There’s more to Queanbeyan than meets the eye. Nestled among the city’s bustling shops, cafés and restaurants is a town full of history, dating back to the early 1800s. If you have a couple of hours to spare, we recommend a self-guided walking tour around the historic sites around Queanbeyan. Use the interactive map below and take this stroll around town to discover 26 amazing locations that have shaped this city into what it is today.
The Queanbeyan region was first discovered by European explorers Joseph Wild, James Vaughan and Charles Throsby back in 1820. While looking for the Murrumbidgee River, the trio came across the junction of what is now known as the Queanbeyan and Molonglo Rivers. However, first settlement of the area didn’t begin until 1828. That year, a freed convict named Timothy Beard set up a squattage on the Molonglo River, calling it ‘Quinbean’, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘clear water’. Beard’s occupancy was later declared illegal. About ten years later in 1838, Queanbeyan was officially proclaimed a township with a population of about 50 people.
The town started flourishing around the 1850s, with the discovery of traces of gold as well as the brief operation of lead and silver mines. In the following years, banks and schools were opened, and Queanbeyan’s first newspaper, The Golden Age, now known as the Queanbeyan Age, was founded by John Gale. Following the booming growth of the district, the town was proclaimed a municipality in 1885, and a railway station was opened in 1887, connecting Queanbeyan to Canberra and Bungendore. Almost a hundred years later, Queanbeyan gained city status in 1972.
The Walking Tour
This walking tour will take you through the city’s major sites built throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. The tour starts from the Visitor Information Centre, which was built in 1925 for the Queanbeyan Municipal Council. The gardens of the Centre contain significant memorials recognising the involvement of local residents in various war efforts. The Information Centre also features a scientifically correct sundial, which was a gift from Nathan Lazarus to the people of Queanbeyan in 1860.
From the Information Centre, the walking tour will take you to the Queanbeyan Showground. The Showground used to be an Aboriginal camping site of the original occupants of the region, the Ngarigu people. The area began to be cleared in the 1880s and an official decision to make it a showground was made in 1893. One of the most notable landmarks of the city are the memorial entrance gates to the Showground, located on Lowe St, which were built in 1934.
South of Monaro St
Next on the tour, you will discover the Queanbeyan City Council Chambers. These heritage-listed Chambers were constructed in 1927 and designed by J. W. Sproule in Georgian Revival Style. Following the Council Chambers further down Monaro St, you’ll find the Evans Building, which was built by Edwin Oswald Evans in 1867 and purchased by the Queanbeyan School of Arts in 1894. Since then, the Evans Building has housed offices for the Queanbeyan Age, for example.
Turning on to Rutledge Street, you will see the Anglican Christ Church, the first church and school in the Queanbeyan district. The heritage buildings include the stone church (c. 1860), the brick rectory (c. 1872), white-washed stone stables and the schoolhouse at the back (c. 1843).
At the corner of Rutledge and Lowe Streets, you will find Calthorpe’s Cottage, which was built in 1920 for J. H. Calthorpe and his family before they moved to the well-known Calthorpe’s House in Manuka. Continuing down Lowe Street, you will also see ‘The Retreat’ (c. 1909) and ‘Fairholme’ (c. 1884). These houses were the residences of John Gale, ‘the Father of Canberra’, and solicitor E. E. Morgan.
The next street down, Isabella St, is home to Queanbeyan’s first public school, Isabella Public School. The small stone school house was built in 1877. A few years later in 1882, a convent and school called Saint Benedict’s Convent was built for the Queanbeyan and District Sisters of the Good Samaritan.
East of the river
Next, the walking tour will lead you to the eastern side of the river, over the Suspension Bridge. The bridge was originally built in 1901 to replace the stepping stones that were submerged by the weir. The structure was washed away in the floods of 1925 and replaced in 1938.
Heading towards Macquoid Street, you will find Queanbeyan’s oldest remaining church on the eastern side of the river. St Gregory’s Catholic Church was built by Daniel McCloskey around 1850. Following down the same street, you will also find Dog and Stile Inn, which dates back to the 1840s. It was the second licensed establishment in the area. On this street, also stands the Kent Hotel, or Ye Old Kent House. The inn was built for William Hunt around 1850 and it contains a ballroom, 12 large bedrooms, 13 parlours and a stone cellar.
Turning on to Trinculo Place, you will find O’Neill’s Cottage near the Queen’s Bridge. Built around 1880 for the first Mayor of Queanbeyan, the first occupant of the cottage was James O’Neill and his family. These days, the cottage houses the Queanbeyan Art Gallery.
Next, the tour will take you back across the river via the walking bridge on Morisset St. Heading north on Carinya St, you will be led to the Riverside Cemetery, next to Queanbeyan River. It was the first cemetery in the district, commenced in the 1840s. The oldest headstone is that of Anne Powell from 1847.
Heading north-west from the cemetery, you will find the Queanbeyan Railway Station on Henderson Road. The station officially opened in 1887, connecting Queanbeyan to Bungendore and Canberra. Along the same road, you will also find Bull’s Cottage. The cottage was built in the 1880s and inhabited by John Bull, Queanbeyan’s second Mayor and businessman.
Heading back south down Collett St
Moving south down Collett Street, you will next come across Rusten House. Built in 1861, Rusten House is one of Queanbeyan’s most significant properties. Originally built to replace the Benevolent Asylum to service the more affluent community, by the early twentieth century it became a community hospital, then a nurses’ dormitory during the 1930s. Rusten House is another Queanbeyan site listed as a Heritage Item on the State Heritage Register.
Further down Collett Street, you will find Hibernia Lodge and Byrne’s Mill and Cottage. Built in 1856 for local Clerk of Petty Sessions, Obadiah Williams, Hibernia Lodge was regarded as one of Queanbeyan’s most outstanding buildings for many years due to its unusual architecture. Byrne’s Mill and Cottage was built some time later in 1883. Its steam flour mill was the 6th flour mill in Queanbeyan, but it ceased operations in 1889 and became a storehouse.
You will then turn on to Morisset Street to see the Furlong House. The house was built in the 1850s for William Hunt, the owner of the Kent Hotel and the two Elmsall Inns, which were the first licensed establishments in Queanbeyan. Morisset Street also houses Saint Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, which was built in the early 1870s.
On your way back down to Lowe Street, where you first started the tour, you will see the Boer War Memorial. Erected in 1903, it is one of the oldest Boer War Memorials in New South Wales. Close by on Farrer Place, you will also find the Queanbeyan and District Museum (originally built as a police residence, c. 1876) and Queanbeyan Printing Museum, where you can view the working printing presses and learn about the prolific industry from a bygone era. Opposite to the museums is the final destination on the walking tour, the William James Farrer Memorial. Farrer is considered the ‘Father of the Australian what industry’ due to his success in significantly improving both the quality and crop yields of Australia’s national wheat harvest.