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Waanyarra Historic Township

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Bridgewater-Dunolly Road, Waanyarra VIC 3551

Explore other locations around this area using our interactive map


  • Site of the Waanyarra historic township
  • Foundations and scattered rubble
  • Bushwalking
  • Cycling
  • Birdwatching
Alongside the Bridgewater-Dunolly Road between the Victorian towns of Dunolly and Tarnagulla stands a sign which reads 'Waanyarra Historic Township". 

There's a parking area which curves around beside a cluster of peppercorn trees - one of which would be of particular interest to children who love to climb. The parking area looks out across a seasonal creek. 

A quick survey of the surrounding bushland from here doesn't offer much more insight, but this spot was once a thriving gold mining town complete with two hotels, several stores, a school and a post office, which remained open until the 1920's. 

This area was surveyed in 1861 and officially named Waanyarra, after the aboriginal name meaning 'running water'.

Upon further inspection of the area you will find that many remnants of this former gold rush town can be brought to light. In dry parts of the year you can easily cross the gully into the bushland beyond, where you will soon discover that foundations, rubble, scattered fragments of rusted metal, and gold diggings are hidden amongst the native shrubs.

If the gully is filled with water, the Waanyarra historic township can also be accessed via the Waanyarra Cycle Track - a dirt road which winds its way through the bush alongside Bridgewater-Dunolly Road.

Parks Victoria's forest notes for the Dunolly State Forest offers the following informative timeline for the history of Waanyarra:

Life in the historic town of Waanyarra

Waanyarra has been through a number of different phases throughout its history.
    • In 1852 to 1858 the discovery of gold led to a series of large rushes to the area. Initially the type of mining was shallow alluvial, cemented gravel and quartz reef mining. Deep lead mining took off later.
    • Waanyarra became a bustling town, which was known to have produced the purest gold in the world, being 99.9% pure.
    • Waanyarra was popular for the large amount of alluvial nuggets found here. Alluvial 'rushes' were constantly occurring and the chance discovery of a nugget attracted hundreds of men to the district in the space of a few hours.
    • From 1859 - 1888, the large mining companies took over from the individual miners. Steam powered machinery and the arrival of the railway also expanded the regions timber industry, providing a boost to sleeper and firewood production.
    • When the depression hit (1889 - 1902) many miners had to return to fossicking for a living. Quartz tailings were lucratively re-treated by the new process of cyaniding to extract the gold.
    • 1903-1920's. A slump in quartz mining led to a reduced demand for mining timber, causing the local timber industry to
      Ersify into the distilling of eucalyptus oil. Remnants can be seen in the Nature Conservation Reserve across the Bridgewater-Dunolly Rd.
    • 1930 - Present. During the depression and in the decades following, the old goldfields were reworked and some new ground prospected. The popularity of metal detecting has renewed interest in the old goldfields. Many people today still come to the area to try to find their fortune and to enjoy the rich heritage and
      Ersity of the area.
The Waanyarra area is a great place to visit for the day (or even for a camping trip), as there are multiple unmissable attractions nearby.

Morton's Welcome Inn, built by convict Michael Morton in 1860, is just a few minutes drive from the Waanyarra historic township, along with the excellent Waanyarra Recreation Site which is fantastic for camping, picnics, bushwalking and cycling. If travelling from Dunolly, be sure to keep an eye out for Murderers Hill along the way.

The Waanyarra Historic Cemetery is another interesting nearby attraction. The oldest surviving marked grave in this cemetery is from 1859, although there are many unmarked graves scattered through the grounds. Beautiful restoration and signage has been completed at the cemetery by the Families and Friends of Waanyarra, a group dedicated to preserving the historic significance of this once rich gold mining area.


  • Bushwalking is an excellent way to get outdoors and exploring nature.
  • Kids love to climb! There are plenty of places throughout the Goldfields with great trees, rocks, fallen logs and more for kids to climb up, around and over.
  • Gold prospecting is the recreational act of searching for natural gold deposits in the ground using tools such as gold detectors, gold pans and gold sluices. The Goldfields region of Victoria is a popular destination for gold prospectors, with many of the world's largest alluvial gold nuggets found in the area!


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