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Rainbow, VIC

Small rural service town known as the "Gateway to the Mallee"

Rainbow is a small town at the southern edge of the Victorian Mallee. It is edged by both productive grain lands and the wilderness areas of Victoria's western deserts. The town's main attractions are the historic Yurunga Homestead; Pella with its unusual St Johns Lutheran Church; and the desert lakes - Lake Hindmarsh and Lake Albacutya - and the vast desert parks which surround them.


Rainbow is located 405 km north-west of Melbourne via Ballarat and Horsham.


Origin of Name

Rainbow was named after a property in the area called "Rainbow Rise" which, in turn, had been named because it was located near a crescent-shaped ridge which in spring was ablaze with multicoloured wildflowers.


Things to See and Do

Yurunga Homestead
Yurunga Homestead is an elegant, typically rural, Edwardian home made of brick and limestone with an elaborate cast-iron veranda, brick trimming, pressed-steel ceilings and a special room under the house for use in heat waves. It now displays numerous antiques and historic fittings. It is located on the corner of Cust and Gray Streets at the northern edge of town and is open for inspection on Sundays between 2.00 pm and 4.00 pm or by appointment. For more information tel: (03) 5395 1044 or (03) 5395 1233.

Rainbow Archive and Historical Society
Located in the old Masonic Lodge Hall in King Street, the Rainbow Archive has a wide range of local historical documents, records and photographs for display and research. Records date from district's European establishment in 1893 to the present. The collection is only open by appointment, tel: Diane Wall (03) 5395 1416.

Rainbow Murals
The town has a total of 23 impressive murals, 16 of which are located in Federal Street. There is a downloadable brochure. Check out http://www.wimmeramalleetourism.com.au/images/TownImages/Rainbow%20Murals.pdf which provides detailed descriptions of each of the murals, information about the artists and a map indicating where each of the murals is located.


Other Attractions in the Area

Pella and St John's Lutheran Church
Located 12 km west of Rainbow is Pella and the St John's Lutheran Church. Surrounded by wheatfields the church was made of locally mined sandstone by local tradesmen in 1901. Inside is a beautifully restored pipe organ. The church is a reminder that the area was settled by German migrants who moved from South Australia and whose descendants still attend the church. Nearby are the manse and a Lutheran Primary School which contains a display of historic memorabilia. For more information contact Mark Heinrich on 0427 951 146.

Lake Hindmarsh
The road from Rainbow to Jeparit heads south-west for 15 km before looping around Lake Hindmarsh, a seasonal lake which floods periodically. The first white man in the area was Edward Eyre who camped here in 1838 while exploring an overland route from Melbourne to Adelaide. He named the lake after Sir John Hindmarsh, Governor of South Australia. It is recognised as the largest freshwater lake in Victoria (it covers 13,500 ha), and is known as a haven for waterbirds and a home to permanent and visiting birds including white-breasted sea- eagles, swans, ducks, terns, spoonbills, terns and colonies of pelicans. River Red Gums and the Three-nerve Wattle fringe the lake and lead into the adjoining Birdcage Flora and Fauna Reserve where Black Box, Yellow Gum and native Slender Cypress pine provide food and shelter to wrens, honeyeaters, robins, parrots, and species such as the Bush Thick-knee (Curlew) and Gilbert’s Whistler. Before reached Outlet Creek and the camping site known as The Wattles there is the Pioneer's Gravesite (clearly marked on the map on the Visitor Guide) of John Coppock who, in 1846, became the first European settler in the area. The headstone reads: "1865. John Coppock. An honest man". Return to the main sealed road around the lake and you will reach, progressively, Williamson's Beach on the north-western shore; Schulze's Beach which also has a boat ramp as well as camping and toilets which lies on the western shore; and, at the southern shoreline, Four Mile Beach which is a popular spot for fishing, swimming, boating and water skiing. There are camping facilities, a boat ramp and hot showers. Picnic Point beach and a water skiing club can be found on the south-eastern shore where Williamson's Beach is located. There is an excellent map and useful notes on the Lake Hindmarsh Lake Reserve which can be downloaded at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/313826/Park-note-Lake-Hindmarsh-Lake-Reserve.pdf. It also provides some information on Birdcage Reserve.

Birdcage Reserve
At the north-western end of the lake, the road from Rainbow to Jeparit separates the lagoon from Birdcage Flora and Fauna Reserve which was named because of the large number of Mallee birds which live on the reserve's floodplain and in the Big Desert. Birdcage Flora and Fauna Reserve where Black Box, Yellow Gum and native Slender Cypress pine provide food and shelter to wrens, honeyeaters, robins, parrots, and species such as the Bush Thick-knee (Curlew) and Gilbert’s Whistler.

Lake Albacutya Park
Lake Albacutya, which covers 5,840 ha, lies 15 km north of Rainbow and generally fills and empties in a 20-year cycle. It was last full in 1975 and held water for nine years. The source is the Wimmera River which fills Lake Hindmarsh and the water is then conveyed via Outlet Creek to Lake Albacutya. When full, it is a popular boating, fishing, yabbying and swimming spot. At other times, camping, 4WD exploration, walking and nature studies can be pursued. The total area of the park, including the lake, is 8,300 ha. 'Albacutya' is said to mean "where the quandongs grow". This is a reference to a tree found here which bears a sweet fruit eaten by Aborigines and early European settlers alike. The wood was used for cabinet-making. The lake is also known for its Red Gum and Black Box woodlands which attract a variety of colourful parrots such as Red-rumped and Regent parrots, as well as Sulphur-crested and Major Mitchell cockatoos. The park also includes vegetation communities including Pine-Buloke woodland, mallee eucalypts and heathlands containing Guinea flowers, Desert Banksia, Tea-tree and She-oaks. When in flood the lake is one of Australia’s significant wetlands, recognised under the Ramsar Convention for protection of wetlands. It has been known to attract waterbirds such as Banded Stilts, the rare Freckled Duck and the majestic White-bellied Sea Eagle. Emus and Western Grey Kangaroos are frequently observed. The lake lies 14 km north of Rainbow on the Hopetoun Road. The route is well signposted all the way and is designed for a 2WD. However, to explore the remainder of the western shore you will need a 4WD. There are a number of unsealed roads (even ones across the lake in times when there is no water) and the road to Yaapeet Beach on the eastern shore is unsealed but manageable in a 2WD unless it is wet.

Wyperfeld National Park
Wyperfeld National Park, which currently covers 357,017 ha, is one of Victoria's largest national parks. It covers three distinct landscapes - the Big Desert country which lies in the west of the park; the Mallee which lies to the east; and the sand dunes and floodplains which lie to the north. Historically it was a shallow sea 25 million years ago. The park contains a series of lakes which are linked by Outlet Creek, though they are usually dry, filling only when the Wimmera River floods, which is about once every twenty years. It fills Lake Albacutya which overflows into Outlet Creek. European settlers moved into the area in 1847. The first reserve was established in 1909 and as a result of lobbying by naturalists the park was declared in 1921. The park is known for its fauna and flora. It is home to kangaroos, emus and birds which survive in the semi-arid landscapes of sand dunes and spinifex, mallee scrub, heathlands and native pine woodlands of river red gum and blackbox. The southern section can be accessed by heading due north from Rainbow, past Lake Albacutya on the Rainbow-Wyperfeld Park Road. There is a Park Entrance and the road leads to the Wonga Camping Area where there are camping and picnic facilities, fireplaces, toilets, a visitors' centre, three self-guided interpretative walks and access to the James Barrett Nature Drive. Those entering the park in 4WD vehicles can gain access to Milmed Rock, Chinamans Well and North Callitris Track. There is also the acclaimed Mallee Drive - check out http://www.fwdvictoria.org.au/iconic4wd/mallee.html which has a downloadable map, track notes and information about the track conditions.

Eastern Lookout Nature Tour
There is a detailed, downloadable brochure - check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/315826/Park-note-Wyperfeld-NP-Eastern-Lookout-Nature-Walk.pdf - which provides detailed information on the 15-km Eastern Lookout Nature Drive which is suitable for a 2WD. It includes details on the 25 minute return Eastern Lookout Walk which offers views over stands of Black Box, Red Gum, Native cypress pine woodland and Mallee woodland. The walk also passes through country occupied by Wedge-tailed eagles, black-shouldered kites and nankeen kestrels. The rest of the drive includes lines of Red River Gums; Lake Brimin which has not held water since 1921; stands of Porcupine Grass and Mallee eucalypts; and, inevitably, kangaroos and emus. It is an ideal opportunity for those interested in fauna and flora to study the uniqueness of the Mallee. The brochure explains the special importance of the plants and animals. For further information there is a useful and downloadable brochure. Check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/315825/Park-note-Wyperfeld-National-Park.pdf.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Wotjobaluk Aboriginal people.

* Edward Eyre reached Lake Hindmarsh in 1838 during his exploration of a route from Melbourne to Adelaide.

* The first land grant in the area was 'Halbacutya' station, established by John Coppock in 1846. It stretched from Lake Hindmarsh to the northern end of Lake Albacutya. Coppock lived at the north-eastern corner of the lake until a dispute with Robert von Stieglitz of the 'Pine Hill' run forced him to move his residence to Lake Albacutya.

* Bushranger Dan Morgan held up 'Halbacutya' station in 1868.

* A rabbit plague effectively destroyed the station in the late 1870s.

* Closer settlement of the area began when the property was subdivided in the late 1880s.

* The land for the town was surveyed and subdivided in 1893.

* A railhead was established at Rainbow in 1900 and a town grew up around the railway. It was named 'Rainbow Rise' which had been the name of a property located on a crescent-shaped ridge where wildflowers grew.

* By the early 20th century the dense mallee scrub in the area had been cleared.

* By 1911 Rainbow was known as the "Metropolis of the Mallee" with a newspaper, hospital, timber merchant, hardware store, department stores and churches.


Visitor Information

There is no Information Centre in Rainbow. The main one in the area is the Mildura Visitor Information Centre, 180-190 Deakin Avenue, tel: 1800 039 043 or (03) 5018 8380. Open 9.00am - 5.30pm Monday-Friday and 9.00am - 5.00pm Saturday and Sunday.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.rainbowvic.com.au.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

10 suggestions
  • I was looking for the history of the Rainbow Baptist Church. My father was the Baptist minister from approximately 1936 to 1939…We paid a visit and met some of the older members around 1994….D.Leith davidleith67@gmail.com

  • Robert Riby owned and operated the first newspaper in Rainbow. He married a girl Mary Anne Palethorp.

  • Post code for Rainbow would be a good addition plus any annual events in the town perhaps

    Ken Smith
  • I reside in Canada. About 5 years ago travelled to Australia and Rainbow. My grandfather Kirkaldy died there in 1953 while visiting family. He was the nephew of Jessie Duncan. Jessie’s daughter was married to fellow by the name of Keeling. Jessie, her mother and father are buried in the Rainbow cemetery. Jessie Keeling and her husband according to their grave marker had 3 children one who’s given name was Bruce. Just wondering if anyone would have any information on the family.
    Thank you
    Keith Lawson
    Orangeville Ontario

    Keith Lawson
    • Hi Keith. My grandparents lived alongside Harold and Jessie Keeling who l remember well. I can also just remember a Bruce. Harold and Jessie and Jessie’s parents are buried in the Rainbow Cemetery. I am happy to send you photos if you like. Am happy to follow up with the cemetery if you are looking for anyone else. — Graham

      Graham Nuske
      • Hi Graham. Great to hear from you and thank you for the offer.
        Will introduce myself a bit first. Am 68 years old, married, have 2 sons. Am semi retired from our Provincial police service OPP, still working part time in our traffic courts, 48 years in policing. Not smart enough to fully retire but day is coming I guess. Raised on a small farm about 25 miles north of Orangeville and lived most of my life in this area about an hour north of Toronto.

        Though only in Rainbow about day and a half really found it interesting. My grandfather Kirkaldy died there while visiting. He was in failing health but wanted badly to see his bother Donald Kirkaldy who he hadn’t seen since about 1911 when the family was split up upon leaving Perth Scotland. There mother had died and their father took everyone to Canada save and except Donald (aka Duncan). He went to Australia as a young child along with Jessie (who would later upon marriage become Jesse Keeling). Donald spent much of his younger years around Rainbow area and married Isabel Crittenden in about 1945. I am led to believe that it may have been a farm near rainbow where the Crittendens lived where grandfather Kirkaldy was visiting when he passed. Uncle Donald lived in Adelaide working for Holden. He passed in late 70s and Isabel passed in 2000.

        When I was in Rainbow I did visit the cemetery and did find the Keelings’ family grave marker. On the marker of Jessie (1991) and Harold (1976) states that their 3 children were Tom, Janet & Bruce. We got a good walkabout on a very hot day of the Rainbow cemetery and did see the Duncan and Keeling markers. I did take photos of the grave markers.
        Another chap who had much to do with the restoration of an old estate manor in Rainbow let us tour the manor and he seemed to think that Harold Keeling May have been in charge of running the village diesel hydro generator. Was wondering if there might be any traceable family in Rainbow Maillie areas? Also wondered if possible and if still standing a picture of the houses that Keelings or Duncan’s might have lived in.
        We found Rainbow very interesting and wished we had been able to stay their longer. Am bit of history buff and have pulled off internet what I could on settlement and current make up of community but now a little more challenging as your Rainbow Jerepait newspaper has gone to a pay format. The area around Rainbow we found very beautiful, though for we Canucks it was pretty warm. Not to used to the 40 plus temps.

        Would also be interested in if there are still any Crittendens in the Rainbow area.

        If you would please tell me something of yourself as well.

        Afte a very cool spring which included late frost sand even light snow we are finally getting some warmer weather though last night was down to 5C. Lots of rain and green for farmers.

        Thanks for offering to respond Graham and do hope to hear from you.
        You and yours have a great day.
        Keith Lawson
        Orangeville Ontario

        Keith Lawson
  • My mother, Dorothy Friebel, had a dress shop in Federal Street in the early 1950s.Is there anywhere to look up to find where it was exactly,I remember it as a small child, when we return for a visit I’d like to find it. I remember climbing downstairs to a basement. I’m fairly sure it was on the opposite side to the hotels.

    Diane McLean
  • Looking for any photos, information about Rainbow swimming club ,eg Swim meet Perpetual trophies, swim meet photos. Hoping to put a record together about Rainbow swimming club competing in Wimmera District area Kylie

  • This is great information thank you, My parental grandmother, Alice Fuller/Begg is her married name, was born I think in Rainbow and I am hoping to find any information if you may know of any. Thank you.

    Michelle Kelly
  • is it a good place to retire? without getting our feet wet…

    twins jack and bob