Walhalla with kids
Walhalla is a little pocket of history preserved due to its remote location in the Gippsland High Country. A boom town in the 1880’s, Walhalla was once one of the richest gold areas in Australia with a population of over 3,000 – today the local residents tally 15 but Walhalla attracts 100,000 annual visitors.
Where: About an hour past Moe (if you’re travelling from Melbourne). Be sure not to follow your Sat Nav directions once you reach the town of Erica – Sat Nav will have you driving down a dirt-bike trail.. the official road signs will direct you on road (much safer unless you fancy some extremely challenging 4WDing including a river crossing). Click here to view a map.
During the July winter school holidays the mini reviewers (aged 7 and 9) and I took a road-trip to Walhalla (it was a perfect excuse to put the Ford Kuga through it’s paces).
While we stayed overnight in Walhalla – I would suggest that if you were sharing the trip with another driver or are particularly fond of driving (it’s a 2.5 hour drive one way) it would be possible to visit Walhalla as a day trip.
Looking at Walhalla today it’s hard to imagine it as a bustling hive of activity – and given the relative land space for buildings (it’s nestled in some very steep terrain) with a population of over 3,000 this small footprint would have been a busy town back in its heyday. Today however it’s a fairly sleepy spot – and the amount of traffic (there is only one road in and out) is fairly minimal.
Back in 1911 the gold mining began to close down and by 1914 the town itself was mostly deserted. As industry and locals moved on many of them took their houses with them – and so what you see today is the remains of those that were left behind. I recall a school excursion to Walhalla in the 80’s and back then it really was a ghost town. It wasn’t until 1998 that Walhalla was connected to the grid (as in power grid) and still today there is no mobile phone, internet or TV reception.
What to do in Walhalla
Most of the remaining buildings around the township are now either shops and B&Bs or museum pieces – so a walk around town is a must and the walk from the Walhalla Star Hotel (in the very centre of town, located near the central car park) down to the Walhalla Station is about 15 minutes. Along one side of the road is dotted the shops – some of which are still functioning (the lolly shop being the kids favourite).
On the opposite side of the road to the shops is Stringers Creek. People still pan for gold here (and I am told they still find some) and you can purchase your own pans from the Corner Store – I also noticed they had panning kits which are designed for beginners to practice with (and also ensure sure that the kids will “find” something in their pan). If you do plan to pan – bring gumboots as the water is icy cold and be careful of slippery rocks (oh and pack spare clothes – we weren’t even panning for gold and yet Charlie still managed to get soaked from head to toe).
Other sites to visit in Walhalla are the Cemetery and and the Cricket Ground. We had a lovely time exploring the Cemetery – it’s set into the side of a rather steep hill and so the path set around the graves is very narrow and steep. Initially the kids were hesitant (we haven’t really been to a cemetery before) but quite quickly they forgot any reservations they had and were busy looking for their names, friends names and so on! In the end I had to drag them out of there. We didn’t make it to the cricket ground so I can’t say if we missed out.
If you have time (and school aged children) there are some beautiful local walks along the Australian Alpine Walking Track – the smaller trek starts at the 5km walk to Thompson Station and you can literally keep walking all the way to Canberra (680km).
Local eateries include the Wally Pub (except Tuesdays) and the Greyhorse Cafe (which is open daily until about 2.30pm). The toasties at the Greyhorse are pretty good (see photo) and it was the only place to go for coffee.
What to do nearby
If you are staying overnight in Walhalla (or leaving town late in the day) the Erica Hotel (about a 15 minute drive out of Walhalla, located in the town Erica) has great meals – the kids meals were a winner and I got a steak hot-rock which was delicious. During winter the roaring open fire is a drawcard and little boys will be captivated by the myriad of chainsaws hanging from the ceiling (the local industry being timber).
Walhalla is very close to the “South Face Road” access into Mt Baw Baw – if you are planning a snow getaway and have a day to spare either end of your trip then driving in and out of Walhalla would add about 30 minutes onto your overall driving time. (Maybe something to consider if the snow is patchy or the weather unkind at Mt Baw Baw).
We highly recommend making a pit stop in Moe at their adventure playground! You can find more information here.
If you’re looking for more advice on things to do and see drop into the Star Hotel reception and get a few pointers from Michael.
Finally if you are driving back to Melbourne after a big day and need to stop for a meal – about halfway between Melbourne and Walhalla is Warragul and there are a couple of easy dinner options here. We ate dinner at Warragul Thai (which I’d happily go to again) and we tried to get into Liberty Inn pizza but it was fully booked on a Wednesday night (maybe book ahead – it’s instagram looked pretty good)!
Disclaimer: Meetoo travelled to Walhalla in July 2015 as guests of Visit Gippsland. All views are our own. All details were correct at time of publishing.