Buninyong (including Lal Lal)
Victoria's first proclaimed inland town
Buninyong lays claim to being the site of the
first inland town in Victoria. It is located 125
km north-west of Melbourne and 13 km south of
Ballarat via the Geelong Rd. The name comes from
an Aboriginal word, 'Buninyouang', said to mean
'man lying on his back with his knees raised' -
a reference to the shape of nearby Mt Buninyong
when seen from some angles.
In the severe drought of 1837 a party of
Scottish squatters left the Geelong area and
headed north in search of superior sheep and
cattle pastures. One of the party, Somerville
Learmonth, climbed Mt Buninyong before returning
to Geelong. He returned the following year with
another party including his brother, Thomas
Livingstone Learmonth, to extend the
investigation. The Learmonths initially settled
with 2000 ewes on the banks of the Barwon River.
By 1839 they had established their home station
south of the future townsite.
A small village began to develop around 1842,
consisting initially of several employees of the
Learmonths. With the Learmonths' permission, a
store and eating house was set up and it was
soon joined by a blacksmith and some sawyers and
splitters. In 1842 the first hotel license for
an inland hotel was issued to the
newly-established Crown Hotel. The village
picked up trade from the bullock teams on the
track to Portland and a post office opened at a
local store in 1845. A Presbyterian minister
arrived in 1847 and a boarding school was set up
the following year.
On 8 August 1851 blacksmith Thomas Hiscock
struck gold in a gully 3 km west of the townsite.
The area was soon thick with prospectors and a
court of petty sessions was proclaimed at
Buninyong on September 30, with a police camp
gazetted there on October 3. Although no great
amount of precious metal was found in the
immediate area, the influx of diggers led to the
discovery of massive amounts of gold at nearby
Ballarat and the goldfields administration was
moved to Ballarat one month later.
As at Ballarat, much of the alluvial gold had
been recovered by the 1860s and large-scale
deep-lead quartz-reef mines were established in
the area, employing many men. By 1871 there were
2281 people and 20 hotels at Buninyong. The
prosperity of the period is evident in the
town's wide main street. Holy Trinity Church was
built in 1861-62 and the railway arrived from
Ballarat in 1889.
After the goldrush was over the area reverted
to pastoral and agricultural pursuits. Today
Buninyong is part of the Greater City of
Ballarat. Its population is around 1700.
The Buninyong Gold King Festival is held on
the third weekend in February. There are
concerts, sporting events, street stalls and a
Things to see:
Historic Buildings Around the Main
There is a roundabout at the town's main
intersection where Warrenheip St (the
north-south Geelong Road) meets Learmonth St
(the Midland Highway).
The National Bank building on the
south-eastern corner dates from 1867-68. The
store on its eastern side was established in
1855. A little further east are the town hall
and courthouse (1886). The courthouse section
has historic displays with a large collection of
photographs and local records. It is open
Sundays from 1.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Cross over Learmonth St and return to the
intersection. The commercial complex of the
north-eastern corner incorporates an 1857
Turn right into Warrenheip St. To the
immediate right is the former Eagle Hotel
(1858). Note the ornate facade of the gold-boom
era with its decorative columns and heads.
Cross over Warrenheip St to the Crown Hotel
which was issued the first inland hotel licence
in 1842. It therefore claims to be the oldest
continually licensed premises in the state,
although the present Gothic-inspired building
dates from 1885 after a fire destroyed the
The hotel is at the corner of De Soza Park,
named after Simon De Soza who made his fortunes
on the local goldfields. It was originally the
Buninyong Creek and Tannery Reserve as there was
a tannery on the creek bank to the west. There
is a pleasant walking track.
Mechanics' Institute Information Centre
Continue north along Warrenheip St a short
distance. On the left-hand side of the road is
the old mechanics' institute (1861) which was a
gift to the town from Robert Allen, the original
owner/manager of the Crown Mine. The mock
masonry and timber facade is thought to have
been imported from the UK. This is now a library
and historical reference centre with maps,
booklets and information on local walks and
tours. It is open weekends from 1.30 p.m. to
4.30 p.m. and sometimes during mid-week.
Historic Walk - Eyre St
Continue north to the Eyre St intersection. On
the north-western corner is a 19th-century shop
with an intact facade. The premises diagonally
opposite (the former Whykes Grocery Store) are
also quite old.
Head west along Eyre St. Cross the creek and
to the left, at the Winter St corner, is 'Glencairn',
thought to have been built in the early 1850s by
Robert Allen with more recent additions.
Diagonally opposite is 'Clifton Villa'. It
was built in 1859 by the Newmans who based it on
the family home in Bristol. There was originally
a ballroom though it was later dismantled and
reassembled elsewhere as a church.
Historic Walk - Learmonth St
Walk south along Winter St to the park, cross
the footbridge over the creek, walk directly
across to Learmonth St and turn left, heading
back to the main intersection. To the immediate
left is the house which once belonged to Thomas
Hiscock who was the first to find gold on the
Just past it is the post office which was
built in 1874 after 29 years of operation from
Over the road, at 405 Learmonth St, is
Buninyong Antiques which is situated in a house
thought to have been built in the 1870s. It is
constructed of handmade bricks with bluestone
foundations and a bluestone cellar. It is open
from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. weekends and public
holidays or by appointment.
On the eastern side of Buninyong Antiques is
a two-storey timber house built in the 1890s for
a local doctor. The iron panels in the fence
were originally part of the Royal Hotel at
Historic Walk - Warrenheip St South
From the roundabout head south along Warrenheip
St. On the north-western corner of the
Warrenheip and Scott St intersection is
'Netherby' which was built prior to 1873. Note
the wooden outhouses.
Cross over Scott St. To the right is Holy
Trinity Anglican Church, built 1861-62. The
Sunday school hall was erected in 1857 as a
common school. Adjacent is the vicarage,
constructed in 1857, although the verandah and
cast-iron lacework are later additions. It is
now a private residence.
Continue south a short distance, cross over
Yuille St and, to the right, is the former
Wesleyan Church and Hall (1860s). It closed in
1974 and is now in private hands.
Historic Walk - Primary School and Botanic
When you come to Simpson St turn left. At
Simpson and Inglis is the primary school, built
in 1873 for 500 pupils.
Walk up Inglis St, past the school and
bowling club and turn right into the Buninyong
Botanical Gardens. Established in the 1860s they
were designed by Ferdinand Von Mueller who was
responsible for Melbourne's Botanical Gardens.
They feature a lake, barbecue facilities, a
children's playground, 1870s swimming baths
which have been converted into a courtyard
garden, and the Queen Victoria rotunda (1901).
On the southern edge of the Gardens is the
old miners' court which was built in 1859. It is
now used by the school.
Historic Walk - The Gong and Brewery
Walk east through the Botanical Gardens to
Cornish St. On the far side of Cornish St is a
lake known as The Gong or Upper Reservoir. The
lake was intended to supply most of the town's
On the southern side of the lake (off Cornish
St) is the Buninyong Brewery, built prior to
1857. It is now a private residence.
Historic Walk - Simpson St and Mt Innes
Walk south along Cornish St and turn left into
Simpson St. You will soon see, to the left,
'Kings Hill' built in the 1850s for Thomas
Shepherd who operated the brewery.
Continue on to the end of Simpson St which
reaches a T-intersection with Lal Lal St. On the
far side of Lal Lal St is 'Brim Brim', built in
1859-60 for a local magistrate.
Head north along Lal Lal St. To the right is
Mt Innes, otherwise known as Hastie's Hill as
Reverend Hastie (the town's first Presbyterian
minister) is thought to have established the
first Presbyterian school on this hill which
offers views over the town.
Historic Walk - Scott St
Turn left into Scott St then take the first left
into Fisken St. St Peter's and St Paul's
Catholic Church was commissioned in 1853 and
completed in 1858. It has been considerably
altered over the years.
Turn left back into Scott St and follow it
along past the Botanical Gardens to the Inglis
St intersection where you will see the former
Presbyterian (now Uniting) church. This Gothic
structure was built in 1860. One of the
stained-glass windows depicts Thomas Hastie.
Buggies and horses were once tethered in the
large shady yard.
Continue along Scott St for a short distance.
To the left is the Presbyterian manse, built in
the 1870s for Thomas Hastie.
At the end of Scott St, to the left, is
'Camellia Cottage' (1863), thought to have been
built by Dr Casey, the grandfather of Lord
Casey, a governor-general of Australia.
Turn right into Warrenheip St and return to
the main intersection.
Buninyong Flora and Bird Park
About 2.5 km north of the main intersection at
Buninyong there is a turnoff on the left into
Eddy Ave and at no.408 is Buninyong Flora and
Bird Park which contains 60 parrot aviaries with
parrots from around the world. A 500-metre
raised boardwalk leads past rainforest ferns, a
waterfall, waterlilies, orchids, climbers and
flowering natives. There is also a kiosk, a tea
room, souvenirs and gifts. It is open from 10.00
a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily, tel: (03) 5341 3843.
If you head west of the main intersection along
Learmonth St you will cross a bridge over the
creek. On the other side is a turnoff on the
right into Cemetery Rd which leads past the
second registered cemetery in Victoria. There is
an information rotunda.
Shops and Galleries
At 217 Learmonth St is Buninyong Gallery, open
most Sundays or by appointment, tel: (03) 5341
3210. Out of the Ordinary is an arts-and-crafts,
jewellery and gift shop at 326 Learmonth St
(open daily), tel: (03) 5341 3683. Buninyong
Antiques are at
409 Learmonth St (open weekends and public
holidays or by appointment), tel: (03) 5341
3735, and Andrew Scott Furniture sells
handcrafted timber furniture and collectables.
It is open daily, tel: (03) 5341 3674.
West of town on the Buninyong-Sebastapol Rd
are the Clayfire Gallery which is open daily for
sales of pottery, jewellery and glassware (tel:
03 5341 8163) and Timeless Timber gallery which
is also open daily for sales of handcrafted
timber pieces and giftware, tel: (03) 5341 8318.
Mt Buninyong is an extinct volcano offering
excellent views of the southern part of Central
Victoria. To get there head east of the main
intersection for 1.5 km then turn left onto Mt
Buninyong Rd. After another 2 km there is a fork
in the road. Keep to the right and follow the
sealed road to the summit which is 1054 metres
above sea-level. Alternatively, there is a car
park at the foot of the mountain and a footpath
which winds its way to the summit (45 minutes).
This is the spot from which Europeans first
surveyed the Ballarat district in 1837. There is
a lookout tower from whence it is possible to
see the Grampians and, on a clear day, the
ocean. There is a picnic area in the crater.
Lal Lal, Historic Blast Furnace and Bungal
Head south-east from Buninyong along the Midland
Highway for 12 km and take the left onto the
Clarendon-Lal Lal Rd (signposted for Lal Lal
Falls). It is 4 km to the hamlet of Lal Lal
where the Lal Lal Falls Hotel, bluestone railway
station and railway water tower are of historic
Once you drive across the railway line you
are on Lal Lal Falls Rd. Take the first bitumen
road on the right (known as Ironmine or Bungal
Tap Rd) which should be signposted for the dam
if not the blast furnace. The bitumen peters out
after about 2 km. You will soon see a parking
and picnic-barbecue area with information boards
in a bush setting from whence it is possible to
see the dam spillway.
A walking track leads to the Lal Lal Blast
Furnace which is considered an industrial site
of great historical significance by the National
Trust. The Lal Lal Blast Furnace hsa three
claims to our attention (a) it is now the only
example of its type of blast furnace from the
colonial era (b) it is the only 19th century
blast furnace in the Southern Hemisphere (c) by
world standards it is a superb example of a 19th
century blast furnace.
An iron ore quarry on the west bank of the
Moorabool River and the smelting works were
established by the Lal Lal Iron Mining Company
in 1874. At its peak 160 men were employed at
these works which initially supplied a booming
Ballarat with iron for the production of mining
machinery and railway locomotives. Some were
Cornish miners who were invited to Australia
because of their industrial experience.
Charcoal from local timber, brown coal from
the area and Ballarat coke were all used as fuel
for the smelting process. The stone and brick
blast furnace which remains was the third on the
site, being built in 1880-81. It produced 2260
tonnes of pig iron from 4429 tonnes of ore
before the venture folded in 1884 due to a fall
in prices and declining demand from Ballarat.
Remnants include the furnace, a Cornish flue,
a tramway bed, mines, machinery sites, stone
quarries and charcoal sites. These elements are
situated in five hand-hewn terraces which were
cut into the side of the hill. The furnace was
situated on the lowest level with a steam
engine, boiler, pumps and other machinery on the
next two strata and stone sheds and stockpiles
on the top two levels.
From the first parking area you will plainly
see a track which leads down to another parking
area from whence there are superior views of the
Lal Lal Falls
Return along Ironmine Road and turn right, back
into Lal Lal Falls Rd which leads straight to
the falls, situated on the Moorabool River
tributary. They drop 34 metres down a gorge,
which was created by the collapse of a lava
tunnel, into a tranquil pool below. The local
Kooris are said to have believed that Bunjil,
their creator, resided at this place. The name
is thought to be Aboriginal for 'dashing of
waters'. It is no longer possible to walk right
down to the base of the falls but there are fine
views from the higher elevation.
Whitehorse Wines, established in 1990, is
situated on the Whitehorse Range at Mt Clear. It
produces pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet/shiraz
and riesling and is open weekends and public
holidays from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. or by
appointment, tel: (03) 5330 1719. To get there
head north from the main intersection at
Buninyong along Geelong Rd (Warrenheip St).
After 4 km take the signposted left into Reid
Park Rd which heads west off the main road,
opposite Greenhill Rd which heads east. There
are picnic and barbecue facilities.
Mt Buninyong Winery
Mt Buninyong Winery, established in 1993, is
located in Platts Rd at Scotsburn. It produces
shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay,
riesling, pinot noir, colombard, muscat and
liqueur chardonnay. The cellar door is open
weekends and public holidays from 9.00 a.m. to
6.00 p.m. or by appointment, tel: (03) 5341
8360. Just follow the Midland Highway south-east
of Buninyong for 5 km and turn right at the
Scotsburn school (just watch for the winery