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Healesville, VIC

A pleasant town famous for the Healesville Sanctuary and the nearby Yarra Valley vineyards

Healesville is a prosperous tourist centre - an easy daytrip from Melbourne - which is located close to the Yarra Valley which has some of Victoria's finest vineyards. The town is famous for its widely publicised, all-Australian animal zoo, Healesville Sanctuary which has been operating since 1934. Most visitors come to admire the animals at the Sanctuary and enjoy the "keeper" talks which are held throughout the day. The hills above the town are famous for their stands of Mountain Ash and densely forested valleys filled with ferns.


Healesville is located at the junction of the Watts River and Grace Burn Creek, 64 km east of Melbourne via the M3 and Maroondah Highway. It is 81 metres above sea-level.


Origin of Name

When the future Healesville township was surveyed in 1864 it was decided to name it after Richard Heales who had been the Victorian premier from 1860-61 and who had died earlier that year.


Things to See and Do

Healesville Sanctuary
Located on Glen Eadie Avenue, the Healesville Sanctuary is regarded as one of the best zoo experiences in the country. It specialises in Australian native animals. It can be simply described as a zoo which is home to over 200 species of native mammals, reptiles and birds all living in a natural bushland setting. There is a circular walking track which leads through a number of enclosures, wetlands, display centres and aviaries variously known as the Woodlands Track, Dingo Country, Wetlands Track, Kangaroo Country, Koala Forest and Platypus Track. The sanctuary's fauna includes Tasmanian devils, lyrebirds, a colony of ibis, kangaroos, emus, wallabies, dingoes, echidnas, owls, cockatoos, flying foxes, lorikeets, bats, lizards and many others. There are regular demonstrations which include snake shows, the very popular feeding of the eagles and displays of wombats, koalas, pelicans and the platypus (these 'close-ups' occur at set times which are advertised at the entrance).
There are a number of keeper talks throughout the day:
Koala Forest Keeper Talk - 11.00 am
Kangaroo Keeper Talk - 11.30 am
Spirits of the Sky - noon
Koala Forest Keeper Talk - 2.30 pm
Tasmanian Devil Keeper Talk - 2.45 pm
Lyrebird Keeper Talk - 2.45 pm
Spirits of the Sky - 3.00 pm
Dingo Country Talk - 3.15 pm
The sanctuary was established on land that was previously part of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Mission. The reserve was started by Sir Colin McKenzie who leased the land from the government and used the area to study native fauna for medical research. When he moved to Canberra the land was given to the local council and the 31 ha sanctuary opened in 1934. Picnic and barbecue facilities are provided throughout the park and there are three cafes. There is also an Australiana gift shop.
Healesville Sanctuary is open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily. Guided tours and package tours are available, tel: (03) 5957 2800 and 1300 966 784. Check Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria for additional information.

Healesville Historic Walk
There are a total of 26 places of historic interest in Healeville. Each one has an informative and detailed sign outside. There is a good map which is available from the Visitor Centre or it can be downloaded at Healesville Historic Walk (PDF). The buildings and places of interest are divided roughly into two sections - the first eight places are around Harker Street; the rest are on, or near, Nicholson Street (Maroondah Highway).

Around Harker Street
1. Court House
2. Cell Blocks
3. The Palais
4. Hospital
5. Terminus Hotel
6. Railway Station
7. Railway Precinct
8. Rail - Tourism Gateway

Along Nicholson Street
9. Rathrone House
10. Daly's Hall
11. Early churches
12. Green and Coranderrk
13. Hall's Smithy
14. Memorial Hall
15. French's Laundry
16. The Nook
17. Timber Tramway
18. Guest Houses
19. Queens Park
20. Cornish Livery Stable
21. Grand Hotel
22. Early Streetscape
23. Healesville Hotel
24. Cornish Building
25. Munro Shops
26. Mechanics Institute

Of particular interest are:
1. Court House
Located at 42 Harker Street, and listed by the Victorian Heritage Database, "The former Healesville Court House was constructed between 1889 and 1890 by H N Hainer to a design by J T Kelleher in the Victorian Free Classical style. The former court house is a timber building with hipped gable roof, trussed gables and a skillion front verandah." It is now used as the Yarra Valley Visitor Information Centre. Check out former Healesville Court House on the Victorian Heritage Database for more details.

6. Healesville Railway Station
7. Railway Precinct
Located at 38 Healesville-Kinglake Road (and now used by the Yarra Valley Railway), the Healesville Railway Station "complex was constructed for the Victorian Railways in 1902 by F E Shillabeer, on the Lilydale Healesville Line. The complex consists of a large timber gable roofed station building with extensive passenger waiting facilities, intact toilets and cantilevered verandahs to the platform and roadside waiting areas. Other associated structures include a timber lamp room, a corrugated iron clad goods shed, circular water tower and a turntable." The line closed in 1980. The Victorian Heritage Database argues that it "is historically significant as an important and intact example of a railway station designed to cater specifically for peak holiday traffic. The station site generally reflects the development of the Healesville township as a tourist destination in the first half of the twentieth century. It also has historical associations with the timber industry, the construction of Maroondah dam and the steam railway era." See Healesville Railway Station Complex for more details.

21. Grand Hotel
Located at 270 Maroondah Highway, the Grand Hotel is listed by the National Trust. The sign outside offers an interesting history: "The site of the present Grand Hotel has housesd hotels since 1864 when John Holland built his Yorkshire Arms on land he did not then own. The following year, he purchased the land for £6. The hotel was later sold to Mr Morrision and renamed the Glasgow Arms. It was not until 1888, in anticipation of the arrival in town of the railway, that the building was replaced by a two storey brick edifice and named after its owner, Adolphus Edgecumbe. The building was designed by Melbourne architect, William Pitt, in the French Empire style. The iron lace of the original veranda was replaced in 1932 when the veranda was remodelled in the contemporary 'art deco' style. Edgecumbe built the hotel to accommodate 100 guests. It had 31 rooms and a large stable complex of 23 stalls at the rear ... The National Trust placed the hotel on the National Trust's Register in 1992."  tel: (03) 5962 4003 or check out Healesville Grand Hotel.

23. Healesville Hotel
Located at 256 Maroondah Highway, the Healesville Hotel is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database which notes that "The hotel has an imposing, almost symmetrical, façade with its entrance set in from three archways which are supported by square-section columns. The columns are repeated on the second storey verandah where they are round in section. Either side of this double-storey verandah section are large rooms, with classical pediments and detailing on the upper facades, and large windows on the lower level. Two mature street oaks grow on the pavement at the front of the hotel." See Healesville Hotel for more information.


Other Attractions in the Area

Yarra Valley Railway
Located at the Healeville Railway Station, at 20 Healesville-Kinglake Road, the Yarra Valley Railway specialises in short trips across the Watts River, under the Donovan’s Road overbridge and through the historic tunnel near TarraWarra Estate. The round trip departs every hour between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm on Sundays and public holidays and Wednesday to Sunday during School Holidays, tel:(03) 5962 2490. Check the website for times and ticket prices - Yarra Valley Railway.

Badger Weir Park
Located 6 km south-east of Healesville, Badger Weir Park is part of Yarra Ranges National Park. The weir itself gathers water from the protected catchment and relays it to Silvan Reservoir. The catchment area has been in use since the late 19th century and the first Badger Weir was constructed in 1908. There are three main walking trails through fern gullies and mature forests of mountain ash and manna gum. Badger Creek runs parallel with the tracks. The walk to Badger Weir (1 km one way - an easy walk) follows the course of the open-channel aqueduct.

Maroondah Reservoir Park
About 4 km north-east of Healesville, the Maroondah Reservoir Park features formal exotic gardens, native bushland, waterside walking trails, information boards, scenic views of the reservoir, picnic areas, water, toilets, camping facilities and barbecues. The park contains a number of short to medium walks including the ascent to the 41m dam wall which range from 800 metres to 2.8 km. The park contains rotundas, BBQs and picnic tables. It is open from 8.30 a.m. to sunset. Check out Maroondah Reservoir Park which has details of the opening times which vary throughout the year.

A Superb Drive through the Black Spur to Marysville
Stretching from Healesville to Narbethong, the Black Spur is an unforgettable drive through tall Mountain Ash trees and fern gullies. There are pleasant picnic areas at Fernshaw and Dom Dom.

TarraWarra Museum of Art
Located 7 km west of Healesville at 311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, the TarraWarra Museum of Art (TWMA) is a privately funded public arts museum with an impressive collection of Australian artists including Clifton Pugh, Jeffrey Smart, Robert Juniper, Arthur Boyd, John Brack, Brett Whiteley, Fred Williams, John Olsen and Russell Drysdale. It also holds regular exhibitions. It was founded by philanthropists and art lovers Eva and Marc Besen and TarraWarra Museum of Art Limited was registered in 2000. It is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11.00 am - 5.00 pm. Tel: (03) 5957 3100 or check out TarraWarra Museum of Art.

Wineries in the Yarra Valley
In areas like the Yarra Valley district, where there are a number of cellar doors, it is best to refer to the specific knowledge of the wine experts. The Wine Yarra Valley website, an excellent site has extensive information about 68 wineries in the region. It provides maps to each of the wineries and a hot link to their specific websites. There is also a useful Iconic Winery Trail with recommendations and information which can be accessed at Yarra Valley Wine Region Experiences.

Domaine Chandon
Located 11 km west of Healesville at 727 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, Domaine Chandon is the jewel in the crown of the Yarra Valley vineyards. It produces champagne but is not allowed to call its product "champagne" because of the French insistence that only wines from the Champagne region can give themselves such a name. Consequently it sidles around the issue by describing its product as "The winery combines the magic of cool-climate grapes, time-honoured production techniques and decades of experience to make méthode traditionnelle Australian sparkling wines which are complex, expressive and reflective of their origins." Amusingly the vineyard's "Chandon Brut (NV) was crowned Best Sparkling Wine at the 2018 Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships in London."



* Prior to European settlement the area around Healesville was occupied by the Wurundjeri First Nations people.

* The first pastoralist took up a run in the area in 1839.

* A party from Melbourne, dissatisfied with the existing route, blazed a new trail to the booming Woods Point goldfield c.1860. This track passed by a little to the north of the present site of Healesville. A few lodging houses, a blacksmith's and a mining warden's office were established at a settlement known as New Chum Creek.

* In 1863 a new road to Woods Point was surveyed, passing through land full of wild clematis, Christmas bush and eucalyptus trees.

* The local First Nation people were settled at the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reservation on Badger Creek, 5 km south of the town, from 1863. Many Aborigines died from disease and maltreatment at this reservation.

* A townsite was surveyed in 1864 and named after Richard Heales, the Victorian premier from 1860-1861 who had died that same year.

* In 1865 town lots were sold and the first local pub and sawmill were built. That year saw the opening of a post office in the town.

* By 1866 the town had the district's first school and a police station.

* A small building constructed of palings was erected in 1869 to serve as an Anglican church. A more substantial church building was erected in the early 1870s in the town's main street for the use of all Protestant denominations.

* As the gold at Woods Point declined some of the miners decided to settle at Healesville. They turned to farming, fruit-growing and hop-growing.

* By 1873, 324 ha had been cleared for grazing and 60 ha for wheat.

* Cobb & Co established a coach service from Healesville over Black Spur to Maryland in the late 1870s.

* In 1888 the Grand Hotel opened for business.

* The arrival of the railway in 1889 enabled the development of Healesville as a tourist attraction and the first guesthouses emerged at this time.

* The New Chum area was opened for selection in 1892.

* In 1894 809 hectares of the old Coranderrk Mission were resumed for selection.

* The Healesville Sanctuary was founded in 1920.

* In 1922, with their numbers greatly depleted, the Coranderrk Mission was closed and the remnants of the Yarra Yarra people were moved to Lake Tyers in Gippsland.

* When Coranderrk Mission closed in 1922 the remaining land was subdivided for soldier settlement.

* In 1927 the Maroondah Dam was constructed.

* The Colin Mackenzie Sanctuary (now the Healesville Sanctuary) opened in 1934.

* The area was ravaged by bushfires in 1939.

* The first platypus bred in captivity was born at the Colin Mackenzie Sanctuary c.1943.

* The railway closed in 1980.

* Today Healesville is a popular destination for people exploring the Yarra Valley.


Visitor Information

Healesville's Information Centre is the Yarra Valley Visitor Information Centre, The Old Courthouse, Harker Street, Healesville, tel: (03) 5962 2600. It open 9.00am - 5.00pm daily.


Useful Websites

There is a Healesville visitor services website - Healesville Visitor Services - which provides detailed information about the district and its attractions.

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