Tablelands Region Guide

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Great Wheelbarrow Race

Updated: 27-Jul-2015

Welcome to the Great Wheelbarrow Race, 13-15 May 2016

In May of each year, the Tablelands plays host to The Great Wheelbarrow Race! The 140km race attracts more than 450 competitors annually. Some teams go to remarkable lengths to raise money for their nominated charity during the lead-up to the race. In 2014, competitors raised a jaw-dropping $461,000.10 for charity!  In 2015, the twelfth annual race raised 243,300. 

The Great Wheelbarrow Race may test the endurance of many competitors, but it is largely about having fun and raising money for charity in a team environment. Team building has become a major draw card for competitors. The race kicks off in Mareeba on a Friday morning when competitors, dressed in their colourful costumes, parade down the main street to the cheers of hundreds of spectators, as they head out to Dimbulah where they stop and camp for the night. The next day competitors head off over a gruelling 60kms of hilly terrain, to reach the small outback town of Almaden where a night of fun and entertainment awaits. On the final day, teams head to the historical mining town of Chillagoe, famous for its caves and marble production.

Wheelbarrow Way (Mareeba to Chillagoe – 140km)

Late in the 1800’s when work was scarce and transportation was limited, miners often used to travel about the region using a wheelbarrow to carry all of their possessions. In 2004, as a tribute to these early pioneers and to honour their amazing trail-blazing feats, the road between Mareeba and Chillagoe was named the Wheelbarrow Way.

The following quote from a Mr Peel, an early settler in Chillagoe captures the essence of the spirit that is being celebrated with the development of the Wheelbarrow Way.

“Dad pushed a wheelbarrow in which were stacked all our belongings. A few pieces of iron which would be used as a shelter, maybe some hessian, a spade, a lantern, a few kitchen things and very little else. Mum and the children walked behind, Mum usually with babe in arms.”

The original road to Chillagoe began at Herberton and locals claim that a ‘T’ model Ford was used to blaze a shorter route close to the railway track between Dimbulah and Petford in 1949.

Today, the Wheelbarrow Way traverses this same country and follows a similar path close to the railway line which was originally privately owned but has since been incorporated into the state rail system. The line was originally used to ship material from the Chillagoe smelter to Cairns via Mareeba.

Today a journey along the Wheelbarrow Way takes the traveller through rich farmlands and wooded Savannah country. All but 20kms of the road close to Chillagoe is sealed and travellers should be on the lookout for cattle and horse which wander freely across the unfenced road.

Wildlife abounds in the region and it is not uncommon to see wallaroos and wallabies feeding beside the road. Travellers should also be aware that road trains use this section of road to take supplies and produce to and from the more remote parts of Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf country.


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