Home » Towns » Queensland » Capricorn Coast » Howard, QLD

Howard, QLD

Historic coal mining town, now a quiet rural service centre.

Howard started life as a coal mining town but today it is a small service centre surrounded by sugar plantations and citrus orchards. Neither being on the coast nor being on the Bruce Highway it is a Cinderella in an area where Hervey Bay has become a hugely popular destination with backpackers and people wanting to explore Fraser Island.


Howard is located 281 km north of Brisbane via the Bruce Highway and 28 km west of Hervey Bay.


Origin of Name

Howard was named after William Howard who arrived in Maryborough in 1857, explored the local countryside and is credited with discovering the Howard coal field in 1876.


Things to See and Do

Brooklyn House
The Fraser Coast Regional Council website explains the importance of this National Estate listed building as: "Built for William Rankin by Howard carpenter, Stephen Ward, in 1890. Rankin came from Scotland in 1884 as manager of Queensland Colliers Limited coal mine. Originally set on 3 acres of land with gardens, formal drives, bowling green and tennis court. A gate connected the garden to the local Anglican churchyard next door. The house was the centrepiece of social life in Howard in its heyday and is famous for its association with Dame Annabel Rankin, who became the first female senator in Queensland and is recognised as a pioneer in Australian women's politics. She was a successful State and Federal parliamentarian who, after representing the electorate of Burrum for many years in the Queensland State Parliament, became a Liberal Senator for Queensland from 1946-71. During her long career she was variously Opposition Whip, Government Whip and Minister for Housing before accepting the appointment of Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand.
"It is an elite country house built in Colonial style with modifications over the years. High set on timber stumps. Hip iron roof. Encircling 9 foot verandas on three sides. Timber frame; 8 pine chamferboard cladding. Interior of red cedar. English beech woodwork and marble fittings. Grand front porch extension with double steps. French doors leading into rooms. Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, sitting and dining room, study, sun room, kitchen with servants eating room; upstairs laundry and attic. Rail balustrades; ornate veranda brackets and decorative fretwork in apex of each gable. Two marble fireplaces and 2 chimneys. Sympathetic garden setting but modified since Rankin ownership." Check out http://www.frasercoast.qld.gov.au/documents/4362881/41247949/Place%20ID%20005%20-%20Brooklyn%20House.pdf for more details.
The house was offered for sale in 2016 for $700,000 and the real estate agent, eulogising about its history, added "Sublimely positioned amongst 3.5 tropical acres of landscaped gardens this massive 90 sq. home includes six luxurious bedrooms, 14 foot ceilings, smoking room, grand lounge and formal dining room each with elegant open fireplaces. Farm-style cooks' kitchen opens onto casual dining and 100 foot long verandahs, just perfect for an afternoon siesta - perhaps followed by a refreshing gin and tonic. Richly decorated with beautifully restored period furnishings throughout - much of which are included in the sale. A glorious family home or new owners can profit from an existing income stream. Brooklyn House is currently licensed as a café and restaurant tourist attraction with established coast tours and is ideally structured to become a luxurious B & B and functions venue."

St Matthews Church
Located next door to Brooklyn House, the original St Matthews, the only Anglican church in the district, was built in 1883 on land donated by Willliam Rankin. It was replaced by the current structure in 1913. During World War II it was used as a field hospital. It was finally closed in 2016. In 2015 the local paper, the Fraser Coast Chronicle, noted "The peeling paint on this little timber church belies its well-kept interior. Its stained glass windows depicting the Church's namesake, St. Matthew, overlook the altar draped in crisp, white linen, neat rows of wooden pews and gleaming polished plaques bearing the names of long-past parishioners. An aura of warmth pervades, no doubt from the love of many generations who have been a part of this welcoming church."

Burrum & District Museum
Located just behind the main street of Howard and open from Tuesday and Wednesday from 9.00 am - noon and Saturday 8.00 am - noon, the Burrum & District Museum "incorporates the collections of the former Torbanlea Mining Museum and the Howard Museum and is run by the Burrum and District Heritage Society Inc. in conjunction with Hervey Bay City Council's Museums Support Officer. The primary aim of the Museum is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret objects of natural and cultural significance to the Burrum District. A particular emphasis is placed on the following themes:
1. Historical development of the townships & settlements of the Burrum District;
2. Mining history specifically linked to the Burrum Coal Fields.
The museum provides a venue for colection development combined with storage of documentary and photographic collections, and be the focus of research, exhibition and collection development activities." For more information tel: (07) 4129 0677.


Other Attractions in the Area

Toogoom and Burrum Heads
Nearby, at the mouths of the Isis and Burrum Rivers, are the quiet seaside resort towns of Burrum Heads and Toogoom which have become popular retirement haunts far removed from the bustle of the towns along the Sunshine Coast to the south.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was inhabited by the Gubbi Gubbi Aboriginal people.

* William Howard, after whom the town is named, moved into the area in 1857. He explored the surrounding area.

* Miners had moved into the area by 1864 when a seam of coal was discovered on the banks of the Burrum River.

* In 1876 William Howard discovered the local coalfield which led to the opening of the Whitley Colliery in 1877.

* In 1881 the town's population was only 25 people.

* The railway reached the town in 1883.

* A Primitive Methodist church was opened in 1884.

* The Royal Hotel opened in 1889.

* The town's most famous building, Brooklyn House, was completed in 1890.

* The local Catholic church was consecrated in 1895.

* By 1920 the town's population was over 1000.

* The Howard Power Station, fuelled by the local coal, was opened in 1951.

* The Howard Power Station closed in 1980.

* The last mine in the Burrum coal field closed in 1997.


Visitor Information

There is a small unofficial Visitor Information Centre in Howard located at 56 Steley Street, Howard (opposite the 20 hour stop over for RV's).  It is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am till 3pm. The closest major visitor centre is the Hervey Bay Visitor Information Centre, 227 Maryborough Hervey Bay Road, Urraween, tel: (07) 4196 9600 or 1800 811 728.


Useful Websites

The University of Queensland site on Howard has detailed information about the town's history. Check out http://queenslandplaces.com.au/howard.

Got something to add?

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

10 suggestions
  • Is there an original street map from when the town was settled and subdivided?

    Amanda greener
  • There is now a small unofficial Visitor Information Centre in Howard located at 56 Steley Street, Howard (opposite the 20 hour stop over for RV’s). It is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am till 3pm. Devonshire Teas and local Arts & Crafts are available for sale.

    Burrum District Community Centre Assoc Inc
  • We were grateful for the RV stop and so decided to support the town by purchasing items at the bakery and having dinner at the pub!
    Thank you Howard for offering this site even though the town has a caravan park … we would have driven past if not for the RV stop.

  • I lived in Howard from birth January 1942 to 1943, my Elder Brother (by 10 years) & Sister (by 6 years) both went to Howard Primary School) Our Father had a small Dairy Farm & supplied the milk to the town as the local Milkman from the 1930’s until 1943 when we moved to Port Kembla N.S.W. We have a number of relatives ‘residing’ in the Howard Cemetery. My parents,younger sister & I drove back to Howard in 1950 in our 1949 Ford Prefect – Dad wanted to visit old friends, he was 90 years old when I drove him back there again in 1996.

    Rod. Roderick.
  • Thank You Howard for the RV stop- we purchased meat $34, Groceries $61, Veg $6.50. We also had a couple of beers at the hotel. We had a walk around town to look at the lovely houses and gardens.

    Sue Burnside
  • I am coming into Howard via Geelong Vic on the train on Tuesday 27 April – Is there a bus service to Hervey Bay around 3pm?

    Melinda Rau-Wig
  • William Howard, born 1838 died 1930, was my great great great grandfather.
    He married Elizabeth Broom.

    Wendy Cutting
  • Coal was discovered on the banks of the Burrum River by the Miller brothers in 1863.

    Camilla Grant
  • Sign on front fence of Brooklyn House – currently closed for restoration. 21/6/2021

    Christine Lucas
  • Howard was the home of Andrew Fisher, Australia’s first Labor Prime Minister. The house in which he lived is in Watkins Street. It is a privately owned house but there is a plaque in front garden recognising this fact.

    Faye Lynette Wilkes-Johnson