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Goondiwindi, QLD

Regional service centre, famous for the Goodiwindi Grey, on the Queensland-New South Wales border

Pronounced 'gun' rather than 'goon', Goondiwindi is an attractive Darling Downs town which has become important because of its unique position at the junction of the Cunningham, Newell, Bruxner, Barwon and Leichhardt Highways on the border between New South Wales and Queensland. The town spreads around the old Customs House and along the banks of the Macintyre River.


Goondiwindi is located 756 km from Sydney via Narrabri and Moree and 347 km west of Brisbane. It is 216 m above sea level.


Origin of Name

One of the early settlers, who had arrived in the 1830s, named a property 'Gundawinda' which was a  Bigambul Aboriginal word for "a resting place for the birds". There are other authorities which claim the town's name comes from "goona winnah" meaning "dropping of ducks or shags". 


Things to See and Do

Goondiwindi Pillars
Located in McLean Street near the Border Bridge Crossing, these three sandstone sculptures, are known as the Goondiwindi Pillars.  They were designed and sculpted by Chris Mackenzie in 2001 to celebrate the Centenary of Federation. The design combines images of water birds and depictions of water and rain ... constant elements in the history of Goondiwindi.

Customs House Museum
Located at 1 McLean Street, on the town side of the main bridge across the Macintyre, the old Customs House has been converted into the Customs House Museum and is a typical rural folk museum containing many interesting local artefacts. This authentically restored building, and its magnificent cottage garden, are home to a rich and colourful collection of mementos from yesteryear. Also in the grounds is Martha’s Cottage, built in 1875. The Customs House is listed in the Queensland Heritage Register because it "illustrates the role of Goondiwindi as one of 14 border posts established before Federation to maintain tariff walls between the colonies. Customs duty was an important source of revenue and the need to establish such posts reflects the increase in the movement of goods along inland routes as pastoral development occurred in the west of Queensland. Goondiwindi was a major border crossing and the establishment of a customs service in this town reflects the way in which Customs were collected and the requirements of Government were carried out in remote areas." For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600530. The museum is open Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 9.00 am - 1.00 pm, tel: (07) 4671 3041 or check out https://www.grc.qld.gov.au/customs-house-museum.

Border Bridge
The bridge, located across the Macintyre River, is the official boundary between Queensland and New South Wales. It was built in 1914 to replace a timber bridge which had been built in 1879 and managed to survive the devastating flood of 1890. The bridge was a combined NSW-Queensland project. It took 16 months to build and consists of two steel spans and hog backed lattice girders. It replaced a punt and, in turn, was superseded by a concrete bridge in 1992.

Gunsynd Statue
Located in the Apex Park, near the bridge across the Macintyre, the Gunsynd Statue commemorates the famous ‘Goondiwindi Grey’ – a racehorse who was bought for a measly $1,300 by 4 partners (The Goondiwindi Syndicate hence "Gun" and "Synd") with the aim of winning a local bush race.  The horse was the subject of a 1973 Tex Morton hit (it reached Number 5) titled 'The Goondiwindi Grey'. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the horse had 29 wins including the 1971 Epsom Handicap and the 1972 Cox Plate. It came third in the 1972 Melbourne Cup.

Tree of Knowledge
Located just across the Border Bridge (on the Queensland side) the Tree of Knowledge is a fascinating memorial to the decision to build an 8 mile levee bank in 1958 which has, over and over again, saved the town from flooding. There is a very good sign at the tree (which is indicated by the large rusting letters of GOONDIWINDI). It reads: "Until an 8 mile levee bank was constructed in 1958, Goondiwindi experienced some devastating floods. Every few years the floods would arrive causing havoc and loss. Often the only area completely free of water was the sandhill in front of the Catholic Church. When heavy rain was reported up river, residents and visitors to the area would gather under this tree to read the river height and get the update on the estimated heights and times the flood peak would arrive in Goondiwindi. You could stand under this tree at any time, day or night, and there would always be people looking at the river discussing the river height, how quickly the water was rising and the potential flood damage to the town. Rumours abounded of massive storms up river, of roads being washed away, and the biggest flood ever was on its way. Tall tales were told of previous flood adventures with people staying to swap stores. Subsequently the tree became known as 'The Tree of Knowledge'." There is also a plaque to Edward Redmond which reads: "In 1956 Edward Vernon Redmond, engineer to Goondiwindi Council, submitted a flood prevention scheme for the town. He and his foreman Bill McNulty had survived the flood by boat - marking the height on trees. The levee banks that he designed have saved Goondiwindi from major flooding ever since." Check out https://www.grc.qld.gov.au/tree-of-knowledge for more information.

On The Macintyre River Mural
Between the Tree of Knowledge and the Customs House Museum is a large mural depicting the Macintyre River with its water birds, reeds and a superb depiction of the bank at sunset. 

Goondiwindi Civic Centre
Located at 100 Marshall Street, the Art Deco Goondiwindi Civic Centre (a combination of Council Chambers, Town Hall and Civic Theatre) was built in 1937 to a design by Addison & MacDonald. It is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register and described as "a complex of single storeyed rendered masonry buildings with corrugated iron roofs linked by an Art Deco parapeted street facade. The complex consists of the Council Chambers at the eastern end (which incorporates a 1987 blockwork extension to the rear), a row of four shops extending to the west, and an auditorium which is located behind the shops and is separated from the adjacent council chambers by a service courtyard ... It is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of the Art Deco style, and exhibits particular aesthetic characteristics valued by the community: the Art Deco facade is an accomplished design in its skilful articulation of the different functions of and entrances to the building, and makes an important picturesque contribution to the streetscape; the clocktower is a local landmark; and the Art Deco auditorium interior is impressive, containing fine decorative detailing." For more detailed information check out  https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600531.

Victoria Hotel
The Victoria Hotel is located on a site which was apparently a popular place for the local Kamilaroi Aborigines to launch attacks against the invading Europeans, the Victoria Hotel (1898) is a beautifully preserved, and highly original, Queensland country pub with wide verandas and an unusual tower which makes it look more like a wedding cake than a pub. It sees itself as a monument to Gunsynd with a good collection of equine memorabilia. There is a detailed website - http://victoriahotelgoondiwindi.com.au - which records that "The original Victoria Hotel was modest single-storey wooden building with a shingle roof. Hitching posts and horse troughs flanked the intersecting dirt tracks that are today’s Marshall and Herbert Streets. In the 1920’s William Pendock and his wife Margaret bought the little pub and made sweeping changes. As their daughter-in-law Mrs Nellie Pendock tells today, “Every now and again they added a few rooms – until they had fifty!” Master builder Bill Bell virtually rebuilt the Victoria Hotel. He created a sturdy building of brick and timber, with a criss-cross of dark panelling and white lattice on its facades, stained glass windows and doorways, and an ornamental (and slight off-kilter) tower to top it off. An eye-catching building indeed: a picturesque mix of Victoriana and Jazz Age, with a dash of Early Colonial. It looks much the same today ... The Pendock family was associated with “The Vic” for three generations before selling it in the 1960’s to Mr George Pippos. George Pippos was a member of the syndicate who raced Gunsynd and he named his new Gunsynd Lounge after the champion. He has made many other improvements in the past decade, smoothly blending the old with the new. Large clear windows have replaced the stained glass, but the main entrance still has its art deco front door; and the graceful panels of Art Nouveau glass still adorn shop fronts in the hotel building. The wide verandahs today are still unchanged – a superb vantage point for street processions! There are stories of horsemen riding into the bar and lassoing bottles from the shelves in the old days. It is certainly true that a customer took his boat into the bar during the 1956 floods. The crowd loved it." 

Goondiwindi Cotton & Town Tours
In the cotton picking season the streets of the town are filled with the roar of huge trucks as they make their way from the cotton fields to the ginnery. The processes inside the gin are both simple and fascinating. The raw cotton balls are fed into the machine which cleans and prepares the cotton which is then ready to be semi-automatically baled and shipped away for carding, drawing and roving. The tour takes 3.5 hours and starts at 9.00 am Monday to Friday from the Visitor Information Centre or the local Caravan Parks. Tel: 0427 878 342 or check out http://www.goondiwindicotton.com.au/CottonTours.

Bigambul Aboriginal Bush Tucker and Medicine Plant Tour
The Bigambul Aboriginal Bush Tucker and Medicine Plant Tour takes 3.5 hours and is held between September and May on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It requires a minimum of 6 people and a maximum of 15 people and is held by Cheryl Moggs, a traditional custodian of the Bigambul people. The tour includes a Welcome to Country, a range of bush foods that are in season, a demonstration of medicine plants and their traditional uses, followed by tea and damper. For more information and bookings tel: 0429 037 732 and check out the brochure at https://www.grc.qld.gov.au/documents/42283202/22dc564f-378c-4a67-86e4-902fbe5872b1.

Goondiwindi River Walk
Stretching for 3 km along the Macintyre River from Brook Street to the Old Bridge. There are a number of interpretative signs, the banks of the river are home to a diversity of birds and there is a downloadable map. Check out https://www.grc.qld.gov.au/documents/42283202/dd33ebda-22c6-4aa4-a691-663950d4ed6e.

Goondiwindi Natural Heritage & Waterpark
There are a number of walks - the Waterside Trail (2.38 km), Pelican Corner (560 m), Wetland Walk (685 m), Waterbird Walk (1.12 km), Bush Bird Trail (1.0 km), Natural Fauna Trail (915 m) - all of which start at the Car Park off Johnston Street and Cemetery Lane. In total they are 6.6 km of walkways around a parkland which mixes a water ski park with natural waterways. There is a detailed, downloadable map which can be accessed at https://www.grc.qld.gov.au/documents/42283202/20f0818c-26ee-44ee-92c1-964dfe77a6c8.


Other Attractions in the Area

Botanic Gardens
Located off the Barwon Highway (take Brennans Road) to the north-west of the town, the 25 ha Botanic Gardens are a haven for local birdlife as well as a "living museum of unique plant communities of the Upper Darling Basin". The gardens specialise in local native plants and the 5 ha lake is home to birds including the wood duck, pelican and spoonbill. There is a Walking Trail map which can be downloaded at https://www.grc.qld.gov.au/documents/42283202/ddb47f70-b657-4372-bbab-0f4959579bd5. It describes two loops - one 600 metre and one 1.5 km.

Bird Watching in the District
Around 200 species have been identified in the Goondiwindi district which, as the brochure which is available at the Visitor Centre (it can be downloaded at https://www.grc.qld.gov.au/documents/42283202/e46a4737-f75d-4fb7-aa82-eb959a669f01 - and comes with a bird list to check off and maps of the major walks), points out "is where the tropical north meets the temperate south and the wetter conditions of the east blend with the arid west. Where streams merge into rivers before breaking out into a lazy inland delta of billabongs, anabranches and  flood runners." A total of ten places around town - including the Botanic Gardens, Town Common, River Walk and Lake Coolmundu - are listed.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Bigambul Aboriginal people.

* The area around Goondiwindi was first explored by Allan Cunningham who came through the area in 1827. He named the Macintyre River after Captain Peter Macintyre who had provided horses and drays for the expedition. 

* Settlers arrived in the 1830s and one of the properties was named 'Gundawinda'.

* The town of Goondiwindi grew up in the 1840s as a riverside camp for the teamsters bringing supplies from northern New South Wales to the outlying properties in western Queensland.

* A Native Police camp was established on Callandoon property in 1849. 

* In 1858 the town was surveyed.

* In 1859 Queensland became a separate colony and the Macintyre River became the border. Blocks of land were auctioned in the town.

* The Customs House was probably first built in 1859 but over the years it has been altered.

* The local post office opened in 1860. 

* A local Court House was built in 1862.

* The public school was opened in 1864.

* A telegraph link between Goondiwindi and Warwick was established in 1872.

* Between 1872-1894 the Customs House operated as a centre for a staff employed to police and control illegal trading between Queensland and New South Wales.

* A Presbyterian church was consecrated in 1875.

* The first bridge, a timber structure, over the Macintyre River was opened in 1878.

* The Anglican Church was consecrated in 1882.

* In 1888 the Goondiwindi municipality was established.

* Goondiwindi East Provisional School opened in 1898.

* Goondiwindi West Provisional School opened in 1900.

* The railway from Warwick reached the town in 1908.

* St Mary's Catholic School opened in 1911.

* In 1914 a steel bridge was built over the Macintyre River.

* The district was severely affected by prickly pear in the 1920s.

* The town was connected to reticulated water in 1922. That year saw the dedication of the Goondiwindi War Memorial.

* The town's Art Deco Civic Centre was opened in 1937.

* Sewerage was connected throughout the town in 1942.

* An Olympic swimming pool was opened in 1963.

* The town acquired a state high school in 1964.

* Protective levies were built on the banks of the Macintyre River in 1968.

* In 1971 Gunsynd won the Epson Handicap

* In 1972 Gunsynd won the Cox Plate and came third in the Melbourne Cup.

* Gunsynd which became known as the Goondiwindi Grey was the subject of a 1973 Tex Morton hit (it reached Number 5) titled 'The Goondiwindi Grey'.

* The town was bypassed in 1992.

* By 2011 the population of the town was over 6,000.


Visitor Information

Goondiwindi Regional Visitor Information Centre, 45 Bowen Street, tel: (07) 4671 7474, Open  9.00 am - 5.00 Monday to Friday and 9.00 am - 1.00 pm Saturday and Sunday.


Useful Websites

The local council has an excellent and detailed website - check out https://www.grc.qld.gov.au/visitors.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

5 suggestions
  • Why is this town called Gundiwindi when it is spelt Goondiwindi? Please explain?

  • Enjoyed reading the history of the town and the excellence of the layout.

    Anne Collins
  • When was the Town Common established for oval people to run their cattle and horses on,and is it still going today ?

    Desy Heinemann
  • Great summary but there’s no mention of the other murals in town, nor the Art Space, nor the thriving cafe culture in town.
    You do however, feature the palm trees in the Main St (and rightly so!).
    A note to the Council, please do not remove or mess with these statement trees – they are part of Goondiwindi’s identity.

    Binnie Donovan
  • There are some WONDERFUL large metal sculptures to be seen around town too

    Sandie Wilson