Forsayth, a former mining town, is 300 km south-west of Cairns and 290 km south-east of Normanton. It was part of the Etheridge minerals area and is in Etheridge Shire.
When gold was first discovered at Forsayth in 1871 the area was named Finnigans Camp (the name of the discoverer), but the name changed to Charleston within a year. By the 1890s there were three towns within a few kilometres of each other: West Charleston (surveyed 1885), Charleston (surveyed 1891) and Charleston North (surveyed 1896). Another town, Castleton (1890) was about 10 km south.
The branch railway from the Cairns-Chillagoe line was extended from Einasleigh to Charleston in 1910, and the name of the railway-terminus town (New Charleston) was changed to Forsayth, after the Commissioner for Railways, James Forsayth Thallon. The railway was used mainly for transporting copper ore to the Chillagoe smelters.
In 1911 the post office directory recorded five hotels at the various Charlestons, several stores, the Bank of Australasia and a cyanide plant. By 1917 the number of hotels had fallen to one, but the Charleston District Hospital had opened. There were also a new court house, public hall and school. As the Chillagoe smelters had closed in 1914, Forsayth's economy depended on its role as a railhead. A rumoured extension to Croydon did not eventuate.
During 1924-36 a gold battery operated at Mount Moran, west of Forsayth, and the remains are listed on the Queensland heritage register.
Forsayth is the terminus of the Savannahlander tourist railway, from Cairns via Kuranda and Einasleigh. It is rated as one of the great train journeys of the world and takes 18 hours of travel over two days. The Forsayth railway station is heritage-listed.
Forsayth has the Goldfields Hotel, a hospital, a tourist park and a store. Its school centenary was celebrated in 1995.
In 2004 the Ewamian people surrendered native title over the far northern Queensland townships of Einasleigh, Forsayth, Mt Surprise and Georgetown. In return, they received access to their traditional country through three reserves along with land and housing in Georgetown.
Water was carted to the town in 2013-14 due to dwindling dam levels, prompting calls for a second town dam to be constructed.
Forsayth's census populations have been: