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12 May, 2022


TOURISM in the 1920s was boosted when word spread of the scenic and mysterious delights awaiting visitors to Cairns and the Tablelands.

By Maria Larkins

Three of the Studebaker Service Cars from the White Line, Cairns, Queensland, ca. 1927.

In 1925 a group of journalists, led by Mr J. H. Kessell, embarked on a tour of the tropical north in search of Australia’s tropical wonders. Their reports echoed the words of E. J. Brady in “Land of the Sun”: 

“There is a note in the soft north-easter as it blows along the Great Barrier, rustling the fruiting palm trees and the sugarcane, which is not found in any other Australian symphony.” 

Kessell’s reporters gushed about the “intensely beautiful” spectacle of the Barron Falls where “many hued butterflies and fragile birds dart unconcernedly” above the “foaming, angry torrent”. 

The party had also been invited to name a new road from Lake Eacham to Yungaburra. They deemed the road was deserving of a notable name, and they settled on “Appian Way”. Kessel said it also referenced the “sturdy pioneers of the Northern Tablelands” and the Australian Provincial Press Association (APPA) to which the pressmen belonged.

White Car Line standard Studebaker on the Cairns-Yungaburra Road, 1925.

As reports of the northern excursion were published, it was not surprising that more southern folk flocked to the Cairns and surrounds during the cooler months. 

On June 26, 1926, the White Car Line announced it would be operating two trips daily from Cairns to the Tablelands in two new extralong Studebakers. The new vehicles could seat eight passengers in comfort and offered plenty of legroom. To ensure a smooth ride, heavy springs had been installed to cushion the “bumps” in the rocky roads. 

Tourists were promised 100 miles of “scenic charm” on the return trip along the Cairns Range Road via Gordonvale. Enroute they would see the mysterious lakes Barrine and Eacham which were known for the absence of any inlet or outlet of their calm waters. 

One of the many tourist attractions, Crystal Cascades, ca. 1927. Photograph by Henry William Mobsby

Visitors planning to stay a while could reside at the various guest houses and hotels. The spacious Lake Eacham Hotel at Yungaburra had 50 rooms with every modern convenience. Patrons could also avail themselves of the option to enjoy a boating trip. 

By 1935, the White Car fleet had expanded to include an International special chassis passenger carrier with seating accommodation for 28 people. 

Manager, Mr. W. G. Morgan, said the company had acquired the larger vehicle to meet the “ever-increasing demand” for transport by visitors to Crystal Cascades, Babinda Boulders and other popular bathing spots. 

Sources: TROVE Newspapers, photographs courtesy State Library of Queensland.  

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