Gayle is a retired accountant and a photography enthusiast living on Victoria's beautiful Bass Coast. Gayle is passionate about writing and keen to showcase Aussie culture to a global audience. Gayle loves her family, dogs, sunsets, and chocolate.
Published December 31st 2019
Don't let this town be a mystery
Escape the city and enjoy all that the friendly town of Wonthaggi has to offer. Wonthaggi is the business centre of the picturesque Bass Coast which is often described as Melbourne's playground. There is more to see and do than you might imagine, so don't let this little known wonder be a mystery to you. At only a short drive from Melbourne and with an abundance of accommodation options and plenty to see and do, it's a fun place for any family day trip or holiday.
The Visitor Information Centre is in the Artspace building on the corner of McKenzie Street (Bass Highway) and Bent Street. The centre is open from 10am to 4pm and can be contacted on (03) 5672 5767. Entry to the parking area is on Bent Street. See below for accommodation and dining options.
Tours and Museums
1. State Coal Mine Experience. The State Coal Mine in Wonthaggi is the only historic coal mine experience in the Southern Hemisphere. Visitors can explore the free to enter heritage park, maintained as it was in the 1900s or pay a small fee to take a family-friendly tour into the mine tunnels. Indoors there is a theatrette, mine models and an on-site café which offers a variety of refreshments.
The Underground Mine Tour takes visitors through the mine's tunnels to the coal face. Tools and equipment used by the miners and empty skips remain in the mine. Models demonstrate the workings. The mine tour commences on foot along a gently sloping tunnel and ends with a ride out on a closed pulley truck hauled to the surface by a winch. You emerge from the mine atop the hill by the winch room with views across the park and surrounding countryside.
When: The Visitor Centre is open from 10am to 4.30pm daily except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and ANZAC Day. The Underground Mine Adventure Tours run daily at 11.30am and 2.00pm, additional tours run during holiday periods.
Where: 19 - 37 Garden Street, Wonthaggi, Vic, 3995, Australia
Cost: The above ground facilities are free. The underground mine tour costs (2019-20) Adult - $21.80 Child (5 - 15 years) - $11.20 Concession (Australian Pension Card Holders) - $15.60 Student (16 ) and Seniors (Government Seniors Card Holders) - $18.90 Family (2 adults and 2 children) - $54.50 Child under 5 $0.00 Carer $0.00
2. Museum. The Wonthaggi Museum is housed in the old heritage-listed railway station building and is operated by the Wonthaggi and District Historical Society. It has many historic artefacts and photographs covering all aspects of Wonthaggi's historical past. The museum also has a small collection of books and souvenirs about the local history for sale. The museum is manned by knowledgeable volunteers.
3. Town Heritage and Points of Interest Walk There is no better way to really see a town than on foot. This is certainly true of Wonthaggi where the streets of the business district are home to much of the town's history, art and culture. This easy walking tour is my take on the points of interest. See heritage buildings, art, poetry, historic items and memorials. Throughout the walk, you will pass some of Wonthaggi's many coffee shops and eateries where you may be tempted to take a break or two. View century-old buildings, memorials, monuments, murals, artefacts from the town's coal mining days and public art.
Click here for more details, addresses, and a recommended walking route.
Cycling and Driving
4. Bunurong Coastal Drive. The Bunurong Coastal Drive presents some of Victoria's most spectacular coastal scenery has been described as a mini Great Ocean Road. Running for 14kms from Cape Paterson to Inverloch this scenic clifftop drive gives views over rugged coastal cliffs, rocky headlands, and sandy beaches to the Bass Strait on the one side and the rolling rural hills of the Bass Coast on the other.
To make the most of the drive pull in at the lookouts and beaches along the way. The Oaks is your first stop after Cape Paterson. Vegetated sandstone cliffs are a backdrop to a stretch of sandy beach between two headlands. Twin Reefs is next. Keep an eye out for the tourist signs, there is not much distance between stops. Look back from Twin Reefs toward Cape Paterson where rocky headlands reach out to the ocean. Shack Bay will offer your first glance at Eagle's Nest, a rock formation that looks a little like the top end of a map of Australia. Eagle's Nest is considered by some to be the icing on the cake. Parking here is in marked bays on the bitumen. The Caves is the last of the lookouts before you reach the town of Inverloch.
Click here for a more detailed review of this picturesque drive.
Where: Inverloch-Cape Paterson Road (via Wonthaggi) from Cape Paterson to Inverloch.
Telephone: Inverloch Visitor Information Centre 1300 762 433 9am to 5pm 7 days a week
5. Cycling the Rail Trail. Cycling is a favourite activity on the Bass Coast and is it any wonder given the number of trails available. The Wonthaggi Rail Trail is a fine gravel path that runs for 23kms from Wonthaggi to Woolamai via Kilcunda and Anderson. The 13kms from Wonthaggi to Kilcunda is flat. There is a steady climb on the 4km section from Kilcunda to Anderson and a decline on the 6km section from Anderson to Woolamai.
Click here for a brochure or check the rail trails website for comprehensive details of the trail, a map, photos and user comments and reviews. The rail trails website also details additional rides branching off from the rail trail.
Enquiries: Bass Coast Shire Council Visitor Information 1300 854 334
Markets and OP Shopping
6. Op Shoppers' Paradise. Op shopping is like treasure hunting, there's no telling what you'll find on the shelves from one day to the next. Some bargain-priced item, some trinket to fall in love with, or something from the past.. It's on my list of fun things to do so imagine my delighted surprise when I found not one but five op shops in Wonthaggi.
They are Lifeline Gippsland Op Shop at 135 Graham Street, Rose Lodge Op Shop at 42-44 McBride Avenue, Paws Galore Thrift Shop at 74A Watt Street, Vinnies Op Shop at 100 Graham Street and the Salvation Army Store at 2/20 Inverloch Road.
Click here for more details including opening times and the types of items stocked.
7. Rotary Market The Wonthaggi Rotary Market runs on the second Sunday of each month from 8am to 1pm, October to June.
Photo from Wonthaggi CFA Facebook Page
The visitor can expect a large variety of stalls including seasonal fruits and vegetables, farm fresh eggs, plants, fishing gear, commercial products, new and used goods, art and craft, trash and treasures, collectibles, flowers, DVD's, clothes, CFA - hot cinnamon donuts, Rotary - extensive menu of hamburgers, egg and bacon rolls, sausages, hash browns and onions, and hot coffee and cold drinks are also available. My locals tip is don't miss out on the CFA cinnamon donuts.
When: Second Sunday of each month from 8am to 1pm, October to June.
Where: Apex Park on Murray Street between Woolworths and Mitchell House.
8. Nature Walks. Do you feel like a getaway to nature but tents, rough tracks, mosquitos and leeches aren't your thing? Do you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city but you still want your creature comforts? No problem, Wonthaggi has you covered. The following five options in Wonthaggi are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conservation areas, walks and trails on the Bass Coast.
(i). The 35 hectare Wonthaggi Wetlands Conservation Park is in town near the Wonthaggi Plaza shopping centre. A wide path of compact gravel makes this shared trail suitable for walkers, cyclists, wheelchairs, and prams. There are two small lakes in the reserve which are home to water birds.
(ii). The Rifle Range Wetlands and Heathland Nature Conservation Reserve is traversed by a compacted gravel and grass track and is an easy walk. There is a small bird hide and a lookout at the Rifle Range. The Heathlands are a longer walk on grass and sand tracks. The area is home to a variety of wildlife.
(iii). The Baxters Wetland trail is in parts mown grass, gravel, dirt and sand. It runs through regenerated bush and is gently undulating. The bird hide is around 300 metres along on a sidetrack. If you are here for the walk this is a 5 kilometre loop track which takes around one and a half hours to traverse.
(iv). At 225 hectares of reclaimed and rehabilitated land, the Victorian Desalination Ecological Reserve is impressive. There are many wide compacted gravel walking tracks and some boardwalks. There is a bird hide, ponds supporting an abundance of birdlife and wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and wombats.
(v). The Bass Coast Rail Trail to the west of town is another of my favourite walks. It is part of the longer 23 kilometre trail that starts on the east side of town at Bent Street and moves through Kilcunda and Anderson to Woolamai. Walk as much or as little as you like. This part of the trail is compact gravel and is an easy flat walk beside farmlands.
Click here for access details and more about what you can expect to see in these wonderful nature spots.
9. Paint Ball. Bass Coast Paintball in Wonthaggi offers paintball games across 20 acres of open field and bush scenarios for groups of 4 or more. They also have Splatmaster which is a low impact, non–bruising version of paintball. If that's not enough axe throwing can be on the agenda. Click here to visit their website for more details and pricing.
10. Agricultural Show. Held each year on the second weekend in January the Bass Coast Summer Agricultural Show in Wonthaggi is the first in-season and has much to offer. The show was first run here in 1884 has been held almost every year since. The core theme of the show is the celebration of excellence in agriculture but it expands beyond this to present a well-rounded day of family entertainment.
Animals feature highly in the annual line up. Children will love the farmyard and animal nursery. No day at the show is complete without a visit to the huge variety of chooks and ducks in the poultry shed. There is a Donkey and Mule Feature Show and an abundance of equestrian events. Dog lovers put their pooches through their paces in a range of events.
There will be rides, games, show bags, eats and drinks. A stilt walker is a regular visitor and there is plenty to capture the children's attention. Local musicians and singers provide entertainment throughout the day in the Red Tent.
For the mechanically minded there is farm machinery, tractors and a ute show. The SES is usually on deck with a narrated demonstration of how they take a car apart to save a road victim. The skilled and competitive woodchoppers vie for the winner's ribbon and a title.
In the pavilion see the best of home-cooked goods, garden and farm produce, cut flowers and floral arrangements, needlepoint, craft and art and the hundreds of photos submitted for judging.
Cost (2020) Saturday: Adults $10, Aged and disabled pensioners $5 Children under 14 years $5, Children under 5 years free, Group ticket $25 (2 adults 2 children under 14 years). Sunday: Horse gate entry $10. Tickets are available at the gate.
11. Automobile Swapmeet and Show and Shine Whether you're a confirmed car enthusiast or you just like shiny things, the Wonthaggi Car Swapmeet and Show and Shine, held annually on the Australia Day weekend, is for you. This family-friendly show will feature custom cars, hot rods, motorbikes, off-road vehicles and a car boot sale. Breakfast and lunch will be available from the food stalls.
If its parts you want, you'll find plenty of those here too along with car memorabilia and often some surprising items which might have nothing to do with automobiles at all.
The event is hosted by Wonthaggi Power Football and Netball and is a major fundraiser for the club.
Cost: (2020) $5 Buyers, $10 sellers, exhibitor vehicle and driver $10, under 15 free
12. Art Gallery and Art Show. Artspace Wonthaggi is a volunteer-run contemporary art gallery which offers quality artworks by Gippsland artists. Exhibitions are rotational and I always look forward to the changeover and to seeing some new and different works. Artspace also houses a gift shop which offers original works in textiles, ceramics, jewellery, glassware and woodwork. The Visitor Information Centre is also housed in this building, so while you check out the artworks you can also find out what else there is to do while you are in town.
The Bass Coast Artists Society Easter Art Show is held annually. In 2020 the show will be held at the Wonthaggi Town Hall. Artworks will be on display from Saturday 11th April to Sunday 19th April inclusive. The 2020 show will include works in a variety of mediums including oil painting, watercolour and photography. The theme is 'Concealed and Exposed'. Visitors will be able to view an exhibition of all the entries.
When: Commencing Easter weekend.
Where: Wonthaggi Town Hall, Baillieu St East, Wonthaggi
13. Comfy Accommodation and Good Dining. Accommodation is available at the Wonthaggi Motel. For more accommodation options go to the Visit Bass Coast website where you can refine search results to suit your requirements. I have stayed at both the Wonthaggi Motel and the RACV Inverloch Resort and can recommend either.