Less than a two and half hour drive from Melbourne, nestled in the mountains of Victoria is a tiny town with a heart of gold. Meet Walhalla, once home to 5,000 residents and a thriving gold-mine that was one of the most prolific in the world. Now, the gold is gone and so are 4,980 of the residents. However, the town has resurged as a popular tourist destination and its perfectly maintained remnants are left to be explored. Here are just a few wild facts about this unique dot on the map of Victoria.
Once the town’s gold ran out, people left with it. Today, only 20 permanent residents reside in Walhalla, with most of them dedicated to keeping the town preserved and open for visitors.
Walhalla has kept its post office operational, which means it technically qualifies as a town. With just 20 residents, it is one of the smallest official towns in the world
Looking to spend the night in Walhalla? The Star Hotel is your place. The hotel is a replica of gold-era’s Star Hotel that was destroyed by fire and allows visitors to stay overnight in this uniquely historic town. Meanwhile, The Wally Pub serves cold beer just down the road.
That’s more weight in gold than the weight of a Boeing 737. When totaled up, this gold would be worth around 5.8 billion GBP today. In it’s prime, Walhalla was booming.
Building space was hard to come by in the tight valley where Walhalla sits. So when the town grew big enough to need a central fire station, the station was built directly over a river. It’s now the only fire station on the planet that’s built over a river.
In the early 1900s, Walhalla featured a top-class cricket team that once defeated the prestigious Melbourne Cricket Club in a famous match. The pitch is still accessible on foot via a steep trail that leads to a cleared mountaintop. This special ground even hosts an occasional match.
With Walhalla’s deep mountain location, shipping goods into town wasn’t cheap. So when spacey coffins came from the city, they were usually stuffed with vegetables. Many of those coffins (minus the vegetables) now lie buried in Walhalla’s mysterious mountainside graveyard.
When Walhalla’s gold dried up, Australia was in the midst of combat in World War I. The town’s population began to dip to near zero and the last ones out were eager to memorialize the locals who had died in battle. So, they built a monument before the end of the war and took a guess on when the conflict would end. The monument still stands today and reads: “In honor of the men of the Shire of Walhalla who enlisted to fight for the Empire. 1914 – 19.” World War I ended in 1918. There are no names on the memorial as the final toll from the war was not known.
Life in Walhalla during the gold boom was good. With an influx of riches, the town had the funds for local projects including electric streetlights. The streetlights were powered by a generator at the mine, when the mine closed, Walhalla was plunged into darkness. Main electricity was finally connected to Walhalla in December 1998 making it that last place in Australia with a reticulated electricity supply.
The Long Tunnel Gold Mine sure lived up to its name. Extending over 1,120 metres underground, this mine was one of the most prosperous in Australian history. Today, the nearby Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine welcomes visitors of a different kind and can be toured daily.
How long did it take the miners to descent through darkness to the bottom of the Long Tunnel Mine using 1800s technology? Just three minutes. We think we’ll pass.
Due to Walhalla’s mountain location, non-wooden building supplies were hard to come by. So when one resident decided to build an all brick house in the 1890s, the bricks all had to be handmade. The structure still stands today and operates as The Windsor House Bed & Breakfast.
Walhalla is best experienced as part of an Australia Road Trip! For other road trip suggestions head to our website www.visitmelbourne.com.