Proclamation of Port Douglas

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 sign details the Proclamation of Port Douglas. Port Douglas was proclaimed an official port of entry for the levy of dutiable goods on December 1, 1877. Photo by Tom Volling, Douglas Shire Council, December 2017.

The sign details the Proclamation of Port Douglas. Port Douglas was proclaimed an official port of entry for the levy of dutiable goods on December 1, 1877. Photo by Tom Volling, Douglas Shire Council, December 2017.

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.

On 11 May 1878, The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.: 1866 – 1939) newspaper reported that 2½ acres of reserve land was set aside for a hospital.

On 11 May 1878, The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.: 1866 – 1939) newspaper reported that 2½ acres of reserve land was set aside for a hospital.

Even the Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld.: 1858 – 1880) reported 27 town lots for sale by auction in September 1879.

An advertisement for land sales at Port Douglas advertised 20 August, 1879.

An advertisement for land sales at Port Douglas advertised 20 August, 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.

Source: The Brisbane Courier (Qld.: 1864 – 1933), 13 October 1879

Source: The Brisbane Courier (Qld.: 1864 – 1933), 13 October 1879

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.

Members of the Douglas Shire Historical Society celebrate the official anniversary with Douglas Shire Cr Mayor Julia Leu, 1 December 2017. Photo by Tom Volling, Douglas Shire Council, December 2017.

Members of the Douglas Shire Historical Society celebrate the official anniversary with Douglas Shire Cr Mayor Julia Leu, 1 December 2017. Photo by Tom Volling, Douglas Shire Council, December 2017.

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.

References:

More information:

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