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Wonthaggi Main Street Shopping.jpg
Shopping Strip, McBride Avenue
Wonthaggi is located in Bass Coast Shire
Coordinates 38°36′20″S 145°35′30″E / 38.60556°S 145.59167°E / -38.60556; 145.59167Coordinates: 38°36′20″S 145°35′30″E / 38.60556°S 145.59167°E / -38.60556; 145.59167
Population 4,354 (2011 census)[1]
Postcode(s) 3995
Elevation 52 m (171 ft)
LGA(s) Bass Coast Shire
State electorate(s) Bass
Federal Division(s) McMillan
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
18.7 °C
66 °F
9.5 °C
49 °F
920.7 mm
36.2 in

Wonthaggi /ˈwɒnθæɡi/ is a seaside[2] town located 132 kilometres (82 mi) south east of Melbourne via the South Gippsland and Bass Highways, in the Bass Coast Shire of Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. Known originally for its coal mining it is now the largest town in South Gippsland, a regional area with extensive tourism, beef and dairy industries. At the 2011 census, it had a population of 4,354.[1]

The name "Wonthaggi" is an Australian Aboriginal name meaning "home" from the Bunurong (south-central Kulin). It was used in the area some time before 1 August 1910 when the town was founded.[3]

Williamson's Beach, Lower Powlett Road


Williamsons Beach[edit]

Williamsons Beach on Lower Powlett Road is located next to the Wonthaggi Wind Farm and the Victorian Desalination Plant. The Victorian Desalination Plant also has a 225 hectare park and 8 km of walking, riding and cycling tracks.[4] Seashell collecting is permitted on Wonthaggi Beaches.[5]

Wonthaggi Wind Farm[edit]

Six Turbine Wind Farm, From Lower Powlett Road
Wonthaggi Wind Farm In The Evening, Campbell Street

The Wonthaggi Wind Farm in Campbell Street was built in 2005. It is an environmentally friendly wind power station with six turbines.[6] The Bass Coast Shire Council was opposed to the wind farm along with some local residents. Protesters argued that it would taint the view of Cape Patterson on the trip from Anderson to Wonthaggi and would affect the "recreational tourism and landscape values of the coastline". By September 2005 the six towers had been built, but were themselves a tourist attraction, seen clearly as you drive down the hill towards Wonthaggi from Anderson.[7] The wind farm generates power up to 80% of the time, providing electricity for up to 6000 homes. It can be seen when visiting Williamsons Beach and the Victorian Desalination Plant.[8]

Victorian Desalination Plant, Lower Powlett Road

Cape Paterson[edit]

Swimming Rockpool, Surf Beach Road, Cape Paterson

Safety Beach on Surf Beach Road Cape Paterson is a very popular beach because it has a modified rockpool for swimming.[9] The rockpool was built by miners in the 1960s, at a time when the environment was less of a priority in Australia.[10]

Bass Coast Rail Trail[edit]

Walking, cycling and horse trotting is the modern use of the old Wonthaggi railway line all year round. The Bass Coast Rail Trail is very flat and begins at the mine whistle airshaft tower in the centre of town and it ends at the roundabout to Phillip Island. Victoria’s only coastal rail trail, it stretches 16 kilometres from Wonthaggi to Anderson, meandering through farmland, coastal bushland, historic coal mining nature reserves and coastline with a clear view of the Wonthaggi wind turbines and remnants of coal mine buildings. The trail crosses over the Powlett River and the Bourne Creek trestle bridge at Kilcunda, which has panoramic views of the beach. Kangaroos can often be spotted as well as many bird species. An extension of the trail from Anderson to Woolamai, on Phillip Island, has not yet been made suitable for cyclists. Public toilets are situated at each town along the way. Public toilets in Anderson are situated at the bus interchange[4] which handles connections between the San Remo and Inverloch/Wonthaggi public transport routes. The bus interchange is adjacent to the Eastern side of the Anderson roundabout.

Wonthaggi Workmens Club[edit]

In 1911 miners formed the Wonthaggi Co-operative Workmen's Club. The Wonthaggi Workmens Club entity still exists today on Graham Street, run as a family bistro, pub and functions/events venue. Miners were also prominent in establishing the local hospital, friendly society dispensary, trade union theatre, and a co-operative store, and in supporting miners in New Zealand in the 1912 Waihi miners' strike. The Union theatre slowly fell into disrepair following the closure of the mines, and in 1980 it was destroyed by fire.[4] It was one of the last buildings associated with the mining era in the town. The Miners' Union donated the land where the Union Theatre had stood to the council, on the condition that any building erected on the site should perpetually bear the name "Union". It is now the site for the Wonthaggi Union Community Arts Centre.

Historic Coal Mine[edit]

The State Coal Mine in Wonthaggi was operational from 1910 to 1968 and is now operated by Parks Victoria as a tourist attraction and cafe.[11]

Rock/Surf Fishing[edit]

Harmers Haven and Wreck Beach on Berrys Road are popular for surf and rock fishing. Williamsons Beach and Baxters Beach are popular for fishing day and night, catching mostly Salmon and Mullet. Powlett River mouth is popular for catching Bream, Perch, Salmon and Mullet.[4]

Path to Powlett River and Williamsons Beach, Mouth Of Powlett Road


Wonthaggi's location on the north shore of Bass Strait gives it an oceanic climate, with the moderating effect of the ocean allowing a narrower temperature range throughout the year compared to other regions in Victoria. Average daily maximum temperatures range from 23.5 °C in summer to 13.5 in winter. Frost is rare, occurring on average 6 mornings a year.[12]


The Bunurong aboriginal people were custodians of this stretch of coast for thousands of years prior to white settlement. The Boakoolawal clan lived in the Kilcunda area south of the Bass River, and the Yowenjerre were west of the Tarwin River along what is now the Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park. Middens containing charcoal and shellfish mark the location of their campsites along the coast.[4]

Coal was discovered by explorer William Hovell at Cape Paterson in 1826, and was subsequently mined from the Powlett River fields in the region, between 1859 and 1864. However transporting the coal by whale boat through the surf to larger ships anchored offshore proved costly and dangerous and mining activity was soon curtailed. The coastal sands off Wonthaggi occasionally uncover the remains of ships wrecked along the coast.[13]

A tent city was established adjacent to the Powlett River, on what were then known as the Powlett River Coalfields. The tent city had no permanent buildings and healthcare was provided by a Dr Sleeman, who was later instrumental in establishing a permanent hospital in the township of Wonthaggi, proclaimed in 1910.[13]

Much of the coal for the colony of Victoria was sourced from Newcastle and the Hunter Region in New South Wales, along with local supplies from private and co-operative coal mines at Outtrim, Jumbunna and Korumburra in Gippsland. After the 1909-1910 strike by coal miners in the Hunter Valley, the Victorian state government were determined to ensure stability in local supplies of coal. The State Coal Mine and the town of Wonthaggi came into being in 1910 to supply coal for the Victorian Railways.[14] It was one of the largest and most dangerous collieries in Australia.[15] At its peak in 1926 the mine produced 2,435 long tons (2,474 t) per day, with the Victorian Railways buying 90% of production.[16] In 1928, Wonthaggi coal accounted for around 60% of Victorian Railways coal consumption.[17]

A Post Office opened on 11 November 1887 in a nearby area. On 1 August 1910 this office was renamed St Clair and on the same day Powlett Coal Mine Post Office, opened earlier that year, was renamed Wonthaggi. That is when the town was given a permanent name.[18]


Wonthaggi has three primary schools and one secondary college. Also Chisholm TAFE,[19] Bass Coast Specialist School,[20] Bass Coast Adult Education Centre,[21] University of the Third Age (U3A) retirees education centre,[22] and Connecting Skills Australia (CSA) specialist developmental school, support and employment services/training.[23] Plans are underway for a new tertiary education facility.[24]


  • Wonthaggi Market - 2nd Sunday every month in the centre of town[4]
  • Historic mine whistle sounds 12 noon every day in the centre of town - mine shaft tower (poppet/pit head), Apex Park, Murray Street[4]
  • Cape Paterson - Safety Beach and rockpool, Browns Bay, Surf Beach Road, Cape Paterson[4]
  • Coast; Williamsons Beach near wind farm and desalination plant via Lower Powlett Road in Dalyston (3 minute access) or Mouth Of Powlett Road in Dalyston (5 minute river-side path), Wreck Beach via Berrys Road in Harmers Haven (2 minute walk over a large sand dune), Coal Point (stairs) and Harmers Haven (stairs/reef) via Viminaria Road, Baxters Beach via wind farm on Campbell Street (shut the gate, 20 minute walk) and Cutlers Beach via a 10 minute track on Campbell Street.[4]
  • Seashell Collecting is permitted on Wonthaggi coast from San Remo, Victoria to Undertow Bay, past Safety Beach in Browns Bay Cape Paterson - Small sizes and small quantities of empty seashells, driftwood, dead fallen twigs's, sea glass and interesting rubbish[5]
  • Bass Coast Rail Trail - walk/cycle or horse trot, part/all, views, toilets every town except Anderson, Murray Street[4]
  • Victorian Desalination Plant - Aquasure, park, viewing platform, walking/horse riding/cycling tracks, booked tours, Lower Powlett Road in Dalyston[8]
  • Wonthaggi Wind Farm - wind turbines, tourist attraction, Campbell Street (close the gate), next to the 1 km Baxters beach track[4]
  • Wonthaggi Golf Course - 18 hole, par 72, ACR 70, easy walk, McKenzie Street[25]
  • Wonthaggi Museum - open Saturday mornings, Murray Street[26]
  • State Coal Mine - museum and tours, Garden Street[11]
  • Guide Park - fensed playground, shaded picnic areas, tables, barbecues, Graham Street[4]
  • Coal mine ruins - Number 5 Brace & the McBride tunnel entry, off West Area Road and scattered around this and neighbouring towns[4]
  • Wonthaggi Workmans Club - family bistro, pub & functions, shows, indoor playground, Graham Street[27]
  • The town has many large chain stores; RACV Inverloch Resort (accommodation choices & restaurant/Sunday buffet), four major supermarkets; Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, IGA. Four real estate agencies; Stockdale & Leggo, LJ Hooker, Alex Scott and PBE. Clothing and homewares; Target, Big W, Best & Less, Harvey Norman. Bunnings Warehouse (hardware) and Mitre 10 (hardware). Take-out; McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Subway, Dominos (pizza), cafes, restaurants, pubs, clubs, hotels and markets.[28]
  • Hospital - Smoking ban, Graham Street[29]
  • Bunurong Marine Park - explore/snorkel, Surf Beach Road, Cape Paterson[30]
  • Bunurong Marine National Park - protected state park, explore/snorkel, Inverloch-Cape Paterson Road[30]
  • Wonthaggi Wetlands - via Dudley Road (through to Shopping Plaza), easy walk, cycle or wheelchair accessible[4]
  • Wonthaggi North School Wild Flowers Reserve - 1 km, easy 20 minute walk, cycle or wheelchair accessible, via White Road[4]


Other localities in this postcode:[31]

  • North Wonthaggi
  • Cape Paterson
  • Harmers Haven
  • South Dudley
  • Anderson
  • Archies Creek
  • Hicksborough
  • Kilcunda
  • Lance Creek
  • Powlett River
  • St Clair
  • Wattle Bank
  • Woolamai

Other localities nearby:[32]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b Australian Bureau of Statistics (31 October 2012). "Wonthaggi (State Suburb)". 2011 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  2. ^ Google Maps, retrieved 2014-03-21 
  3. ^ Wonthaggi Community Profile, retrieved 2013-11-03 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Bass Coast Information Centres, retrieved 2013-10-28 
  5. ^ a b Department Of Environment And Primary Industries, retrieved 2013-11-03 
  6. ^ Wonthaggi Wind Farm, Clean Energy Council, retrieved 2013-10-28 
  7. ^ Council admits defeat in wind turbine fight. 06/09/2005. ABC News Online
  8. ^ a b Victorian Desalination Plant, retrieved 2013-11-04 
  9. ^ CPCP, retrieved 2013-11-14 
  10. ^ Terry Gitcham Allen. Powlett Tent Town. p. 63. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Parks Victoria, retrieved 2013-10-27 
  12. ^ "Australian Weather News". Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  13. ^ a b "Wonthaggi Coal Mines". Victorian Railways. Museum Victoria. Retrieved 2013-07-14. 
  14. ^ "Wonthaggi Coal Mines". Victorian Railways. Museum Victoria. Retrieved 2013-07-14. 
  15. ^ Wonthaggi History, retrieved 2013-11-17 
  16. ^ Lee, Robert (2007). The Railways of Victoria 1854-2004. Melbourne University Publishing Ltd. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-522-85134-2. 
  17. ^ "Railways Administration.". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 13 July 1928. p. 13. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  18. ^ "Post Office List". Premier Postal History. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Chisholm TAFE, retrieved 2013-10-28 
  20. ^ Bass Coast Specialist School, retrieved 2013-10-28 
  21. ^ Bass Coast Adult Education Centre, retrieved 2013-10-28 
  22. ^ University Of The Third Age (U3A), retrieved 2013-10-28 
  23. ^ Connecting Skills Australia, retrieved 2013-11-06 
  24. ^ Bass Coast Shire, retrieved 2013-11-11 
  25. ^ Wonthaggi Golf Club, retrieved 2013-11-11 
  26. ^ Wonthaggi Historical Society, retrieved 2013-11-11 
  27. ^ Wonthaggi Workmans Club, retrieved 2013-10-30 
  28. ^ Street Advisor, retrieved 2013-10-28 
  29. ^ Bass Coast Regional Health, retrieved 2013-10-30 
  30. ^ a b Parks Victoria, retrieved 2013-11-13 
  31. ^ Australian Postcodes, retrieved 2013-11-19 
  32. ^ Google Maps, retrieved 2013-11-19 

External links[edit]

Media related to Wonthaggi, Victoria at Wikimedia Commons