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Photo by Leila Myllymaeki- Hay



In late 1859 gold was discovered in the Warburton area, at Britannia Creek west of Warburton and at Scotchman's and Yankee Jim's Creeks. A settlement called Yankee Jim's (named after a gold discoverer), was formed on the creek. When an important lead was found in 1863 the name was changed to Warburton, after Police Magistrate Charles Warburton Carr.


As the gold began to run out mines moved northwards to the Yarra River flats and a new Warburton was formed. It was named Upper Warburton to distinguish it from Old Warburton on Yankee Jim's Creek. In 1871 the first freehold land was taken up in the Warburton area, and in 1875 a school was opened.

On 19 October 1888, the Upper Yarra shire of 911 sq km was proclaimed with Warburton as the administrative centre. In 1890 a Methodist church was built in Warburton. In 1894 the Warburton Village Settlement west of Warburton, was established. It consisted of numerous small farms, inspired by the Anglican Reverend Horace Tucker who persuaded the Government to pass a Village Settlement Act. The settlement became Wesburn.


In 1901 when the population of Warburton was 195 the railway line from Lilydale to Warburton was opened. Prior to then the transport had been packhorse and coach, sufficient for the carriage of gold and supplies but not for timber. The railway to Warburton opened as a branch line from Lilydale. Its main purpose was for timber haulage from the forests in the Yarra Ranges as well as the movement of general freight and passengers to the many small townships along the line.


The railway connection opened Warburton Valley up to tourism.  Honeymooners and holidaymakers flocked to the region. A guesthouse once advertised it as "1000 feet above worry level". The 1905 "Picturesque Victoria" published by the Victorian Railways emphasised the local scenery and the numerous excursions to waterfalls and views from Warburton.


Establishing a new printing plant in the small township of Warburton brought with it many workers and their families, who soon formed the Warburton church in 1906, established a school and in following years developed a hospital and health-care centre, a Sanitarium Health Food factory and more recently an aged-care hostel. With such a concentration of institutions, Warburton grew to be a major centre for Adventism in the South Pacific. The present Sanitarium (1938) and Signs buildings (1935) are heritage-registered.



In 1912 a bridle track to the Mount Donna Buang snow resort was opened and widened to 2 metres in 1924 by the Ski Club of Victoria. By the mid-1920s 12 hotels and guest houses were in Warburton, including the ‘Mountain Grand’ of 50 rooms offering the best wines and cigars as well as petrol for motorists. Hire car services were also available, and a trout hatchery restocked the streams with fish. Accommodation reached new heights in 1927 with the opening of The Chalet, with space for 280 guests. In the 1930s and 1940s the town became Victoria’s ‘Honeymoon Capital’.


Easy access to timber helped miners shore up their mines and, when gold ran out, the forests provided the next industry. By the First World War, and into the 1920s, there were more than 60 timber mills around the town and 320 miles (500km) of tramways. Steam and diesel engines were used to power the sawmills and haul the logs. In some cases the logs were lifted by cable and pulley high above the ground to carry them to mills and railheads. In more remote areas, horses were used to pull empty bogies up graded lines. When loaded with logs, the bogies would run downhill under the control of braking systems. Today, timber still provides employment and revenue, but on a much reduced scale.


In 1954 Warburton was honoured by a visit from the Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. They arrived by Royal Train, spent the night at the Chalet on the O'Shannassy water reserve and worshipped in St. Andrew's Presbyterian church.


Warburton's role in the cultural life of the Upper Yarra shire was enhanced with the opening of the Civic Arts Centre in 1980, becoming the venue for annual Easter film festivals. Mechanics Institute adjoining the Arts Centre has been fully restored.


During the 1990s tourism began its second era in Warburton.  Today the rail easement has become the Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail for walkers and cyclists, while guesthouses have given way to motels, B&Bs, restaurants and interesting shops.


The hidden treasures are still to be found – in, around and beyond the town: beautiful walks along the Yarra and into the surrounding forests, while drives and rides in every direction unlock a breathtaking hinterland. The O'Shannassy Aqueduct Trail passes through the Yarra Ranges National Park from Don Valley to East Warburton. The trail follows the maintenance track for O'Shannassy's Aquaduct and winds through native bushland.

Vast stands of majestic Mountain Ash line the road up to Mount Donna Buang, Melbourne’s closest snowfields, and many other roads and tracks. At Cement Creek, the Rainforest Gallery takes visitors into the canopy of ancient giants and down into a green world of ferny gullies and tiny waterfalls

Warburton Mountain Bike Destination Project is creating a world-class mountain biking destination for Warburton and surrounds.  A network of trails nestled among the surrounding mountains is meant to bring visitors from across the world to experience Warburton’s natural beauty and relaxing village atmosphere

Warburton Waterwheel Hub located in the town centre houses the local visitor information centre, an art gallery and a shop selling hand-made local products. Behind the Hub you can find a collection of historical murals on the site of the old railway station.


In the La La end of the town you'll find a second set of shops and our local CFA Station. Warburton Recreation Reserve is home to Warburton-Millgrove Football & Netball Club and Warburton Bowls Club.

Students at Warburton Primary School enjoy the most magnificent mountain views from their sports oval and the kinder kids can listen to the sounds of the Yarra River while playing outdoors at the Warburton Pre-School.


Latest addition to Warburton's attractions is the Warburton Water World offering endless fun for families. It is located adjacent to the ever so popular Warburton Holiday Park by the Yarra River.

At this end of the town you also find YREC (Yarra Ranges Enterprise Centre) that offers rental for offices and studio space for startup businesses. 


‘Warburton’, Victorian Places, 2014, accessed on 24/10/2021

Further reading:

Back to Warburton souvenir booklet, 1950

Earle Parkinson, Warburton ways, the author, 1993

M.J. McCarthy, Mountains of ash: a history of the sawmills and tramways of Warburton and district, Melbourne, 2001

Lachlan Fraser, Warburton walk, Warburton, 1997

Area Profile for Warburton and Surrounds

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