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History and Heritage
Australia’s unique settler and gold rush history make for some fascinating stories, and Aussies are lucky enough to be able to visit many preserved sites, ghost towns and relics of our past in their campervan, motorhome or caravan.
Words and Images by: Tyler Jefferson

Learning to fish at the Alpine Trout Farm, Noojee


The historic town of Noojee in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range is named after an Aboriginal word for ‘resting place’, and nothing could suit it better.

This beautiful village perched along the route to the Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort offers a peaceful place to get closer to nature. Walking tracks explore the region’s gold rush and timber town history, starting with the grand Noojee Trestle Bridge standing among the mountain ash forest. This restored structure is a legacy of the old railway that ran from Noojee to Warragul from 1919 to 1954. With its towering height of 21 metres and length of 102 metres, it is supported old school style with 19 timber beams jutting out of the earth. It is the largest of only a few remaining timber trestle bridges in Victoria. A steep track either side of the bridge enables access across, so you can follow the old railway line into town.

In town, the Noojee Heritage Centre showcases the region’s timber and railway past, providing an insight into the lives and culture of those living and working in a timber town. There’s a replica of the original Noojee Railway Station, with its 1950’s J class locomotive.

Fishing enthusiasts, or anyone looking to start, should check out the Alpine Trout Farm. It’s the  perfect spot for young beginners to make their first catch.

The Loch Valley Tramway Walk traverses splendid rainforest, ferns and mountain ash and emerges onto a suspension bridge over the Latrobe River. Make sure to bring snacks and take some time soaking up more of the earthy-forest goodness at the picnic tables at the end of the track on the Loch River.

For a shorter and sweeter track, try the Glen Nayook Reserve. Breathe in the fresh moist air of mountain ash rainforest as you wander through rich green ferns and moss-covered granite boulders. This track follows the Tarago River to a fern gully where the river mystically manoeuvres to run underground.

Walhalla’s history is obvious just from looking at the buildings

The impressive, tiered Toorongo waterfall is only 20km from Noojee. Dense native bush of the Toorongo Falls Reserve leads you up the 750m track to the waiting Toorongo Falls.

If you’re looking for campgrounds near Noojee, the Glen Cromie Reserve is just a short drive. The reserve offers beach areas for swimming and paddling as well as spots perfect for fishing or just taking in the beautiful surrounds. The park is surrounded by 35 acres of stunning bushlands full of beautiful tree ferns, towering gum trees and a vast array of birdlife and wildlife. More info at 


Sticking to the Gippsland region of Victoria, Walhalla is a treat for anyone interested in Australian history. This town boomed during the gold rush, and many of the stories and secrets from that era have been preserved for you to explore today.

By December 1862 the gold fields of Ballarat, Bendigo and Castlemaine had already made their fortunes, prompting exploration further afield. A group of prospectors, including former convict Ned Stringer, found signs of gold at the fork of the creek that flowed into the Thomson River.

Despite the town’s remote location deep in a valley, covered by thick bush, word of the goldfield spread attracting a new wave of prospectors. One of these new recruits was John Hinchcliffe who discovered a quartz reef in the hill just above the creek, which he named Cohen’s Reef. The reef was the single largest ever found in Victoria.

After the surface deposits of gold were quickly foraged, prospectors turned to following veins underground. The expensive and laborious job of tunnelling into the valley’s hills attracted mining companies, including the Long Tunnel Mining Company, who owned the richest mine, the Long Tunnel, which extracted more than half of Cohen Reef’s total gold.

Walhalla’s scenic railways in summer

The settlement was originally known as Stringers Creek but by the mid 1860s the flourishing town was renamed Walhalla, after the largest gold mine operating at that time. It is thought that the name draws on Norse mythology where ‘Valhalla’ represents the immortal resting place of those killed in battle, also known as “the valley of the gods”.

Visitors today can explore deep underground and into the past with guided tours of the Walhalla Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine. Find out what life was like for the miners, and discover how this became one of the world’s richest gold mines.

The tour takes visitors 150 metres below the surface and 300 metres into the hillside to the huge underground machinery chamber hewn from solid rock over a century ago, a large outcrop of the famous Cohens Line of Reef can be seen from inside the mine. Tours start every  day at 1:30pm. Find out more at 

The Walhalla Goldfields Railway will take you through the spectacular Stringers Creek Gorge, spotting wildflowers in spring and summer, and the breathtaking seasonal beauty of the valley in Autumn.

The train journey follows Stringers Creek to where it joins the Thomson River; travel across the historic and spectacular Thomson River Bridge to arrive at Thomson Station, where you will have time to explore before returning to Walhalla. Tours operate Wednesdays and weekends. For more information visit 

Walhalla nestled among the trees

Walk through a more sinister side of Walhalla’s history with Walhalla Ghost Tours. Every Saturday night, hear the terrible tales of past souls, learn of the town’s long-forgotten history filled with bizarre, mysterious and often tragic stories. For details and times visit

Near to town you’ll find Erica Caravan Park, which has recently refurbished their park based at the foot of Mt Baw Baw and in the Walhalla and Mountain Rivers Region. Enjoy bushwalking, skiing, four wheel driving, hiking and so much more nearby.

Erica Caravan Park offer powered and unpowered sites, and one and two bedroom and family cabins. Find out more at

A riverside rest in the ‘Glamping’ tent at Big4 Riverside, Swan Hill


Our next slice of Aussie history takes us to South Australia, where in the 1850s colonists ran sheep through a region that would come to be known as Peterborough and took up Occupational Licences issued by the SA Government.

These early settler’s beginnings were eclipsed by the development of the railways, influenced by mining. Peterborough owes its existence to the railways. In 1875 newly opened lands were purchased under credit arrangements from the Crown. In 1880 the town was named Petersburgh after one of the founders, Peter Doecke. After the First World War in 1918 the town was renamed Peterborough.

When travelling to Peterborough now you are still reminded of the rail era that made the town what it is today. The Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre will let you get hands-on with historic locomotives and carriages, while at night the award-winning sound and light show brings the town’s railway heritage to life. The Heritage Rail Centre is open daily, so check out for details.

The Heritage Rail Centre’s award-winning sound and light show

Your exploration of Peterborough’s history continues at the Town Carriage Museum, the Social History Museum, and the Printing Works complete with original printing press and machinery. Don’t miss the story of one of Peterborough’s favourite locals, Bob the Railway Dog, a beloved figure that’s inspired books, poetry, and even a statue in town.

Peterborough will host its annual Arts and Cultural Festival in the ten days leading up to and including the Easter long weekend, so if you’re already making plans for April, put Peterborough on your list. See more at

Peterborough’s eateries, hotels, and attractions will keep you busy for days. Scenic drives around the region to include the ghost town of Dawson, Terowie, and Yongala. Peterborough is a great location to base yourselves to discover the towns and attractions around the Southern Flinders Ranges.


Swan Hill is well known nationwide as a place where Australia’s inland farming and paddle steamer past is especially well-preserved. Visitors to this leafy northern Victorian town along the Murray will find plenty to do in and around town, much of it dripping in fascinating tales of early Australia.

The Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement is open seven days a week. You can experience the contrast between an old world early Australian village and modern technology at the ‘Heartbeat of the Murray’ show at the end of each day with the new laser, fire and water spectacular. The show uses, water light, laser, sound and special effects to transport visitors back 30 million years before travelling forward through time to the Murray River as we know it today. While you’re there, be sure to book a river cruise on the  PS Pyap, taking in the natural beauty and sounds of the Murray.

Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery is well recognised as having one of Australia’s most comprehensive collections of ‘naïve art’. Along with a growing collection of Australian works on paper, prints and drawings, the Gallery presents an exciting program of touring exhibitions and events throughout the year. Open Tues–Fri 10–5pm, Sat & Sun 10–4. Gold coin entry by donation.

In Lake Boga, 14kms south of Swan Hill, you will find the unique Flying Boat Museum. Hidden under the canopy of a modern hangar, you will discover what the imperial enemy couldn’t find in the Second World War, the secret No.1 Flying Boat Repair Depot in Australia. Under the guidance and dedication of the Lake Boga Lions Club, this remarkable museum takes us back  to the 1940s, when Catalina’s were more common on the lake than speed boats are today. Lake Boga is also the perfect place for aquatic fun including swimming, fishing, waterskiing and boating.

Visiting the Swan Hill region without experiencing the award winning Murray Downs Golf and Country Club is like going to Sydney without seeing the harbour bridge. For those whose handicap is greater than their age, the experience of walking through the charming, perfectly groomed fairways and stunning signature holes will make up for all those miss-hits, lost balls and cries of ‘fore!’. For the more serious golfer, once you have carded the 18 holes, your competitive nature will be crying out for more. You may need to hire a cart and bring along the family, just so everyone can enjoy the experience.

There’s plenty to do on the water

Riverside Park is a hidden gem not to be missed on a visit to Swan Hill. Luscious green lawns aplenty and playgrounds to suit all ages. Riverside Park is the perfect place to pull up and relax after a busy afternoon exploring the region. If you want to enjoy the nature and keep fit, enjoy the outdoor gym facility or experience the adventure of the popular 4.5 kilometre River Walk along the Murray and Little Murray Rivers. It can be followed from start in Milloo Street, Wetlands to Pental Island Bridge or accessed at any point. Look out for signs and learn about the fish, flora, fauna and pioneer history of this vibrant river port.

Outside town, take a scenic drive through the Swan Hill region and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you will find! With five distinct trails for you to explore and discover, there is something for everyone. Plan your route using the latest interactive technology including Google mapping and 360 degree imagery. All you need to do is pack the car, your walking shoes, a camera and you’re ready to experience the Heart of the Murray. Pick up self-drive guides at the Visitor Information Centre or you can view them online at

With Easter holidays coming up and Swan Hill’s ideal camping climate that time of year, there’s never been a better chance to explore.


The Upper Lachlan region of the NSW tablelands is a part of the Wiradjuri and Gundungurra lands. This region has been occupied for generations by these Indigenous peoples, utilising the many waterways, caves, fertile tablelands and sheltered valleys for their natural advantages. The first Europeans in the region came from the Sydney settlement, exploring the area in search of grazing lands and a way to link the Bathurst Plains to the Goulburn Plains. Cattle drivers, gold prospectors and bushrangers have all contributed to the region’s history since then, leaving a legacy that is better preserved in many of the Upper Lachlan’s towns than anywhere else in Australia.

The town of Taralga is well located on the main road between Goulburn and Oberon. It’s home to the award winning Argyle Inn, built in 1875 in the Victorian tradition and today the oldest inn still standing in the area. Lovingly restored to its classic glory, the Argyle Inn is the perfect place to celebrate Australia’s rural heritage over a locally sourced meal. The magnificent Taralga Wildlife Park features local and exotic wildlife, and is a must-see for the kids.

Taralga Historical Society Museum, meanwhile, lets you step back in time with its colonial cottage, slab dairy, shearing shed, blacksmith complex and rare pieces of machinery from  the era. Taralga is also the gateway to Wombeyan Caves, a natural wonder not to be missed. The Wombeyan Caves sit within the traditional lands of the Burra Burra clan of the Gandangara people. While there isn’t conclusive proof that the caves were occupied, tool making artefacts have been discovered by archaeologists all across the area, dating 6,000 to 14,000 years ago.

Crookwell is the largest and most central township in the district. It provides excellent services for the traveller and is an ideal base to explore the wider region. The Crookwell Visitor Information Centre has a wealth of knowledge on what to see and do and is also the reception for the Crookwell Caravan Park. Crookwell Railway Museum was constructed at the turn of the 20th century, and the railway station and yards are a State Heritage listed asset and considered the best surviving complex of its type in NSW.

Gunning meanwhile is a part of the CMCA’s RV Friendly town program and is ideally placed just two minutes off the Hume Hwy between Goulburn and Yass. Bushranging featured in the Southern Tablelands until 1865 and Gunning is famous for two murders. In 1840 the Whitton Gang killed John Hume, brother of Hamilton and a couple of years later, Lucretia Dunkley, together with her servant Martin Beech, killed her husband Henry. The full stories can be picked up at Pye Cottage, a slab hut that was moved to Gunning in 1979 and now stands proudly as the museum dedicated to pioneers and settlers of the region. Today, Gunning boasts excellent cafes and facilities, particularly for RV travellers, and the town is a great base from which to discover the lower Southern Tablelands.

The site of an 1850’s gold rush, the sleepy village of Tuena is still a great place to try and strike it rich! RVers and campers can stay next to the Tuena Creek in the well serviced campgrounds and wander down each day to try their luck.

Lake Wyangala on the other hand is the perfect retreat for nature lovers. Meet the local wildlife, explore the water’s edge, go fishing or take the boat out, with Grabine Lakeside Holiday Park nearby to park the RV.

One of the aircraft on display at the Australian Army at Oakey’s Australian Army Flying Museum


Our next stop takes us into more recent Aussie history, with the Australian Army Flying Museum, in Oakey, Queensland. Just a little past Toowoomba as you head inland from Brisbane, this museum’s charter is to collect, conserve, interpret and promote the distinguished history of Australian Army Aviation. A visit to their huge display will include the story of Australia’s humble avionic beginnings in the First World War, all the way through to more recent conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

With more than 23 aircraft and other artefacts of significance on display, you will be taken on a journey through the vast advancements in aviation technology as well as discovering the human side to aviation and warfare through the ages.

Admission is just $7 for adults, $2 for children and $15 for families of two adults and two children. Tours are $3 a head, minimum of five people, with bookings in advance required. Bookings are available for large groups, with BBQ and BYO tea and coffee facilities available upon request.

Find out more at or

Category: Features
Written: Mon 01 Feb 2021
Printed: February, 2021
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