Discover little known nuggets amidst rolling pastures and tranquil bushland that flow to the horizon. Tiny villages, once thriving gold rush towns; streets that hold stories of fortune and poverty in their names. The Loddon Valley is rich in history and natural beauty, centred on the quiet towns each with their own stories to tell, if you listen close enough.
Over 30 historic buildings remain in the beautiful town of Tarnagulla. Wander down the streets with an audio tour and spot the 1853 Victoria Hotel and Theatre, a former dance hall and theatre where Dame Nellie Melba and Lola Montez once performed. Explore the natural box and ironbark bush around Tarnagulla where historic buildings remain, surrounded by myriad wildflowers, birdlife and native animals. Chat to the local publicans at Tarnagulla or Newbridge Hotels and get tips on where to fossick, then camp in the bush or book into the gorgeous Rostrata Country Farm Stay. Travelling to Newbridge you will pass by Llanelly which was home to 20,000 people with the discovery of alluvial gold in 1865.
Laanecoorie was originally part of the “Simpson Run” and in 1840 “Janevale” home was named after Simpson’s wife. Gold was discovered around Laanecoorie at “Jones Creek” in 1853 and later on at “Poseidon” in 1906. The first farm was selected by Lyon brothers in 1857 and the first bridge over the Loddon River was built in 1870, but was destroyed in the big flood of 1909 at the same time as the weir was breached. Laanecoorie Weir was constructed in 1891 and was the second irrigation scheme for Victoria. Sir John Monash(a famous engineer and W.W.1 General) designed and built a new bridge of reinforced concrete beam and slab construction, which still remains today.
At the picturesque and historic town of Newbridge, on the banks of the Loddon, you can camp, walk, cycle and canoe. Fish for your supper in the river, replenish at the Newbridge pub or grab a homemade rump steak pie from Beryl and Darryl at the Newbridge Historic General Store. Further along is historic Moliagul, were the Welcome Stranger nugget was found in 1869 and many years later, the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, John Flynn, was born.
To the north east of the Loddon Valley you will discover the stunning Mt Hope and Terrick Terrick National Park where camping is permitted. Just down the road, Mitiamo, the gateway to the Terrick Terrick National Park is the Mitiamo General Store, the perfect place to grab supplies while camping in the National Park or capture insights into the past at the East Loddon Historical Society.
Serpentine is a small town where you can access the magnificent Serpentine Creek and Pon Pon reserve. Pon Pon, a treasure trove of plants and animals, was an important site for Aboriginal communities with many scarred trees evident in this area. Just south of Serpentine you will see a large, heritage-listed brick woolshed, constructed for John Ettershank, an engineer and pastoralist, who is credited with the invention of the first mechanical shearing system. To the north is Durham Ox on the Serpentine Creek. More of a cross road than a town, here is a quiet fishing spot, an exquisite place to canoe amongst the red gums and undisturbed birdlife.
Stopping into Dingee you will see the superb 1930s corrugated-iron memorial hall. Close by is a wall of plaques commemorating past residents in the district. Dairy herds dominate the farm land in this region, including Calivil – an irrigation district with water sourced from as far away as Lake Eildon. The town, with its local hall and recreation reserve, is framed by the natural shade trees of the Pompapiel Forest.
Also in the region is the picturesque and seemingly forgotten Victorian railway town of Korong Vale. A photographer’s fantasy, this town boasts the beautiful two storey historic Scully Hotel that sits quietly on this former busy thoroughfare. Nature lovers are spoilt for choice at the Wychitella conservation reserve that bursts to life after rain, with rare and threatened species abounding in its hills. Those feeling more adventurous can make their way up to Mt Korong, a haven for bird watchers and bushwalkers.
When departing Loddon Valley and travelling the Calder Highway to Mildura, a must-do is to stop at Sea Lake and visit Lake Tyrrell. This is the largest salt lake in Victoria.