Calen and surrounding towns

The locality of Calen’s heart and the main street is on McIntyre Street and is loosely bounded by One Mile Creek to the south and Blackrock Creek to the north. The land is mostly flat and used for sugar cane and cattle farming, apart from some undeveloped scenic Clarke Ranges across the western boundary of the locality and some small undeveloped hill land in the east. 

The Bruce Highway passes from the south-east to the north-west of the locality. The North Coast railway line runs immediately north and parallel to the highway and town of Calen is located in the south-eastern part of the locality. The old Calen and Kolijo railway stations are no longer in service nor are they located in the town but Calen is full of history and heritage sites including the Calen Picture Theatre, Calen Café, Calen General Store and the Calen District War Memorial Hall.

A sister town of Kolijo is located on the south-eastern edge of the locality, again with the highway and railway passing through it. Calen and Kolijo are separated by St Helens Creek, which might explain the development of two towns less than 1.5 kilometres apart. Saint Helens Creek is well known for the richness of fish species, including the world famous Barramundi. But with a great estuary system also comes crocodiles in north Queensland. The town of Pindi Pindi, bordering Calen by the separation of Blackrock Creek, was famous in 1933 for all the wrong reasons. Two school girls, ages 6 and 10 years, were taken by a 5 meter crocodile while crossing Alligator Creek on their way to school. 

The town of Kolijo takes its name from the former Kolijo railway station which was named on 9 March 1923 by the Queensland Railways Department, reportedly an Aboriginal word, language and dialect not recorded, meaning possum. When we first moved to this area we heard great stories from the older generation about the famous Kolijo Train Station Sausage Rolls, they were said to be the best in the area and people would catch the train from both directions just have one of these famous beauties. Any more knowledge or information on this topic is most welcome and you can email us directly: sthelensgardens@bigpond.com

The town of Calen takes its name from the Calen railway station which was named on 8 February 1924 by the Queensland Railway Department, reportedly being an Aboriginal name, language and dialect unknown, indicating cloud. Both of these railway stations, Calen and Kolijo, were on the North Coast Line Mackay Proserpine that was officially opened on 1st of December, 1923 which linked Townsville to Brisbane. This was one of the last section of line to be built and on this line Mail trains with sleeping cars began running between the two cities. In 1923, the Pioneer Shire Council recommended a new station at St. Helens be named Laceby in honour of early settlers but Railway Department said it was confusing and decided on Kolijo, with suggestion it will be pronounced Calico. Locals now pronounce it COAL-E-JO. Kolijo’s record number of passengers was in 1950 with 4308 that year. 



Moving through the times

Calen State School opened on 24 February 1925 under head teacher Honoria Mary Doherty. In 1963 it expanded to offering secondary schooling (8-10). In 1991 it further expanded to offer secondary years 11 and 12. On 13 December 2003, it was renamed Calen District State College. Now in 2019 it has its own Kindy and takes students from Prep and right through to year 12. Sue Spreadborough and Brian O’Neil are the current Co-Principals, Sue has been teaching a CDSC for 28 Years. 

St Helens Beach, another bordering town of Calen, takes you back in time with a small fishing village, beachside park and BBQ area, tidal boat ramp and excellent views of the start of the 72 Whitsunday Islands. The town was originally known as Wootaroo but was changed to St Helens Beach by the Queensland Place Names Board on 1 April 1973. St Helens was the name of from a pastoral run belonging to pastoralist John McCartney in the 1870s. The word ''beach'' is a reference to the sandy beach along the coastline of the Coral Sea. This beach is also pet friendly which makes for a lovely day trip while camping at our caravan park. Fishing is this area is magic and well worth the stop, with both the tidal boat ramps at St Helens Beach and Murray Creek with is a 15 minute drive from St Helens Gardens Tourist Park, throwing in a line is a must.

In November 2015, three net free zones (NFZ) were established off the east coast of Queensland. One of these NFZ’s is right at our door step from St Helens Beach to Cape Hillsborough. Commercial fishing boats are now prohibited to use nets. This change in the laws has made a huge impact on our fishing, more so catching, in our area. Our estuaries are now flourishing and it’s only been a few years, imagine how the future will look for this area and the fishing community that live and visit every year. 

Calen Post Office became a business by 1933 and is now a valuable part of Calen’s township. Sitting in-between the Calen Police Station and the Calen Butchery right on the Bruce Highway, these 3 businesses help to keep Calen on the map. 

At the 2016 Census, Calen had a population of 390. 




history of the park

St Helens Gardens Tourist Park, originally named – St Helens Caravan Park, was established back in 1957/58 by a local family, Coril and Archie Patterson. Back then the caravan park only consisted of a grassed area of the banks of St Helens Creek for travellers, then Patterson family helped grow the park over the years to have power and water added and an amenities block built. Taken over by a new owners in 1980, Pam and Dennis Brown, the first two cabins were purchased and placed on St. Helens Creekside, and a further 3 cabins added over the years of their ownership. The caravan park is split into two section by a gully, locally named Kolijo Gully, which only really runs in the wet season. The “Top Section” of land was owned by main roads up until 2008 when the Perkins/Schafer Family purchased the caravan park freehold and is now a popular section to camp with 10 large pet friendly sites including power and water. The “Tourist Section” of the caravan park, which incorporates the Amenities Block and now 8 cabins, 22 sites (including 3 drive through sites and 4 un-powered) is the most popular part to the caravan park. The concrete causeway in the main entrance to the park was actually built by the Pioneer Shire Council some time before 1980, a gentleman by the name of Alex Reid was staying in the park at the time and worked on the council, so it was the old sayin “It’s not what you know but who you know” kind of situation we think. We all need one of those mates, don’t we? The swimming pool was added by the Brown family and has since be a great addition to the park, now solar heated and sitting at 25/26oC all year round, it’s a gem. The name “St Helens Gardens” came from the beautiful garden setting the caravan park has, right on St Helens Creek in tropical north Queensland. Our family considered changing the name on purchase in 2008 because of the close town St Helens Beach but decided there was so much history in the naming of this magic park that it had to stay St Helens Gardens.



Sugar cane

The Sugar cane harvesting season runs from June through till November/December annually, which is generally the dry season for this area. Sugar cane can grow anywhere from 9 to 24 months and the Sugar cane will grow to 15 feet in height and requires 60 inches of rain while actively growing but later while ripening requires no rain. It also requires full sun. Sugar cane fields use to be burned off to get rid of excess leaves and weeds but now the harvesting machinery has progressed to do that job for the farmer. Roads in sugar cane areas can be very busy during the crush, as it is commonly known due to the process the sugar cane goes through at the sugar mill, so be very cautious when driving during this period.

Planting is one of the most important farm operations for farmers because it determines the performance of a cane block for up to five years (that is, the plant crop and up to four ratoon crops), depending on the type of cane plant.

A successful crop depends upon the optimum execution of a number of factors, including land preparation, planting time, planting material, planting operation, soil moisture, fertilising, and cultivation.

Australian sugar mills own and operate a network of 4,200 km of narrow gauge (610 mm) railway used by 220 locomotives and 50,000 rail bins. Only seven mills are fully dependent on road transport. Computerised transport scheduling systems help reduce delivery delays. Point of delivery is either on-farm or at a rail siding or dump delivery point.  

Sugarcane is crushed in 30 Australian mills – 26 in Queensland, 3 in NSW and 1 in WA. Ownership of mills in recent years has become more concentrated. In 1980, 19 companies operated 33 mills. Today, 13 companies operate the 30 existing mills. Farmer cooperatives own 13 mills, which produce 40 percent of Australia’s raw sugar.