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Bacchus Marsh, Victoria and the Lerderderderg and Werribee Gorges. A must see for tourists!
The Lerderderg Gorge and surrounding bushland will stun you
Bacchus Marsh with a population of around 17,000, is a wonderful, historical country town with a lot to offer the Australian or overseas tourist. I have a soft spot for the place and I know a lot about it because I grew up there. . Let’s take a journey to “The Marsh” as it is known.
Bacchus Marsh was founded by Captain Bacchus on 29th September 1836. He felt it was an ideal place to breed sheep, although originally much of it was marsh. The town lies in the bowl of a large valley. Two major river systems run right through it. The Lerderderg and Werribee Rivers.
The town is dotted with fertile market gardens, and orchards. Once you get a few kilometres out of town you will find thick, dense bush amongst undulating hills, where the rivers have cut their way through the plains over millions of years
Aboriginals inhabited the place namely the Kurung tribe, although you will not find any true indigenous people living there now, they were wiped out.
Bacchus Marsh is central to Geelong which is about 57km away to the south and Ballarat also 57 kilometres to the West on the route to Adelaide.
Bacchus Marsh can boast the fact that two famous authors grew up there. Frank Hardy of “Power Without Glory” fame, a famous book about a crooked Melbourne politician, John Wren. Look it up on Wikipedia, and Peter Carey the award winning, world famous author. Mary Hardy was Frank’s sister. She was a popular television personality in Australia who committed suicide. Phar Lap was also held at agistment here at Underbank Stud. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith landed his plane here too many moons ago.
From Melbourne airport you need to head east, towards the city and then take the turnoff by turning right off the Freeway, and heading south to Essendon. From Essendon, drive to Footscray, and find Ballarat Road. Head west along Ballarat road, through Braybrook and Sunshine until you hit the Western Freeway at Deer Park. Drive on through Melton and on to Bacchus Marsh which is about 50 kilometres from Melbourne in total.
You won’t need to load up on food, drink or supplies as most things you can get along the way as it is a well populated area. Bacchus Marsh also has most of what you need, but most of the shops close at midday on Saturday and are closed on Sunday so keep this in mind.
As you are coming out of Melton you will hit Anthony’s cutting which is where the road is cut out of the middle of a hill. The bridge here crosses the Djeriwarrah River here. About 20 years ago a man was found shot dead, murdered at this bridge. Nobody was ever caught for it. As you are driving down this massive hill and look across the plains you will see a magnificent sight. Lots of apple and fruit orchards on your left running alongside the famous Lerderderg River.
Further on to the east it joins the Werribee River and this all flows into the Exford Weir just behind the hill. At Exford Weir at night you can catch eels from the shore. Not a good place to camp or go boating though, too muddy and too many insects.
On your right in the middle of the road is the old Hopetoun Cemetery. Original settlers were buried here in the early 1850’s. To the right of this cemetery you will see some buildings, this place used to house an old 1950’s cafe and petrol station that was used in the original Mad Max Movie. In fact a lot of the movie was filmed around Bacchus Marsh.
On the hill overlooking this you will see a large Christian cross and various statues, this is the home of a religious cult, keep well away from them, nothing to see or do here.
Take the left hand turn to Bacchus Marsh where you will come to an intersection of a road bridge and the bridge going over the river. Jus here a car carrying five people crashed in about 1982, and all five people were incinerated.
This bridge and the river is a good place to stop for a BBQ or to explore the river. If you walk east along the river you will come to what they call the junction, where the two rivers meet.
Do not venture from the river bank as you will be on private property.
About 200 metres past this Bridge you will see a strawberry farm where you can pick your own strawberries. This is also the start of the famous “Avenue of Honour”. Huge old oak trees line the road on each side for about four kilometres right into town, each with a soldiers name tag on them. These people are Aussie soldiers who died in World War one.
Also along this road you will see many fields with fruit trees in them or market gardens. You will see many shops and stalls selling cheap, fresh produce, such as apples, oranges, pears and all the vegetables you can name as well as honey, and honey products. The produce is only top quality. Bacchus Marsh is renowned for its fertile soil.
On this road, on the right hand side you will find one of the few motels in Bacchus Marsh. The only other accommodation in town is the hotels, and a lone caravan park on the right hand side, at the top Stamford Hill in the Main Street. The caravan park is not recommended. They are expensive and they have limited facilities.
As you are coming into the town itself you will see a BP garage on the right hand side and the public hall on the left. This is where the tourist centre is located. The Main Street has all of the usual shops you will find in any shopping centre. There are about four restaurants and plenty of take-away food stores. There are two good top class golf courses and a shooting club. You can shoot rabbits around Bacchus Marsh or go ferreting with nets.
The first pub on the right is the Royal Hotel. This is great for live entertainment, it has a TAB and you can get a great meal here. They have limited outdoor seating on the Main Street too. The next pub is on the left. It is called the Border Inn and also has fantastic meals and an even better outdoor eating and drinking are fronting onto the Main Street. This place was built in the 1850’s and is reputed to be haunted. It has featured in a Ghost investigation program on TV and is like an old working museum.
Just after this pub on the left hand side is the old historic courthouse and police station. Both are still operated. On the right hand side you will see the old Post Office which you can identify by the war memorial out the front in the shape of a large drinking fountain. Next to this is the old ANL hall, this is where the famous author Frank Hardy used to play pool.
On the right hand side past the ANA hall, you will find the Courthouse Hotel. This is good for a meal but it has pokie machines so there is limited atmosphere. Not recommended.
Just after the pub you will come to a round-about where there is a fish and chip shop on the corner. Next to the fish and chip shop is an original 1920’s theatre and an antique shop. Opposite the Fish and chip shop you will see the old Blacksmith shop and Cottage. This was built in the 1850’s and is a working museum. Well worth a look and it is free.
Turning right at the roundabout will take you straight to a McDonalds store and a Kentucky Fried Chicken Store. Opposite the McDonalds you will see three old buildings that comprise the original Bacchus Marsh Express Newspaper office. This was the second oldest printed newspaper in Australia found by a Mr Lane and Crisp in 1862. It is now a commercial printing shop. If you can persuade the new owner to show you around the place is full of the old original antiquated equipment. I know as I served my apprenticeship as a compositor here in the late 1970’s.
From the roundabout in the main street, and we will come back to this point later, If you go up Gisborne road about three kilometres you will come to the suburb of Darley, there is not much here except houses and a bit of market gardening. When you get to the roundabout you will see a large footy oval. This is home of the Darley Devils and in winter you might be lucky enough to see a football match.
Take the far right exit off the roundabout and head up Gisborne Road a further kilometre and you will come to some shops. If you stop here it is a great place to explore the Lerderderg River. There is a bridge here over the river, and you can drive down under it and swim, or fish for Trout, eels or Redfin, or you can lift up the rocks and find any number of species of frogs. You cannot camp here.
Just over the bridge, turn left and drive out along this road about ten kilometres. The road follows the river and is lined with apple orchards and you can stop anywhere and explore. When you get to the end of this road you are at the start of Lerderderg Gorge. The views and sights here are amazing. The bush is thick and lush and there is a walking track through the steep rocky Gorge which goes for about eight kilometres. You will see old gold mines, and you may see a snake or lizard in the summer. Be warned, in summer this place is prone to bushfires and snakes. Both can kill you, the heat can be extreme, so take plenty of water, and do not stray into the bush too far. Plenty of people have disappeared for good out here.
If you come back from Lerderderg Gorge and turn left at Gisborne road, about 5 kilometres away you will come to a right hand turn to Merrimu Dam. It is huge and has grassed areas, public toilets, barbecues and seats and tables. You cannot camp, fish or swim here.
Bacchus Marsh is surrounded by bush for tens of kilometres. Take any of the tracks you may find and you will find good camping spots, but be sure to take a GPS, or a good map and tell people where you are going so you do not get lost, be wary of lighting fires and check the local conditions for fire warnings.
Go back to the roundabout in the main street of Bacchus Marsh and go up Grant Street. This street features the local hospital about 3oo metres up on the right and also the swimming pool.
When you come to a bridge this is the Werribee River. On the right of this bridge is the Bridge Inn Hotel. This is full of pokies and no good for entertainment. When you are on the bridge you will see a park with large cast iron gates. This place has a fantastic picnic area with BBQ’s and tables as well as a magnificent children’s play area and grassed tennis courts. It is also the home to the Bacchus Marsh Football and cricket team. In winter if you are lucky you might see a good footy game.
Behind this park is the Railway Station. Opposite is the local High School. If you drive up the hill alongside the high school for about 600 metres, you will come to the Bacchus Marsh cemetery, a lot of graves here are from the 1850’s so it is worth a look.
If you drive east along the river from the Grant Street Bridge near the hotel after about five kilometres you will hit the Werribee River Gorge and dam. This, just like the Lerderderg Gorge is a fantastic place to explore. You can swim, fish or look for frogs, as well as camping or a picnic or BBQ as they have set areas aside for this.
About 20 kilometres north of Bacchus Marsh on the Western Highway is Pykes Creek Reservoir where you can boat, swim use the barbecues or sit on the tables and benches. You cannot camp here. Up the road a few kilometres near Ballan is a highway accessed McDonalds restaurant
From Bacchus Marsh, you can visit Blackwood, Myrniong, Daylesford, Ballan, Gordon or any of the other little historic hamlets dotted around the place.
That my little thrillseekers is Bacchus Marsh, email me for any questions.