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Yarram, VIC

Rural service centre near Ninety Mile Beach and Gippsland cool temperate rainforest.

"The Yarram district is a beautiful valley, slightly elevated above sea-level; bounded north and west by an amphitheatre of mountains 2,000 feet high, the climate is very salubrious, the influence of hot winds not being felt," is how the Australian Handbook described the town in 1903. Today it is a rural service centre on the Tarra River which is notable for its proximity to Ninety Mile Beach, the outstanding cool rainforest of the Tarra-Bulga National Park, the Strzelecki Ranges and the wild beauty of Wilsons Promontory. 

Location

Yarram is located 220 km south-east of Melbourne via the Princes Highway and Hyland Highway and 21 metres above sea level.

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Origin of Name

Yarram is a GurnaiKurnai word that is thought to mean 'plenty of water' or 'waterfalls'.

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Things to See and Do

Yarram Historical Society Museum
The Yarram and District Historical Society is located in the old South Gippsland Creamery Laboratory in Carpenter Street and is open every Wednesday from 11.00 am - 3.00 pm. The exhibits include a War Room, a library and research centre, a Dairy Factory Room, a Children's Room, a Fashion Room and the Main Museum Room. Check out http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ydhs for more details.

The Tarra Trail
The Tarra Trail is a pleasant 7 km trail from Yarram to Alberton which was opened in 2011. It can be walked and is suitable for cyclists. The trail follows the historic Great Southern Railway through farmland with views across to Wilsons Promontory and the Strzelecki Ranges. The rail line was opened in 1892 and closed in 1993. It is a smooth, easy dirt track which is suitable for all age groups.

Historic Buildings
There is a useful brochure, Historic Yarram, which is available from the Court House (1907) which is now the Yarram Visitor Centre on Commercial Road. It lists a total of 23 places of historic interest in the town. Most of the historic buildings can be inspected simply by walking down the main street. The most interesting and distinctive include:

The Court House (1908) which is now the Yarram Visitor Centre. The building is roofed in slate and built of Northcote bricks. The brickwork is tuckpointed all around and ornamented with cement moulding. The massing of the building and its distinctive roof reflect the Edwardian style of architecture. The building's main feature is a high, centrally located, octagonal courtroom, which is highlighted by clerestory windows above eye level. The court room is panelled in kauri pine with doors of varnished red deal (Scots pine). This caused considerable anger in the local community at the time of construction. They felt that local timber and materials should have been used. The building also has stained glass windows, an impressive high-pitched roof, antique timber mantels over the fireplaces, and heavy leather furnishings. The building includes a magistrate's room, a jury room, and a prisoner's room with entry into the dock. 

2. Cenotaph (1921) - located in the centre of the main street this memorial was installed for £550. It wasn't until 1929 that the names of the 71 local men who had been killed in World War I were recorded on the memorial.

3. The Regent Theatre (1930) - the Art Deco Regent Theatre was opened on 14 June, 1930 and was the last purpose-built picture theatre in Gippsland. It cost £20,000. It was purchased by the Yarram community in 1955 and still operates as an entertainment centre.

4. Post Office (1888) - the Post Office was designed by E. Scanlon and built for a very modest £355.

14. Yarram Club Hotel - built in 1912 this distinctive hotel dominates the main street of the town. 

22. St Mary's Catholic Church (1915) - this church replaced an earlier timber church. It was constructed on land donated by Patrick Brennan and built with a donation of £500 from John Moore. The bell tower was added in the 1960s.

Beyond the main street is "Hawthorn Bank" on Pound Road. It is a wattle-and-daub cottage. The original shingled roof has been replaced with iron. 

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Other Attractions in the Area

Won Wron State Forest
Head north from Yarram on the Hyland Highway and turn onto the road to Won Wron. When you reach Won Wron (it is only a few houses) turn right (onto Napier Road) and continue on a dirt road until you reach a camping area. At the far end is a sign reading "Forest Walk" and "Waterhole Walk". The Waterhole Walk leads to White Woman's Waterhole (it is a five minute walk), which local legend suggests was named after a woman who disappeared after the wreck of a ship on Ninety Mile Beach around 1854. It is claimed that she was found by local Aborigines who used the waterhole. She was rescued, after a skirmish, by a search party, when a message she carved on a nearby tree was noticed by a stockman. This is almost certainly incorrect. The most likely version is the one on the Batuluk Trail signage: "Perhaps the biggest story to come out of Gippsland in the 1840s was the search for a lost white woman said to have been held captive by some Gunaikurnai people. Local legend has it that in the 1840s, a young woman, the sole survivor of a shipwreck off the nearby Ninety Mile Beach was taken and held captive by the local trib of Bratwoloong, who inhabited this part of Gippsland.
"Angus McMillan, an explorer who later squatted on land in Gippsland for his own pastoral requirements, started this story in the 1840s, with a letter to the Sydney Press. McMillan claimed he had come across a deserted Gunaikurnai camp strewn with an array of items, including female clothing and a dead baby, said by Dr Alexander Arbuckle to be a white child.
"The story of the captive white woman developed a life of its own, spawning numerous myths, with various versions even claiming a sighting of a white woman being hurried away. This lead search parties consisting of Angus McMillan's men and Native Police pursuing Gunaikurnai people to try to rescue her. The woman, if she ever existed, was never found. A ship's figurehead, however, was recovered, leading to speculation that it may have been mistaken for the white women.
"This White Woman of Gippsland story is believed to have been used to justify the killings of many Aboriginal people, particularly the Gunaikurnai. Massacres of Gunaikurnai led by McMillan occurred in Nuntin, Boney Point, Butchers Creek, Maffra and at other unspecified locations throughout Gippsland. A massacre at nearby Warrigal Creek is recognised as one of the worst in Australian settlement history."

There is a 2 km walk (taking around 45 minutes) from the picnic area which passes "through two very different ecological vegetation classes. The damper-low lying areas consist of species such as Manna Gum, Grey Gum, Swamp Paperbark and a variety of sedges which are more adapted to the heavier, moister soils found here. The higher, sandier areas consist of plants that have adapted to drier conditions such as Yellow Stringybark, Black She-Oak and Bracken Fern. Many other native plant species may be viewed along the way and if you tread quietly you may just catch a glimpse of some of the abundant wildlife that also inhabits the area." It is part of a longer, Lowland Forest Drive (60 km circular route) which is described in great detail on the downloadable Won Wron and Mullungdung State Forests brochure - see http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/225702/FS0053_-_Won_Wron_and_Mullungdung_State_Forests.pdf. Not surprisingly the drive focuses primarily on the history of the timber industry in the State Forests.

Tarra-Bulga National Park
Located 32 km to the north-west of Yarram is the Tarra-Bulga National Park which must surely be one of the most beautiful National Parks in Victoria. 'Bulga' is an Aboriginal word, meaning 'high place' or 'mountain' and the word 'Tarra' comes from Strzelecki's Aboriginal guide, Charlie Tarra. This relatively small remnant of the original Gippsland forest provides some insight into the type of vegetation which once covered the Strzelecki Ranges, much of which was cleared in the last thirty years of the nineteenth century. It remains, fortunately, a wonderland of cool climate rainforest.
The Bulga National Park was created when fifty acres was set aside in 1903 at the request of the Alberton shire - later extended to 80 ha. A separate 750 acres (303 ha) was reserved in the Tarra Valley in 1909 and the intervening land was purchased later, with the Tarra-Valley National Park of 1230 ha being declared in June, 1986. 
The experience of the National Park - a mixture of waterfalls, a suspension bridge, spectacular stands of Mountain Ash and cool, dark Fern Gullies - is easy and accessible. There is a very good Park Note provided by Parks Victoria (it can be downloaded from http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/tarra-bulga-national-park). The route is the C484 (Yarram-Morwell Road then Tarra Valley Road) out of Yarram.

The experiences along the route include:

1. Tarra Falls - Located 23 km from Yarram they are, according to the World of Waterfalls website (http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/australia-tarra-falls.html) "really nothing more than an elongated flat cascade that gently tumbles along an incline deep in the Tarra Bulga National Park. I could make an argument that this waterfall borders on being a water slide if it weren't for the forbidden access away from the wooden platform (due to steepness, I reckon; unless it was ecologically sensitive in which case I shouldn't be giving the benefit of the doubt to this waterfall). The walk to its viewing deck from the signposted pullout is very short."

2. Tarra Valley Rainforest Walk - Located another 2 km along Tarra Valley Road is the track through the rainforest to the Cyathea Falls. It is a short 1.4 km, 35 minutes walk to the falls through ferns and ancient Myrtle Beech. The World of Waterfalls (see http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/australia-cyathea-falls.html) has a wonderfully detailed description of both the waterfall (they went during a drought and it wasn't "firing") and lots of photographs of the rainforest walk. Check the website before visiting.

3. Walks from the Tarra Bulga Visitor Centre
Located on Grand Ridge Road (it is an extension of Tarra Valley Road) 32 km from Yarram, and 7 km further on from the Rainforest Walk, this is the heart of the Tarra-Bulga walking experience. There are a total of six tracks from the Visitor Centre (it is open on weekends).
1. Corrigan Suspension Bridge Track - is 1.2 km and will take around 25 minutes. The suspension bridge offers dramatic views of the fern gully below.
2. Lyrebird Ridge Track - is 2.4 km and will take around 45 minutes. It passes through forests of Mountain Ash.
3. Forest Track - is 4.4 km and takes around 90 minutes. It starts at the end of the Lyrebird Ridge Track. It passes through stands of Mountain Ash, drops into a rainforest gully with an unusual thicket of Hazel Pomaderris. It is for more experienced walkers.
4. Ash Track - a short walk of 680 metres (it will take around 12 minutes) which branches off the Lyrebird Ridge Track to the Fern Gully Nature Walk. 
5. Fern Gully Nature Walk - only 720 metres (around 15 minutes) - it has interpretative signage and is an ideal introduction to  the plants and wildlife of the Mountain Ash Forests and Cool Temperate Rainforests of the Strzelecki Ranges. 
6. Scenic Track - a one kilometre (20 minutes one way) walk through tall Mountain Ash forest and patches of Cool Temperate Rainforest. It starts at the Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge, on a track which came from Alberton West in 1938. It spans Macks Creek and the fern gully below.
The park is noted for its 33 species of ferns which can grow as high as ten metres. The main tree types are mountain ash, sassafras, myrtle beech, silver wattle and blackwood, creating a canopy that reaches as high as 60 metres, sometimes filtering out as much as 95 per cent of the light. There are also mosses and fungi, 130 varieties of birds including the lyrebird, the pilot bird and olive whistlers, seven species of bats, lizards, snakes, frogs, insects and native mammals, including kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, platypuses, wombats, bandicoots, possums and native rats, though some of these are nocturnal. 

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History

* Prior to European settlement the area was home to the Brataualoong group of the Gurnaikurnai Aboriginal people.

* In 1841 the site of the town, originally a low-lying swamp, was chosen by a Scottish clan leader, Aeneas Ronaldson MacDonnell, who, with his fellow Scots, attempted to set up a feudal-style court. The experiment folded and he subsequently moved to New Zealand. 

* By the mid-1840s the Tarra Creek pastoral run had been established. It included the site now known as Yarram.

* In 1857 Charles Devonshire opened the town's first store.

* By the 1850s there were a number of stores servicing the surrounding farms.

* In 1853 land at Yarram Yarram was offered for sale as farming lots.

* John Carpenter, an early settler, established the town's first industry when he built a flour and saw mill in 1857 on the Tarra River.

* A Mechanics Institute was established in 1860.

* The town's first school was opened in 1861. That same year saw the opening of the local post office. It was known as Yarram Yarram Post Office.

* More lots were opened for sale in the 1880s.

* In 1891 a local butter factory was built.

* The town of Yarram was gazetted in 1893.

* In 1897 the council functions were moved to Yarram and it became the area's commercial centre.

* By 1900 Yarram was the cattle market for South Gippsland.

* In 1906 the land for the Yarram Court House is acquired.

* The Yarram Court House is officially opened in 1918. It cost £2,795.

* The Yarram Hospital opened in 1914.

* A Higher Elementary School was opened in 1918.

* The railway reached Yarram from Alberton in 1921.

* Yarram was known as Yarram Yarram until 1924.

* The main street was planted with Phoenix palms in 1927.

* In the 1950s a number of Housing Commission homes were built in the town.

* By 1987 the butter factory had closed down. That same year the railway closed down.

* In 1989 the Yarram Court House was closed for court proceedings.

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Visitor Information

Yarram Visitor Information Centre, 170 Commercial Road, tel: (03) 5182 6553. It is open Thursday to Tuesday.

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Useful Websites

There is a local website. Check out http://www.yarram.org.

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