An agricultural town in West Gippsland’s, Warragul is on a plain between the Great Dividing Range in the north and the Strzelecki Ranges in the south.
This is the economic, service and cultural centre of West Gippsland, found along a corridor of settlements threaded by the Princes Highway.
Warragul hosts one of Victoria’s premier farming exhibitions every March and maintains some gorgeous parks and trails for walks, as well as a major regional performing arts centre.
You’ll never have to go far along the highway for museums, shopping and days out, while in the upland regions north and south are tracts of rainforest, lakes and stupendous lookouts, all just minutes from the CBD.
1. Civic Park
Warragul’s prime park is in what is known as the Civic Precinct at the north end of the CBD.
On gently undulating land, the Civic Park has a chain of ponds fed by a manmade waterfall, as well as lots of grand mature trees including an Aleppo pine, a Chinese Friendship Garden, an elegant rotunda, an expansive children’s playground and barbecue and picnic areas.
This beautiful space is also the location for the Warragul Farmers’ Market and the Arts Market, both taking place on the third Saturday of the month.
2. West Gippsland Arts Centre (WGAC)
In the Civic Precinct at the south end of Civic Park sits Warragul’s regional performing arts destination.
Opened in 1982, and with a multimillion-dollar redevelopment in the pipeline, the WGAC hosts touring plays, musicals, live musicians, comedians and dance performances by the likes of the Victoria State Ballet.
The theatre is also a venue for community and school productions, and the same applies to the WGAC’s exhibition space, presenting the work of national, regional and local artists, in a wide variety of media, from fine art to textiles.
3. Linear Park Arts Discovery Trail
For a colourful stroll, this 3.65km trail along the banks of Hazel Creek cuts through several parks in Warragul.
Here a community arts project has furnished the route with murals, mosaics and painted bollards, some in tribute to the traditional owners of the land, the Brayakoloong People, who camped along the creek.
Lined with seating and recreation facilities like outdoor gym stations, the trail is broken down into three distinct sections, the first loop of which is lit at night.
4. Lardner Park
If there’s an event of real scale happening in West Gippsland it’s likely to take place at Lardner Park, a few kilometres south of Warragul.
Set on a rise with panoramic views of the countryside, Lardner Park has 5,000sqm of flexible undercover and open-air space.
Stay up to date with the calendar for spectacles as diverse as 4WD events, international music festivals, markets, all sorts of sporting events, outdoor ballet, jousting and business events, not to mention Warragul’s Farm World, which we’ll talk about in more detail next.
5. Farm World
To underline Warragul’s reputation for farming, one of the largest agricultural shows in the state is held at Lardner Park at the end of March.
This four-day event is now into its sixth decade, and is mainly a showcase for the latest and best agribusiness equipment, technology and methods, allowing you to get in touch with experts in their fields.
But there’s plenty to appeal to casual visitors as much as people in the industry.
You can check out the many different livestock breeds and watch a kelpie dog at work, while at Farmer Darryl’s Animal Farm there will be cuddly animals to pet, and you can find out how to walk an alpaca.
And one of the big events each year is Farm World’s Fittest Farmer, in which contestants carry out physical feats to take this coveted prize.
6. Two Towns Trail
Connecting with the Linear Park Arts Discovery Trail in Warragul is this paved eight-kilometre walking and cycling path that runs west to the centre of Drouin.
The route is mainly used by cycling commuters, but for visitors is a fine way to get a taste of local history and culture and appreciate some of the West Gippsland countryside.
There are interpretive signs detailing the history, art and creation stories of the indigenous Gunaikurnai Nation, and lots of pause places if you need a breather.
At various spots along the way, you’ll be treated to marvellous views of Mount Worth, Mount Baw Baw and the Strzelecki Ranges, while a stretch of the trail near Buln Buln Road lifts you over a creek via a boardwalk.
7. Mount Worth State Park
If you want to escape to the stirring upland scenery temptingly close to Warragul, the easiest option is Mount Worth in the western Strzelecki Ranges.
The park has thick stands of wet mountain rainforest, growing blackwood, tree ferns in gullies, mountain grey gum, mountain ash, which can reach 90 metres in height.
You can see one of these monsters on the 1.8-kilometre Giant’s Circuit, tracking an old timber tramway and leading to one specimen thought to be 300 years old and with a girth of 14 metres.
On the park’s trails you may see crimson rosella parrots, wombats, common brushtail possums and the stunning, ground-dwelling lyrebird.
8. Gumbuya World
Just past Drouin in Tynong is the largest theme park in the whole Melbourne area.
Spread over four zones, Gumbuya World packs in roller coasters, a wave simulator, fairground-style rides and animal attractions, but it’s the water slides in the Oasis Springs water park that make the headlines.
These are the dizzying Boomerango, with a near-vertical reverse ramp, and the 180-metre dark slide, the Taipan.
Littler family members will be thrilled with the animals along the Wildlife Trail, where you’ll see crocodiles, wallabies, kangaroos dingoes, koalas and stunning birdlife in aviaries, while the petting zoo keeps cuddly domestic animals like goats, lamb and ducks.
Finally Outback Explorer has rides and amusements designed for younger visitors, from bumper cars to a pirate ship.
9. Town & Country Gallery
If you’d like to see what the area’s best professional artists and crafters are up to, Yarragon’s Town & Country Gallery is a superb stage for their work.
The gallery partners with dozens of talented painters, sculptors, glass artists, ceramicists, jewellery-makers, printers, furniture makers, illustrators and textile artists, and gives you tons of inspiration for gifts and souvenirs.
The gallery is free to enter, and if you want to turn your visit into an outing, there’s a whole raft of cute cafes and locally-run dining options along the same strip, just off Princes Highway.
10. Trafalgar Holden Museum
Australia’s iconic muscle car is the subject of this great private museum, housed in a cavernous butter factory building from the 1930s.
What’s staggering about the Trafalgar Holden Museum is that this is the collection of one man, Neil Joiner, who has some important models in his hoard.
There’s a 1965 Holden HD Premier with just 13,000 miles on the clock, a barely driven 1963 EJ Holden (7,500 miles) and a 1967 Holden HK.
The museum deals with the long history of the brand from saddle-making to aviation engines, and along with interactive displays has a theatrette screening seldom-seen footage.
11. Mount Cannibal
You won’t have to stray far from the Princes Highway for a walk in dreamy natural scenery.
Mount Cannibal is just a couple of kilometres behind Gumbuya World and can be experienced on a sharp 2.5-kilometre loop that lifts you to the summit and back down again.
The best bit is the northern lookout, where an immense granite spur protrudes from the side of the mountain like a giant pulpit.
Stop for a dramatic photo and to contemplate Gippsland’s signature undulating hills in a glorious 180° vista.
12. Laurie Collins Sculpture Garden
The little town of Jindivick is home to the studio of Victorian regional artist and former teacher, Laurie Collins who uses junk and recycled sheet metal to produce captivating sculptures.
If you’re exploring the region around Warragul you can call in at his one-acre property, which has been turned into a transformative sculpture garden, filled with these inspired creations.
If you book in advance, Laurie will be happy to show you around, explaining his works and inviting you into his studio to show you his process.
The garden is a delight, with arresting panoramas of the Gippsland countryside.
13. Old Gippstown
A little further out, in Moe, Old Gippstown is an open-air museum that takes you back to the roots of European settlement in Gippsland and has a busy events calendar.
There are more than forty historical buildings to ponder, dating from the 1850s to the 1950s and relocated to this site from across the region.
Some standouts include a general store from 1889, library/Masonic lodge from 1905, a bank building dating to 1900, a homestead built in 1848, a school from 1889 and Moe’s Holy Trinity Anglican Church, raised in the mid-1890s.
In the museum’s old coach house you’ll encounter Australia’s largest publically-owned collection of horse-drawn vehicles, and the other buildings are replete with historic items from machinery to furniture, documents, books, homewares, militaria and all kinds of antique decorative arts.
14. Warragul Country Club
Home to one of the best golf courses in the Gippsland Region, Warragul Country Club is a linchpin of the town’s social scene, hosting regular events like raffles and bingo, as well as other social functions and even stage shows.
This is a not-for-profit, community facility, happy to welcome non-members.
And if you’re just up for a round of golf the green fee is $18 for 18 holes (walk up), with a $3 discount if you book online.
And after your round, the Fairways Bistro has an international menu, whether you’re in the mood for a Thai pork belly salad or something lighter like a pumpkin and spinach risotto.
15. Blue Rock Dam
Loved by families, this 873-hectare reservoir on the Tanjil River is a simple drive along the Old Sale Road from Warragul.
The Blue Rock Dam went up in the 1970s, providing water to cool the Latrobe Valley’s power stations and supplement drinking water.
Rising to 72 metres, the structure is 600 metres long and has a spillway with a capacity for 1,200 cubic metres of water per second.
The reservoir is a big draw for day-trippers, with two recreation areas on its wooded and grassy shores for safe swimming, picnicking, kayaking/canoeing and fishing.
And if you just want to ramble and savour the verdant nature surrounding the reservoir there’s a track that continues for most of the perimeter.