street of Leongatha
The largest commercial centre in South
With a temperate climate and situated amidst
rolling green hills, Leongatha is 133 km
south-east of Melbourne via the South Gippsland
Highway and 83 metres above sea level. It is
recognised as the commercial, educational and
civic centre of the South Gippsland Shire and
the largest town in South Gippsland. The word
'Leongatha' is, as far as can be determined, an
Aboriginal word thought to refer to teeth.
Europeans first moved into the area in 1845
and settlers began to clear the huge mountain
ash trees from the environment in the 1870s.
Dairying became important in the area in the
1880s. It received a considerable boost with the
exporting opportunities provided by the arrival
of the railway in 1891.
During the recession which followed the land
boom of the 1880s the government sought ways to
alleviate unemployment and the dangers believed
to be associated with it. Influenced by German
examples they decided to establish a labour
colony and selected Leongatha as a site, due
principally to the large forests of blue gum and
messmate considered to be in need of destruction
by locals. The colony was intended to be
self-supporting. Twelve men arrived in 1893 and
were housed in tents. From that time until 1903,
when it was closed due to the completion of the
clearing project, 6000 men passed through the
colony. Corn, sugar beet, broom and flax were
all grown and a dairy was established. In 1904
the colony reopened at half its previous size.
Ten hectares were sold to the Leongatha Butter
and Cheese Factory, which purchased the land
with a view to establishing a "scent farm",
though only lavender met with any success and
the land later became a part of the factory
itself. The colony was closed for good in 1914,
presumably because the pool of surplus labour
dried up, for obvious reasons. None of the
colony's buildings survived the subdivision of
the land for soldier settlement farms after
World War I.
Today, the Murray-Goulburn Dairy in Leongatha
is the largest cooperative in the southern
hemisphere. The Leongatha Food and Wine Festival
is held in January.
Things to see:
The milking of some 300 cows can be inspected at
'Brackenhurst' (either at 6.00 a.m. or 3.30
p.m.). The farm is located at Nerrena, 10 km
south-east of Leongatha. Contact (03) 5664 9261
for details. Next door is 'Rockhill Farm', an
experimental farm established in 1926 by J.T.
Arts and Crafts and Museums
Those interested in arts and crafts should wish
to visit the Leongatha Arts and Crafts Gallery
at the corner of McCartin St and Michael Place
or the Magic Mushroom Craft Shop in Roughead St,
situated in one of the town's oldest buildings.
There is also a local historical museum in
McCartin St, which contains old photographs,
maps, toys, clothing, books, kitchenware and
J & J Cash Weaving Factory
One of the principal industries in town is the J
and J Cash weaving factory in Holt St, which is
open for the inspection of visitors. Both
Quakers, John and Joseph Cash arrived in
Australia in 1913, transferring their operations
to Leongatha in 1972. Public inspections are
available from 9.00 a.m. to noon and 12.30 p.m.
to 4.30 p.m Monday to Friday.
Tarwin Ridge Winery
Leongatha South is 8 km south-east of Leongatha.
In Wintles Rd is Tarwin Ridge Winery, tel: (03)
5664 3211 or (0418) 643 211.
9 km north of the town, on the Mirboo North
Road, is the Firelight Museum, which possesses
160 lamps used over the last century and a
collection of firearms from the last 300 years.
It also contains arts and crafts and serves
Moss Vale Park
14 km north of Leongatha, on the Tarwin River,
is Moss Vale Park, with its English and European
ornamental trees and shrubs. The park was
developed by Francis Moss who developed a
substantial nursery and planted vast quantities
of deciduous trees. Each February the Victorian
Concert Orchestra plays in the park's sound
shell. The event attracts thousands of visitors.
Lookouts and Other Attractions
Also in the area are Besterfield's Lookout,
Lancey's Lookout, the Wilkur Creek Picnic Area,
Mount Eccles Lookout, the Tarwin Valley Lookout
and the Tarwin Valley Clydesdales, a collection
of horse-drawn vehicles and the horses which