Set in Victoria’s Gippsland Region, Traralgon is the fastest-growing urban centre in the Latrobe Valley.
The city grew up in the late-19th century at a railway junction, and one of those disused lines has become a rail trail guiding cyclists and walkers over more than 60 kilometres of rural Gippsland.
Coalmining is the big industry here, but there’s nature all around, in the foothills at the southern tip of Australia’s Great Dividing Range, at river gorges, waterfalls and the endless horizons of the Great Gippsland Plains.
The vaunted Narkoogee winery is practically on Traralgon’s doorstep, together with open-air museums, exquisite gardens and a first-rate regional art gallery.
1. Gippsland Plains Rail Trail
The Gippsland Plains Railway Line was completed in 1883, linking Traralgon with Maffra and Stratford some 60 kilometres away in the Central Gippsland Valley.
This was closed down in the 1980s and 90s, and has since become a fantastic greenway crossing historic bridges, pastoral dairy country, the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and Great Gippsland Plains.
Some of the panoramas along the trail are astonishing, and you’ll never be more than a few kilometres from the nearest settlement.
All along the route there will be cafes and restaurants, but also wineries at Glengarry, Tinamba, Powerscourt and Stratford, which makes this a great way to discover the Gippsland Wine Region.
2. Morwell Centenary Rose Garden
This garden, set up in 1992 to celebrate Morwell’s centenary is an astounding horticultural achievement.
Across two hectares of expertly manicured beds are more than 3,500 rosebushes, selected from over 400 traditional varieties and recent hybrids.
These include miniatures, tea roses, hybrid teas, floribunda, rugosas, heritage and many more.
The garden is also endowed with lots of beautiful elements like a gazebo, decorative climbing frames, a pergola, rose-clad towers and archways, as well as a sunken sensory garden with perfumed Delbard perfumed roses and a rockery planted with a cascade of David Austin modern shrub roses.
3. Gippsland Wine Region
Traralgon sits within a vast wine region that has developed a great deal since the 1970s, but has a history of producing wine going back to the 19th century.
Gippsland is dominated by boutique, family-run vineyards and wineries, nourished by a temperate climate that makes for intense reds like Pinot Noir and Merlot, and complex Chardonnays.
Barely 15 minutes from Traralgon you’ll come to Narkoogee, resting in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and granting gorgeous views of the Strzelecki Ranges.
The cellar door (tasting room) is open daily 10:30-16:30, pouring from a selection that includes Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
Adjacent is By Jorg Restaurant for the likes of saffron & herb risotto, pan-seared market fish, slow-cooked lamb rump, paired with Narkoogee wines.
4. Gippsland Immigration Park
Immigration is at the heart of Gippsland’s story, and a few minutes away in Morwell there’s a park filled with monuments paying tribute to this aspect of the region’s past and present.
One of these is the Wall of Recognition, displaying a graphic history of immigration here, but also listing the migrant families who have made Gippsland their home.
At the centre is a statue of an immigrant, suitcase in hand, while shielding his face from the Australian sun.
Around Lake Kernot in the park is the Heritage Walk, made up of 72 separate information panels leading you through the history of Gippsland via the Aboriginal Gunaikurnai people, European settlement, infrastructure, rule of law, education, emergency services, Gippsland in wartime and much more.
5. Old Gippstown
This open-air museum in Moe has been in business for almost 50 years and in that time has collected upwards of 40 buildings to document the European settlement of Gippsland.
The period covered is 1850 to 1950, and among the many monuments there’s a school, waterwheel, bank building, church, a prefab “iron” house from the mid-19th century Gold Rush, a general store and a Masonic lodge.
Old Gippstown is made all the more engaging by tremendous collections of antique furniture, documents, newspapers, art, books, tools, machinery, home appliances, militaria and a big fleet of horse-drawn vehicles.
Every few weeks there’s a new seasonal event here, whether it’s a car show on Father’s Day, high tea on Mother’s Day, Carols by Candlelight at Christmas or patriotic fun on Australia Day.
6. Latrobe Regional Gallery
Morwell features one of the largest regional galleries in eastern Victoria, with seven exhibition spaces and an outdoor sculpture courtyard.
At the Latrobe Regional Gallery you can check out curated projects and national touring exhibitions, works by regional artists, interdisciplinary performances and exhibitions that draw on the gallery’s own rich collections.
These touch on Asian art, glassware, Impressionism, Modernism and Australian post-war art.
The gallery’s calendar is packed with exhibition tours, artist talks, educational workshops and a program called the Project Space, to give a platform to up-and-coming talent.
7. Newman Park
At Traralgon’s main public space you’ll find a neat and well-equipped urban park.
This is an easy walk from the railway station and the town’s CBD, and the highlight has to be the enormous children’s playground with a vast array of play equipment.
This has a big sandpit with mechanical scoop, a whole range of slides, a flying fox, walkways, ladders and a four-person pommel bounce.
Of course, Newman Park also has lush lawns, picnic and barbecue areas, but next to the playground there’s also a miniature train, running on the fourth Sunday of the month.
8. Traralgon Railway Reservoir Conservation Reserve
History, culture and natural beauty come together at this 30-hectare reserve in the south of Traralgon.
The reservoir here was dammed in 1883 to provide water for steam trains on the newly established railway.
There’s a pavilion at the reserve giving a chronology of Traralgon, covering the indigenous Gunaikurnai People and the story of European settlement.
The reserve comprises woodland, wetlands and grassland, and that reservoir abounds with aquatic plants like water lilies and attracts scores of ducks.
Kookaburras are a common sight in the woods, made up of various gum trees and acacias, with a forest floor decked with wildflowers in spring and early-summer.
9. Wirilda Environment Park
If you’re in the mood for a picnic in nature, the nearest spot is this park in front of the hills of the Tyers Region.
Wirilda Environment Park is 100 hectares of riverside farmland, reclaimed by bush.
The river water is sparkling clear and popular with swimmers in summer, while you can barbecue and camp on the banks.
If you’re a confident hiker you could follow the park’s tracks back up river, into the gorgeous Tyers Gorge and eventually up to the Moondarra Reservoir.
10. Morwell River Falls
This excursion takes a little longer and involves a drive along the gravel Morwell River Road near Boolarra, but the remoteness of the Morwell River Falls is part of their appeal.
A trail beckons you from the car park past a sequence of glorious cascades along the river’s upper reaches in the Strzelecki Ranges.
The falls are nestled in deep, wooded valleys, with ferns and moss-covered rocks and tree limbs lining the trails.
There’s a picnic area at the reserve, and in summer you can go swimming, but will need to take care as there are rocks just beneath the surface.
11. Tyers Park
North of the Latrobe Valley the terrain gets pretty dramatic at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.
In a landscape of limestone and conglomerate outcrops the scenic Tyers Gorge is more than 1,800 hectares of protected land.
You can walk and picnic on these high forested slopes, exploring the gorge and looking out for vibrant birdlife.
Tyers Park is never more beautiful than during wildflower season, between September and November.
12. Miners’ Lookout
At this vantage point next to the Traralgon Creek Road you can glimpse another side to the Latrobe Valley.
Miners’ Lookout is on a slight rise, facing east towards an immense open-pit coal mine, looking like a yawning hole in the earth.
Above it to the south stand the chimneys and cooling towers of the Loy Yang A and B Power Stations.
There are information panels about the mine and power stations, and it’s worth bringing a pair of binoculars to gauge the true size of the mine.
13. Narracan Falls
Not far off the Morwell – Thorpdale Road, Narracan Falls is a cherished beauty spot a brief drive from Traralgon.
Here the Narracan Creek tumbles about five metres into a wide splash pool, and when things heat up in summer there are sure to be swimmers here or people sitting on the rocks and dipping their toes in the water.
Walking trails lead you up to the top of the waterfall and then skirt around the steep drop to the pool, where you’ll find picnic tables and open fireplaces.
Narracan Falls has water all year, but is most impressive after a spell of rain.
14. Traralgon Farmers’ Market
Kay Street Gardens, the green, tree-shaded strip that threads through Traralgon, is the setting for a thriving farmers’ market on the fourth Saturday of the month.
This is a chance to pick up some of the best produce from the many farms around Gippsland, and have a chat with the farmers and growers, who will be happy to share recipes and preparation tips.
As well as fruit and vegetables there will be stalls laden with pastries, sourdough bread, cheeses, gourmet jams, salad dressings, and you can always grab something freshly-made for lunch.
Most months you’ll find children’s activities like face-painting, as well as live music.
15. Latrobe Visitor Information Centre
Come out of the railway station and you’ll be greeted by the Latrobe Valley’s visitor information resource, housed in a charming old weatherboard church.
Of course, this is the place to plot your next step in the valley, whether you’re heading for bushland, a historical site, museum, gallery, market or want to cross the countryside on a rail trail.
Leaflets, maps and expert advice are all on hand, but the visitor information centre also stocks handmade gifts and specialty foods from the region.
On top of that you’ve got free Wi-Fi access, and this is the place to come if you want the key for the liberty swing at the playground in Newman Park.