Queenstown has always been one of those places we passed through on our way to somewhere else. The first time was on holiday in 1998, the barren terrain and torrential deluge didn’t entice us to linger. The largest town on Tasmania’s west coast has changed considerably since then. The early 1900s saw mass logging as the mining town boomed and the expansion of the copper mines left an eerie, lunar landscape bereft of vegetation. The main street is reminiscent of a wild west movie set with Mount Owen towering above re-forested hillsides.

1.Orr Street

We made our way to Spion Kopf Lookout for a different perspective of the town. Tasmania was one of the first British colonies to send volunteers when the second Boer War broke out in 1899. The British suffered a humiliating defeat on a hill in Natal called Spion Kopf, meaning ‘Spy Hill’, and on returning home, the British survivors named stands at their local football grounds ‘the Kop’ to commemorate the fallen. I don’t know if Queenstown had a football ground, but this hill was named for the same reason. There is a poppet head made from materials from the old mine

2.poppet head

as well as a restored cannon, one of two cast at the Queenstown smelters in 1898.


The second cannon was transported to Victoria in 1910 where it was used to fire the royal salute on the coronation of King George V. It was used again in 1918 to celebrate the end of World War I but, unfortunately, it was overloaded with powder and exploded when it was fired.


From our perch, we had a fabulous view of the rather impressive Penghana, built in 1898 for Mr. Robert Sticht, the General Manager of the Mount Lyell Mining & Railway Company. The home certainly reflects the power of a man in his position  and the wealth in the town at the time. Robert Sticht died in 1922 and ten more general managers and their families lived at Penghana until 1995 when the title was transferred to the National Trust. The house is now run as a unique bed & breakfast, I think we need to find an excuse to stay at Penghana.

5.Penghana Bed & Breakfast

The hills surrounding the town still have some regenerating to do and the isolation is evident from this outlook.

6.lookout view7.lookout view8.Mt. Owen

We returned to ground level for lunch at the Empire Hotel, a beautiful, heritage listed building dating back to 1901.

The lobby is dominated by a stunning hand-carved Tasmanian Blackwood staircase. The raw timber was shipped to England, carved and shipped back to Queenstown.

13.Empire Hotel lobby

The tasteful furnishings echoed the era

15.Empire Hotel lobby

and the traditional dining room had a cosy ambience

16.Dining Room

with a beautifully restored ceiling rose.

17.ceiling rose

The menu was extensive but who can go past fish ‘n’ chips on a Friday?

18.fish & chips

Fortified, we were ready to tackle the ’99 bends’, the infamous road between Queenstown and Gormanston that makes us appreciate the innovation of power steering. As the road straightened, we turned off to Iron Blow Lookout, an extended viewing platform over the former open-cut mine.

19.Iron Blow Lookout

Miners flocked to the area when gold was discovered in 1883 but they found the plentiful copper deposits more profitable. The colours were striking on this sunny day.

20.Iron Blow Lookout

The view across the Linda Valley to Lake Burbury was spectacular,

21.Iron Blow Lookout22.Lake Burbury

while the denuded landscape remains as a legacy from the past.

23.Iron Blow Lookout24.Iron Blow Lookout25.Iron Blow Lookout

The nearby settlements of Gormanston and Linda were built for workers of the Iron Blow but both are now ghost towns. The only evidence of former lives in Linda is the haunting remnants of the Royal Hotel. The original structure burnt down in January 1910 and T Kelly rebuilt using concrete to avert any future disasters. The hotel finally closed in the 1950s and the shell still stands despite more recent flames.

26.Royal Hotel, Linda27.Royal Hotel, Linda

We left the west coast behind as we crossed the bridge over Lake Burbury, uplifted by the afternoon sun glistening on the pristine water.

28.Lake Burbury

Silver City

Our journey on the Indian Pacific included some interesting off-train excursions. The first morning, we were supposed to arrive early in Broken Hill and watch the sunrise over the city from the lookout of the Miners’ Memorial. Unfortunately, the train was running an hour late and the sun had risen


by the time we pulled into the station.

I had been looking forward to discovering Broken Hill after reading a wonderful book, ‘Silver Dreams’, by Pam Bayfield who grew up there. My first impression was the rear view of the Theatre Royal Hotel


before boarding the coach for a tour of the town. The Theatre Royal Hotel was established in 1886

and within a few years there were seventy pubs to choose from. The Palace Hotel was originally a coffee house, built in 1889 by the Temperance Movement in an attempt to curb the drinking by the miners.

Within three years, the Palace became a regular drinking den and gained more recent infamy thanks to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

The ABC radio station was adorned with an impressive mural featuring some of the city’s best known personalities.

We passed the Pro Hart Gallery

and the house he had lived in, just next door.

The Igloo House, as it is affectionately known, was built for Pro Hart in the early 1980s, (also known as Cleavage Corner!).

The sun was casting a warming glow as we continued our tour, shining beatifically on Sacred Heart Cathedral

and the narrow gauge rail cars at the Sulphide Street Railway Museum.

We were surprised to see what appeared to be a mine shaft in the middle of town. The Kintore Headframe is a retired wooden headframe from the 1800s and was relocated to Kintore Reserve in 1984.

The Centennial Hotel was established in 1889. A favourite with the shearers, it closed in 1990.

The Trades Hall has been the home of the union movement in Broken Hill since it was built in 1905. It is the first privately owned Trades Hall in the Southern Hemisphere, built and paid for entirely by the people of Broken Hill.

We were driven to the top of the Line of Lode mullock heap, 54 metres above the city. The Miners’ Memorial building faces east-west, capturing the rising and setting of the sun. The walls are lined with the names of over 800 miners who lost their lives working in the Broken Hill mines.


The old poppet head at the Line of Lode still stands

and there are far reaching views over Broken Hill and the outback beyond.

Our time in Broken Hill was brief and we soon boarded the train for a hearty breakfast

and a relaxing day enjoying the scenery.

Visit Pam’s website to find out more about her life and books. http://www.pambayfield.com.au/silver-dreams.html