South Johnstone

south johnstone

South Johnstone where the cane trains run through the middle of town.  Here you will find a real outback pub with the friendly service you would expect!

Check out their movie nights and enjoy a great pub meal.

The Sugar Mill situated here is the life-blood of the town with currently around 300 growers supplying sugarcane to the mill. The cane is harvested from an area of about 22,000 hectares  and the cane is delivered to the mill via a 600mm narrow gauge cane rail network. The mill  processes approximately 1.4-1.7 million tonnes of cane in a crushing season which extends from June to November each year. It also receives sugar syrup or molasses from the Tableland Mill to make into raw sugar.


It is on the South Johnstone River which was named by the explorer, George Dalrymple, in 1873 after Robert Johnstone, a sub-inspector of the native police.

About 10 years after the first sugarcane was grown at Innisfail, a syndicate financed a plantation on the South Johnstone River. A mill and a cane tramway were constructed, but closed in 1891 shortly after Queensland enacted restrictive legislation for the employment of Kanaka labour.

In 1911, a Royal Commission assessed the feasibility of an additional central mill and a site was chosen here. There was already a tram line branch between there and the Innisfail tramway, which led to the Mourilyan wharf.

The South Johnstone Mill was constructed by the Queensland Government in 1915, and crushed its first cane in 1916, producing 4729 tonnes of sugar. It survived near closure three years later after being damaged during a cyclone and went on to be taken over by local farmers as a locally owned grower co-operative.

Throughput was increased in the 1920s with cane from the El Arish soldier settlement farms. The township had five stores, baker, butcher, sawmill, school (1916) and a refreshment room in the mid-1920s, but its steady growth in population led to a more diverse array of facilities by the post war years.  

The Post Office Directory (1947) recorded a Sugar Experiment Station, the Bureau of Tropical Agriculture, South Johnstone Sugar Mill, a foundry, a school of arts, the Plaza cinema, several stores and St Rita’s convent school (1932). The population, then more than 900, regularly swelled by casual cane cutters.