Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog

The Great Wheelbarrow Race

This morning I found about The Wheelbarrow Race for the first time. Usually people use the wheelbarrow with gardening or carrying something from place to place but now it’s different. People race with it. Basically, The Wheelbarrow Race is people running and pushing the wheelbarrow, but of course there must be a background story.

Fundraising for Cancer Research

In the 1800’s when Cairns used to be a smaller and poorer town and the transportation was limited, people would transfer their things from place A to B with the wheelbarrow. “Dad pushed a wheelbarrow in which were stacked all our belongings. A few pieces of iron which would be used as a shelter, maybe some hessian, a spade, a lantern, a few kitchen things and very little else. Mum and the children walked behind, Mum usually with babe in arms.” ( The wheelbarrow is still being used but it’s not so important anymore as it used to be. Now we have cars, trucks and many other electric devices so the wheelbarrow doesn’t have to be used daily.

The Great Wheelbarrow Race is held annually on the third weekend of May. The event started in 2004, so people have been participating to it for 15 years now.  The event is a fundraising event and so far, the fundraise has gone towards cancer research. From 2007 to 2015 the event has raised $1,576,693 which is according to the website of The Great Wheelbarrow Race “outstanding for any sporting event”.

The competitors run from Chillagoe to Mareeba along the road called “The Wheelbarrow Way”. I have been told that the landscape is amazing by the road. Cattle, horses and wallaby’s and wallaroos can be spotted there just wondering freely.

You can participate to the race as a group or solo. 2013 solo winners Sarah and Chris thought that the race was physically hard, but they are happy that they made it. You can read the whole story with great details from each day from here:

The whole race lasts three days. On the first day you run for 43km, second day 63km and the third and final day 33km. People want to dot it for different reasons. Some want to support the fundraising, some want to challenge their selves with the physically challenging journey and some just want to have fun and enjoy the day and the atmosphere.

Usually there are people watching and supporting the competitors by the road. You might wonder why anyone would want to watch other people run and push a wheelbarrow, but the answer is simple; because it’s fun.

In Mareeba people may want to spend a few days here, there is a few National Parks to discover, with multiple waterfalls, wildlife spotting, bird watching, or you may wish to do a winery or food tour of the region. In Chillagoe the popular thing to do is stargazing and taking a guided tour, by a land ranger to discover the Undara underground lava tubes that stretches over 1,3km (the remains of 100km lava tube). Check out this website for additional ideas along The Wheelbarrow Way

You might also wonder that why people still do this. It is a tribute for the early pioneers who worked in mines or somewhere with challenging conditions to get this town where it is today. It’s an important part of history that the locals like to recognize, reflect and appreciate. The wheelbarrow was an important tool for the trail-blazers. Second reason is fundraising. It is always a good idea to raise money for something significant.

If you are interested with The Great Wheelbarrow Race and want more information or even sign up for it, here is a link to the events website:

Written by Amanda Kestila (Intern at Barefoot Tours)

  • A Barefoot Tours' Tour!

Leave Cairns on an adventure, through World Heritage listed Rainforest, home to stunning waterfalls like Ellinjaa Falls, Josephine falls, Dinner falls & on towards some of the most beautiful locations in the Atherton Tablelands!

  • A Barefoot Tours' Tour!
A$164 A$159

You’ll feel a world away in the Cassowary Coast, at our Quaint Mission Beach town… Snorkel dunk island, Discover Lacey Creek, Swim in a freshwater swimming hole & lax out on the beach or take a short hike to the lookout! If paradise existed this is where is begins.