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Surat, QLD

Small rural service centre on the banks of the Balonne River

Surat is located on the on the banks of the Balonne River and, in recent times, has risen to prominence because of the vast oil reserves in the Surat Basin. Historically its primary function was as a rural service centre to the surrounding properties.


Surat is located 81 km south of Roma and 447 km west of Brisbane.


Origin of Name

The town was surveyed by James Burrowes in 1850. Burrowes named the town after his home, Surat, in India, and named most of the streets after members of his family including Charlotte, William, Bertha and in the case of the main street, Burrowes.


Things to See and Do

Cobb & Co Changing Station Museum
Located at 62 Burrowes Street the Cobb & Co Changing Station Museum was opened in 2016. It is a free museum located at the original site of the Cobb & Co Store where coach travellers and goods were dropped off in Surat. The museum houses a number of permanent displays including "Changing Ways" which looks at the importance of Cobb & Co to the district; "All Among The Wool" which has an exhibit about the local wool industry; "Cobb's Store" which looks at the importance of general stores in rural communities; "The Wealth of Warroo" which covers the events, milestones and memories of the old Warroo Shire; and "Following the Flow" which chronicles the role of the Murray-Darling River system and its importance as a national resource. It also houses a 14-seater Cobb & Co coach, a 25,000 litre freshwater aquarium, a social history museum and the local art gallery. For more information tel: (07) 4626 5136.
It is worth noting why Cobb & Co loom so large in the history of Surat: ""Fred (Tommy) Thompson was the last man to drive the Cobb & Co Coach from Surat to its final destination at Yuleba in 1924. It was to be the last Cobb and Co (stage)coach run in Australia. On Thursday morning the 14th August 1924, with the ground being quite muddy, Fred took the reins of Coach No 141, for the last time and drove the 75 km between Surat and Yuleba. The following Saturday Fred did the return run in a seven-seater International truck." There is a monument to the event outside the Surat Post Office.

Shire Hall
The Shire Hall, a wonderful and unusual timber building which stands on the corner of Cordelia and William Streets, was designed by Harry Marks, opened in 1929 and has subsequently been Heritage Listed. The register explains that "Harry Marks was an innovative and idiosyncratic designer who introduced a number of his inventions into buildings he designed, including the patented Austral window. On a number of occasions Marks designed windows especially for a commissioned building and the windows in the Warroo Hall are a distinctive feature of the design. They pivot to improve ventilation, a particular interest of Marks'." Its importance is noted as "The Warroo Shire Hall is a fine and intact example of a timber shire hall of its era, catering for both administrative and social functions in its design. It has rooms for shire offices, with a large hall, stage, projection booth and small kitchen to the rear. Its toilets and separate supper room are now modern structures" For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=602612. It has the name Alex J Simpson on the clock face rather than the numerals measuring the hours.

Astor Picture Theatre
Located at 77 Burrowes Street and listed on the Queensland Heritage Register because "The Astor is rare as one of the very few early picture theatres remaining in Queensland that have not been adapted for other uses. Alterations have been made over the years to improve its function as a picture theatre, rather than to accommodate changed use. It retains two early projectors in the bio box." The entry adds that "Surat Pictures Limited was formed in 1925 when W Kitson sought building approval for the construction of a picture theatre in the main street of Surat. This was an open-air picture theatre comprising an earth-floored enclosure, a canvas screen at the rear and a shallow building along the street frontage containing a foyer with a projection booth above it. This type of structure was the cheapest and simplest kind of purpose built film venue and was not uncommon at the time in the warmer parts of Australia, though many of them were later roofed over." For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=602352.

Freedom Tree
Located in the memorial park on the corner of Marcus & Charlotte Streets, this simple sculpture of a tree has photographs of those people from Surat who served Australia in various wars. It was originally located outside the local RSL but, in 2015, it was moved to its current location at Memorial Park. The inscription reads: "The Freedom Tree is a community memorial dedicated to honour the gallant young men and women from Surat, who enlisted in any theatre of war.  It was inspired by a poem called "They Fought To Keep Me Free", written by local devoted RSL supporter Jillian Ward, who then collected the soldiers` photographs. The trees photographic panels represent sections of leaves and the design allows the panels to move and shimmer in the sun, as many eucalypt tree leaves do.  The solid outline serves to envelop the servicemen and servicewomen, and is presented in bright blue to resonate the RSL`s implication of a willingness to render assistance to any fellow servicemen and servicewomen under the blue sky." For more information check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/conflict/multiple/display/107433-the-freedom-tree.

River Walk
There is a park on the banks of the Balonne River which is a pleasant spot for a picnic. It is part of a 2 km walk (it takes around 45 minutes) along the Balonne River which has footbridges, viewing platforms over the river, a water fountain and, beyond the bridge over the river, there is an Aboriginal interpretative shelter which tells the story of local Aboriginal families. The river is also home to impressive birdlife. There is a detailed, downloadable brochure (complete with a map) at http://www.mymaranoa.org.au/residents/sports-recreation/Documents/Trails%20of%20the%20Maranoa.pdf.

Surat Aboriginal Interpretative Shelter
Located by travelling east along Burrowes Street, following Byrmount Road and then following the signs, the Surat Aboriginal Interpretative Shelter is a series of storyboards, housed within an interpretative centre, which tell the story of the original Mundy/Cleven camp where many local indigenous people lived in humpies until the late 1960s. The storyboards offer a fascinating insight into the Cleven Family and the Mundy Family. There is a brochure available at the Surat Visitor Information Centre inside the Cobb & Co Changing Station.


Other Attractions in the Area

Surat Basin Oil and Gas Field
Located 80 km south of the town Bounty Oil and Gas NL operate the Surat oil field. On their website they explain: "Bounty acquired 100% of ATP 470P (Formosa Downs and Redcap) which contains the Weribone East gas accumulation discovered in the Triassic age Rewan Formation.  The main target in this permit is gas/condensate in the Tinowan Formation Sands in a similar structural setting to the Churchie Gas Field to the north. The Wallabella Coal is over 16 metres thick in this area, is very gassy and offers unconventional potential similar to the Farawell Prospect in ATP 754P Southern Surat basin ... Hydrocarbons in this part of the Surat Basin are generated in the underlying Bowen Basin Permian sequence and are liquids rich.  Oil is also trapped in the Triassic age Showgrounds Sandstone and in the Jurassic Age Evergreen Formation." It is estimated that the "potential recoverable resources" are between 200,000 and 300,000 barrels." For more on the geology of the area check out https://web.archive.org/web/20090207014814/http://www.ga.gov.au/oceans/ea_Surat.jsp.

Driving Cobb & Co Way - Surat to Yuleba
There is an excellent brochure, available at the Surat Visitor Information Centre inside the Cobb & Co Changing Station, which details the 17 places of interest along the road from Surat to Yuleba. This is a rare opportunity to experience (while driving your car) what it must have been like to travel with Cobb & Co. There are a number of changing stations along the route - where the horses were changed and the travellers took a much-needed break - and the route passes the beautiful Frogmore Lagoon which is ablaze with waterlilies between December and May. The brochure provides fascinating details about the journey which took 10-11 hours and cost £1.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Mandandanji Aboriginal people.

* The area around Surat was first explored by Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1846 when, on his fourth expedition, he passed through the region while attempting to find an overland route from Boree to Port Essington in the Northern Territory. 

* The town was surveyed by James Burrowes in 1850. 

* A Court of Petty Sessions was established in the town in 1859. That same year saw the building of a local pub.

* Land in the town was offered for sale in 1863.

* A Universal church was opened in 1870.

* A school was opened in the town in 1874.

* A Jockey Club was formed in 1878.

* In 1879 Cobb & Co began servicing Surat from St George.

* In 1911 a hospital was opened.

* The last Cobb & Co coach from Yuleba to Surat ran in 1924.

* By 1925 the town had an open air picture theatre.

* The Shire Hall was opened in 1929.

* Reticulated water reached the town in 1951.

* In 1953 electricity was connected to the town.

* In 1964 a Secondary School was created in the town.

* A Public Library opened in the Cobb & Co Changing Station in 1997.

* In 2011 the Balonne River broke its banks and a flood surrounded the town.


Visitor Information

Surat Visitor Information Centre, Cobb & Co Changing Station, 62 Burrowes Street, tel: (07) 4626 5136.


Useful Websites

There is a brief overview of the town at https://www.queensland.com/en-au/destination-information/surat.

Got something to add?

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12 suggestions
  • Just wondering if when the top pub burned down would be a part of Surat history, being as it was the biggest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere … at the time anyway,not sure about now…Just a thought hey.

    Michelle Stephenson (nee Burow)
  • My great grandfather George Osborne Howe built the New Royal Hotel in Surat in 1914 and it was the biggest cypress pine building in the region at that time. All of the cypress pine came from Yuleba by dray to build it. Quite a feat in those days. It burnt to the ground in 1977 due to the oil in a deep fryer catching alight. The fire spread quickly due to the cypress walls. The glow lit up the night sky as if it was daylight and the cypress was splitting and throwing huge embers across town. It was fortunate nothing else ignited that night. It was a historical building, beautifully designed and built. I am very proud of my great grandfather for building such an amazing place and was fortunate to have walked through it in my youth knowing that he built it.

    Jillian Waud. Surat. Qld
    • Hi Jill . Pub burnt down in 1967 I think . We left Surat in January 71 and the pub had gone and Sandy was in his new shop where the Cobb and Co museum is now .
      The pub was a magnificent structure . Sandy and Betty lived there for a little while after they were married .

      Damian Thompson
      • Hi Damien,
        I have been trying to find photos of the old New Royal Hotel and wondering if anyone has any. My parents Lial and Ve Colbert ran the pub round 1958 to 1960. I have some great memories of the place. I remember Sandy Thompson’s store. It certainly was an amazing building. There were numerous outbuildings too.

        Peta Wilson
  • I have found a news article and photo of the coach that was sent in July of 1927 to the National Museum Canberra. It was on Trove from the Daily Standard Brisbane newspaper Friday 22 July 1927. Tried to attach here but not able however there is the link for you.

    Mark Rowland
  • As CBS bank ledgerkeeper 1956-59 I lived in The Commercial Hotel, owned by Mrs Butler ( 93+yrs) who also owned the barber/billiard saloon, & bakershop & bakery next door. The hotel was also burnt down (seems a Surat fetish- burn the pubs!) but I don’t know when. Sewerage was installed in 1957 & new high level bridge built in 1958 by Steinhoffer, bridge engineer. Hospital was also destroyed by fire `57-58.League team rejuvenated in `57, & Warroo Shire sewerage workforce comprising many Gatton/Laidley lads gained the solid following of the locals. Harry Howe ran a local store `56-9, & Keith Burow was the very well regarded shire clerk.

    David Bartholomew
  • On Saturday 30//5/56 in Matt Reid’s mail coach from Roma we crossed 5 road floodings before reaching Surat over the then low level bridge. Sergeant O`Sullivan was police officer, Fossey was post master, Reg Ladner was bank manager, Stan Barry was movie theatre proprietor, Kenny Moo was market gardener (& SP bookie), Sandy Thompson clothing store (under New Royal), Graham Wood was NZ Loan manager, Cobb & Co museum was Webb Stores owned & run by Mr & Mrs Webb, Guleys owned a milk bar (& town cab), & Steve Castrisos owned other milk bar (& was league referee- but repped Qld in Union).The town had 2 unusual local workers at the 2 garages, both having been Yugoslav prisoners of war, named Janos Nyari, & Zulton Urban, both single & each living at separate hotels.

    David Bartholomew
  • In the history section it says that in 2011 the Balonne river broke it’s banks and flooded the town of Surat. This is not true as Surat is built on the high side of the River and has never flooded thanks to the amazing work of Surveyor James Burrowes. The town has been surrounded by water due to creeks rising during the floods but has never been inundated by floodwater. The Balonne, when she floods stretches 10 miles wide on the low side towards Roma, therefore dispersing it’s water northwards not into town.

    Jillian Waud. Surat. Qld
  • Given Surat is such a new settlement and only a handful of generations old, it would be great to include the majority of information on the traditional owners for some 30,000 years. As we travel through the area the number of coolamon scar trees and obvious land management is much like those along the Castlereagh…..so warming to the heart

    Gordon Ross
  • My only experience of Surat was when Teddy Dowling (Electrician ) and I (apprentice electrician) connected two service station petrol bowsers to the town electrical supply sometime in 1954 .That was the only time I visited Surat even though I had lived in St.George for nearly 17 years.

    I think the service station was in the main street not far from a hotel we stayed at for one or two nights.

    Ross Pengilley