Well off the beaten path from Port Albert is the small mountain village of Walhalla, 116 kilometres to the north but the two towns are inextricably linked by their history. Gold was discovered at Walhalla is 1863 and people poured into the steep-sided valley in their quest for the riches it offered. On September 19th, 1863 the first gold escort from Walhalla transported 2,100oz (62.5kg) of gold to the Bank of Victoria in Port Albert and for the next few years all Walhalla's gold was shipped through the port. In 1865 a total of 25,279oz (785 kg) of gold passed through the town, more than 50% of which came from Walhalla.
As many as 4000 people at a time were known to have lived here but by 1914 the gold was all but gone (though I have seen a magnificent 5oz nugget that was found recently not too far up the valley ). Virtually everyone left and and Walhalla slipped into a Sleeping-Beauty-slumber in its mountain fastness, its isolation from the world preserving many of its historically important features. Only a dozen or so people live in Walhalla now but in recent years it has become a favourite tourist destination, leading to the restoration of many of its quaint buildings.
We arrived late on a Sunday afternoon in May. The main tourist attractions (the Goldfields Steam Railway and the Long Tunnel Gold Mine) were closed and the weekend visitors were all heading back to the city so we had the place virtually all to ourselves. Time though for a stroll around the town, a climb up to the the old tramtrack trail with its superb views of the valley below and a long chat over a cup of hot chocolate at the General Store with a local couple as the sun disappeared behind the mountains and the shadows lengthened.
It might be a while before I get back there to gather enough stuff to write about all the town has to offer. Meantime, you might like to check iandsmith'spage for his tips and photos - it's the only Walhalla page on VT.
Little more than half an hour's drive from the open spaces and salt-tanged air of Port Albert lies another world completely. This is the Tarra-Bulga National Park, 2000 hectares of temperate rain forest set on the slopes of the Strzelecki Range. Once all this land was covered in this beautiful forest - tall mountain ash and blackwoods on the hillsides and magnificent treeferns, myrtle beech and banyallas in the deep gullies. The National Park protects one of the last remnants of this magnificent and unique eco-system, the habitat of a variety of wildlife that includes the extraordinary egg-laying platypus and echidna and the exquisite lyrebird. We were fortunate enough to sight an echidna, the biggest wombat I've ever seen and a pair of lyrebirds as we drove through the park.
Narrow winding roads take you up and up through the forest, with some wonderful views as the road twists and turns. A suspension bridge over the valley floor is a feature of one of the marked trails, others lead to waterfalls or feature signs that identify the various species of plants - trees, ferns and fungii - to be found here. The forest here is notoriously dense so keeping to the trails is a must for your own safety as well as for the protection of the plants and wildlife.
There are three maintained picnic spots with tables, barbecues and toilet facilities. Camping is not permitted.