Ouyen (including Walpeup)
Major service centre in the heart of the
Ouyen, with 1500 people, is one of the largest
towns of the Mallee area, the last region of
Victoria to be settled. The town is located in
the middle of nowhere, at the intersection of
the Mallee Highway (Adelaide-Sydney) and the
Calder Highway (Melbourne-Mildura). It is 457 km
north-west of Melbourne, 103 km south of Mildura
and 50 m above sea-level.
The reason the Mallee was the last to be
settled is evident in the town's choice of
symbols. Beside the Calder Highway, in the heart
of town, is the largest Mallee stump in
Australia. It is a reminder of the difficulties
faced by the European settlers in clearing the
area and of the agricultural basis of the
region. This scrubby territory was once covered
in this drought-resistant eucalypt which proved
immensely difficult to uproot and destroy. Any
remnant of the subterranean root system led to
regeneration and a heartbreaking renewal of
efforts at clearing. Today the dense wood is
used for wood turning and burning.
The area is thought to have been occupied by
the Wergaia Aborigines before European
settlement. Some believe 'Ouyen' derives from
the Wergaia term 'wuya-wuya', the name of a
pink-eared duck, presumably common in the area
once upon a time. Others say it means 'ghost
- an old wagon in the foreground and the
new wheat loading facilities in the
The town developed around a railway station
which was established in 1906 after the
Melbourne to Mildura line passed through the
area. Blocks in the area were sold in 1910 and
cleared for sheep, wheat and oats. Ouyen is now
a transport and service centre for a vast area
occupied by agricultural and pastoral
properties. Enormous convoys of trucks line up
at harvest time to ship the oats to Portland and
the wheat to regional flour mills. The town's
grain silos are a clear sign of its economic
There isn't a lot of great interest to the
tourist although there are three motels, a
caravan park and the Victoria Hotel - a classic
old country pub which is worth a visit if you're
passing through. The main shopping strip is Oke
The Autumn Art Show is held in March or April
and the Farmers Festival in November.
Things to see:
The Mallee Tourism Association Information
Centre is located in Oke St, tel: (03) 5092
1000. Souvenirs and crafts are for sale.
and the VLine Railway
Local History Research Centre
There is a collection of books and historical
records in the Local History Resource Centre. It
is located in the old courthouse on Oke St and
is open every Friday from 9.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
and at other times by appointment, tel: (03)
5092 1285 or (03) 5092 1346.
The Victoria Hotel is in Rowe St, which runs
parallel to Oke St. It is a
beautifully-preserved two-storey, red-brick
country pub with verandah that captures a time
far removed from the present. It is well worth a
visit if you're passing through.
Murray Sunset National Park
Murray Sunset National Park, the state's
second-largest, is a semi-arid area that offers
vast open spaces, a plenitude of wildlife and an
array of colourful wildflowers in spring.
The Pink Lakes to the south are a highlight.
The colouration of these saline lakes is
particularly clear on overcast days. It is
caused by carotene from a type of algae. In
winter the lake accumulates saline run-off and
fills up with water from subterranean springs
while, in summer, the water evaporates to leave
a pinkish salt crust. The lakes are conjoined by
a ring road and each can be circled on foot.
Salt-tolerant vegetation such as nitrebush
and salt paperback predominates around the lake.
Elsewhere there are native pine woodlands,
mallee-covered dunes, grasslands and, near the
Murray River, floodplains and billabongs.
Waterbirds, emus and mallee fowl are plentiful.
, Murray-Sunset National Park
An unsealed road heads north from Linga which
is a small town 59 km west of Ouyen on the
Mallee Highway. This 12-km road leads to the
Pink Lakes campground at the south-eastern
corner of the park where there are pit toilets,
picnic and barbecue facilities and limited water
(best to bring your own water and firewood). The
Lake Becking Nature Walk incorporates sites
associated with the salt and gypsum mining that
occurred here in the early days of European
settlement. It is currently being revamped so
interpretive signs is temporarily unavailable. A
driving tour is also being prepared.
Beyond Pink Lakes you will need a 4WD. There
is basic accommodation at the old shearer's
quarters in the park's north-west if you book
(tel: 03 5028 1218). Very crude facilities also
exist at Mopoke Hut, Rocket Lake and Mt Crozier.
Take care as, if you get lost or your vehicle
breaks down, there is no water, no passing
traffic and few distinguishing features in the
landscape. Temperatures can be extreme in summer
and there is the risk of wildfires. Take a map,
compass and water, tell someone you are going
and check on road conditions before you set off.
For further information on the park ring (03)
5028 1212 or 131 963.
Hattah-Kulkyne National Park
The Hattah-Kulkyne National Park is based around
the Hattah Lakes system which is filled by
Chalka Creek, an anabranch of the Murray River.
The information centre at Hattah Lake
provides orientation and identifies some of the
park's fauna, flora and archaeological sites.
Middens, canoe trees and shield trees are
evidence of Aboriginal occupation. There are
kangaroos, goannas and over 200 species of
birds, particularly pelicans, ibis and other
waterbirds on the lakes. Emus, mallee fowl,
miners and white-winged choughs can be found
away from the lakes. River red gums are
plentiful around the waterways while black box
woodlands predominate on drier land. Cypress
pine and buloke inhabit the sandy plains while
mallee eucalypts flourish on the higher sandy
The park is best in spring and winter as it
can be too hot in summer. Access is via the
township of Hattah on the Calder Highway, 34 km
north of Ouyen. From Hattah, head east on the
Hattah-Robinvale Rd. After 4 km there is a
signposted left turn onto the 2WD gravel track
which leads to the Lake Hattah campground then
further north to Lake Mournpall campsite. Both
have toilets, fireplaces and picnic areas. A
limited amount of drinking water is available
from the visitor centre and at Mournpall
campground but supplies of drinking water are
limited so it is advisable to bring your own.
The Hattah Nature Walk starts from the
roadside (clearly marked) about 200 metres
inside the park (notify a ranger if you intend a
longer hike as temperatures in the park can be
extreme and be sure you have a map and compass).
Motorists will enjoy the self-guided Hattah
Nature Drive (near Lake Hattah). Most tracks in
the park are 2WD-friendly but they may become
impassable after rain (check track conditions at
the visitor centre). The park is also ideal for
swimming, canoeing and kayaking (when water
levels are sufficient), fishing for golden
perch, English perch, European carp and yabbies,
cycling along the river tracks, nature studies
For further information ring (03) 5029 3253
or 131 963.
The Murray-Kulkyne is a small park of 1690 ha
which adjoins the Hattah-Kulkyne Park. It lies
on the western bank of a stretch of the Murray
River and access is via the River Track
(manageable in a 2WD unless very wet) which
heads north off the Hattah-Robinvale Rd. The
start of the road is signposted underneath the
power lines, about 23 km west of Hattah and 13
km east of Wemen.
The Murray-Kulkyne is a popular area for
fishing, swimming, bushwalking and boating. As
this is not a national park, generators and pets
are allowed. Camping is permitted along the
river. For further information ring (03) 5029
3253 or 131 963.
Mallee Wildflower Festival
The flora of the Mallee region is indigenous to
the area, being adapted to the semi-arid
conditions that prevail locally. The wildflowers
bloom every year in the September school
holidays. The Mallee Wildflower Festival is
being held in 1998 from October 1 to October 4.
There will be tag-along 4WD tours of the Hattah-Kulkyne,
Wyperfeld and Murray-Sunset National Parks,
self-guided walks, and a wildflower and
arts-and-crafts display at the VRI Hall on the
Calder Highway at Ouyen, tel: (03) 5092 1000.
Manangatang is a small town of around 300 people
located 55 km east of Ouyen on the Mallee
Highway. It has an hotel and a golf course and
the main local event is the race meeting held at
the rough bush racecourse in mid-March and
mid-October. Of possible interest to the visitor
is the Manangatang Museum, a well-organised
venture containing items pertaining to local
history. It is situated on Wattle Rd and will be
promptly opened if you first ring (03) 5035
1383. Admission is free.
Tati-Tati Nature Reserve
7 km north of Manangatang on the Robinvale Rd is
the Tati-Tati Nature Reserve where there is a
salt lake surrounded by natural Mallee
vegetation which has been protected by a
rabbit-proof fence. Plans are underway for an
information trail identifying the vegetation,
tel: (03) 5035 1205.
Walpeup Lake is a popular spot for picnics,
swimming, canoeing, camping, walking and nature
studies. Around the lake is the Timberoo Flora
and Reserve which protects a rare remnant of
pine-buloke woodland. To get there head west of
Ouyen on the Mallee Highway for 2 km and turn
left just past the railway line on the sealed
road to Patchewollock (signposted). After 14 km
you must turn right onto the gravel road to
access the lake (also signposted) and it is
about 6 km to the shore.
29 km west of Ouyen on the Mallee Highway is the
small town of Walpeup (population: 300), first
settled by Europeans in 1909 and now at the
centre of a high-output agricultural area. There
is a general store and the town's Tourist Park
has a shop, picnic, toilet facilities and
camping areas. Adjacent the park is the short
'Schubert Nature Walk' which identifies local
plants. It takes in the town cemetery.
There is a large tapestry mural in the
Walpeup Memorial Hall depicting various aspects
of local life. Interested parties can enquire at
the Walpeup Milk Bar or ring (03) 5094 1370.
Just north of the town is the Mallee Research
Station. Occupying over 1000 hectares it
conducts extensive experiments aimed at
increasing the productivity of the Mallee area.
It is quite scenic and attracts both farmers and
bird watching groups. Conducted tours and
accommodation for groups can be arranged but it
is best to organise in advance, tel: (03) 5091
Wyperfeld National Park
Wyperfeld National Park, one of Victoria's
largest national parks, is accessible (to those
with a 4WD) from Underbool, a small town 50 km
west of Ouyen on the Mallee Highway which has
camping, barbecue and caravan facilities at the
Recreation Reserve, as well as an hotel and
Gunners Track heads south from Underbool to
Pine Plains, a section of freehold land taken up
in 1847. There are opportunities aplenty for
bushwalkers, 4WD exploration, an enormous
sandhill called The Snowdrift, O'Sullivan
Lookout and several accommodation possibilities.
For those seeking comfort, private accommodation
with hospitality is available by ringing (03)
5084 1216. Alternatively, if you head west
towards Patchewollock, a departure road heads 3
km south to Casuarina Campground, a secluded and
sheltered campsite with toilets, drinking water,
fireplaces and picnic-barbecue facilities.
Those with a 4WD can also make their way
south to Wonga, the park's main campground (see
Hopetoun for further details on the southern
section of the park).
Kangaroos, emus and birds inhabit the
semi-arid landscapes of sand dunes and spinifex,
mallee scrub, heathlands and native pine
woodlands. For further information ring (03)
5395 7221 or 131 963.
Sunset 4WD Tours, at 20 Oke St, run eight
different 4WD tours to the Big Desert,
Murray-Sunset, Wyperfeld and Hattah-Kulkyne
National Parks, tel: (03) 5092 1079.
Mallee Farm Horse Rides offer trail rides, cart
rides and children's rides. There are picnic and
barbecue facilities. It is situated 30 km south
along the Calder Highway, tel: (03) 5093 1223.