Historical building make up a large part of East Gippsland, so it is interesting to explore and discover the past…. where we have come from helps us to see where we are headed. Take a walk around many of the local towns & admire what is left of the bygone eras
According to the orginal inhabitants, the Gunai/Kurnai people, “Toonalook” is the real name of our beautiful village. The koori term is translated as meaning “plenty of fish” and we can’t argue with that. The village was settled back in the middle 1850’s by fishermen, pastoralists & traders who took advantage of the number of steamers that stopped off to put down or pick up goods and supplies. If you walk around the town today, you will still see old fishermen’s houses dotted along Langford Parade and Newlands Drive(the extension of The Esplanade) The Old Pub in town is a perfect example of mid to late 19th century Australian architecture, and is probably the only remnant old building left in the main town. On a walk around the foreshore past Sunset Cove you may still be able to spot the remains of old jetty landings used by the steamers all those years ago.
Paynesville/Bairnsdale Road – Mitchell River Silt Jetties
On the drive into Bairnsdale, turn off to the Mitchell River Silt Jetties. The area was used to grow hops around the turn of the century, and you will still be able to see the old shedding, racks and also enjoy a beautiful drive out to the end of this beautiful natura phenomenon.
A number of interesting heritage sights can be found in Bairnsdale. Exploring on foot is a great way to experience them. The Railway Station building in Pyke Street was built in 1891 and by 1909 it was the busiest station on the Gippsland line. By 1927 the Bairnsdale to Melbourne trains carried 29,927 passengers. The train line was extended to Orbost in 1916 but this was deemed to be unviable in the ’70’s and was closed. The Gippsland Historical Museum is well worth a visit. It contains buildings and relics from the very vibrant past of not only Bairnsdale but the whole region. The main brick building was built in 1891 by William McKnockiterm for the Presbyterian Church. From 1891- 1901 it was George Bearhams Bairnsdale College, then St.Andrews College until 1912. Following years it was used as a manse, and private residence. Since 1972 it has been the home of the museum, with the grounds also displaying a variety of equipment, donated from farms throughout the district and even a log cabin reconstructed piece by piece, and taken from the Calagero Station in Glenaladale. The museum overlooks a natural highlight, The Macleod Morass which was named after Bairnsdale’s first settler, Archibald Macleod. It is one of the few remaining
deep fresh-water marshes in Victoria. A 440 metre boardwalk and bird hide enables visitors to experience the inner workings of a wetland.
Other great heritage spots like the Band Rotunda in the Main Street Gardens. It was built in 1911, and was a replica of a rotunda in Cairo, and cost 200 pounds to be built.
The Old Port down on the Mitchell River is a great spot to view the old landing are for the Paddle Steamers. The steamers would tie up and discharge passengers and cargo that were destined for the goldfields in the High Country like Cassilis or Omeo.
Wandering around Bairnsdale you will note a number of historical buildings, but for more detail why not drop in to the East Gippsland Historical Society. They are situated at 40 Macarthur Street, Bairnsdale and are open Wednesday to Sundays 1-4pm. 51 52 6363 (call to ensure open times are correct)
The Great Alpine Road
The Gunai/Kurnai tribe and the Yatmathang tribe used the touring route between Omeo and Bruthen as their traditional travelling route, which we now call the Great Alpine Road. Other routes used were via the Dargo High Plains & Mitta Mitta River.
One of the major reasons why this route was travelled so much, was for the migration to food sources, the Lakes in the cooler months, and the foothills in the Summer. The Bogong Moth or ‘Cori’ was one of the abundant delicacies that was sought.
The tribes got together in this area also not just for feasting but for trade, song & story telling, betrothals and feuding. At least 2000 Aboriginal people were estimated in the early 1800’s but this number was wiped out by disease and guns after the European arrival by about the 1830’s.
The area was first settled by European inhabitants around 1830-40. The drought and disease north of the area, pushed the squatters south over the Murray into the Kiewa and Ovens Valley.
Squatters played a large role in dividing up the land and clearing large areas. The squatters moved their stock into the “high country” between spring and autumn, enabling home pastures to recover. By the 1880’s the annual migration to the high plains was established, and the countryside was divided into blocks with annual grazing leases issued. Simple huts were built from timber, stone and iron to provide shelter and storage during the musters. Many are still in use and are listed on the Historic Places register.
Gold was first discovered in the district in 1852 in Beechworth, and by 1854 Omeo was a thriving gold destination. By 1880 larger companies had moved in who introduced quartz reef mining in the hills and high country, until about 1920.
In consultation with grazing families and other high country interests, the establishment of the area as the Alpine National Park was undertaken in 1989. Controlled grazing is still allowed in some areas, but licenses prohibit it in high altitude sensitive areas.