Morgan's Buildings (AD 1908), a run of
old buildings in the centre of Donald
Attractive service town on the banks of the
Donald is a town of some 1700 people laid out
around a serpentine stretch of the Richardson
River which is popular with local anglers. It is
located 259 km north-west of Melbourne on the
Sunraysia Highway and 118 m above sea-level. A
neat and tidy town, it is essentially a service
centre to the surrounding district where wheat,
barley, fat lambs and wool are the main produce,
although there has been some recent
diversification into peas, canola, safflower and
other crops. The massive wheat silos bear
testimony to the central economic preoccupation
of the Wimmera district. Donald is known as the
'Home of the Duck' due to the prevalence of the
waterbird on local waterways and the annual
duck-shoot held in their honour. Perhaps another
factor was the irresistible connection with that
famous Walt Disney character.
The area is thought to have been occupied by
the Wemba-Wemba Aborigines prior to white
settlement. The first Europeans in the area were
the party of surveyor Thomas Mitchell in 1836.
When the expedition's botanist, named
Richardson, fell in the river, Mitchell decided
to name the waterway in his honour.
The town takes its name from the Donald
family, the original European settlers who
established 'Banyenong', a grazing station, in
1844. Their homestead, just 3 km north of the
present townsite, was a social centre for
settlers on the Richardson River in the 1860s.
This was owing, in part, to the racecourse they
laid out nearby which hosted the annual
William Donald played an important role in
the development of the shire but the township
was established when Johann Meyer, a German
migrant to the goldfields, set up a grog shanty
on the future townsite in 1863. At that time it
was known as 'The Bridge' or "Richardson
Bridge'. Meyer later built two hotels and
selected land for wheat-cultivation. The shire
of Donald was established and named in 1864 and
the nascent town was named Donald after a survey
in 1866. Other German, Cornish and Irish
selectors began to arrive in the 1870s - many of
them refugees from the dying goldfields.
Things to see:
hut at Donald Museum
Tourist Information and Historic Buildings
The tourist information centre is located in a
building erected as part of the old police camp
(1874), established by town founder Johann
Meyer. It is located in Woods St (the Sunraysia
Highway), just past Hammill St as you head
northwards. As it is run on a volunteer basis it
is not reliably open at set hours, although
weekends and public holidays are the general
aim. If it is not open you can ring the local
council offices at (03) 5497 1300.
Nearby are a lock-up and stables (1883), a
brick oven from the Marnoo Forest (1880) and a
shepherd's hut from the Donald brothers 'Banyenong'
run (1850). Other buildings in the main shopping
centre date from the 1860s and 1870s.
Scilleys Island and Parklands
Opposite the police camp is a timber bridge
which leads across a stretch of the river to
Scilleys Island, a reserve surrounded on all
sides by the river where there are picnic
Apex Park, also by the river, is just past
the information centre as you continue
northwards, on the left-hand side of the road.
It has picnic-barbecue facilities and childrens'
play facilities. Memorial Park, at the corner of
Houston and Campbell Sts, has a childrens'
playground and picnic-barbecue facilities.
Adjacent the railway line, on the Borung Highway
(otherwise known as Hammill St - the road to
Charlton), is a park with an old steam
locomotive, a playground and picnic facilities.
head at Donald
In Byrne St, which runs parallel to the
Sunraysia Highway, beside the Richardson River
is a growth on a tree which looks like a
Bullock's Head. The locals realised its tourist
potential and established a proper viewing
platform. The head even has horns.
A reserve at the front of the showgrounds,
adjacent the Borung Highway (the road to
Charlton) at the north-eastern end of town,
contains a collection of antiquated agricultural
machinery and equipment, including a stump-jump
plough, a grubbing machine and a horse-head
winnower. The material is located in a shed with
a wire front so it is possible to see inside
without the display being officially opened,
although it can be fully opened by appointment,
tel: (03) 5497 1555.
Caravan Park Lake
Caravan Park Lake is located a little further
along the Borung Highway. Home to swans and
other waterbirds it is a good fishing spot.
There are gas barbecues and a caravan park.
The town has a pleasant walking-cycling track
which begins at the intersection of the Borung
Highway, Racecourse Rd and Jeffcott Rd at the
northern end of town. From there it follows the
Borung Highway into town, crosses one bridge
over to Scilleys Island and across another to
the police camp, follows the Sunraysia Highway
to Apex Park, winds its way along to the
Johnson-Goodwin Memorial Homes Complex and back
across the river to Byrne St. You can, of
course, start the walk anywhere. Just follow the
'shared walkway' signs.
The wetlands of Lake Buloke (pronounced
'bull-oak') are a breeding area and haven for
local birdlife, including ducks and quail, which
are then shot during the hunting season in
March. Fed by the Richardson River it is one of
Victoria's largest lakes, covering 8000 ha when
full. To get there head north out of town on the
Burong Highway for about 7 km and watch for the
signposted turnoff on the left.
Lake Jil Jil
On the other side of the Borung Highway, 7 km
north-east of Donald, is Lake Jil Jil, a deep
lake with a boat ramp. It is a picturesque spot,
is well-stocked with redfin and trout and is
good for birdwatchers.
There is a deer farm located at Granite Flat, 10
km north-east of Donald on the Charlton Rd. If
you are interested in visiting ring the owners
on (03) 5491 5258.
Mt Jeffcott Reserve
Mount Jeffcott Wildflower Reserve has rare trees
and plant specimens and it is ideal for hiking
or, if you have a 4WD, you can drive to the
summit from whence there are excellent views of
the district. To get there, head north-east out
of town along the Borung Highway for about 20 km
and watch for the signposted right turn along
the all-weather gravel road.
Kooka's Country Cookies
Visitors are welcome to drop into Kooka's
Country Cookies and have a look around the
factory. If advance notice is given a proper
tour with tea and biscuits can be organised,
tel: (03) 5497 1763. They are located on the
Sunraysia Highway at the southern end of town.
2 km south of the town, adjacent the Sunraysia
Highway, is the town cemetery which contains the
family plot of town founder Johann Meyer and
other pioneer graves.
Gowan Leigh Emu Farm is open to visitors by
prior arrangement, tel: (03) 5497 6220. Head
south along the Sunraysia Highway for 6 km and
turn at the blue sign.
12 km south of Donald, via the Sunraysia
Highway, is Cope Cope. There is a signposted
turnoff here to Brown's Lake where there are
possibilities for waterskiing, camping and
Lake Batyo Catyo
Rich Avon is an old grazing property which is
now a locality 18 km south-west of town. There
is a signposted turnoff here to Lake Batyo Catyo
(pronounced 'batty-o-catty-o') where you can
indulge in waterskiing, camping, fishing and
general recreation. It is stocked with cod,
redfin, golden perch and rainbow trout.
2 km west of Lake Batyo Catyo is Walker's Lake,
a wildlife reserve in the Avon Plain which is
stocked with Murray cod and well supplied with
Watchem is a township located 33 km north along
the Sunraysia Highway. From the town centre head
north towards Birchip for about 1 km and the
lake is to the left. It offers fishing and water
sports and boasts a boat ramp, showers and