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With everyone hitting the road post lockdown, we’re only just scratching the surface with the amazing small towns that are ready and waiting for us to explore. Walhalla in Victoria’s Shire of Baw Baw is a town that was established during the Victorian gold rush, and has plenty of great aspects to it which are ideal for a weekend visit.
The town of Walhalla was established in 1863 after the discovery of gold in the area in the years before by Edward Stringer and a group of fellow prospectors. The town, initially known as Stringer’s, or Stringer’s Creek, was renamed to Walhalla shortly after and was named for the largest gold mine in the town.
Gold panning and related techniques quickly exhausted all the alluvial (surface) deposits. By late 1863 mining operations began as prospectors sought and then followed the underground veins of gold. At Walhalla this could mean tunnelling into the steep valley walls as well as the more traditional digging downward.
The vast majority of gold extraction from Walhalla centred on Cohens Reef, the largest single reef in Victoria. By 1900 the reef had already produced around 55 tonnes of gold (approximately 1.8 million troy ounces, worth around US$790 million in 2005).
Due to the enormous expenses of underground gold mining, small claims operated by individuals or small groups soon folded, being replaced by large companies such as the Long Tunnel Mining Company. This company owned the richest mine working the reef, the Long Tunnel, which produced over 30 tons of gold alone over its operation between the years 1865 and 1914, and paid £1,283,000 in dividends to its shareholders.
The crushing machinery used to extract the gold from the quartz-based ore required large amounts of energy, supplied largely by wood-burning steam engines. The need for fuel wood led to the hills being denuded for some considerable distance around town, timber tramways bringing freshly cut timber for the boilers. The associated costs of bringing wood from further and further away were a key factor in the economic problems which eventually ended mining in Walhalla.– Wikipedia
These days, Walhalla is a sleepy town nestled in the hills. There’s one road in, one road out. In fact, as recently as 2002 the town was cut off due to a rockslide on the main road into town.
Things To Do In Walhalla
Walhalla is a great place to spend a whole day, or even a full weekend with many amazing historical things to see and do. Here’s everything you must do when you’re in Walhalla.
Walhalla Goldfields Railway
The railway first came to Walhalla in 1910, after construction started on a Moe to Walhalla branch line in 1904. Unfortunately, due to the decline of the gold mining industry in town, the railway arrived a little too late to save the town with the final gold mine closing just four years after the railway line opened.
The Walhalla railway closed in sections from 1944 to 1954, before the Walhalla Goldfields Railway was formed in 1991 to bring a tourist railway back to the hidden town.
Today, the Walhalla Goldfields Railway runs services between Thomson and Walhalla stations through the wild bush of the Great Dividing Range. A return trip costs $20 for adults, and $18 return for seniors/concession and children. Three services depart each Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.
More than 1100 people are buried in the Walhalla Cemetary, a cemetery that sits on a hillside where there have been jokes told that the residents have been buried standing up. Surrounded by a white picket fence, the cemetery has graves marked with a wooden cross, some not marked at all, and in the example of James Mitchell, feature a headstone with the following inscription.
“Oh! Let my sudden doom be a warning to all. E’en while thou bendest o’er my tomb, thou may’st as quickly fall”
Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine
Wander 150 metres below the surface, and 300 metres into the hillside to a huge chamber where the magic was happening in Walhalla more than a century ago. This mine commenced operation in 1865 and produced 13,695 kilograms of hold over its 50 year history. Your tour guide will show you relics of Walhalla’s gold mining past, as well as explain the history of the mine itself.
The tour takes 45 minutes and is wheelchair and pram friendly.
The Bruntons Bridge walk is a trail near Coopers Creek. The walk is 4.8km and is usually fairly quiet. It’s perfect for a long walk, hike, and there’s camping nearby also.
The Walhalla Corner Store & Museum acts as Walhalla’s post office, general store, and museum. The museum is split into two sections, the fire station museum which is home to firefighting equipment and photographic displays of the fires that have hit Walhalla over the journey, and the Walhalla Museum which has historical artefacts from the town. The museum has items from the Walhalla Brass Band, the town shoemaker, school stationery from the 1800s, and Chinese artifacts from the gold rush era.
Entry is free.
Horseshoe Bend Tunnel
The Horseshoe Bend Tunnel was created to divert water away from the gold-laden Thomson River bed. The tunnel opened in 1912, and it’s said that the builder’s family was swept into the inlet, but thankfully made it out safely. The tunnel is 220 long and is one of the longest diversion tunnels built during the gold rush in Victoria. The walk to Horseshoe Bend Tunnel is 4km return.
Things To Eat And Drink In Walhalla
Given Walhalla’s isolation, there’s a good chance you’re going to be in need of some food and water by the time you get there. Luckily there are plenty of options.
The Walhalla Lodge Hotel is a popular spot to grab some lunch or dinner while in Walhalla. The Wally Pub is open from Wednesday through to Sunday and provides country-style meals, along with the ever-important cold beer. Lunch service runs from 12pm until 2pm during the week, and 2:30pm on weekends. Dinner runs from 6pm until 7:30pm during the week and 8pm on weekends.
Walhalla General Store & Miner’s Cafe
The Walhalla store acts as the post office and museum to the town. The store is stocked with souvenirs, memorabilia, maps, books, and publications on Walhalla and the surrounding area. You can buy ice, petrol, milk and bread, and other groceries, as well as take away food. The cafe is open every day of the week except Monday.
The Greyhorse Cafe
The Greyhorse Cafe in Walhalla is open every day of the week and serves up fresh pies, cakes, and coffee. You can eat in, or takeaway.
Parker’s Restaurant can be found inside the Star Hotel and was named after William Parker, one of the original owners of Walhalla’s Star Hotel. The restaurant is open to hotel guests every night and non-guests on reservation. The menu changes daily, and you can expect mains such as salmon fillet with tarragon dressing, spicy chicken and sausage paella, among other choices.
Kitty’s Cafe Walhalla
Kitty’s Cafe has a selection of sandwiches, wraps, burgers, and more, as well as dishing up a quality coffee. Don’t miss the homemade scones.