East Gippsland brings out paddocks of
Small settlement in the Dargo Valley
Located 320 km east of Melbourne and 40 km north
of Bairnsdale along a road, sometimes unsealed,
which stretches along portions of the
Wonnangatta and Dargo Rivers, Dargo, is a small
settlement in the picturesque Dargo Valley.
The area around Dargo was explored by Angus
McMillan, in 1839, on behalf of Lachlan
Macalister, who established a run of around 8000
hectares which was managed by McMillan.
Government surveyor, John Wilkinson, mapped
the area in 1850, naming the Wonnangatta and
Dargo Rivers. Farming proved difficult in the
mountainous terrain but gold traces were found
and, in the early 1860s, a Government
prospecting party, led by Alfred William Howlitt
and later joined by artist Eugene Von Guerard,
located gold along the Crooked River. This led
to a major rush along the river and further east
at Mount Pleasant, the largest mining settlement
in the area, which was renamed Grant in 1865.
That same year McMillan's party uncovered the
Pioneer gold reef, which was named in honour of
McMillan's favourite horse.
Grant was home to the Good Hope Mine, which
brought prosperity for a time, but the ore
ultimately proved too costly to extract. Miners
started leaving the area and the town was
deserted by 1916. As Chester Eagle observes in
Hail and Farewell: An Evocation of Gippsland
At Grant there is nothing but blackberries,
broken bottles, untidy clearings, holes, some
piping, a shed or two in among the peppermint
trees and a remnant of masonry wall scored by
hundreds of initials.
Although water races and an old cemetery
overlooking the town testify to a modest rush at
Dargo itself, the town was primarily an
intermediate staging post on the journey to the
nearby fields and so it too declined with the
Today Dargo is a timber and cattle town and
the surrounding area is noted for its willow and
huge walnut trees. Dargo now supplies Victoria
with about 10 per cent of its walnuts.
Things to see:
Tours of the Area
At the Bridge Hotel horseback safaris can be
arranged and people with four-wheel drives may
wish to explore the Wonnangatta-Moroka National
Park and the old goldmining sites of Hogtown,
Talbotville, Bulltown, Crooked River and Grant.
A good map of the area is available at the Dargo
The First Homestead
The road from Dargo to the homestead of the
first settler on the Dargo High Plains, George
Emmanuel Treasure, is adorned with wildflowers
in spring. Treasure initially sold milk and
butter to miners who were en route to the
southerly diggings. When the rush ended he
concentrated on beef cattle and began a
tradition of grazing cattle on the snow plains
in summer. Indeed, large numbers of cattle are
still driven along the road to the High Plains
for grazing each spring. They are mustered and
returned to Dargo in autumn to avoid the snow.
Dargo Valley Winery
The Dargo Valley Winery, established in 1985,
produces chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, traminer,
riesling, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon.
Bed-and-breakfast accommodation is available and
there are picnic and barbecue areas. The cellar
door is open from midday to 5.00 p.m. Monday to
Thursday and from 10.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. on
weekends (closed Friday). Call for directions,
tel: (03) 5140 1228.
Walking in the Area
There are a number of popular walking tracks in
the area, notably the Blue Rag Range. The Dinner
Plain Ski Village is also nearby.