Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published January 17th 2021
A Small Town Full of Surprises Mirboo North, affectionately known as the mural town, is an easy day trip for those in Melbourne's southeast and is well worth a weekend getaway for those further afield. My husband and I made this a day trip, with a focus of fine dining and a bit of a look around town. It was the town's beauty that took us by surprise, the sweeping parkland, wall murals, historic buildings, and colourful gardens. Here's a bit of what you have to look forward to when you go to experience Mirboo North for yourself.
1. Friendliness: As wonderful as all that was, it was surpassed by the friendliness of the townspeople. A lady, all smiles and bubbly personality who stopped to chat outside the post office, a gentleman at the door of a bookshop who happily quipped, "Come on in it's free on Wednesdays, but you have to pay to get out," the restaurateur who took the time to chat before we left. It was our first trip there, but definitely not our last and no doubt fine dining will be a feature of each future trip.
Baromi Park, Playground and Skate Park 2. Baromi Park: As you enter town you will notice a large park opposite the shopping strip. Baromi Park runs along Ridgway (the highway) from the corner of Baths Road and the South Gippsland Highway to the corner of Couper Street and the South Gippsland Highway. This park is not only a wonderful asset for locals but a welcome respite for travellers. There is ample off-street parking, with that at the Baths Road end of the park set away from passing traffic. Here you will find public toilets and an ample supply of picnic areas, some with BBQ facilities.
3. Picnicking: The parks has mature trees providing shade and wide-open lawn spaces; plenty of room for children to run and play. There are picnic tables in a couple of areas with a large undercover area not far from the Baths Road car park. Paths run into and through the park with many bench seats where you can rest a moment and enjoy the surrounds.
4. Playground and Skate Park: There is a basketball hoop and a skate park which are popular with both visitors and local children. To say the Baromi Park Playground is of generous proportions is an understatement. A long undulating slide takes advantage of a slight hill and overlooks the other play equipment. Beneath shade sails, you find swings, climbing frames, smaller slides, springers for toddlers, balancing platforms, a see-saw, a sandpit, a flying fox, small tunnels and more. There are plenty of seats for Mum and Dad to rest while they keep a watchful eye.
Murals 5. Wall Murals: Mirboo North is often referred to as the mural town and well it should b, given the quantity of colourful murals adorning the walls of shops and public buildings. The murals depict scenes from the town's history.
On the sidewall of a cafe near polished wooden seating in front of a community centre, our eye was drawn to a bullock dray. Painted by Dennis Leversha of Wonthaggi in 1995, this was the first of many of Dennis' Gippsland murals. On a wall opposite the post office, a horse-drawn mail cart on a bush road blends nicely with its surrounding lawn and trees.
As we approached the BP service station, the wall of an old brick building was painted to look like a mechanics garage, complete with an old car and a Plume petrol pump. Amongst the shops, and partly hidden now by a fenced area, is a Tiger Moth crop duster, its wing extending beyond the roof line.
On the sidewall of the Strezlecki Bakery, a mural paints a picture of a fun day out at the show; a family picnicking of the grass, a wood chopping competition, and a game of cricket. Across the road on the side of the supermarket, a tranquil bush scene, men by a loading ramp, and leaning against a fence.
On the front wall of the supermarket behind the trolley return, my favourite, a depiction of an old time store counter with wares stacked on shelves behind – tins and bottles, hanging meat and an old set of scales. Further along, a man on a ladder hanging a sign is so cleverly painted as to appear real from a distance. No sooner have your eyes left this masterpiece than they rest on the sidewall of the hotel where the mural depicts a tray truck laden with beer barrels, a lady in a long dress pushing a pram, and children chatting.
On a shop front, men resting by a campfire, drinking tea and reading the Weekly Times and surrounded by native animals and birds. A little further and the side of the kindergarten is adorned with a wonderful scene of children of a past era playing in a schoolyard.
These are not the only murals nor the only public artwork in town, but they certainly give you a sense of what to expect.
Gardens 6. Beautiful Flowers and Gardens: This is a town in love with trees and flowers. Half barrel tubs with flowers and even fruit trees lined the shopping strip. In the corner of Baromi Park near the Grand Ridge Brewery rose gardens have been planted. When we visited roses of red, white, yellow, mauve, apricot, and burgundy were in bloom. White agapanthus ringed a tree in the park and flowering shrubs lines a curving path leading from the main street to the park area.
Yellow and red kangaroo paw were the feature of native gardens near one of the toilet blocks, and geraniums grew tall at one entrance to the park. Surrounded by cottage gardens in Lamezleighs Café and Bar is a Camellia – Japonica Orandako, planted around 1900. So special is it that it has its own information sign, yet this impressive 120-year-old beauty is only one of many markers of this town's long heritage.
Wander along the street where raised gardens are a feature on corners, and residents have embraced the beauty of flowers; purple fuschias, red grevilleas, and so many other pretty blooms whose names I do not know.
Historic and Heritage 7. History on Display: Mirboo North was first settled in the 1880s and much of its history remains on display. Throughout the main street, information plaques sit atop pedestals and tell of historic buildings both remaining and gone. Many of these plaques feature photos of street scenes from bygone eras.
The post office is a quaint wooden building painted in federation colours and adorned with flower boxes. It was built in 1915 and is entered through a verandah. It is set back from the path and there is a bench seat outside in the sunshine.
On the street front in Baromi Park is a monument to Count Strezlecki which was erected in 1927 on the intersection of the Strzelecki Highway and Ridgway and was moved to its current position in 1972. The plaque states, "Count Strezlecki passed near here in April 1840."
The Colonial Bank of Australia was built in 1907, an angular and robust building of a style quickly recognisable for its purpose. Becoming the NAB in later years, it operated as a bank until 1994.
The former railway station is now a children's play centre in Baromi Park. The town sign still hangs on the building, which is easily recognised for its railway history. A walk along the main street past the shops revealed a number of residences we imagined had been built in the early 1900s. Our trip, unfortunately, was only day trip and so no time could be found to explore the town further, although I am sure there are many historic gems to be seen there.
Walks and Rides 8. The Lyrebird Forest Walk is in the Mirboo North Regional Park off the Strezlecki Highway just north of Mirboo North on the way to Morwell. This signed easy 4.8km walk, which begins and ends in the car park takes about an hour and a half. The track follows the little Morwell River for around a kilometre where you will be walking among eucalypt, scrub and ferns. It then skirts the edge of the forest before linking with the track to Coral Fern Gully and finally back to the carpark. Lyrebirds thrive in the native forests in the Mirboo North area; look for them in the dense scrub along the track. Keep an eye open for other native birds and animals such as kookaburras, rosellas, kangaroos and echidnas. For more information, check the website or ring Parks Victoria in Traralgon on (03) 5172 2111.
A male superb lyrebird (Photo by Melburnian CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
9. Baths Road Reserve Forest Walk: Located in the township, Baths Road Reserve forest walk can be reached near the toilet block in Baromi Park on Ridgway (the main road) where there is ample off-street parking or near the local swimming pool in Jordan Way. It is a short walk of only 750 metres (or up to 2kms if you walk all the tracks) and is rated easy with some inclines. The paths are flanked with ferns and other native plants and pass amongst tall eucalypt trees. The walk should take around 20 minutes. There are a number of converging tracks and as there is limited signage stay aware of your location, but never fear, even if you do become momentarily lost you are still within the safety of the town. Dogs are permitted on leash.
10. Grand Ridge Rail Trail: The Grand Ridge Rail Trail commences along the Strezlecki Highway in Mirboo North at the rear of the Grand Ridge Brewery and runs for just over 12kms culminating in Boolara. It is roughly an hour's bike ride one-way and just over 3 hours on foot one-way. You will pass through pine forests, native bushlands, and flora reserves. Click here for a map and a detailed description of the trail.
Dining and Drinking
We found no shortage of places to eat and drink in Mirboo North. There is a bistro at the Mirboo North Hotel, a fish and chip shop and a pizza shop. Couple this with a strong coffee culture and some notable restaurants and you will be spoilt for choice.
10. Coffee Culture: By a rough count we reckoned there were at least a half dozen café's in town. We got our morning coffee at one very busy cafe and enjoyed it at a picnic table in the park across the road. We took our afternoon coffee break at the Strezlecki Café, glad by then to sit in air-conditioned comfort as we had visited on a hot summer's day.
11. Café Escargot: We had booked in advance to have a special lunch at Café Escargot and it was indeed, special. Located five minutes out of town at 10 Old Nicols Road on 8 acres of farm property, Café Escargot offers not only escargot (snail dishes) but also traditional Aussie fare and Spanish dishes. We looked through French doors to a children's' playground, some impressively large trees and on to a rural vista of rolling hills. We sat in quaint white chairs at tables with burgundy cloths to a soothing background of easy listening music. My husband ordered the slow-cooked sticky pork ribs, and the meat was so deliciously tender it fell from the bones. Arancini Balls were my choice. They were generously sized and were the most flavoursome I have ever tasted. We both chose the churros for dessert and dipped those to-die-for Spanish doughnuts into chocolate sauce. The ice-cream on the side was a definite bonus. To make a booking ring (03) 5668 1589. Further details can be found on their website at www.cafe-escargot-farmstay.com/
12. Grand Ridge Brewery has an onsite restaurant, but it is first and foremost a craft beer maker running out of what used to be a butter factory. To check restaurant opening times and to make a booking visit their website at https://www.grand-ridge.com.au/restaurant or ring (03) 5668 2222.
13. Lamezleighs Cafe and Bar set amidst a beautiful cottage garden is a boutique cafe offering speciality coffee and house-made treats. To tempt your taste buds, take a look at the gallery on their website. https://lamezleighs-cafe-bar.business.site/ They are open daily and can be contacted on (03) 5668 2455.
Getting There, Accommodation and Public Facilities Getting There: Mirboo North is a South Gippsland town, 158kms and around 2 hour's drive from the Melbourne CBD. At just over 100kms from Cranbourne and under an hour and a half's drive, it is an easy day trip for many Melbournians. It can be reached on the South Gippsland and Strezlecki Highways via Leongatha, on the Princes Highway via Trafalgar or Morwell or on Grand Ridge Road via Traralgon or Warragul.
Accommodation: options include a farm stay apartment at Café Escargot at Old Nicols Road, which has the added advantage of an on-site restaurant. You can contact them from their website at www.cafe-escargot-farmstay.com/accomodation Mirboo North Homestyle has two options for cottage accommodation. For pricing and availability of their Forget-Me-Not-Cottage in Brennan Street and their Love-In-The-Mist Cottage in Baromi Road visit their website at www.mirboonorthhomestyle.com.au/ If you prefer a B&B check out Strathmore Farm and B&B on 2535 Meeniyan-Mirboo North Road. They can be contacted on (03) 5668 1980 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will find other options on Airbnb at www.airbnb.com.au/mirboo-north-australia/stays or you might like to base yourself in nearby Leongatha.
Public Toilets: Public Toilets are available at Baromi Park on Ridgway (the highway). There are two options with off-street parking available near both.
Fuel and Necessities: You can get fuel at the BP service station on Ridgway and the town also has a variety of shops including supermarket, post office, chemist, newsagents, bank and library.