Hotel in the main street
Maffra (including Briagolong)
Substantial service town in West Gippsland.
Maffra is 224 km east of Melbourne via the
Princes Highway, and 26 m above sea level. Its
first known European visitor was Angus McMillan,
who explored the region on behalf of New South
Welshman, Lachlan Macalister. Macalister, who
was interested in new grazing land for his
cattle, established a pastoral run 11 km north
of present-day Maffra, at what is now Boisdale.
The run was named after a place on one of the
Outer Hebrides islands.
The property was sold to John Foster, who
arrived in Gippsland in the 1840s and
established himself as a supplier of beef to
England. His son, Askin Morrison Foster, who
built Port Albert's Derwent Hotel (see entry on
Port Albert), married the daughter of
Scottish-born philanthropist Francis Ormond, who
was responsible for the establishment of
Melbourne University's Ormond College and the
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Foster constructed numerous buildings on his
property, in an attempt to achieve
self-sufficiency. He later subdivided the
property, adding red-brick dwellings, a dairy
factory and a blacksmith's shop for his tenants.
The village of Boisdale arose when the estate
became decentralised as a result of the
continual influx of settlers. Boisdale House,
with its outbuildings and water tower, was built
by Foster in 1892 of handmade bricks. The roof
was constructed from oregon pine and covered
with tiles from Marseilles.
Angus McMillan also settled in the vicinity,
3 km north of what is now the township of Bushy
Park, on the road to Briagolong. A cairn marks
the spot where he built his homestead. The house
itself is now at Sale's Gippsland Folk Museum.
Maffra began as an out-station of the
Boisdale run. The village was founded in the
1850s; the name deriving from Maffra in New
South Wales, which was, in turn, named by a
veteran of the Peninsular Wars, after Mafra in
in the main street
The construction of a punt over the
Macalister River boosted the settlement by
increasing the flow of human traffic through the
town by facilitating access to the goldfields.
Victorian premier, and Australian deputy prime
minister from 1904-1905, Allan McLean, formed a
stock and station agency in the town in 1872.
An architectural survivor of the early days
is 'Mewburn Park', on the Tinamba Road. Built in
the 1840s for Captain Johnson-Boe, an early
pastoralist and North Gippsland MP, the original
shingle-roofed, V-shaped structure with an
encompassing timber verandah underwent
significant alteration in the 1930s. The brick
stables were not a part of the initial layout.
The township was proclaimed in 1875 and soon
became one of Gippsland's major cattle markets.
The railway arrived in 1888 and, the following
decade, Australia's only sugar beet plant was
More recently, the Macalister Irrigation
Scheme (a scheme which dammed the Macalister
River to form Lake Glenmaggie and which has
resulted in the greatest concentration of dairy
farms in Australia) has enabled the town to
develop primary industries such as milk
production, sheep, cattle, and the cultivation
of maize and lucerne, as well as the logging of
Today it is an important service centre in
the heart of West Gippsland. The Gippsland
Harvest Festival is held in March at Powerscourt
Things to see:
Maffra Sugar Beet Museum
Australia's only sugar beet plant was set up in
the 1890s and despite faltering success, it
operated until 1946. The former factory office
and weighbridge have been converted into the
Maffra Sugar Beet Museum. It was moved from its
original location on Sale Road to its current
position beside the Macalister River, off River
Street, and is open 1.30 p.m. - 4.30 p.m. on
Sundays or by appointment (03) 5147 6280.
The Wa-De-Lock Vineyard, established in 1987,
produces sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, chameleon
white/pinot and pinot noir. The cellar door is
open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Friday to
Monday and at other times by chance. There is a
picnic and barbecue area. The vineyard is
located on Stratford Rd, tel: (03) 5147 3244.
Five-star accommodation and a restaurant are
adjacent at Powerscourt Country House, tel: (03)
The dairy country around Maffra can best be
viewed by turning off the highway at Traralgon
and approaching the town along safe,
well-signposted roads, via Heyfield. 6 km north
of Heyfield is Glenmaggie Reservoir (see entry
on Heyfield), less than half an hour's drive
Briagolong, 20 km north, past Boisdale and Bushy
Park, has a number of historic buildings,
including the primary school (1873), the
Mechanics Institute (1874), the Briagolong Hotel
(1880), and an attractive private residence,
'Mount View', with its verandah valances, bay
windows, flagstone paving and decorated timber
gable boards. This house was built near
Freestone Creek in 1872 for Irish immigrant and
former police sergeant of the Walhalla
goldfields, Michael Feely, who developed methods
to increase the proficiency of local dairying.
The floor of Australia House in the UK was made
of yellow stringybark from this region and local
sawmills were used to cut the red-gum paving
blocks which once adorned Melbourne's streets. A
scenic drive along the Briagolong to Cobannah
Road follows Freestone Creek to the Quarries
'Strathavon' at Nuntin is a four-room house,
considered to be in the Scottish vernacular
style, with a circumferential timber verandah, a
cellar and a steep and narrow staircase leading
to a gabled attic. It was built in the late
1850s from locally-produced bricks on the
property of Scottish immigrant, John McMillan.
It is probably indicative of an early Victorian
pioneer's home. It is a private residence and
not open to the public.