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Warburton, VIC

Charming and historic daytripper destination in the upper Yarra Valley.

Warburton is a quiet, attractive and charming old gold mining town which wanders along the hillside beside the upper reaches of the Yarra River. In the past it was a town driven primarily by the timber industry. Today, being only 77 km from Melbourne, it has become a popular day tripper destination offering excellent walks along the river, swimming (in summer), fishing, bushwalking, horse riding, birdwatching and, perhaps most importantly, cycling on the excellent and hugely popular Warburton to Lilydale Rail Trail.


Warburton, which is 159m above sea level, is located 77 km east of Melbourne via the Warburton Highway.


Origin of Name

Warburton, which is 159m above sea level, is located 77 km east of Melbourne via the Warburton Highway.


Things to See and Do

Warburton Visitor Information Centre
It is rare that a Visitor Information Centre is part of the 'things to do' in a town but the Warburton Centre, positioned on the hill above the main street, is immediately distinguishable because of the huge, working water wheel near its entrance. The water wheel, designed by K. Pert and built by the Building and Construction Department at Eastern TAFE is made of yellow stringybark, is 6 m in diameter and was funded by the local Seventh Day Adventist community.
The inscription states: "Water wheels similar to this were an important part of the history of the Warburton area. They powered gold mines and provided energy for sawmills, houses and commercial properties." It is a perfect introduction to the impressive, historic McVeigh's Water Wheel which is still operating and located in the Upper Yarra Reservoir Park.
Behind the Visitor Centre are three of the town's main attractions - Bob Prudhoe's amazing house and the start of the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail and the murals. There is an A4 brochure - Seven Walks at Warburton - which describes a series of walks all starting at the Visitor Information Centre.

Warburton Habitat Tree
Warburton Habitat Tree offers Environment Education and Eco Tours. Located in the waterwheel building (the Visitor Information Centre) it is run by Kim Robinson near the Indoor Forest. It offers a “Wildlife Biodiversity Tour” which takes visitors on an interactive hands on experience through the diurnal forest and spotlighting in the nocturnal forest. The Indoor Forest has been painted by local artist Peter Van Breugal and invites visitors into a life-like wildlife display of taxidermy birds, mammals and reptiles where your can feel the fur of the Platypus and the quills of an Echidna. Visitors can learn about Victoria’s native wildlife, their habitats, unique qualities and conservation. Most of the specimens have come from Healesville Sanctuary and the wildlife hospital has proved to be a valuable resource. For more detailed information check out http://www.habitattree.com.au or tel: 0409 493 721. There are private tours for 2-6 people as well as larger group tours.

Warburton Murals
Painted on the old railway platform wall behind the Visitor Information Centre, this collection of murals depicts the history of the area. It was painted by local artist, Peter Van Breugal.

Bob Prudhoe's House - Boinga Bob's
Starting life as the old stationmaster's house, evolving into a Youth Hostel and finally being bought by Bob Prudhoe, this is a unique, evolving work of art. It is a house that reflects Tibetan, African, Aboriginal and a myriad of other designs and it is unique. As Prudhoe, who will happily talk to visitors about his house if he is around, has observed: "If you make a piece of art, an invention, something that helps another person, and you look at it and you can feel good and happy, it's a good thing." The extraordinary house belongs to a long tradition of Victorian eccentricity which includes Bruno's Art & Sculpture Garden at Marysville and William Rickett's remarkable gardens and sanctuary in the Dandenong Ranges. Sadly in 2016 the local council insisted that it be partially removed even though it had become a tourist attraction in the town. See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3748394/Engineer-75-lives-TREE-HOUSE-built-dead-mum-s-memory-left-devastated-local-council-turned-blind-eye-14-years-order-knock-down.html for details.

The Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail
When the weather is fine and cool it is amazing to see the number of happy cyclists on the remarkable Lilydale - Warburton Rail Trail, a brilliant conversion of the old railway line which runs for 38 km and which is open to people who want to walk, to ride a bicycle or to ride a horse. The railway line was built in 1901 primarily to carry fruit, vegetables and timber from the area to Melbourne. In total the trail runs for 39 km from Warburton (start behind the Visitor Information Centre) to Lilydale. The secret is that because it was once a railway it has very gentle gradients making the journey through farmland, grazing land and across floodplains a journey through constantly changing scenery. For more detailed information check http://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Things_To_Do/Lilydale_to_Warburton_Rail_Trail

Warburton Circuit Track
The Warburton Circuit (a map is available at Visitor Information) is a 10 km, two hour walk. It is an opportunity to walk through the backstreets of Warburton, get elevated views of the town, walk through stands of Mountain Grey gums and inspect a waterfall in Dolly Grey park. Its appeal is that it is a pleasant walk for anyone who enjoys walking in the bush and, in season, there are fine displays of Australian native wildflowers. If you are keen you can link up with the walk up Four Mile Creek to the La La Falls.

Warburton River Walk
This delightful 6 km walk along the banks of the Yarra River can begin and end at any of the six bridges which cross the river. It is an ideal way to enjoy both the river and the town and allows walkers to stop at the town's many riverside parks and gardens for a picnic.

The Six Bridges
There are six bridges across the Yarra River at Warburton. The most impressive are the Swing Bridge, the Bramich Bridge (a quaint wooden footbridge) and the Redwood Bridge which was completed in 2000 and offers excellent views of the town's redwood forest.


Other Attractions in the Area

Walking Tracks
Warburton is known for its large number of excellent forest walks which include forests of mountain ash (the second-largest tree species in the world), sections of myrtle beech rainforest, and sites associated with the gold mining and the timber industry. Typically the trails follow old timber tramways which were built to help transport timber out of the forest areas to the sawmills in the district. They often followed rivers as the gradient tended to be more even there. Intricate trestle bridges associated with the tramways remain at river crossings, as do tunnels which were blasted through hills when the gradient was too steep.

Horsepower was the mode of haulage until steam-powered locomotives arrived in 1913 and motor locomotives in the 1930s. A major forest fire in 1939 destroyed much of the track system and many of the sawmills. The sleepers and rails were made of local timber. The trees were cut with axes and cross-cut saws. The logs were prepared then relayed to landings beside the tramway by huge steam winches. Placed on carriages they were taken to bush sawmills then along the tramway to the main rail lines at Powelltown or Warburton.

La La Falls
The Visitor Information Centre has an excellent single page brochure titled Let's Talk & Walk - La La Falls. The brochure describes how the falls were named by a woman named Leila Ward who ran a guest house which she called La La meaning 'Welcome Welcome" and how, as early as the 1880s, there was a track to the falls and visitors from Melbourne used to enjoy the walk through fern glades, stands of Mountain Grey Gum, Myrtle Beech, Scented Paperbark and tall Mountain Ash. The forest is alive with birdlife and it is possible to hear and see lyrebirds, whipbirds, kookaburras, parrots and cockatoos. The walk is 1.6 km one way (3.2 km round trip) from Old Warburton Road along Four Mile Creek. They are also known as the Bridal Veil Falls.

The Walk Into History
This 33 km is ideally a two day walk - one way. It follows the old historic timber Federal tramway, past old mills and other relics of the early timber industry, to Powelltown. A map of the area is essential. The Ada River, Spion Kopje and Gladysdale sheets in the 1:25000 VICMAP series cover this walk.

The first section (9 km) is a pleasant walk which follows the Federal tramway, built in 1933, from Big Pats Recreation Area to Starlings Gap. The bush workers used to walk this section on Sunday evenings so as to be ready for work at Starlings Gap on Monday morning. It is known that some super fit workers used to run back the 9 km to play football. The two sawdust heaps along the route mark the sites of two sawmills - Ezards Mill and the mill at Starlings Gap. Starlings Gap is a good place to rest or camp overnight. There is also an old winch and boiler near the campsite.

The next section (8.8 km) passes through the Ada River Valley to the Ada No. 2 mill, cross the Ada River and ascend to Doweys Spur Rd.

The third section (4.6 km) ascends to Doweys Spur where a winch once hauled the log bogies to the summit. The track then drops 415 m in altitude over a distance of 1600 m on what is known as High Lead. This is the most difficult section. The grade is nearly 1 in 4. At the bottom of the decline it follows Big Creek (note the myrtle beeches) south-east for 1.4 km.

From the High Lead car park it is 4.2 km along the Latrobe River to The Bump, a ridge which separates the Latrobe River Valley from the Little Yarra River Valley. As the gradient was so steep a winch was originally used to haul the log bogies up and down. In 1925 a 313 m a railway tunnel was blasted through The Bump. Evidence of the tunnel is still visible.

The last section is a leisurely 6.3 km walk west along the Little Yarra River to Powelltown. For more details check out http://www.experienceyarravalley.com.au/?eyv_activity=walk-into-history-big-pats-creek-to-powelltown

Ada Tree Circuit
The Ada Tree is a giant Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) which is estimated to be over 300 years old and is one of the largest known flowering trees in the world. It is estimated to stand 76 m tall and have a circumference of 15 m at a point 1.5 m above the ground. The walk (an easy 3.2 km, 90 minutes return) which follows Island Creek passes through an impressive myrtle beech rainforest as it passes from the car park in Ada River Road. The Visitor Information Centre has a good map.

Rainforest Gallery
Drive 8 km north from Warburton along Acheron Way to Cement Creek where there is a rainforest boardwalk circuit and a 40 m long raised platform which provides views of the canopy of a 200-300 year old forest at an elevation of some 15 metres.

Mount Donna Buang Scenic Reserve
Take your pick. You can drive to the top of Mt Donna Buang (1250 m), climb the 21 m lookout tower and enjoy views across the Latrobe Valley Yarra Valley, the Dandenongs, the Cathedral Ranges, Mt Buller, Mt Baw Baw and Melbourne; you can take the 12 km, 7 hour return, hike from Warburton; or, in winter time, you can   go tobogganing and sightseeing. There is also a 3-km walk to Cement Creek which partially follows an old timber tramway parallel to Cement Creek. Another 7-km walk follows the ridge line through myrtle beech groves and mountain ash forest to Acheron Gap.

Little Peninsula Tunnel, Big Peninsula and Upper Yarra Goldfield Walk
About 14 km east of Warburton on the Woods Point Road is a turnoff to the Little Peninsula Tunnel Picnic Ground. There is a short walk to the Little Peninsula Tunnel which was created in the late 1860s by dynamite blasting to alter the water course so prospectors could scour the exposed river bed. The Big Peninsula is about 3 km further along the road. The Upper Yarra Goldfield Walk to McMahons Creek (12 km) is a loop track which passes some remnants of 19th-century goldmining activities, including the tunnel, some water races, open-cut mines, mine shafts and small dams.

Upper Yarra Reservoir Park and McVeigh's Water Wheel
The Upper Yarra Reservoir is located 25 km north-east of Warburton in Yarra Ranges National Park. Just before the turnoff into the park is the old gold town of Reefton and the historic Reefton Hotel at McMahon's Creek.

While the park is used primarily for bushwalking and camping it is worth visiting to inspect McVeigh's Water Wheel. "Prior to 1908 this 4.3 m wheel was used to power a generator to provide electrical lighting at the Contention gold mine in the Contention Gully about 10 km south of the Upper Yarra Dam. In 1908 it was moved seven kilometres to Patti McVeigh's Hotel, the site of which is now under the waters of the Upper Yarra Reservoir. Thought initially to have been used to drive a chaff cutter, it subsequently generated electricity for hotel lighting ... In 1936 McVeigh's Hotel was lost to fire but the water wheel survived ... The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works purchased the property and for a time the wheel was used to provide power to a nearby surveyor's camp. Prior to the commencement of the filling of the Upper Yarra Dam in the 1950s the wheel was dismantled and stored in the MMBW's salvage yard for about 30 years. In 1978 it was restored by the Board of Works. Some of the original ironwork was used and an old photograph was used as a reference to ensure an accurate reconstruction. McVeigh's Water Wheel was installed in its present position in the picnic grounds at Upper Yarra Dam together with a 44 m timber water race. The wheel is still in working condition today."



* Prior to European settlement the area was occupied by the Woiworung Aborigines.

* Gold was discovered in 1863 and a settlement for prospectors grew along the valley.

* The township was created in the 1880s to replace a mining town amusingly known as Yankee Jim's Creek.

* With the arrival of the railway in 1901 the town grew rapidly. Inevitably it became a popular destination for Melbournians seeking the cool, invigorating mountain air.

* Seventh Day Adventists arrived  in 1904 and set up a printing works in 1906, a sanatorium and hospital in 1910, and a health food factory in 1923. The Sanitarium factory, making weetbix and corn flakes, won the Street Architecture Award in 1937.

* Floods struck the town in 1934.

* The railway closed on 1 August, 1965.

* Today Warburton is a popular day tripper destination for visitors from Melbourne.


Visitor Information

Warburton Waterwheel Visitor Information Centre, 3400 Warburton Highway, tel: 5966 9600. Open from 10.00am - 4.00pm.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.warburtoninfo.com/ for accommodation, 'what's on' and eating. The town's official site is http://www.visitwarburton.com.au.

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1 suggestion so far
  • Hi my name is Kim Robinson. My business, Warburton Habitat Tree offers Environment Education and Eco Tours. Home base is the waterwheel building in which I have the Indoor Forest. Here I offer a “wildlife Biodiversity Tour” which takes visitors on an interactive hands on and engaging experience through the diurnal forest and spotlighting in the nocturnal forest. The Indoor Forest has been painted by local artist Peter Van Breugal and invites visitors into a life-like wildlife display of taxidermy birds, mammals and reptiles where your can feel the fur of the Platypus and the quills of an Echidna. Visitors can learn about Victoria’s native wildlife, their habitats, unique qualities and conservation. Most of the specimens have come from Healesville Sanctuary and the wildlife hospital providing a valuable resource. Kindest regards Kim

    Kim Robinson