Medium sized service centre in the heart of
the Western District.
Casterton is a relatively small rural centre of
about 2000 people located on the banks of the
Glenelg River in a valley surrounded by rolling
hills. Situated 352 km west of Melbourne and 63
km west of Hamilton on the Glenelg Highway, it
is a service centre to a large pastoral, mixed
farming, timber-producing and dairying district
near the South Australian border. Casterton has
a golf course, a racecourse, a caravan park, a
sports and leisure centre and there are numerous
sporting facilities in Island Park, off Murray
St. There are a number of scenic attractions in
The Kanalgundidj clan (part of the
Jardwadjali language group) are thought to have
occupied this area prior to white settlement.
The first Europeans in the area were the party
of surveyor Thomas Mitchell which passed through
the area during the Australia Felix expedition
of 1836. Mitchell wrote quite extensively of an
Aboriginal woman and her child whom he met
nearby, bestowing upon her the gift of a
tomahawk. He then headed south and encountered
the Henty brothers at Portland. His reports of
good pasturage encouraged them to move inland in
1837, marking the start of European settlement
in the Western district. They took up 28 000 ha
of land in the area and an original homestead, 'Muntham',
still stands between Casterton and Coleraine.
As was the case throughout Australia, the
indigenous people lost access to their lands as
a result of white settlement and so occasionally
fed upon the sheep which gradually displaced
their traditional food sources. In retaliation
for what whites saw as 'theft' a massacre of
Aborigines occurred at a camping and corroboree
site now known as Murdering Flat. They were
allegedly shot with bolts, nails and gravel
loaded into a cannon. Protector of Aborigines,
George Robinson, remarked that the majority of
stories about Aboriginal depredations in the
area were "grossly fallacious or shamelessly
exaggerated". By 1857 James Bonwick observed
that "The tribe is nearly extinct" and he
reflected upon the degree to which alcoholism
had spread through the community as the
traditional culture collapsed.
The townsite of Casterton emerged on a
crossing place along the Glenelg River. Surveyed
in 1840 it was named after a settlement in the
north of England. The word 'casteron' is said to
derive from a Roman word meaning 'walled city'.
This may be coincidental although some sources
suggest it is an intentional reference to the
way in which the Australian settlement is
'protectively' surrounded by a series of hills.
The Glenelg Inn was established in 1846 and a
post office was opened the following year. The
following decade saw a range of businesses
opening and a racing club was formed. The
telegraph arrived in the 1860s and the 1870s saw
the establishment of local newspaper the
By 1880 the large squatting runs were being
broken up for closer settlement by selectors.
The railway arrived in 1884 and Casterton became
the western terminus of the state's rail
service. A kangaroo skin tannery was established
in 1885 and a cheese factory in 1892. That same
year the premier of Victoria, William Shiels
(after whom part of the main thoroughfare is
named), his ministry and about 40 journalists
travelled to Casterton by a special train to
present his policies in a media event which
amounted to the first rural policy launch.
Wheat production declined in the 1890s owing
to soil erosion but the dairying and meat
industries took up the economic slack. By that
time the town had five hotels, five butchers,
eleven general storekeepers, two tinsmiths,
seven blacksmiths and wheelwrights, three banks,
four tailors, three drapers and milliners, six
auctioneers and agents and a chemist.
On returning from South America and the 'New
Australia' venture in 1902, poet and political
radical Dame Mary Gilmore settled on a property
at Strathdownie, to the south-west of Casterton.
She came to public attention when her life and
work were featured in the Bulletin in 1903. She
then moved to Casterton in 1907 where her son
attended school. There she began a long-standing
association with the Australian Worker for whom
she regularly contributed a special page for
women. She befriended and campaigned for radical
poet and Labor member J.K. McDougall and wrote
her own poetry. Her first volume of verse was
published in 1910. Dame Mary left Casterton in
Another poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon, also
participated in horse races at Casterton. The
infamous 19th century literary figure and
swindler, George Henry Cochrane (aka 'Grant
Hervey' and 'Hervey G. Madison'), was born at
Casterton and lived in the town at the same time
as Gilmore. Before World War I he moved to
Sydney where he became a contributor to the
Bulletin. In 1914 Cochrane returned to the town
where he managed to perpetrate fraud upon the
Casterton News. He was caught and, as some
accounts report it, he was tarred and feathered.
Certainly he was charged with forgery and
uttering and was jailed. After his release he
moved on to Mildura where he definitely was
tarred and feathered and run out of town.
The Casterton Christmas Carnival sees the
townsfolk go all out each December in terms of
decorating the town with Christmas lighting. The
annual show is held on the second Saturday in
November. The Casterton Kelpie Muster
attractspeople to the town which is known as the
Birthplace of the Kelpie.
Things to see:
The local information centre is located in Apex
Park adjacent Shiels Terrace (the highway) just
to the east of the bridge over the Glenelg
River. It is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
daily (not open on Christmas Day) and can
provide exact details on the whereabouts of
interesting out-of-town attractions, tel: (03)
Casterton Historical Society Museum
The Casterton Museum is located in the old
railway station at the corner of Jackson St and
Clarke St, near the river. It features a display
of memorabilia relating to local history.
Opening times vary so it is best to ring first,
tel: (03) 5575 3294 or (03) 5581 2358.
Mickle Lookout is located on the northern side
of town. Head off the highway along Robertson St
and turn left into Moodie St. The lookout
proffers fine views over the town.
The Castleton Fine Art Gallery
The Castleton Fine Art Gallery is located in
In 1941 a fleur-de-lis with a circumference of
91 metres was carved into the hill overlooking
the town by the Scouts. It was originally
illuminated by old rags soaked in kerosene and
set alight. Electric lighting has since been
installed to maintain the tradition.
Warrock Homestead Complex
The 'Warrock' station was established in 1841
and was taken over, in 1843, by Scottish
cabinet-maker George Robertson. By 1860, when he
obtained free-hold title to the land, he had
erected about 40 buildings which constituted
something of a private village. He initially
lived in a cottage which he constructed of
Tasmanian timber, handmade nails and blackwood
33 of Robertson's well-preserved buildings
remain. Principally designed after mid-19th
century pattern book sources, they typically
feature Gothic effects such as steeply-pitched
roofs with pronounced gables, fretted
bargeboards and finials and are spread out over
two acres. They include the original cottage,
the homestead (built from 1848 to 1853 and
retaining the hand-made original timber
furniture), the fine woolshed, a smokehouse, a
slaughtering shed, the shearer's quarters, a
belfry (the bell was used to summon hands to
meals), a dairy, a grain store, a baking house,
the stables, a blacksmith's and the brick dog
compound which housed the canines used to hunt
the local dingoes to extinction. It is argued
that Robertson bred the first kelpie at Warrock.
The architectural and historical value of
these buildings is recognised by the National
Trust which considers it the "most important
pastoral station complex in Victoria".
Robertson's descendants lived on the property
until 1991 and there is much in the way of
antique equipment and tools (steam engines,
treadle lathes, chaff cutters etc). There is a
picnic area and it is open daily from 10.00 a.m.
to 5.00 p.m. An admission fee is charged.
To get to Warrock homestead you can head east
of Casterton along the Glenelg Highway for 6 km
and turn left onto the Chetwynd Rd. After 15 km
take the signposted left into Warrock Rd and it
is several kilometres to the complex.
Alternatively, if you are travelling north of
Casterton along the Apsley Rd turn right into
Warrock Rd 24 km north of Casterton, tel: (03)
About 10 or 15 km further north along the
Chetwynd Rd is a signposted turnoff on the left
to Bilstons Tree which is considered to have the
largest volume of millable river red gum in the
world. It is thought to be 800 years old and
stands over 40 m high with a girth of seven
metres, consisting of 9100 cubic feet of timber.
Baileys Rocks and Dergholm State Park
Baileys Rocks are a series of enormous and
unusual green-coloured granite boulders in a dry
creek bed within the northern section of
Dergholm State Park. Follow the Apsley Rd (aka
the Naracoorte Rd) north-west for about 39 km
(about 6 km beyond the settlement of Dergholm)
and a signposted turnoff on the right leads to
the Baileys Rocks Picnic and Camping Area where
there are toilets, fuel barbecues, picnic
tables, drinking water and two walking tracks. A
short (3230-metre) loop track leads to the
boulders while the Rocky Creek Trail (5 km
return) starts further upstream. It is clearly
marked by blue arrows and is about 5 km return.
There are also driving tracks in the park
which features a diversity of vegetation
(woodlands, open forests, heath and swamp
communities and spectacular spring wildflowers)
and fauna (red-tailed black cockatoos, swift
parrots, echidnas, koalas, grey kangaroos and a
range of reptiles). A spotlight walk at night
may afford a glimpse of nocturnal animal life
such as sugar gliders.
The park covers 10 400 ha and is divided into
two blocks which are separated by the
Dergholm-Edenhope Rd. Once occupied by the Kanal
gundidj clan (part of the Jardwadjali language
group), it was declared a Park in 1992. Ring
(03) 5581 2427 for further details.
The Carmichael Track is signposted off the
Casterton-Penola Rd (the Glenelg Highway), west
of Casterton. The main picnic area (which has
barbecue and toilet facilities) is readily
accessible by car but a 4WD is required to
venture further at certain times of the year.
The walking track leads through an abundance of
wildflowers in season, though it is pleasant at
any time of the year.
Longlead Swamp Track
Longlead Swamp Track is further west (about 11
km from Casterton) along the highway (signposted
to the right). It is another bush track with
wildflowers and barbecue facilities. There are
waterbirds, kangaroos and emus.
The Bluff boasts spectacular scenery at 160
metres above sea level. The property also has
the original family slab hut, relocated
schoolhouse, historical local history records
and farm stay accommodation. It is signposted
off the Glenelg Highway, about 20km from
Casterton towards Mount Gambier.