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Fernvale, Queensland facts for kids

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Fernvale Main Street.JPG
Brisbane Valley Highway, Fernvale
Fernvale is located in Queensland
Location in Queensland
Population 3,209 (2016 census)
 • Density 115.43/km2 (299.0/sq mi)
Postcode(s) 4306
Area 27.8 km2 (10.7 sq mi)
Time zone AEST (UTC+10:00)
LGA(s) Somerset Region
State electorate(s) Lockyer
Federal Division(s) Blair
Localities around Fernvale:
Wivenhoe Pocket England Creek Banks Creek
Vernor Fernvale Lake Manchester
Vernor Fairney View Borallon

Fernvale is a rural town and locality in the Somerset Region, Queensland, Australia. In the 2016 census, the locality of Fernvale had a population of 3,209 people.

It is a rapidly developing rural township located within the urban footprint of the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2009–2031.



Fernvale falls within the area formerly occupied by the Indigenous Jagera people.

Just upstream from Fernvale is a significant archaeological site known as Platypus Rockshelter, a double chambered weathered cavity in conglomerate cliff, now largely inundated by Wivenhoe Dam. The site was excavated as a salvage operation in the late 1970s. Excavation recovered thousands of stone artifacts, associated with large amounts of shellfish (predominantly freshwater mussel), mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish bones.

European settlement

Following the British Government’s establishment of a penal settlement where the city of Brisbane now stands, an embargo was placed on the occupation of land within fifty miles of the ‘closed’ penal establishment. Several officers of the colony made journeys of exploration up the Brisbane River, passing through the area which would become Fernvale. After Alan Cunningham’s discovery in 1828 of Cunninghams Gap a wave of squatters travelled from Sydney via the inland areas of New England and the Darling Downs, bringing sheep to settle on the rich pastures of the Brisbane Valley, taking up runs of tens of thousands of acres.

When the embargo was lifted in 1842, the first Europeans to select land and settle in the Fernvale area were Edmund Blucher Uhr and his brother, whose river frontage run they called Fernie Lawn. This large, unfenced holding which included the area now known as Fernvale was purchased from the Uhr brothers by the North family early in 1843. Wivenhoe, the adjoining station higher up the Brisbane River, was then taken up by Edmund Blucher Uhr and J. S. Ferriter until it too was bought by the North family in 1849. Part of this land was called North’s Pocket, now known as Wivenhoe Pocket.

It is said that the future township of Fernvale became a known stop for bullock wagons and cattle drovers, who frequently camped by the river overnight before crossing en route to the rapidly growing timber and grazing areas to the north.

When New South Wales passed the Agricultural Reserves Act 1861 and a new wave of settlers moved into the area, Fernie Lawn was divided into smaller selections, with land for sale at £1 per acre and cultivation and fencing to be carried out by the purchaser. These first selectors were predominantly Scots and English, followed by the end of the 1860s by increasing numbers of German settlers. Descendants of many of these early settlers remain in the area today. Farmers engaged in mixed cropping and dairying, and cotton was widely grown in the area in response to the world shortage caused by the American Civil War. Cotton ginneries were established by Carl Sahl at Fernie Lawn and by Cribb & Foote at Stinking Gully. Fernvale at the time consisted of two areas - Harrisborough, named after Harris Brothers cotton stores, and Stinking Gully named after the water course which separated the two areas. The name Stinking Gully was officially changed to Ferny Gully in 1930.

The old blacksmith, the tennis court (made by hand from termites nests and river water), the first bakery, Cribb and Foote’s store, the earliest churches, have all gone. But the butcher shop, first opened in remains unchanged, the old dance hall is now ‘Down to a Tea’ tea rooms, and the new ‘Old Fernvale Bakery’ has an interesting collection in its café of memorabilia and photos of days gone by.


In 1869, the first German Baptist church services, at first known as the Church of Christ, began in Fernvale followed by the first Methodist church in the Brisbane Valley at Fernvale in 1871. In 1886, the Church of Christ built a new church two miles away at Vernor. Catholic and Anglican services were continued for some time by itinerant priests who travelled widely through the Brisbane Valley.

The first Methodist church in the Brisbane Valley was built at Fernvale in 1872, on land close to the river, donated by Emmanuel Denman. The Primitive Methodist Chapel was moved to the present site in 1882 due to its vulnerability to floods. The church which occupies that site today was built in 1894. It has recently been donated to the Fernvale Lions Club, in preparation for the building of a community centre, and will be moved across the road as the first stage of a Lions Park.

Fernvale Community Church holds Sunday morning services in the Fernvale Community Hall.


Savages Crossing Fernvale
Savages Crossing over the Brisbane River, 2014

In 1884, the Brisbane Valley railway line opened as far as Lowood, later continuing to Esk and eventually as far as Blackbutt, allowing fast efficient transport of produce to the markets in Brisbane and Ipswich. The Brisbane Valley line survived for a century, until 1989. The line has been removed and the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail created over much of its length.

Social life and sport

Social life and sport in Fernvale were always strong. In the last years of the nineteenth century ploughing competitions were held near the river crossing. Town sports days brought people in from outlying districts, and the Fernvale cricket, tennis and football teams were keenly followed. During and between the World Wars numerous fund-raising dances and music evenings were held in the Old Fernvale Hall.

In 1947, the Fernvale Camp Draft Association was formed. Campdrafting has strengthened over the years and an annual campdraft is still held every year in March at the Fernvale Showgrounds. Since 1985 the showgrounds are also home to the Lowood-Fernvale Pony Club.

The Fernvale Indoor Sports Centre, opened in 2010, incorporates a gymnasium and a four court sports stadium, offering indoor cricket, futsal, netball, indoor touch football, junior indoor sports and cheerleading. The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, for horse-riding, cycling and walking, may be accessed at Fernvale Memorial Park.

Fishing, swimming and non-motorised water sports are permitted on nearby Wivenhoe Dam. Since the 2011 floods debris remains in the river, making the formerly popular sport of canoeing temporarily hazardous. River access points close to the town may be found at Savages Crossing, Geoff Fisher Bridge and Twin Bridges.


Following World War II a shortage of men and materials led to a drift away from the area. Dairying has been replaced by beef cattle, and a small amount of mixed cropping continues in the surrounding farmlands.


StateLibQld 1 124815 Engraving of the Vernor family rescued during the February flood near Fernvale, 1893
An engraving depicting the Vernor family rescue

The Brisbane River valley has always been troubled by alternating drought and flood, and Fernvale and Wivenhoe Pocket have several times been inundated, with many homes and buildings washed away. In the devastating flood of 1893 the flood reached a height of about {{convert|24|ft}} above the 1890 flood level and occurred so rapidly that little could be saved.

In the 1980s the building of the Wivenhoe Dam brought new employment and families into the area. In 2011, the town was once again badly affected by floods, with one hundred and twelve homes inundated in Fernvale and twenty-five in Vernor. Residents also described an abundance of snakes in the floods.


The Fernvale State Primary School and Goodstart preschool Learning Centre are located in Fernvale. Medical facilities include a medical centre and pathologist, baby clinic, optometrist, dentist.

Public transport is limited, with a weekday workers bus from Toogoolawah to Ipswich operated by TransLink, a shoppers bus operating on Thursdays by Coast and Country Coaches, and a daily bus, school days only, by Valley of the Lakes coaches. School buses operate to transport children to schools, and a VIP Transport operate a medical transport service.


Fernvale School opened as Harrisborough School in 1874, in an eighty by twenty feet cotton store purchased along with a four roomed separate building and two forty acre blocks of land, for £400 from cotton merchants J & G Harris. At the time, Fernvale comprised two separate areas: Harrisborough, named after the Harris Brothers stores, and Stinking Gully named after the water course which separated the two areas. Although the town changed its name to Fernvale when the new Telegraph Office opened in 1879, the school retained the old name until 1889, the last establishment in the town to change.

When the first headmaster, Thomas Barrett Guppy, opened the school on 11 May 1874, he found that all of the children were picking cotton and none attended the new school until after the cotton harvest was in. The school opened with fifty-four pupils, most of them from German speaking families.

In 1910, ten acres of the original eighty were fenced in, and in 1915, the old Harris Brothers store no longer being safe, a new school was built and the old building sold and removed. Various attempts have been made to move the school closer to the centre of Fernvale but it remains where it started.

The Fernvale State School presently has upwards of nine hundred pupils. Extra-curricular activities include Wakkirri drama group, school choir, chess club and an instrumental band. A strong P & C supports the school and runs the Fernvale Markets in the school grounds. A Centenary booklet is available for perusal.

Post Office

The Fernvale post office had its beginnings in 1879 as a combined post and telegraph office in Cribb and Foote’s Store, where Abraham Phelps was manager. In those early days, when isolation meant that news from overseas was anxiously awaited, mail was brought by bullock team, and later by horse-drawn coach. When the railway line was built through the district, the post office was transferred across the road to the Phelps home, adjacent to the railway station. Mail was delivered onwards to outlying farms by mail contractors, at first on horseback or by horse and cart, and later by car. In 1963, a new Postmaster, Mr Noonan, took over the Post Office in Fernvale after 84 years of faithful service by the Phelps family.

The Old Fernvale Hall

Down to a Tea tearooms, Fernvale
The Old Fernvale Hall

The scene of dances, balls, musical evenings, wedding receptions and fetes, the Old Fernvale Hall was the centre of social life in Fernvale from 1934 through to the 1980s, when it was replaced by the new, and larger, community hall. During the depression years dances and fund raising evenings were run by local personality Mr August Stumer. In more recent years it was used for guides, church services and dances. Today the hall houses a Pilates studio.

Community Hall and showgrounds

Fernvale held its first campdraft in 1947 on part of Mr Mat Powell’s property and the Fernvale Campdraft Association was formed. Campdrafting has strengthened over the years in Fernvale and an annual campdraft is still held in March in what is now known as Colin Powell Reserve. Since 1985 the showgrounds are also home to the Lowood-Fernvale Pony Club. Among other functions, the Community Hall is used by the Fernvale Community Church for its weekly church services.


Every Sunday morning, from 6am until noon, the Fernvale Markets are open in the Fernvale Primary School grounds. The country markets feature more than a hundred stalls selling fruit and vegetables, often direct from the local farmer, homemade preserves, second hand goods and books, local crafts, handmade soaps, pets and poultry and a large variety of plants. The market is run by the school’s Parents and Citizens Association and has been operating since 1988.

Fernvale Futures Complex

Fernvale Futures
Fernvale Futures Complex, 2012

In 2005, when the Wivenhoe Alliance completed its upgrade of nearby Wivenhoe Dam, South East Queensland’s primary water supply and flood mitigation dam, the upgrade was completed six months ahead of schedule and 10% below budget. Wivenhoe Alliance approached the then Esk Shire Council to see if the money could be used in a project that would benefit the community of Fernvale. The Fernvale Futures Partnership was formed. The Fernvale Memorial Park was upgraded and the Fernvale Futures Complex was built to resemble the old Fernvale Railway Station and was opened in September 2006.

The Fernvale Futures Complex incorporates an accredited tourist information centre manned by a team of volunteers and has facilities for meetings and conferences, with smaller rooms for visiting specialists and counselling. The complex also serves the community in such diverse ways as providing public access to computers and printing services, meeting rooms for social groups, training courses, workshops and exhibitions. In 2011, Fernvale Futures Complex was converted into a temporary shelter and Flood Relief Centre for families affected by the Brisbane River flood.

Memorial Park

The Fernvale Memorial Park stands on the site of the old railway goods yards in the centre of Fernvale, adjacent to the Fernvale Futures Centre, and offers a children’s playground, picnic tables, car parking, toilets, and access to the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. The park was upgraded to its present standard in 2006 as part of the Wivenhoe Alliance legacy project following the upgrade of the Wivenhoe Dam.

The Brisbane Valley Railway survived for a century. The first stage, from Ipswich to Lowood, opened in 1884 and the last train ran in 1989. There was a time when these yards buzzed with horse-drawn carts and bullock wagons bringing in the produce of the surrounding farms to be loaded on the trains for transport to the markets of Ipswich and Brisbane.

Traces of the days of rail transport can still be seen in the park. Some steel track remains, and a lever for switching trains to a loop siding. The siding led to a crane which swivelled by means of a wheel running on a circular rail. A hand-held rope on the 'bundle of goods' was all that was needed to guide the crane, the base of which still remains in the park, a small octagonal concrete platform close to the public car park. Corn, pumpkins, potatoes, fruit, timber, all manner of produce was loaded here. A cream shed stood where the picnic tables are today, and cattle yards held beef cattle which had been walked in by drovers from outlying grazing properties, ready to be loaded into the wagons. On the far side of the park, bordering on Clive Street, the stationmaster’s house still stands, and the Real Estate office beside the park was originally the Post Office, collecting mail each day from the train, an improvement on the days when it came by bullock wagon.

Fernvale Memorial Park
Fernvale Memorial Park

On 7 December 2002 the 8.3 kilometres (5.2 mi) Fernvale to Lowood section of the disused Brisbane Valley Railway opened as part of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail a 148 kilometres (92 mi) recreation trail from Ipswich to Blackbutt which provides walkers, cyclists and horse riders an opportunity to experience the history and landscape of the Brisbane River Valley. Each year in July around 800 people assemble in the park to take part in the Fernvale-Lowood Rail Trail Fun Run to raise funds for Diabetes Queensland. The Fernvale War Memorial and flagpole is located near the public car park.

Indoor Sports Centre

This modern facility features two full size playing courts marked for basketball, netball and futsall, two indoor cricket fields and several multi-purpose rooms which serve as gymnasium, group exercise rooms (including yoga, boxercise and aerobics etc.) and a health club.

Community groups

Community and social groups in Fernvale include the Lions Club of Fernvale, Fernvale Women’s Group, Fernvale Social Club (conducted by Ipswich Community Aid Inc.), Fernvale Action Group, Somerset Region Business Alliance (Chamber of Commerce), Fernvale Girl Guides and Fernvale Youth Inc.


The Brisbane River around Fernvale is home to a diverse fauna. including the Queensland lungfish, platypus, red-claw yabby and the freshwater mussel. Other common native animals include the echidna, koala, red-necked wallaby. The feral European fox is also common.

Common birds include corella, galah, king parrot, pale-headed rosella, rainbow and scaly-breasted lorikeet, sulphur-crested cockatoo, glossy black cockatoo, blue-faced and scarlet honeyeater, noisy miner, Indian mynah, masked lapwing, wood duck, whistling ducks, wedge-tailed eagle, osprey, blue fairy wren, red-backed fairywren, double-barred finch, common-bronzewing pigeon, crested pigeon, rainbow bee-eater, channel-billed cuckoo (summer), koel (summer).


Fernvale State School is a government primary (Prep-6) school for boys and girls at Brisbane Valley Highway (27°26′48″S 152°38′39″E / 27.4467°S 152.6441°E / -27.4467; 152.6441 (Fernvale State School)). In 2018, the school had an enrolment of 580 students with 43 teachers (38 full-time equivalent) and 27 non-teaching staff (15 full-time equivalent). It includes a special education program. Extra-curricular activities include Wakkirri drama group, school choir, chess club and an instrumental band. A strong P & C supports the school and runs the Fernvale Markets in the school grounds. A Centenary booklet is available for perusal.

There is no secondary school in Fernvale. The nearest government secondary school is Lowood State High School in Lowood to the west.


Public transport is limited, with a weekday workers bus from Toogoolawah to Ipswich operated by TransLink, a shoppers bus operating on Thursdays by Coast and Country Coaches, and a daily bus, school days only, by Valley of the Lakes coaches. School buses operate to transport children to schools, and a VIP Transport operate a medical transport service.

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