As I journey down an old country road with cows eating pasture and sheep playing follow the leader, I feel peace in my spirit: the wide-open spaces, the gorgeous mountain views and the potholes keeping me on my toes.
In a valley surrounded by mountains of gold, I find a quaint town called Captains Flat.
The town’s origins are immediately evident as the welcome sign greets me. It depicts a miner looking over his shoulder, the gold colour a reoccurring theme throughout Captains Flat.
Local tales allege that Captain’s Flat was named after a large white bull named ‘Captain’.
He was part of a bullock team working the mines and had a tendency to slip away and head for the grassy paddocks at the base of the mountain.
Signs border the town’s straight wide roads, consolidating Captains Flat Heritage Trial. Each sign showcases information, pictures and the love the town’s citizens hold for their history.
Established in 1883, the town became popular after the discovery of gold in the surrounding mountains.
Two periods of prosperity saw the town thrive through a mining boom. The first was in 1884-1899 with the second in 1937-1962. Mining for lead, zinc, copper sulphur, gold, and silver drove the local economy.
More information can be found here.
The Heritage Trail ends at the top of the hill. Here, where I find a monument constructed using original machinery from the mine. It shadows Captains Flat like a loving parent guards their child.
20 miners died between 1938 and 1962, who the memorial commemorates. Due to faulty equipment and underground explosions, the mine was finally closed.
It’s said that one miner died for every year the mine was open. It took a 39-kilometre railway to Bungendore, designed to bring equipment from the Lake George mine, for the Captains Flat mine to reopen.
Closer to the heart of Captains Flat, I was awed by the town’s ANZAC and ‘Remembrance Day’ memorials – put together with loving care.
Local Army Sergeant and unofficial mayor of Captains Flat Levi Symington reflects on the town’s population of 3000 appearing in the square to commemorate ANZAC day and Remembrance day throughout the year.
Last year’s memorial saw a parade including a catapult party, an air vice-marshal, a two-star general, cadets and serving members from the surrounding area. They lay down wreaths with the community.
By now, it’s rolling into lunchtime, where the town welcomes me with its two eateries’; a pub on the right, and an artist’s café on the left. Each contrasting vibes and audience, each delicious and colourful.
For more information about Captains Flat Pub follow this link; https://www.facebook.com/Captains-Flat-Hotel-pub-481750495257486/
For more information about Captains Flat Artists Cafe follow this link; Reviews-Outsider_Cafe_Lounge_Gallery-Captains_Flat_New_South_Wales.html
The pub’s history is a talking point for the town’s citizens, where many recall the nights spent among friends and families on its stained wooden walls.
The pub once boasted the longest bar in the southern hemisphere at 91 meters long centred in the middle of the building and hosting 32 tap stations. It’s now being restored to its former glory by local owners.
At its peak, Captains Flat saw 32 functioning shops. However, with the closure of the mine in 1962, only 12 remained. These sold storefronts have now turned into homes.
Only the devoted stay in the Captains Flat, so there’s a chance for new opportunities to be created. One of which is the Captains Flat bike park.
Labelled as part of the Queanbeyan mountain biking trials, Captains Flat sees riders of all ages enjoy the local jumps and obstacles placed to test their skills around the town.
For more information about Queanbeyan mountain biking trials follow this link; https://www.trailforks.com/region/queanbeyan/
As I continue, it grows evident that I’m not in Canberra anymore. Sheep graze outside the local law enforcement office and locals walk ducks on leads down the street.
I couldn’t help but laugh as one couple crossed the road with their ducks in arms to avoid the animals fighting as another young family walked their ducks down the same path.
This was the moment I wondered if I was still on the same planet, let alone a simple hour’s drive away from familiar Canberra.
Some of the locals walked me up and down through the mountain trails, turning left and right in a pattern that made no sense to me yet seemed to be written on the locals’ hearts.
I could see glimpses of what was to come throughout the journey, yet the final product took my breath away. The stunning lake is surrounded by mountains of gold—a perfect swimming hole, open for everyone willing to journey there.
As the sun starts to dwindle with my heavy laden feet, my spirit content with the adventure of the day, the history learnt, the people met, and the food heartily devoured, I smile, the setting sun warming my body as my weary soul finally feels rest. I wonder about what others could discover in this quaint little town of Captains Flat.
Photos by Olivia Paull