Guest blogger: Bill Wilkie – Douglas Libraries, Douglas Shire Council.
This month on 1 December, Port Douglas celebrated its 140 year anniversary of settlement. A new information sign was unveiled at Teamsters Park, Craiglie by Cr Mayor Julia Leu and Douglas Shire Historical Society Executive Committee Member Noel Weare to mark the occasion.
The port emerged when a route over the Great Dividing Range was discovered at nearby Mowbray. This allowed easier access to the inland gold fields than the routes that traversed the range from Cairns, 70 kms to the south.
The new access attracted merchants and prospectors and the little port – variously known as Island Point and Port Owen – quickly grew.
Even the Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld.: 1858 – 1880) reported 27 town lots for sale by auction in September 1879.
Government offices and banks transferred from Cairns to Port Douglas, and Cairns slipped into decline.
The flurry of land sales continued throughout 1879. The Brisbane Courier advertised 42 town lots for sale in November and an 80 acre extension of reserve land for a police paddock near the junction of Spring Ck and the Mowbray River.
A decade later in 1887 the train line would be built over the range from Cairns, and the township of Port Douglas suffered.
In the 140 years since Port Douglas was proclaimed, the area survived mainly as a port for the sugar industry, then as a small fishing village, before gaining a resurgence as a major tourist destination in the 1980s.
At the unveiling of the sign Cr Mayor Leu commented on the unique and rich history of the Shire.
“Craiglie was a centre for wagon-load transfer, where hundreds of bullocks and horses were based, and played a pivotal role in driving the Port Douglas economy in the early settlement era.”
The tourism industry continues to flourish today with Port Douglas having an international reputation as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the rain forests of the Daintree.
- The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.: 1866 – 1939) 11 May, 1878
- The Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld.: 1858 – 1880), 20 Aug 1879
- The Brisbane Courier (Qld.: 1864 – 1933), 13 October 1879
Read Public Libraries blog story on The Daintree blockade: The Battle for Australia’s Tropical Rainforests by Mossman author Bill Wilkie
Anne Scheu – Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland