Approximately two hours east of Melbourne on the C105 Traralgon-Maffra Rd and nestled in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, a walk around Toongabbie is a retreat into times gone by. Established in 1863 as a supply depot and staging post on the road from Port Albert to Walhalla, you will find a number of restored historic buildings that include the heritage-listed Mechanics Institute, traditional colonial timber cottages along King Street and the 1884 St David’s Church.
If you want to start this walk with a wander through the wetlands, park at the CFA station opposite the General Store and head south towards Traralgon on the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail. An interpretive shelter at the car park provides a map of the wetlands where you’ll find a good example of land reclamation. Restored by a collective community effort begun in 2002 to clean up the site, the indigenous vegetation comprises a mix of Callistemons, Cherry Ballart (insert species), She-Oaks (Casuarina sp.), Melaleucas and Tea-Tree (Leptospermum sp.). A rich field of Common Reed (Phragmites australis), Bullrush (Typha orientalis) and Spiny-headed Matrush (Lomandra longifolia) provide a home for the numerous birds you can spot. Seating is available at several points.
There are remnants of the old railway line on the side of the track that hint at another time in Toongabbie’s history, when it was known as the gateway to the Walhalla Goldfields. The railway opened in the 1870s and was a busy centre of transportation for the multitude of miners and their needs. It was not uncommon to see upward of 100 trucks on the rails on any given day during the boom times. After the Goldrush, the township sought to diversify its economic base with other income sources such as marble and oil, which was not successful in the long term. These days, it’s an active farming community.
Make sure to walk around the external surrounds of the General Store, where you’ll find reclaimed farm machinery and wagons that hint at an industrious past. (You can also find other examples as you walk around the town). The magnificent Village Green, popular with cricketers in summer as well as being used for winter sports, houses the Mechanics Institute and Federation Grand Stand.
This is a lovely town, welcoming to visitors and well worth a visit. **If you have some extra time, take a 7.5km trip to Cowwarr where you can visit the Weir (a popular spot for fishing, swimming and kayaking) as well as the old butter factory that has been transformed into an active and impressive art gallery and studio.
The Park Tracks project is an initiative of the Latrobe City Council, which acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the Gunaikurnai nation. Through their cultural traditions, the Gunaikurnai identifies this area as part of their Traditional Country.
It’s not uncommon to meet horse riders on the track as well as dog walkers, joggers and keen birdwatchers.
Important to the Gunaikurnai nation for their basket-weaving properties is a wetlands mix of reeds, the home of numerous birds, frogs, insects and reptiles.
A key piece of infrastructure for the region was the introduction of the railway, signs of which are still evident on the rail trail.
In honour of the first European settler to find gold in what is now called Stringers Creek, this discovery is credited with starting the Walhalla goldrush.
In bloom, this is a superb spot to close your eyes and breathe in the perfume of roses as you reflect on Toongabbie’s history.
A beautifully cared-for 1895 building that features 13 different pressed metal designs on its internal walls is a great place for taking your breath away.
The historic primary school has several areas dedicated to play time as well as an interpretative shelter that provides a historic map of the township.
Constructed in celebration of the federation of Australia, this beautiful building on the Village Green is still used for sporting events and is adjunct to an excellent BBQ and picnic facility.
The General Store not only provides delicious food but has a collection of historic wagons and other farm machinery, as well as a wonderful place to picnic under the trees.