GREATEST DRIVING TOURS AND HERITAGE TOWNS
WHY GO: An easy trip past a quaint village, taking in a scenic ridge-top ride between two historic Gippsland towns.
DISTANCE FROM MELBOURNE: Warragul is 100 kilometres from Melbourne but this round trip is 260 kilometres.
TIME: The round trip is four hours, but allow extra time for sightseeing.
ROUTE: Take South Gippsland Highway, making sure you keep left on the highway just past Lang Lang. On the outskirts of Korumburra, turn left under the railway bridge where sign indicates Warragul. The Korumburra-Warragul Road becomes a narrow, winding road through the hills to Warragul. Return to Melbourne on Princes Freeway.
ON THE WAY: In winter there won’t be many roadside stalls selling farm produce, so head straight for Loch, about a hundred kilometres from the city. Look for the right turn - Loch village has recently been by-passed by a new section of highway, which is a two-edged sword for a little hamlet struggling to attract visitors. However, the town is much quieter these days and browsing several antiques and craft shops is certainly relaxing now that crossing the road is possible. Leaving the village, the highway rises into the hills before arriving at the old coal-mining town of Korumburra. Time it right and you can take a scenic ride on a heritage train to Nyora (phone South Gippsland Tourist Railway on 1800 630 704 for times) or visit Coal Creek Heritage Village, though you’d need a whole day to do them justice. On the Warragul Road, head north and pass Strzelecki Hall, continue to the where a right fork in the road shows a sign “lookout.” A simple concrete picnic table marks the spot, but the magnificent panorama may (not on my day here) extend as far as Wilson’s Promontory and makes up for lack of facilities. Drive the hills and dales, cross the ridge tops where dairy cows graze contentedly on emerald-green grass, pass the western end of Grand Ridge Road, and continue to Warragul.
WHAT TO DO: Warragul is relatively quiet these days - the town is by-passed by the Prince’s Freeway which thankfully buffers the town’s heritage from the rush of passing wheels. Queen Street retains a plethora of architecture from the 19th Century; elegant, ornate facades and arched windows of hotels, shops and banks line the broad footpaths - lacking, unfortunately, last century’s swooping corrugated-iron verandahs, stout wooden posts and cast-iron lace trim.
The old police station, a beautiful old post office and Warragul’s public hall have long gone; the Shire Hall built in 1893 now houses the local historical society, Railway Park remains a peaceful green belt, and Warragul Station is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
This important dairying region was originally thick bush, scrub and dense forest – with some of the tallest timber in Australia. In 1849 Bishop Perry and his wife, escorted by native troopers, set out on horses for Flooding Creek (Sale) east of Melbourne. The journey took four days, and it was duly noted that a road passable to passenger coaches, bullock wagons and stock, was urgently needed.
EATING AND DRINKING: Loch has tearooms if you’ve have called in to the village for a browse, but the next stop would be Korumburra where there’s a couple of hotels open for lunch, or Kelly’s Bakery for pies and rolls (don’t arrive after 2pm, you might miss out). The best bet, if the weather’s fine, is a picnic hamper on the concrete lookout table near Strzelecki. In Warragul you could try the Old Courthouse Restaurant or one of the pubs. If you leave Melbourne late, consider the drive in reverse and stopping for lunch in Warragul first.
©PETER ROBINSON 2007
see my images at www.australianplaces.net
For the past
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