across at St Andrews Congregational
Church from the grounds of the Holy
Trinity Church of England
Attractive rural town surrounded by orchards
and market gardens.
Bacchus Marsh is one of Victoria's older towns
and, as such, it retains a number of
historically significant buildings. Located on
the edge of a scenic and fertile valley, it is
surrounded by hills and situated by the Werribee
and Lerderderg Rivers at an elevation of 105
metres. Bacchus Marsh is 55 km north-west of
Melbourne en route to Ballarat via the Western
The town supports a range of manufacturing
industries while the surrounding area is given
over to dairying, mixed farming, grazing and
orchards. There is an open-cut coal mine on the
southern outskirts. Bacchus Marsh is also a
commuter satellite of Melbourne and has a
current population of some 13 500 people.
Prior to European settlement the area is
thought to have been occupied by the Kurung
Aborigines. The first white settler was Kenneth
Scobie Clarke who, in 1836, transported sheep
and other livestock from George Town in Van
Dieman's Land on behalf of the Great Lakes
Pastoral Company. He took up land between the
Werribee and Lerderderg Rivers.
However, the town is named after Captain
William Henry Bacchus (also of Van Dieman's
Land) who occupied the valley when Clarke headed
west in 1838. The 'Marsh' part of the equation
reflects the fact that the valley was once full
of marshland associated with the river system,
although these were drained and the riverbed
altered by early European settlers.
In the late 1830s the valley was considered
as a site for settlement by retired military
officers. Two townsites were surveyed:
Maddingley to the south of the Werribee River
and Lerderderg to the north of the Lerderderg
River. However, Bacchus Marsh began to emerge
when gold was discovered at Ballarat in 1851.
The Border Inn (built in 1850 and still
standing) became a coach stopover for those
travelling from Melbourne to the goldfields. It
was the first coaching stop on the route and
arguably the first coaching service stop in the
state. Other businesses began to emerge on this
busy line of road. The three settlements
ultimately merged into one. Bacchus Marsh became
a municipality in 1871.
Chicory, a coffee additive, was grown and
roasted locally from the 1880s. A factory making
concentrated and preserved milk opened in 1890
and, until 1915, stibnite, an ore of antimony,
was excavated in a mine that was one of the
country's major antimony producers. Brown coal
has been mined here since World War II.
Novelist Frank Hardy was raised at Bacchus
Marsh and Peter Carey was born here in 1943. The
Bacchus Marsh Show is held in late October and
Cup Day in the Park is preceded by a five-day
festival in early November.
Things to see:
part of the market gardening which
prospers around Bacchus Marsh
For local tourist information ring the Moorabool
Shire offices in Bacchus Marsh on (03) 5366
Avenue of Honour
The main entry to Bacchus Marsh, for those
coming from the east, is The Avenue of Honour.
With the advent of Dutch Elm disease in Europe
it is now regarded as the finest elm avenue in
the world. The trees were planted to honour
those men and women from the district who had
fought and died in World War I. It consists of
281 North American elms. The other elms, oaks
and plane trees which line Main St were planted
A feature of Bacchus Marsh are the market
stalls which sell local produce along The Avenue
of Honour. The focal point is the Big Apple
Tourist Orchard which also offers guided tours,
tel: (03) 5367 4752.
Courthouse, Lock-Up and National Bank
The Bacchus Marsh courthouse in Main St was
built of local sandstone in 1858-59. The
courthouse is still in use. The lock-up and
stables nearby were built at the same time.
The National Bank in Main St is also
classified by the National Trust.
The Tudor-style Border Inn (1850), at 139 Main
St, was essentially the means by which the town
came into existence. In 1851 it became the first
coach stop on the road to the Ballarat gold
diggings (and thus the first coach-stop in the
state) and Bacchus Marsh essentially developed
around this traffic.
Blacksmith's Cottage and Forge
At 100-102 Main St is a Classical Revival
blacksmith's forge built in 1877 by Hugh Meikle.
Adjacent is a small and attractive cottage. The
timber section dates from c.1850 with the stone
front room added in 1866. They are both
associated with a local history museum and
bookbarn which are open on weekends.
The mechanics' institute (1858) is considered
one of the earliest in Victoria. It is located
in Young St which runs off Main St.
From Young St turn right into Manor St. At no.28
is a two-storey brick residence which was built
some time between 1840 and 1846 for retired
military officer and magistrate Captain William
Bacchus, after whom the town is named. It is one
of the state's oldest surviving domiciles of
substance. The stuccoed masonry around the
windows is a dominant feature of the design.
Bennett St also runs off Young St, opposite
Manor St. At no.4 is a stone villa built c.1865
as a domicile for James Young. It features bay
windows around a central gabled porch with
attractive bargeboards lining all gables. The
rear wing is a later addition. The building was
later used as a school and vicarage.
Two of the town's churches stand opposite each
other on Gisborne Rd. The most impressive is the
Holy Trinity Church of England which was built
of local sandstone in 1877. This was the town's
second Church of England church. The first one
has a minor note of infamy. Andrew Scott, who
was to become the bushranger known as Captain
Moonlight, worked for a time as a lay preacher
and it is known that he conducted services in
the original church. Captain Bacchus, who
founded the town and subsequently died in 1849,
is buried in the graveyard. The church is
located on a hilltop in Gisborne Rd, just north
of Main St. Opposite is St Andrew's Presbyterian
Church, built of bluestone and sandstone in
Also in Gisborne St is the original section of
the Express office which was built of hand-made
bricks in 1865 for the printery of George Lane.
The Express newspaper was first published the
following year and is still in operation. A
graphics art company currently occupy the
Grant St heads south off Main St almost opposite
Gisborne St. At 37-41 Grant St is 'Millbank',
built of locally-quarried stone c.1855 for
William Grant. The polychromatic brick wings
were added later. The outbuildings - a primitive
slab dairy and shed - are considered rare
survivals of vernacular construction techniques.
Further south, at the corner of Grant St and
Taverner St, is Maddingley Park, which is a good
spot for a picnic.
Kiln with the original advertisement for
Dr Morse's Indian Root Pills
1 km along Taverner St, just past Fisken St
(which heads off Main St), is a chicory kiln
built in 1885. Chicory was grown on the river
flats around the kiln from the 1880s by a man
named Pearce. The roots of this white,
parsnip-like plant, were roasted in the kiln
before being ground and used as a coffee
additive. Note the old advertisement on the wall
for Dr Morse's Indian Root Pills.
Maddingley Open-Cut Coal Mine
The Maddingley Mine was established in 1943.
Head south along Grant St. Take the left
immediately after crossing the railway line then
the second right into East Maddingley Rd which
leads to a viewing area over the 280-ha mine.
The town's speedway is located in a volcanic
crater in Parwan South Road. The Australian
Speed Car Championships are held here in March.
The Djerriwarrah Bridge, over the Lerderderg
River, is located about 5 km east of town. Head
east out of town along the Avenue of Honour then
continue east when you reach the Western
Freeway. As you go up the hill (i.e., Anthony's
Cutting) there is a turnoff on the left which
leads to the bridge which was built in 1858-59
of local sandstone. There are picnic areas with
barbecue facilities on either side.
St Anne's Vineyard
St Anne's Vineyard was established in 1972.
Rhine riesling, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon
and shiraz are all produced. along with dessert
and fortified wines. The bluestone cellar is
built from the remnants of Ballarat's original
gaol (1840s). It is open daily until 5.00 p.m.
To get there head out of Bacchus Marsh on the
Western Freeway towards Ballarat. After 15 km
there is a brown-and-white tourist sign
indicating the route to the vineyard (turn off
at the Pykes Creek exit), tel: (03) 5368 7209.
Pykes Creek Reservoir
If you take the Pykes Creek exit off the freeway
then turn right across the overpass, you will
soon come to a side road on the left which leads
to Pykes Creek Reservoir which was completed in
1911. It is named after an early European
settler and is an attractive picnic area which
is also used for boating, swimming and fishing.
countryside near Werribee Gorge State
Werribee Gorge State Park
Werribee Gorge State Park (443 ha), 8 km west of
Bacchus Marsh, is centred on a quite remarkable
steep-sided gorge which reveals a great deal
about the area's geological history (a sea bed
covered by glacial debris then lava), making it
a popular destination for school excursions.
Take Pentland Hills Rd off the freeway and
turn into Myers Rd for the northern section
which contains the Quarry Picnic Area and
Meikles Picnic Area. From the former you can
follow the four-hour Werribee Gorge Circuit
The Ingliston Gorge Walk (2.5 hours) starts
off the back road to Ballan, as does the
management track that leads to Falcons Lookout
which is the only location in the park for
abseilers. For more information ring (03) 5367
2922 or 131 963.
Long Forest Flora Reserve
This is the only naturally occurring patch of
mallee south of the Great Dividing Range. At one
time mallee scrub was common in the area but as
the climate cooled most of it was supplanted by
eucalypt forest. However, this reserve rests on
a bed of shale and sandstone which is not
conducive to eucalypts.
This area was first mapped in the 1830s by a
surveyor who described it as 'barren forest
hills'. There was an unsuccessful attempt to
mine gold here and, late in the 19th century,
timber was cut for milk factories at Bacchus
Marsh. With subdivision proceeding 245 ha was
set aside in 1981 in recognition of the site's
The dominant species in the reserve is bull
mallee although blue box can be found along
Coimadai Creek and grey box and yellow gum on
drier sites. The reserve also has turkey bush,
fragrant salt-bush and some rare orchids. There
are about 200 species of birds, as well as
kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echinas, gliders
and possums. Birdwatching, nature studies and
bushwalking can all be enjoyed.
To get there head east of Melton along the
Western Freeway for 7 km and take the left turn
into Long Forest Rd at the turnoff signposted
for Merrimu Reservoir. A short distance along,
to the right, is the start of the Djerriwarrah
Track. Slightly further north, to the left, is a
gate which marks the start of the Old House
Track. Continuing north, to the left, is the
start of the Mallee Track. A little further
north again, to the right, is Sundew Ave. Just
past this, to the left, is a carpark and
information shelter which marks the start of the
Happy Valley Track. 2 km further north is a
turnoff on the left into Canopus Circuit loop
road. Along here, to the left, is a gate and an
information shelter at the start of the Long
Point Track. This is also the access point for
the Steep Track and the Comidai Track. Some of
the trails on the western side of the road
intersect. Most are signposted along Long Forest
For further information contact the
Department of Natural Resources and Environment
at Bacchus Marsh on (03) 5367 2922.
If you continue north along Long Forest Rd you
will come to a signposted turnoff on the left
which leads to Merrimu Reservoir - the water
supply for both Bacchus Marsh and Melton. There
is a recreational area with picnic, barbecue,
toilet and playground facilities.
Lerderderg State Park
The main formation associated with this 14
000-ha park is the rugged 300-metre gorge carved
by the Lerderderg River. There is a diversity of
flora and some early goldmining relics.
Walking trails of varying length follow the
river and old water races cut by goldminers.
There are good sandy riverside beaches and
bushcamping is permitted away from main roads.
You can fish in the river or explore some 4WD
tracks in the dry season (October to May). Roads
within the park are often crude and may be
unmanageable in wet weather.
To access the southern section follow
Lerderderg River Rd out of Bacchus Marsh. It
leads to the Mackenzies Flat Picnic Area where
you can swim or take a walk to Grahams Dam.
There are coin-operated barbecues.
For the northern section head west along the
freeway for 15 km and take the Pykes Creek exit.
13 km north of the freeway turn right into
scenic O'Briens Rd which leads to O'Briens
Crossing Picnic Area where there are toilets and
fireplaces. For further information ring (03)
5367 2922 or 131 963.
Brisbane Ranges National Park
The Boar Gully bush camp is a pleasant woodland
area which is a good base for bushwalking. There
are several campsites, toilets, a picnic area
and a water supply. To get there head south-west
out of Bacchus Marsh on the Balliang Rd. After 9
km turn right, heading west along the Bacchus
Marsh-Mt Wallace Rd. 13 km along this road (the
last 3 km being unsealed) there is a signposted
turnoff on the left which leads to the camping
area. If you wish to camp in the park it is
necessary to contact the Anakie office first,
tel: (03) 5284 1230. For further information on
the park see the entry on Anakie or contact
Parks Victoria on 131 963.