Joadja, NSW

Kerosene shale mining ghost town.

Today Joadja is nothing more than a few remnants of buildings and a reminder of the transient nature of mining towns. The historic village/ghost town was established by the Australian Kerosene Oil and Mineral Company in the late 1870s to mine the vast kerosene shale deposits in the valley walls. It lasted until 1911 and has, for over a century, slowly decayed in the bush to the west of Mittagong.


Joadja is located 135 km south-west of Sydney via the M5 and Hume Motorway. It is 22 km west of Mittagong via the road to Wombeyan Caves.


Origin of Name

There is no strong evidence for the meaning of 'joadja' although some sources believe it means 'valley of plenty' in the language of the Tharawal.


Things to See and Do

Tours of the Town and the Historic Buildings
The remains of the old buildings can still be seen, including the miner's cottages , a schoolhouse, a church, a cemetery and shale ovens for the refinement of kerosene which have a World Heritage listing.

The shale was identified by Edward Carter who set up the mine in the valley. The shale was excavated and heated in brick retorts to draw off the kerosene which was then condensed and purified. Carter then sold the kerosene to the Australian Gas Light Company. Initially it was hard to get the produce to Sydney. It was hauled up the steep valley by bullock teams and then carted in five tonne wagon loads to Mittagong railway station. Later a narrow gauge railway was built. It connected the mine to Mittagong. For details of access to the site and weekend tours tel: (02) 4878 5129 or check out

Joadja Winery
Located on the corner of Greenhills Road and Joadja Road is Joadja Winery and Vineyards. They produce cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malbec and Pinot Gris on the rich volcanic soils of the Southern Highlands. The cellar door is open Monday to Friday from noon to 5.00 pm and on Weekends from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm. tel: (02) 4878 5236 or check out

Joadja Whisky
Given that the first settlers in the area were miners from Scotland, it seems entirely fitting that the valley should now host a boutique whisky distillery. The distillery is in the very early days of production. Check out or tel: (02) 4878 5129.



* Prior to European settlement the area around Berrima was occupied by the Dharawal (Tharawal) Aborigines.

* The first European to explore the area was John Wilson, an ex-convict, who led a party through the area in 1798. Their mission was to find out about the area so they could report to Governor Hunter who wanted to convince deluded Irish convicts that there was not a "New World" of white people living 200 miles south-west of Sydney. During the expedition Wilson shot a lyrebird and the group saw a "cullawine" (koala). On this journey they appear to have followed Joadja Creek to its junction with the Wingecarribee River, just near the future townsite.

* In July, 1805 George Caley, a botanical collector for Joseph Banks and an explorer, travelled through the area collecting specimens.

* In 1814 Hamilton Hume and his brother John, probably in the company of their uncle John Kennedy, explored the area.

* One of the district's first settlers was the explorer John Oxley who, in 1815, drove a herd of cattle into the area and established a property near the site of modern Berrima.

* By the 1840s Benjamin Carter was grazing cattle in the Joadja valley. Edward Carter discovered the kerosene-rich shale.

* Edward Carter began mining in 1874.

* In 1877 the Australian Kerosene Oil and Mineral Company was formed to develop the shale deposits. The company built a refinery; constructed a railway line to Mittagong (it operated from 1880-1903); and erected a town for the miners and their families.

* A post office opened in 1878. In 1878 the employees extracted 5,200 tons of shale from the valley.

* Joadja's population passed 400 in 1879. By this time the town was thriving. It had a theatre, a store, a butcher's, a bakery and a school of arts. Many of the miners came from Scotland. They were housed in cottages made of local bricks.

* In 1881 a mechanical coal-cutter, the first in New South Wales, was introduced.

* By 1882, as a result of the mechanical coal cutter, the output had doubled to 28,000 tons.

* The production exceeded 37,000 tons in 1890.

* By 1893 the valley had been mined out, the mine went into sharp decline and employees were laid off.

* The post office closed in 1900.

* Mining operations ceased in 1903.

* The property was sold in 1911.

* In 1924 the local orchard was finally abandoned.

* Attempts were made to re-establish operations in the 1920s and 1930s but they failed and Joadja became a ghost town.

* In recent times there have been a number of attempts to revitalise the town and develop the surrounding area with little effect.


Visitor Information

The closest Visitor Information Centre to Joadja is the Southern Highlands Visitor Information Centre, 62-70 Main Street, Mittagong, tel: (02) 4871 2888.



There are no accommodation or eating facilities at Joadja.


Useful Websites

The Joadja Creek Heritage Tours website contains useful information. Check out for details.

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11 suggestions
  • We had a wonderful day at Joadja, the tour was amazing, the distillery was very interesting the history was very informative, we had coffee before our tour and then a wonderful lunch which we all enjoyed. We were sorry when it was time to leave. I would certainly recommend a visit to Joadja, . It is a credit to the owners they work very hard to keep it going, so next time you need a different outing try Joadja. I am certainly telling all my friends.

    Thea Blanch
  • I worked at Joadja for 2 years. I have to say it was the best experince that I ever had. I think I’ve never been so fit in all my life. I was in my early 20s. I am now 69 so that was a fair time ago. Up on the top of the valley there were train carriages which people used to stay in. Then they would go down into the valley the following day. There were also tram carriages which were brought down from Sydney. I still have pictures of the train carriages with me – at the time the carriages were two old timers. If anybody thinks there are ghosts – I lived there for 2 years and did not see any.

    bruce edmundson
  • One can buy a coffee/hot chocolate and cake from the local distillery when visiting. Sausage sandwich/roll with onion available after tours on weekends ??
    Tour was extremely well conducted by the Owner, Valero Jiminez, a very knowledgeable individual. A credit to him and his commitment to the area. Well done and highly recommended.

    Stefan H
  • I used to go there as a kid. Tell me is there a bribge across the creek these days, or do we still have to jump from rock to rock.

    Kathleen wenzel
  • Can I camp at Joadja?

    Suzanne DICKSON
  • It would be good to open up an area for self contained vans to help rejuvenate the town as it sounds fascinating. Many country pubs and small towns now provide areas for vans….some on power and water but many for self contained vans. We are presently in a free camp beside a river in NSW and there are many vans here who inject a lot of money into the local community.

    Lyndel Lorrain
  • Had an opportunity in the late 1980’s to walk through the Joadja ghost town freely it was on private property. It was overgrown by blackberry but very interesting & a real shame it is not better looked aftet for all to see.
    I believe it was open to be the public some time after I visited but I never got there again then but would love to go again now.
    Is it ever possible to do a tour now?

    Kathi Hearne
  • Keen whisky tasters we are keen to visit. Member of The GIllies Club of Australia tasting single cask single malt whisky we are looking forward to your experience. Please make contact with us.

    Rodney & AUdrey Tonkin
  • Very interesting information on certainly a most unique part of NSW and Australia’s history! The little excursion was really worthwhile and its great to see the promising preservation attempts.

    Tony Kane
  • Are there any lists of former residents??? Believe my Chant family may have been there in the 1800’s

    Michael Cheeseman