously and warmly welcomed us onto their station and shared with us their way of life on the Peninsula.

It was an exciting and rewarding experience... and one that we will always cherish.

Palmer river



'Reflections on the Palmer'

... our home for a week!


mustering cattle by helicopter at the palerm river


Mustering cattle by helicopter.

Hession blind and temporary yards in foreground

John and his dad, George provided Rod with an opportunity to go up in the chopper with the pilot, Dan, to get some pictures of the cattle muster and the property.

Incidentally, Dan was flying with his right hand (the one that controls the joystick) in plaster.

...he said a bull 'bumped' his arm while he was working the yards during a previous muster.



Rod busy clicking away with the camera from the chopper


Aerial view of the stockyards and a very small glimpse of the property...given that its total size is about 300 square miles.

Yard work - drafting bullocks and steers for shipment to the saleyards at Mareeba.



Our hosts:


John and Tanya and their two children, Sarah (left) & Shaun (rear)




George & Joyce, both 78, who have run the station with their family since 1961.



Branding and tail tagging stock before shipment to the saleyards