Cracow

For grey nomads who love to look around old ghost towns as part of their Big Lap, Cracow in Queensland is an absolute must … not least because it’s got an actual ghost!

Located about 50 kilometres south-east of Theodore along the Theodore-Eidsvold Road, the permanent population here is tiny … but the largely ramshackle buildings that remain are a reminder that it wasn’t always so.

Although a quantity of gold was first discovered here in 1875, and then again in 1916 when Aboriginal stockman, Jacky Nipps, found gold bearing quartz, it wasn’t until 1931 when the Golden Plateau mine was established that things really kicked off in Cracow.

The mine operated continuously until it closed in 1976, and the town slowly drifted towards ‘ghost’ status. At the end of 1932, Cracow had a population of more than 2,000 people. There were several bakers, butchers and fruiterers, three billiard rooms, two picture theatres, three sawmills and a brickworks … and a lot, lot more.

By 1940, there was a hospital, court house, school, ambulance service, and public buildings. While the town went into decline after the mine closed – after having extracted an estimated 19,000 kilograms of gold – it continued to be a viable community for many decades.

The now-deserted hospital only closed in the 1990s, and the primary school shut in 1997. Today, the shops are boarded up, the houses are almost all deserted, and the public hall and old Catholic church are spookily abandoned. But, as anyone who has visited in recent years can attest, one historic business has continued to thrive … the pub!

The two-storey Cracow Hotel still bustles with life and is a magnet for grey nomads and other visitors. Like so many character-filled country pubs, the bar is packed with a fascinating mix of memorabilia and bric-a-brac.

The hotel was actually owned by Fred Brophy, the legendary owner of Australia’s last boxing troupe, for more than two decades. However, he recently sold up and the new owners say they are committed to continuing the hostelry’s iconic legacy.

And an important part of that legacy is the resident ghoul. Legend has it that there have been multiple sightings of a ghost who wanders the corridors and stairways at night dressed in a nightgown.

Happily for any easily spooked grey nomads, the hotel is not the only accommodation option in town. Behind the mining museum is a ‘by-donation’ campsite which has toilets, hot showers and a fire pit.

There’s also a three-site ‘by-donation’ campsite across the road from the pub at the George Hamilton Park. And if that’s not reason enough to stay, why not check out the free bush camping at ‘Cracow Beach’, a beautiful spot on the Dawson River and Delusion Creek Junction, about 18 kilometres northwest of town.

For a ‘ghost town’ then, there’s an awful lot of life in Cracow.

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