Incredible Croydon: Heart of the Gulf Savannah region

Published: 24th July 2023

Incredible Croydon: Heart of the Gulf Savannah region


By Nichola Davies / LGAQ Digital Journalist 

Croydon’s only pub, the Club Hotel, has been operating since 1887. It had a whopping 38 counterparts when the town stretched for kilometres. 

Croydon was built around the gold mining boom and the town’s heritage is palpable when you walk down the main streets of Croydon today. The main street is lined with decorative streetlamps – four original kerosene lamps, forged in Croydon, plus replicas – that bathe the heritage precinct in a golden glow on dusk. By day, the town’s white picket fences provide a stately charm. 

The Heritage Precinct consists of four buildings: the Police Sergeant’s Residence c. 1898, Police Station and Gaol c. 1896, Court House c. 1887 and Croydon Town Hall c. 1890. 

Deputy Mayor Kim Gaynor, who lovingly calls the shire ‘incredible Croydon’ says, “the town is living history because we’ve got so many heritage buildings in the town and Council maintains them”.  

Croydon Shire Council utilised Works for Queensland funding for restoration and maintenance on the heritage buildings, including repairs to flooring, handrails and painting, which had to be done by heritage restoration specialists. 

Thanks to the funding, and huge efforts by Council, visitors to Croydon can today walk through the heritage buildings, which feature artefacts and displays – including a live action court case that is played out through speakers and lights on figures in the courtroom.  

The old gaolhouse hosts a prisoner who lays on a bare cot, with the figure sleeping under a blanket. When the LGAQ visited Croydon for its Elected Member Update (EMU) in 2022, the LGAQ crew had a good wander around the heritage buildings.  

Upon spotting the prisoner in the bed, I turned to my colleagues and said, “Wouldn’t it be creepy if it moved?” That was the moment we realised it did, in fact, stir – with a cough and groans! Of course, I got the fright of my life and screamed... which Council seemed to find amusing when we relayed the story that afternoon. 

I digress. The Town Hall is a favourite with photographers and film buffs, as it stores early film equipment that is still in use. It has a screen that gives information on the equipment that can be seen behind a glass panel. Today, the hall is used as a movie theatre, dance hall, and venue for live music and travelling shows.  

Cr Gaynor said Croydon is predominately a place that people pass through on their way from Cairns to the Gulf of Carpentaria coastal town of Karumba and, in the the tourist season, the Gulflander train runs on an historic train line between Normanton and Croydon.  

“It’s a good service because mum and dad or grey nomads can have one partner get on the train and travel halfway while the spouse drives the car and then they’ll stop, swap over and the spouse will have the rest of the trip,” Cr Gaynor said. 

“But some do get on the train [at Normanton], head out to Croydon, spend the night and go back again and that’s all through Queensland Rail, so it’s pretty cool. 

“The trip from Cairns to Karumba is such an idyllic one along the Savannah Way because it changes from the reef to the rainforest to the outback and to the ocean again.  

“It’s pretty unique and a beautiful driving trip.” 

The Savannah Way runs 3,700 kilometres from Broome to Cairns and Croydon is also accessible via the Matilda Way, which is 1,800 kilometres of sealed road between the NSW border, through Cunnamulla, and Karumba.  

Croydon Shire is ‘very’ FNQ, sitting some 2,000 kilometres north-west of Brisbane CBD and 700 kilometres west of Townsville. The land-locked shire adjoins Carpentaria Shire to the north and west, Etheridge Shire to the east and Richmond and McKinlay shires to the south. Mayor Trevor Pickering has been in office since 2012. 

The region had a population approaching 7,000 at the height of the gold rush and arrival of rail but the shire is home today to around 300 people and an economy driven by tourism and agriculture, particularly cattle grazing, sheep grazing and grain growing. 

Croydon township itself is very well serviced, with its own pool, bowls, recreation grounds, historic train display, rodeo grounds and a fishing club. Croydon’s Lake Belmore, which supplies the town’s water, is stocked by Council with barramundi fingerlings every few years, which makes the fishing great.  

Council has some ambitious plans for the region in the near future, including plans to make Croydon a premier mountain biking destination with a trail that leaves the town’s caravan park and heads to the dam. 

“Croydon is considered flat, but it’s not actually,” Cr Gaynor said.  

“It has some hills up to the north and to the east of it, so it’ll go up into the hills to where the dam is and around there, and those trails will come back to town again.”  

Cr Gaynor said it’s an additional attraction to bring visitors to the region.  

“We do have a few bike riders in town and [among] council staff, but it’s predominantly to bring people into town,” she said.  

“It’s something Council can do to facilitate and help businesses in the town grow.  

“If it does come out, someone will need to have push bike tyres and tubes to fix them in town.  

“We’ve [also] been saying for quite some time we should get our own Uber driver in town, because there are some people who have a few drinks on a Friday night and they can’t walk to the pub, it’s just too far. Plus, people would love to get Uber Eats. I think it’s a great business opportunity for someone in town.” 

The town is a huge drawcard, with something for everyone to love – fishing, rodeos, a pool, birdwatching, bowls and (hopefully soon) mountain biking – plus a great old pub to spend a long afternoon in.