Captains Flat is a quaint little village nestled on the Molonglo River, on the edge of the Great Dividing Range. The origin of the name is said to come from a bull named Captain who was known to graze on the flat grassy paddocks near the Molonglo River. Take this stroll around the village to explore its many historic buildings, such as the old hospital, former post office and Captains Flat Hotel, as well as attractions like the Lake George Mine entrance and the Miners’ Memorial. Drive up the old mine road behind Captains Flat Hotel to get to the town lookout with breathtaking views across the township and the old mining site.
The village features an array of historic buildings and old mining sites. The unique geology around the Flat still attracts many geologists and students to the village. The town was booming in the 1890s and again in 1937-62 as it became the major mining site in southern NSW. In fact, Captains Flat was one of the most important mining sites in the whole of Australia during this time, producing lead, zinc, copper, pyrite, silver and gold. This had a significant impact on the development and settlement of the area at the time with up to 5,000 people living in the area when the industry was at its peak.
Today, the village is home to about 450 lucky residents and a popular recreational destination for visitors from the nearby regions. Bushwalkers and 4WD enthusiasts frequent the surrounding Tallaganda State Forest and the Tinderry Mountains, while the Captains Flat dam offers anglers an opportunity to enjoy some quiet fishing. To this day, farming is a vital part of the region’s economy.
The local hangouts
This heritage trail will take you through some of the most iconic spots in town, from mining relics to architecture from a bygone era and more.
The self-guided tour starts from the quirky Outsider Gallery, located in a 100-year-old building with a spectacular mosaic floor (please note the gallery itself is currently closed). You will then pass the Captains Flat RSL & Bowling Club and the old post office, a fine example of architecture of the time. Postal service was established in town on April 16th 1883, however the old post office is now privately owned.
After some exploration, check out the Captains Flat Hotel. First opened in 1938, the hotel has been built and furnished in 1940s style. The bar is famous for having had the longest bar in the southern hemisphere at the time of construction.
Next, the tour will take you past the old Workers’ Club and Bollard House, before leading you towards the main attractions in town – the mines. Starting from Keating’s Collapse, where sections of the hills collapsed in to the mine leaving fault lines, you’ll be led to the town lookout. Here, you’ll be able to enjoy the view of the village and compare it with the panoramic lithograph depicting the view as it was in 1938.
Following the stunning views off the lookout, you’ll get a chance to view the outside of the old railway station and the station master’s house, now a private residence. The railway station is unusual in that it was placed at ground level and is an island. It is now owned by NSW Estate Rail and also leased as a private residence.
Blasts from the past
Continue back to the main streets of the village to witness more architecture from the 1800s and early 1900s, including the old court house and the old hospital. On your way back towards the centre of town, you’ll see the local war memorial, the focus of the annual Anzac Day ceremony, as well as the Miners’ Memorial, dedicated to the town’s miners and their families.
Finishing up the walking tour, you’ll arrive at Wilkins Park. Proclaimed as a public recreation ground in 1893, it is named after Mine Operations Manager Bert Wilkins. It is actually believed that this is the area that the bull ‘Captain’ used to graze after straying from Foxlow Station.
Off the beaten track
For those able to expand their journey outside the main village, we have also listed a few extra treats to check out, such as the Captains Flat Dam. The dam was built by Lake George Mines to supply water for the mining operations, and a new water treatment plant became operational in 2002. It’s a great spot for keen fishermen to explore, as the dam has been stocked with Murray Cod and Yellow Belly.
Further down south from the dam, on the edge of the Captains Flat Common in the Molonglo River Gorge, is a beautiful hidden waterfall, providing visitors with a charming picnic spot in the bush’s absolute solitude.