Lakeland is an agricultural region south-west of Cooktown on the inland route, and at the junction of the Mulligan Highway and Peninsula Development Road. It was established in the late 1800s to service the needs of those attracted by the gold rush in the Palmer River Goldfields to the south, and included a large cattle station called Butcher’s Hill which still exists today over a fraction of the area.
These days, Horticulture covers much of the area, taking advantage of the very fertile volcanic soils. Many crops have been trialled in the past, and today you can find watermelons, pineapples, teak, pongamia (for biodiesel), sorghum, paw paws and others. Bananas are the main crop, and in recent years their production has been expanded because Lakeland is just out of reach of the cyclones that sometimes devastate the coastal growing regions. There are now some very large companies investing in the area, and you can see bananas lining the road north along the Peninsular Development Road and to Cooktown.
As you leave Lakeland for Cooktown, you’ll notice a large composting operation on the right, belonging to local producers ‘Swiss Farms’. They are pioneers in adopting management practices on their properties that are reducing their reliance on artificial fertilisers, and their products are distributed Australia wide.