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Koo Wee Rup, VIC

Small service town on the edge of the Koo Wee Rup swamplands

Koo Wee Rup is a small town reclaimed from marshlands at the head of Western Port Bay. Today it is a service centre in a fertile district known for its asparagus production, market gardens, potatoes and dairying. Historically it has battled against the vast swamplands between the town and Western Port.

Location

Koo-wee-rup is located 73 km south-east of Melbourne via the M1. It is 45 metres above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

The name "koo-wee-rup" is a Bunurong Aboriginal word which was probably 'ku-wirup' and means "plenty of blackfish" or "blackfish swimming" - a reference to the fish which lived in the swamplands on the shore of Western Port. The settlement was originally known as Yallock Settlement. When the railway arrived the station was named Koo-wee-rup.

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Things to See and Do

Koo Wee Rup Swamp Historical Society Museum
The Koo Wee Rup Historical Society Museum is located at 325 Rossiter Road at 'Mallow' (1916), former home of a pioneer named O'Riordan. It is open on Sundays from 1.30 pm - 4.30 pm. The historical society was formed in 1974. The Museum contains objects, photographs and documents relating to the town and the surrounding Koo Wee Rup Swamp. Check out https://www.facebook.com/kooweerupswamphistory for more information.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Koo Wee Rup Observation Tower
Located 2 km south-east of Koo Wee Rup at 3585 South Gippsland Highway, is an impressive observation tower which overlooks the remnants of the Koo Wee Rup wetlands, the Bunyip River, Westernport and French Island. When Europeans arrived in the area the swampland covered by 100 000 acres from Sawtell's Inlet on Westernport Bay to Bunyip in the north-east. The first European to sing the praises of the wetlands was William Hovell who was hugely impressed with the grassy flats at the southern edge of the marshes. He attempted to traverse the swamplands but, after 15 km, was forced to abandon the journey. Crossing the swamplands was inhibited by a thick layer of peat beneath the shallow surface of the water which was formed by decomposed rushes and reeds.

Harewood Homestead
Harewood Homestead was built in 1868 by Scotsman and pastoralist, William Lyall ,who had purchased the 'Tooradin' estate in 1853. He imported sheep, hares, sambur deer, cattle, shetland ponies, partridges, pheasants, Cotswold sheep and horses, became a respected breeder of livestock and experimented with oyster cultivation.
By the late 19th century, Harewood was the social centre of northern Western Port. Guests included John Francis, Premier of Victoria and Lord Hopetoun, Governor of Victoria and later the first Australian Governor-General.
The homestead is built of handmade bricks with a stuccoed exterior and features a tiled veranda on three sides, decorative ceilings, a gabled central hall and views over Westernport Bay. Interestingly, the columns act as drainage pipes for water that was stored below the ground. The homestead is located at 3310 South Gippsland Highway, about 8 km west of Koo-wee-rup, just before the Tooradin airfield and it is open occasionally for charity events. For more detailed information check out https://harewood-house.com.

Warrook Farm
Located at 4170 South Gippsland Highway is the Warrook Farm. The farm is a combination of a working farm (with hands-on farm experiences) and a fauna park. This combination allows visitors to experience - on the Farm Tour - feeding calves, milking cows, patting a bull, meeting a working Australian kelpie and watching a sheep shearing demonstration. The Fauna Park allows visitors to feed a wombat, get up close to kookaburras, geese and dunks and feed kangaroos. It is open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm daily with farm tours at 11.00 am and 1.00 pm and Fauna Park tours at any time, tel: (03) 5997 1321or check out http://www.warrook.com.au.

Bayles Fauna Park
Located at 630 Koo Wee Rup/Longwarry Road, Bayles, is the Bayles Fauna Park, a simple and unpretentious fauna park where is it is possible to observe (as the website notes): "Deer, Emus, Geese, Ducks, Kangaroos and even a rooster roaming around in our large reserve.There is also a new frog pond full of croaking frogs, including the Growling Grass Frog. Lots of local birds come and make the Park their home and can be spotted high up in trees, or down low on the ground.  The Park is also the home of the Southern Brown Bandicoot. Look out for our rare golden kangaroos and the deers that hide in the bush." It is open from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm daily. The entry fee is minimal (adults $2.00, children $1.00), tel: (03) 5997 7408 or check out http://baylesfaunapark.weebly.com.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the area was home to the Bunurong Aborigines.

* The first European to closely scrutinize the shoreline of Westernport was William Hovell in 1826-27. Hovell had accompanied Captain Wright on his abortive attempt to establish an agricultural and military settlement on Phillip Island and then at Corinella.

* The first pastoral runs in the area were established in 1839 by Robert Jamieson and Samuel Rawson. It was called Yallock station and included the present site of Koo Wee Rup

* In 1840 Paul Edmund de Strzelecki passed along the northern shore of Western Port during his overland expedition from the Murrumbidgee River through Gippsland to Melbourne.

* In 1851 Yallock Station was sold to William Lyall and two others.

* William Lyall took sole ownership of Yallock Station from 1857-1872.

* Private landowners made attempts to drain the swamp in the 1860s and 1870s.

* Areas of the swampland were opened up for selection after 1865 and local landowners applied pressure on the government to undertake drainage works.

* A total of 9000 acres of marginal swampland were auctioned off in 1875 with a drainage fee added as part of the purchase price.

* In 1888 The Grange, the first home, was built for the Hudson family.

* The construction of the Great Southern Railway resulted in the swamp being traversed by means of a series of pile bridges in 1889.

* In 1889 35 acres were set aside for the town.

* By 1890 work had begun on the construction of a canal which would eventually run for 15 km. The railway station opened that year.

* Potatoes were first planted in the district in 1890.

* Completion of the canal was interrupted by massive floods in 1891.

* A Post Office was established in the town in 1891.

* In 1893 contract labour on the canal was suspended and the work handed over to unemployed married men who were contractually bound to accept and improve a 20-acre block of their own while also working on the general drainage scheme.

* Floods in 1893 demonstrated that the main drain inadequate.

* The Presbyterian Church was built in 1896.

* Floods in 1900 led to further drainage works.

* By 1905 an estimated 400 km of drains had been dug in the district.

* In 1909 the Yallock school was transferred to Koo Wee Rup.

* The Royal Hotel opened in 1915.

* In 1916 the main drain was enlarged with a German steam dredge.

* Remaining areas of reclaimed swamp were divided up for soldier settlement schemes after World War I.

* In 1922 the first bush hospital in Victoria was opened in the town.

* A railway branch line between Koo Wee Rup and Strezlecki was opened in 1922.

* The area was seriously flooded in 1924.

* Electricity reached the town in 1927.

* A flood in 1934 resulted in more drainage works.

* A mill was established in 1941 to treat flax which was being grown in the area.

* During the 1950s the area was settled by Dutch and Italian immigrants.

* A secondary college was opened in 1957.

* The local historical society was formed in 1974.

* A swimming pool was opened in 1975.

* In the 1990s the main crop in the district was asparagus.

* In 1993 the railway from Koo Wee Rup to Tooradin closed.

* In 2012 the Bunyip River flooded and houses were evacuated. That year saw the Koo Wee Rup to Lang Lang railway converted into a Rail Trail.

* In 2017 it was announced that Koo Wee Rup would be the site of Melbourne's third airport.

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Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information Centre in Koo Wee Rup.

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Useful Websites

There is no local website with information about Koo Wee Rup.

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