Tarnagulla is an old goldmining settlement, although it is virtually a ghost town today. Gold was first found here in 1852 at Sandy Creek. Consequently a settlement emerged called Sandy Creek but it was renamed in 1860 after the 'Tarnagulla' station which was taken up in the 1840s.
The main strike occurred in 1862 at Poverty Reef which was allegedly the richest pocket of reef gold ever recorded, yielding 13.5 tonnes of precious metal in 13 months from an area 3 metres wide and 120 metres deep. It was named by one of its discoverers who was wrecked at Poverty Bay in New Zealand and rescued by a Maori woman whom he married (both are buried in the local cemetery). The discovery site is denoted by a memorial near the former Methodist Church. The Poseidon nugget, weighing 26.6 kg, was found belatedly in 1906.
Today the area around Tarnagulla is focused on agriculture, fruit-growing and flax oil. The village is located 176 km north-west of Melbourne and 15 km north-east of Dunolly.
Things to see
Tarnagulla Antiques in Commercial Rd is not an information centre as such but Geoff Monk can proffer information about the local area, though there is little literature on the subject, tel: (03) 5438 7342.
Tarnagulla is a pleasant place for a stroll owing to the attractive streetscape with its old verandah-fronted shops and other buildings. The Victoria Hotel and Theatre (a former dance hall and vaudeville theatre until the 1930s) dates from 1853, the courthouse and Uniting Church from 1863, the Anglican church from 1864 and the Catholic Church from 1911. A memorial near the Methodist Church (1864) denoted the site of the gold find which initiated the Poverty mine which was the area's largest. The former Colonial Bank retains its chimney from the days when it smelted gold.
Tarnagulla Historic Reserve
Work has recently been carried out on the Tarnagulla Historic Reserve in Wayman St (signposted from the main street). It features a pavilion built in 1882 and a rotunda and it can be utilised by campers, tel: (03) 5438 7302. The reserve is also the site of the Golden Era Festival which is held each year in August.
Tarnagulla is a popular cycling area. Also, if you are entering the town from the north (from Bridgewater) there is a sign denoting the green mallee and yellow gum communities of Tarnagulla Flora Reserve on the roadside. This is a pleasant spot for those interested in bushwalking.
Gold detecting is still practiced amidst the abandoned mine sites of the area and a map marking relevant sites is available from the caravan park.
Flax Oil Farm
About 10 km west on the road to Moliagul and St Arnaud is a flax oil farm which has viewing areas for those interested in the process. It is open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. every day but Sunday when the hours are 1.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. Groups should ring the owners in advance, particularly if a snack and a cuppa are required, tel: (03) 5438 7240.
Newbridge is situated on the Loddon River, 8 km north-east of Tarnagulla via the Wimmera Highway, en route to Bendigo. It is a tranquil and attractive town known for its fishing, though canoeing, kayaking and walking along the river tracks are also popular. Campsites are available on the riverbanks. There is a Family Fishing Bonanza on the third Sunday in February and Music for the People is held in March.
The town has some older buildings of interest - the former butcher's shop, the Presbyterian Church and school (all in Burke St and all now private residences), the Anglican church in Lyon St, Terril's Home in Morton St and the old schoolhouse in Raglan St. The latter was one of three built on the lines of a Swiss chalet after a visit to Europe by a minister for education. It was subsequently called 'Saches' Folly'.