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9 Things to do at the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine

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by Gayle Beveridge (subscribe)
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 August 27th 2016
The Southern Hemisphere's Only Historic Coal Mine Experience
The State Coal Mine in Wonthaggi operated from 1909 to 1968, produced 17 million tonnes of coal for the railways and for industry and is now the only historic coal mine experience in the Southern Hemisphere. Here visitors can wander the heritage park, maintained as it was in the 1900's or go underground and stand at the mine face where the coal seams are more than 130 million years old. It is free to enter the Heritage Park where there is much to do, with fees only charged for the underground experience.

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The Entrance to the Underground Mine Tour (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

1. The Underground Mine Tour takes visitors through the mine's tunnels to the coal face where the kids can find their own piece of coal to take away. Tools and equipment used by the miners and empty skips remain in the mine. Models demonstrate the workings. The mine has been restored by volunteers; some of them were miners here themselves.

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Timber supports inside the mine. Imagine working in this space all day long. (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

Your guide will explain the mine's history, mining methods and what life was like in the time the mine was working. You will see the timber supports in the shafts and learn why the miners feared the creaking wood. You will see the rock bolts and learn how they make the mine safe, see how the walls were shored up, learn what the whistle signals meant, and walk by the rails where skips were once towed to the surface by horses referred to as pit ponies.

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A Model Showing Working Conditions in the Mine (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

The mine tour commences on foot along a gently sloping tunnel and ends with a ride out on closed pulley truck hauled to the surface by a winch. You are now atop the hill by the winch room with views across the park and surrounding countryside.

The tour lasts about an hour and you will need closed toe shoes. Bookings can be made online.

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A Coal Truck (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

2. At the Visitor Centre and Café you can relax with a drink or some light refreshments. As well as the indoor tables and chairs there is an alfresco area which is particularly nice on a sunny day. The café is not just a tourist stop but is often visited by Wonthaggi locals.

In a side room at the visitor centre there is a full table model of the mine; its detail a marvel in itself.

3. In the Theatrette watch a short film about Wonthaggi's mining heritage. This is a town built around coal mining and the film contains some interesting old footage.

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Venture into the Mine (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

4. Visit the Museum housed in the old miners change room where you will see a coal truck, models depicting the mining history and photos. Instruction signs in the change room may elicit a giggle today. A mock-up of a mine wall shows how these were constructed.

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A Toppled Coal Cart Still in the Mine Today (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

5. The Heritage Trail winds through the grounds of the park amongst buildings and gardens. Information boards explain the purpose of the buildings and in one you can sit and watch a short documentary about a horrific explosion in the mine in the early 1900's.

Under cover sits the old steam train K192 hooked up to railway wagons. Visitors can ascend a small set of stairs and climb aboard the locomotive; a special treat for the kids.

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Inside the Cottage (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

Also in the heritage park are the Explosives Shed, the Winch House and CFA display, the Canary Cages, the Undermanager's Office, the Lamp Room and the Blacksmiths Workshop.

A cottage furnished in an early 1900's style is complete with a growing vegetable garden in the backyard, an old fashioned clothesline, laundry, outhouse, workshop and chicken shed.

6. In the Picnic and BBQ Area are outdoor and under shelter picnic tables. The BBQ's are free so if you BYO food and drink this is a reasonably priced day out for the family.

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Climb Aboard the Old Steam Engine K192 (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

7. Look for your Relatives in the Staff Records. Perhaps someone in your family once worked at the State Coal Mine. In the Visitor Centre a folder with the names of employees can be searched. I knew my grandfather had once worked in the mine and easily found his name. He was employed as a clipper in 1919, he was 18.

For a small fee, you can order a replica of your relative's mine token and should you choose buy a second to be hung on the mine board as a tribute to your relative.

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Miners Tags Hang Near the Entrance to the Underground Tour (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

8. Book the Café and Meeting Rooms for A Function. The meeting rooms, theatrette and café are available for hire so why not take a look at this interesting and historic venue for your next function. Bookings can be made by contacting Parks Victoria on 13 1963.

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Part of the CFA Display (photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

9. Play War Games. Laserstrike Combat Simulations run realistic army battles both above and below ground at the State Coal Mine Heritage Park. Realistic looking guns, sound effects and camouflage gear add to the experience. The guns shoot infra-red light beams that trigger sensors on the targets. To learn more contact Laserstrike on 1300 764 686 or via their websites.

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The Old Laundry in the Back Yard of the Cottage (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

The Wonthaggi State Coal Mine Heritage Park is at 19 - 37 Garden Street, Wonthaggi. Wonthaggi is around an hour and a half from the Melbourne CBD via the South Gippsland and Bass Coast Highways. 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.

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A Coal Cart Sits on the Rails in the Mine (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)

The above ground facilities are free. The underground mine tour costs (Aug 2016) Adult - $20.60 Child (5 - 15 years) - $10.50 Concession (Australian Pension Card Holders) - $14.70 Student (16 ) and Seniors (Government Seniors Card Holders) - $17.70 Family (2 adults and 2 children) - $51.40 Child under 5 $0.00 Carer $0.00. Parks Victoria manages the site. They can be contacted on 13 1963. More details and online bookings are via the website.
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Why? This is so much fun, you’ll want to go again.
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.
Phone: Parks Victoria 13 1963
Where: 19 - 37 Garden Street, Wonthaggi, Vic, 3995, Australia
Cost: The above ground facilities are free. The underground mine tour costs (Aug 2016) Adult - $20.60 Child (5 - 15 years) - $10.50 Concession (Australian Pension Card Holders) - $14.70 Student (16 ) and Seniors (Government Seniors Card Holders) - $17.70 F
Your Comment
This sounds like fun and educational.
by Roger (score: 2|625) 1144 days ago
I'd heard of this but hadn't really thought of it as a place to take the kids.
by betty (score: 2|508) 1143 days ago
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