Benalla (including Tatong)
Important and interesting rural centre
Benalla is an attractive centre of some 8700 people situated on the Broken River 188 km north-east of Melbourne via the Hume Freeway and 40 km south-west of Wangaratta on the Broken River. Known as the 'Rose City' it is noted for its public gardens.

Prior to European settlement the area was occupied by the Yota-yota Aborigines. Hamilton Hume and William Hovell discovered good pasture land to the south-east of the present townsite in 1824. They named the river 'Swampy'.

12 years later the townsite was visited by Thomas Mitchell and party during their 'Australia Felix' expedition of 1836 which effectively delineated the first Sydney-Melbourne Road. They camped on the eastern riverbank where the Costume and Pioneer Museum is now located. James Taylor was drowned while scouting out a suitable crossing place.

In 1838 Grantville Stapylton renamed the river 'Broken'. In April of that year a party of some 18 men, in the employ of George and William Faithfull, were searching out new land to the south of Wangaratta. Then, in the vicinity of, or possibly on, the present townsite of Benalla, a large number of Aborigines attacked the party's camp. At least one Koori and somewhere between eight and thirteen Europeans died in what became known as the Faithfull Massacre. Local reprisals lasted a number of years, resulting in the deaths of up to 100 Aborigines. The reason for the attack is unclear although some sources claim that the men took shots at local Aborigines and generally provoked them. It also seems they were camping on a hunting ground. Interestingly, the Reverend Docker then came to live in the area and lived in harmony with the local Aborigines.

The following year a border police post was established where the town museum now stands. This site became known as the Broken River Crossing Place and a potential townsite was surveyed around the police post later that year.

Pastoralists began setting up sheep and cattle stations along the Broken River: one being the 'Benalta' run of William McKellar. This was understood to be the name of the local tribe who also used the word to refer to the general area. Its meaning is unclear.

In 1840 'Goomalibee' station was taken up on land adjoining the crossing place. That same year a squatter named Charles Ryan built the Black Swan Inn (a slab building) near what is now the intersection of Arundel St and Kent St. A post office opened there in 1844. 1847 saw the construction of a slab courthouse, a cottage for the commissioner of crown lands and the first bridge. A new town survey was conducted the following year and the settlement named 'Benalla' by superintendent Charles La Trobe.

A small town developed along what is now Arundel St with lots going on sale in Melbourne in 1849. By 1850 some residences, a blacksmith's, a general store and a boarding house had been built on the other side of the river with the Benalla Hotel under construction at the corner of Bridge and Nunn Sts. A new two-storey Black Swan Inn was also being built. Benalla National School opened in Arundel St in 1850.

In 1854 the 13 members of the Benalla tribe were noted as living in the townsite. That year the first Methodist service was conducted and small farming lots went on sale on surrounding land. A resident Anglican clergyman was appointed in 1855 and a telegraph station emerged in 1857. In 1858 a Catholic school and chapel, a brewery, a flour mill and a new wooden courthouse were added.


Goldmining commenced to the south-east of town in 1860 but the field produced little. The Anglican Church was built that year and a Presbyterian church in 1861 when Benalla was proclaimed a town. In 1864 a brick courthouse was constructed and a Primitive Methodist Church opened. The first bank branch appeared in 1866 and the Benalla Road was formed in 1868 - the year the first local newspaper went into publication.

In 1869, a 14-year-old Ned Kelly, Australia's most famous bushranger, was charged in the local courthouse for assaulting and robbing Ah Fook but was found not guilty for lack of supportive evidence.

In 1870 Supreme Court sessions commenced at Benalla and a mechanics institute opened (the building is now a museum). The railway arrived in 1873 and a recreation reserve (now the Botanic Garden) was gazetted that same year. Ned Kelly reappeared at Benalla courthouse in 1877, charged with being drunk and disorderly and riding a horse on the footpath. After a fracas on the way to the courthouse additional charges emerged - assaulting a policeman in the course of his duty, resisting the police and damaging a constable's uniform. He emphatically claimed the police had doped his liquor and was fined two pounds and ordered to pay court costs and damages. The Commercial Hotel became the headquarters for the 'Kelly hunt' in 1878 and, in 1880, Ned was held at Benalla police station en route to his hearing at Beechworth after the siege at Glenrowan.

In 1881 the town's fortunes began to improve after a period of stagnation. The rail link to Sydney was completed in 1883 and Benalla became an important railway town when railway workshops and large refreshment rooms were built in 1888. The arrival of diesel locomotives in 1952 would signal the decline of Benalla's usefulness to the railway system.

New Zealand's first Labour prime minister, Michael J. Savage, was born at Tatong near Benalla in 1872. One of eight children, his father died when he was five and his mother struggled thereafter. He left school and worked as a shop assistant in Benalla at the age of 13. Savage lost his job in the 1890s depression and wandered about NSW as a farm hand. He went to New Zealand in 1907 and became involved with the union movement and Socialist Party. In the midst of the Great Depression he became the leader of the Labour Party and the prime minister in 1935. Savage's government introduced a social security system in 1938. He died of cancer in 1940 while still prime minister.

Soldier surgeon and war hero Edward 'Weary' Dunlop was also born at Benalla in 1907 and later attended Benalla High School. From March 1942 to the end of the Second World War he was a POW under Japanese command in Singapore and, from January 1943, in Thailand where he worked on the infamous Burma-Thailand railway. Unintimidated by the Japanese he became a legend with the Australian prisoners for his modesty and his remarkable efforts in scrounging food for the sick, building makeshift hospitals and operating with hand-made instruments. It is known that, of the 5600 patients he had handled by October 1943, only 56 had died under conditions of extreme deprivation and brutality. Yet he managed to bare no hatred towards the Japanese and became deeply devoted to the peoples of Asia. After the war he acted as a medical adviser in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and South Vietnam. Named Australian of the Year in 1977 and a Knight of St John in 1982 he published his best-selling war diaries in 1986. Dunlop died in 1993.

The Benalla Rose Festival is held in November, the Australia Felix Benalla Easter Arts Festival at Easter and the Agricultural Show (which commenced in 1878) in October. The Lakeside Craft Market is held on the fourth Saturday of each month

Things to see:

Costume and Pioneer Museum and Tourist Information
The Costume and Pioneer Museum at 14 Mair St doubles as the town's information centre. There are period costumes and two permanent exhibitions. 'The Ned Kelly Story' is housed in a portable cell in which Ned was once imprisoned. It contains memorabilia such as Ned's sash and bridle, his cummerbund, the witness box from the old Benalla courthouse and the door of the old Benalla gaol to which Joe Byrne's body was tied for photographs after the Glenrowan siege in 1880. Kelly received the sash as a child at Avenel when he rescued a boy from drowning and was wearing it when taken at Glenrowan.

The display known as 'Benalla's Famous Sons' features memorabilia relating to Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop, Michael J. Savage and Captain Hector Waller. Also on the premises are an arts-and-crafts gallery and tea rooms.

The museum can furnish pamphlets outlining a heritage walk, the various trails about Lake Benalla and bushwalking opportunities in the area, including the trails of Mt Samaria State Park, the Strathbogie Ranges and Warby Ranges State Park, tel: (03) 5762 1749.

The museum is housed within the former mechanics' institute and free library. These Victorian institutions were designed to help educate the ordinary working man (a 'mechanic'). It is a single-storey brick building with gabled roofs and rendered facades which was built in 1869-70 with an 1882 extension. Benalla's first building - an early policeman's hut - was built on this very site in 1839.

Ceramic Mural Garden
Nearby, on the foreshore of the lake, is a ceramic and terracotta mural featuring a frieze wall, an upper terrace with views across the lake, an amphitheatre, a colonnade, turquoise glazed ceramic domes, a thongaphone (sculpted tuned pipes meant to be played by striking them with a thong), wall coping, a circular seat and landscaped surrounds.

Lake Benalla
This very attractive artificial lake was constructed in 1974-75 by damming the Broken River. It features recreation facilities and a bird sanctuary.

Historic Buildings - East Side
Walk along to Bridge St and turn left. To the immediate right is the Commercial Hotel, built in 1860 on the route to the Ovens goldfields. The verandah and rear rooms are later additions. It was used as an unofficial headquarters for the police during their hunt for the Kelly gang from 1878 to 1880.

Turn left into Nunn St. To the right, at 75 Nunn St, is the National Bank - a two-storey Italianate building with stuccoed facade and single-storey wings. Over the road is another two-storey Italianate building which was built in 1882-83 as the town hall.

Along the road, at 41 Nunn St (by the Church St intersection), is a brick flour mill constructed in 1883-84 to replace an earlier wooden mill.

Continue along Nunn St then turn left at the next intersection into Benalla St. The last building to the right is Moira House which is probably the town's most distinctive 19th-century building. It is a large two-storey Classical brick house built in 1878 with a five-bay rendered facade and it now serves as the Benalla Mens' Club and Bowls Club.

Turn left into Mitchell St. At the corner of Mitchell and Church Sts is St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, a neo-Gothic red-brick structure built in 1905.

Bridge and Toll Gate
Turn left into Church St, take the first right into Mair St, back past the museum, and turn right into Bridge St. The bridge dates from 1909-10. The toll gate at its south-western end was built in 1874 for an earlier bridge which stood nearby. All Victorian tolls were abolished in 1878.

Benalla Botanical Gardens and Rose Gardens
On the far side of the bridge are the Benalla Botanical Gardens, created in 1887 out of what was then a cricket field which had been carved out on the banks of the Broken River. The statue of Benalla's favourite son, Edward 'Weary' Dunlop, was unveiled in 1996. The band rotunda dates from 1911 and the soldier's memorial from 1922.

The Rose Gardens, which have become something of a symbol of Benalla, were established in 1959. There is a sizeable collection of modern hybrid tea and floribunda roses from the 1950s to the present.

There are walking/cycling paths from the Bridge St bridge to the Ackerly Ave road bridge adjacent the railway viaduct (1873). At the northern end of the lake is a plaque which records the death of James Taylor, Major Mitchell's groom, who died in 1836 while scouting out a crossing place for the exploratory party.

The 'Jim Wood' trail starts near the old toll gates. It takes in local bushland and birdlife and leads past footbridges which provide access to Jaycee Island, Link Island and Little Casey Island which are situated within the river on the southern side of Bridge St. There is also a car parking area near the northern footbridge across to Jaycee Island.

A brochure at the information centre outlines a self-guided walk which takes you through some of the highlights of the Botanical Gardens.

Benalla Regional Art Gallery
In the Botanic Gardens, right on the foreshore of Lake Benalla, is the Benalla Regional Art Gallery. It is open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. weekdays and from midday to 5.00 p.m. on weekends. There is an entry fee, tel: (03) 5762 3027.

Historic Buildings - West Side
Walk along to the intersection of Bridge St and Arundel St. The Royal Hotel, built in 1861 on the western side of the river crossing, is a two-storey structure with a substantial verandah. On the north-western corner is the former Star Hotel (c.1856).

Turn left into Arundel St. To the immediate left, at no. 69, is the former courthouse (the town's third) which dates from 1864 although the elaborate two-storey facade, with its unusual pyramid towers, dates from 1888. Ned Kelly was tried here on two occasions for minor offences.

Adjacent is the former Lands Office, built in 1861 owing to the extent of local land sales. It is now a parish office of Holy Trinity Anglican church. The nave of the latter was built in 1860 with the chancel and sanctuary added in 1884, the vestry and organ chamber in 1905 and the red-brick belfry and porch in 1907.

Over the road, at 64a Arundel St, is a small timber shop built prior to 1877 when Ned Kelly burst into the shop having escaped police custody while en route from the police station to the courthouse. He was recaptured in the shop after a violent struggle with Sergeant Whelan and Constables Lonigan, O'Dea and Fitzpatrick which ensued after Constable Lonigan tried to handcuff Kelly. Fitzpatrick and Lonigan would prove key figures in Kelly's future. It was the events surrounding Fitzpatrick's visit to the Kelly home which precipitated the formation of the Kelly 'gang' (see entry on Glenrowan) and Kelly murdered Lonigan at Stringybark Creek in 1878 (see subsequent entry), causing the 'gang', to be outlawed. There is an explanatory plaque.

Return along Arundel St and cross over Bridge St. On the left-hand side is a former state school building, erected in 1874 as an addition to the original 1851 building. It is now an administrative office of the Education Department.

Slightly further along, at the Wedge St corner, is St Joseph's Catholic Church (1907-08). Over Wedge St is the neo-Gothic FCJ Convent (1902).

Golden Vale Nursery
The Golden Vale Nursery claims to have the world's largest collection of Australian roses. It is open daily on Golden Vale Rd, tel: (03) 5762 1520.

Gliding Club
The Gliding Club of Victoria is based at the aerodrome on the town's northern outskirts, tel: (03) 5762 1058.

Winton Raceway
There are motor sports every weekend at Winton Motor Raceway 10 km north-east of town. Annual events include the Australian Historic Motorferst, the Australian V8 Touring Car Championship, the Super Touring Championship and the Super Truck Racing Championship, tel: (03) 5766 4235.

Lake Mokoan
Lake Mokoan is a large expanse of water to the north-west of town (on the northern side of the Hume Highway) which is ideal for boating, fishing and waterskiing. To get there, head east along Sydney Rd (a extension of Bridge St) for 6 km then turn left onto the Yarrawonga Rd, heading north for 8 km, then turn right onto the road which follows the northern shore. It is 5 km to a boat ramp. There are also roads along the southern shore. There are plenty of waterbirds.

Benalla Cemetery
Kelly gang member, Joe Byrne, is buried in the local cemetery, as is Dr Arthur Barrington, a pioneer of Esperanto who died in 1919. It is just west of town on Baddaginnie Rd.

Reef Hills State Park
Reef Hills State Park, 4 km south-west of Benalla on the western side of the Midland Highway, is a 2040-hectare forest with a range of flora and fauna amidst eucalypt forest. Gold was discovered here in 1860 and worked into the early 20th century though returns were not substantial. There are open picnic areas.

Tatong and Stringybark Creek
25 km south-east of Benalla is Tatong where you will find the Tatong Tavern, an English-style country pub built in the 1880s.

Continue south from Tatong along the Tolmie Rd up into the forests of the Toombullup plateau. Turn right into Stringybark Creek Rd and you will see, after 800 metres, a signpost pointing left to the 'Kelly Tree' which is 50 metres hence. The inscription in the tree says '1878 Kelly shot Lonigan'.

It refers to the fact that Sergeant Kennedy and Constables Lonigan, McIntyre and Scanlon camped here on October 25, 1878, while searching for Ned and Dan Kelly. They were spotted by the gang and the next day, when Kennedy and Scanlon went out on patrol, Lonigan and McIntyre were taken by surprise. Lonigan drew and was shot dead by Ned while McIntyre surrendered.

When Kennedy and Scanlon returned they did not surrender as requested and, in the ensuing shoot-out, Ned killed Scanlon and mortally wounded Kennedy. Ned later shot Kennedy through the heart, claiming it as an act of mercy. McIntyre escaped to report the killings as a result of which the gang were outlawed, meaning they could be shot on sight.

The original tree, which marked the site of Lonigan's death is, in fact, long gone but the killings of Lonigan and Scanlon did occur in the immediate vicinity. Kennedy's body was found on the other side of the creek, 400 m away.

There are day facilities and a camping area.

Mt Samaria State Park
Mt Samaria State Park (7600 ha) is an attractive and forested semi-remote area which encloses a rugged plateau to the south of Benalla. It was long used by Aborigines prior to the grazing and logging practices of the European settlers. Wildlife is abundant, as are wildflowers in spring. There are waterfalls, magnificent stands of trees, scenic views and abundant birdlife. Visitors can enjoy scenic walks and drives, picnics, camping, bushwalking and photography.

Access can be gained by heading south along the Midland Highway for 22 km and taking the signposted left at Swanpool (by the cemetery). It is another 14 km to the park entrance and Samaria Wells picnic ground where you can usually obtain park brochures. For details ring the Department of Natural Resources on (03) 5761 1611 or Parks Victoria on 131 963.

The roads in the park can be quite rough, particularly in winter so take care in a 2WD. You may wish to enquire about road conditions before you start.

7 km from Samaria Wells is the start of a walking track (3 km return) to the summit of Mt Samaria (953 m). Another 3.5 km along the main road is the start of a 3-km return walk to the Wild Dog Creek Falls through stands of messmate stringybarks and gums. 5.5 km further along the main road (past some old sawmill ruins and a picnic area) is the start of the walk to Back Creek Falls (3 km return). Another 2 km along the main road is Rocky Point Lookout which offers fine views across the Alps. If you can continue along the road there is a right turn which indicates the way back to the Midland Highway.

Benalla Tourist Information Centre
The Costume and Pioneer Museum 14 Mair St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 1749

Benalla Family Inn Motel
27 Bridge St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 5600
Rating: ***

Comfort Inn Motel
48-50  Bridge St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 4088
Facsimile: (03) 5762 4539
Rating: ***1/2

Executive Hideaway Motel
71 Samaria Rd
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 4055, 008 033 128
Facsimile: (03) 5762 5770
Rating: ***

Glider City Motel
Cnr Witt St & Sydney Rd
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 3399
Rating: ***

Haven Motel
Winton Rd
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 1656 or (03) 5762 1722
Rating: ***

Rose City Motor Inn
Cnr Bridge St West & Faithful St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 2611
Rating: ***

Top of the Town Motel
136 Bridge St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 4866
Rating: ***

Avondale Motor Inn
21 Bridge St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 3677
Rating: ***

Broken River Hotel
39 Bridge St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 2014

Farmers Arms Hotel
1 Commercial Rd
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 2039

Royal Hotel
2 Bridge St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 2052

Victoria Hotel
2 Carrier St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 2045

Belmont Bed & Breakfast
80 Arundel St South
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 6575
Rating: ****

Nillahcootie Estate
Midland Hwy Lima South
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (02) 5768 2685, 0409 164 205
Facsimile: (02) 5768 2678
Web site:
Rating: ****

Yaridni Host Farm
Yarrawonga Rd Goorambat East
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5764 1273
Rating: ***

Motor Village Caravan Park
Winton Rd
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 3434
Rating: ***

Dragon Gate Chinese Restaurant
Cnr Arundel & Thomas Sts
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 1516

100 Bridge St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 1334

Kim Wah Restaurant
119 Bridge St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (052) 62 3242

55 Nunn St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 4066

Rose City Motor Inn
Cnr Bridge St West & Faithful St
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 2611

The Hideout, Executive Hideaway Motel
71 Samaria Rd
Benalla VIC 3672
Telephone: (03) 5762 4055