A service town for a large sugar growing and processing region, with
beef cattle and tropical fruits as secondary industries. Ingham is also
the administrative capital of the Hinchinbrook Shire. Ingham's Victoria
Mill is reputed to be the largest sugar mill in the Southern Hemisphere.
Location: 111 km north of Townsville; 1482 km from Brisbane; 29 km from
the mouth of the Herbert River; 14 m above sea level.
Ingham is situated on Palm Creek, not far from where the creek joins
the Herbert River. Set on a coastal plain, Ingham is downstream of the
Herbert River Valley and about 25 km from the mouth of the Herbert. The
plain is enclosed by steep ranges, through which the Herbert flows.
Every decade or so, Ingham suffers major flooding, when the Herbert
River peaks at over 12 metres, which it did in 1971, 1986, 1991 and
The mouth of the Herbert opens on to the Hinchinbrook Channel and,
whilst James Cook noted the mountains on Hinchinbrook Island, he missed
both the channel and the river mouth. Concealed by a maze of tidal
creeks, the river mouth was unidentified by Europeans until George
Dalrymple's expedition in 1864.
Ingham's Italian heritage has become a tourist attraction, and the
first Australian Italian Festival was held in 1995. It has been
estimated that over half of Ingham's population has one or more Italian
ancestors for, in addition to the initial influx in the 1890s,
migration continued for several decades. The Italian community built
its own hospital (1929-45), an exotic design with turrets at either
end. (In 1946 Hinchinbrook Shire had 22.7% of Queensland's Italian-born
citizens.) Between festivals, the Italian cemetery is listed as a
significant point of interest for tourists.
Natural features: Wallaman Falls; Mount Fox (365 metres); Jourama
Falls; Paluma Gulbaru National Park (Mt. Spec); Hinchinbrook Island;
Pelorus Island; Orpheus Island; Great Palm Island; Halifax Bay; Palm
Islands; Upolu Cay Reef; Low Isles; Michaelmas Cay; Cardwell Range;
Herbert River Gorge; Insulator Creek Environmental Park; Mount Fox
crater, Girringun National Park
Heritage features: Victoria Mill; Macknade Mill (1870s); Lee's Hotel
(the hotel was drunk dry by American servicemen celebrating the Coral
Sea victory during World War II. This incident was the original
inspiration for the famous song 'The Pub with No Beer').
Origin of name: recalls William Bairstow Ingham who, in 1874,
established a 700 acre sugar plantation which was known as Ings. The 32
year old was clearly well liked in the community, as the locals
successfully petitioned to have the settlement named in his honour when
the townsite was surveyed and gazetted in 1875.
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The Ingham area was first settled by Henry Stone in 1865, but unlike
many other regional settlements, sugar and not cattle was established
as the primary produce of the area from the beginning. The Gairloch
Sugar Mill was established in 1872. The sugar plantations were worked
by Kanakas brought in from the South Pacific Islands. When Australia's
immigration policy was changed around the turn of the 20th century, an
influx of Italian migrants began and continued until the beginning of
World War II. Tobacco growing began in the 1930s. Agriculture
diversified, and the Catholic Church established an agriculture college
at Abergowrie (the only one in north Queensland) in 1934. Vegetable
crops were grown for southern winter markets.