VICTORIA'S GREATEST DRIVING TOURS AND HERITAGE TOWNS
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.
A practical route was surveyed by Alexander Campbell, a highly experienced bushman. By 1867 Cobb & Co coaches used this rugged and often-boggy track - one particular section was called the Glue Pot - for passage to the Walhalla goldfields and East Gippsland. The journey from the Albion Hotel in Melbourne’s Bourke Street, to Walhalla, took twenty-seven hours in winter.
Stables and an accommodation house were built at Brandy Creek, north of the existing location of Warragul; within a few years this coach staging post was a thriving village with two hotels, two churches, banks and shops.
The death knell of the town was soon sounded, however: in 1873 the Victorian parliament mooted construction of a railway between Oakleigh and Sale along a surveyed route to the south of Brandy Creek.
Warragul began as a construction camp for rail workers, and its first building was a simple log store built by James Biram who had the contract to collect mail, by packhorse, from Brandy Creek post office. Other shopkeepers from Brandy Creek followed his example: when the first train arrived in March 1878, the stationmaster appointed to take charge at Warragul found several shops already established.
The Railway department spent 3403 pounds on station buildings; the trackside scene in 1887 was of a fine slate-roofed weatherboard station with broad platform. Adjoining, the north side of Queen Street was lined with shops, banks and hotels. A fire swept down the street in 1888, destroying all the business premises between the Railway Hotel and Bank of Australasia: these were soon replaced by substantial Victorian-era buildings, most of which survive today.
The old weatherboard railway station was replaced in 1918 by a large, rather grand brick building complete with impressive refreshment room.
Roads remained a problem in the newly-proclaimed Shire of Warragul’s development. For decades, settlers used pack-horses for carrying supplies and farm produce on narrow muddy tracks, and many of the town’s streets were constructed of corduroy - split logs laid flat-side up across the dirt surface. In 1920 the Prince’s Highway, built by Victoria’s new Country Roads Board, was opened.
Warragul is today a dairying centre supplying much of Melbourne’s milk. The town is by-passed by the contemporary Prince’s Freeway - perhaps a blessing in disguise as it 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 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 outstanding Warragul Station is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Warragul is surrounded by a patchwork of farmers’ fields, emerald green hills and dales complete with tiny bucolic hamlets. Travelling Gippsland's web of back roads, including the Old Sale Road, is a scenic indulgence.
Getting there: Warragul is located 100km from Melbourne, seventy-five minutes drive on the Princes Highway east of the CBD.
Things to do:
- Coffee at a Queen Street café.
- Country Farm Nursery and Wensley Gardens, Laings Road, Nayook. Edwardian Gardens open daily.
- Drive part of the old coaching route through Brandy Creek.
- The Triangle and memorial, in the heart of Warragul.
- Go to Buln Buln.
- Berry picking in season.
- Regional cheese tasting from specialty makers
- visit the Historical Society Museum in the old shire offices, on Sunday afternoon
- Get some fresh baked country pastries and absorb the peace and quiet of Railway Park.