Gympie's name derives from the Kabi (the language of a tribe of Indigenous Australians that historically lived in the region) word gimpi-gimpi (which means "stinging tree"), which referred to Dendrocnide moroides. The tree has large, round leaves that have similar properties to stinging nettles. The town was previously named Nashville, after James Nash, who discovered gold in the area in 1867. The name was later changed to Gympie in 1868.
Map of gold mining leases and claims on the Deep Lead, 1869
Graziers were the original European settlers. Subsequently, James Nash reported the discovery of 'payable' alluvial gold on 16 October 1867. At the time of Nash's discovery, Queensland was suffering from a severe economic depression. Nash probably saved Queensland from bankruptcy. A memorial fountain in Gympie's Park honours Nash's discovery. The Gympie Gold Rush Festival celebrates the event today. The Gold Rush Festival holds 10 days of cultural events in October.Gold mining still plays a role in the area's fortunes, along with agriculture (dairy predominantly), timber and tourism. The gold rush's rapid development led to streets that are in an irregular fashion.
Gympie Creek Post Office opened on 1 December 1867. It was renamed Gympie in 1868.
Gympie Hospital, 1891
The railway from Maryborough completed in 1881. The North Coast railway linked Gympie to Brisbane in 1891. A fire brigade was in operation in 1900. The state declared Gympie a town in 1903. A powdered milk factory began operations in 1953.
Lower Mary Street, c.1925
Gympie residents head for higher ground during the flooding in 1870
Significant floods along the Mary River have caused inundations of the town in 1893, 1955, 1968, 1974, 1989, 1992, 1999, 2011 and 2013. The first recorded flood in Gympie was in 1870. Most of the floods occur between December and April and are typically caused by heavy rainfall in the headwaters to the south.
The highest flood ever recorded in Gympie occurred on 2 February 1893 when the river peaked at 25.45 m. Gympie was declared a natural disaster area during the 1999 floods. The river peaked at 21.9 m then.
Numerous highways and roads in and around the town which were destroyed or damaged during floods in 2011 was repaired under Operation Queenslander, the name given to post-flood reconstruction efforts in Queensland.
Many attractions are in and around Gympie. The Gympie Gold Mining and Historical Museum houses memorabilia from the early gold mining era, as well as displays showcasing military, rural, transport, communications, and steam development in Australia. The WoodWorks Museum provides an insight into the timber industry and social history of yesteryear through displays and demonstrations. Features include a large selection of pioneering hand tools, a 1925 Republic truck, bullock wagons, and a blacksmith shop.
The Valley Rattler steam train winds its way through the backyards of the southern side of Gympie and then continues west into the scenic Mary Valley where it crosses and then follows the Mary River to negotiate the valley and the Mary's main tributaries. The tourist train began operations in 1996. It provides a spectacular journey through the valley beginning at the Old Gympie Railway Station in Tozer Street. This station is the original railway station for the track that passed through Gympie in the 1900s gold rush. Unfortunately, the 'Rattler' is currently out of commission due to concerns of track safety. The local community, business, and council people are all working together to find funding for track repair work and formulate plans for the ongoing management and maintenance of the operation.
The Mary Valley has a stunning landscape of rolling green pastures and many beautiful forests. The countryside is spectacular with an abundance of curves, gradients, and bridges. Steep slopes portray a patchwork of pineapples, macadamia nuts, and other crops. The towns of the valley include Dagun, a pretty little ten-house town and Amamoor which hosts the National Country Music Muster, held annually in August. The muster is held over six days and nights in the Amamoor Forest Reserve. Featuring 13 venues full of diverse music, the muster is the largest outdoor country music festival in Australia. The Mary Valley Scenic Drive also travels through Kandanga and Imbil.
Gympie's Mary St offers a wide array of bars, cafes, banks and stores with stunning 19th Century Victorian architecture. The historic Railway Hotel was built in 1915 and is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register. In 2011, the Gympie Town Hall Reserve Complex was added to the Queensland Heritage Register. The two-storey building was built in 1890 and has a clock tower.
Gympie also hosts the Heart of Gold International Short Film Festival in March. The festival is five days of fun, inspiration, and stimulation. Highlights include short films from all corners of the planet, special features and documentaries, parties, seminars, intimate Q & A sessions with filmmakers, and an award ceremony.
About 15 minutes south-east of Gympie, subtropical rainforest and spectacular rocky creeks make the Mothar Mountain rock pools a popular retreat for locals and visitors. Crystal-clear water gently cascades over ancient granite outcrops at Woondum National Park. Facilities include picnic tables, barbecues, firewood, fresh water, amenities, and bush-walking tracks. Access is by dirt road and requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
About 30 minutes' drive east of Gympie is Tin Can Bay, where one can hand-feed rare Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphins in their natural environment. The feeding is regulated for the protection of the dolphins. Tin Can Bay is the southern access point to the Great Sandy Strait, a stunning aquatic playground protected by World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. The strait is an important ecological area with marine turtles, dolphin pods, dugongs, migrating humpback whales and valuable roosting area for migratory birds.
Gympie, Mary Valley, Tin Can Bay, Rainbow Beach, and Cooloola are part of the Great Sandy Biosphere which gives worldwide recognition of the outstanding natural beauty and high levels of biodiversity in this region.
One Mile State School opened in 1869 as One Mile Boys State School with the One Mile Girls and Infants State School opening in October 1874. In January 1943, they were merged into One Mile State School.
Gympie East State School opened on 25 January 1965.
Gympie South State School  opened on 4 July 1910.
State secondary schools include:
James Nash State High School opened on 24 January 1977.
Gympie State High opened on 29 January 1912. This school is one of the oldest state secondary schools in Queensland.
The Queensland Government had plans to build a dam on the Mary River at Traveston Crossing, about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) south of Gympie, arguing that there is sound geology and that the South East Queensland region needed greater water security due to the threat of climate change and population growth. The project was scrapped in 2010.