Mansfield Visitor Information Centre in old railway station on High St. It is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5775 1464. They operate an accommodation booking service and can fill you in on the possibilities for horseriding, camel treks, bushwalking, canoeing, waterskiing, trout fishing, sailboarding, gold panning, fossicking, hot-air ballooning, 4WD tours, ski and equipment hire, mountain-bike riding and white-water rafting. They also have a booklet outlining the town's historic buildings.
At the corner of High and Highett Sts is a substantial marble monument within the roundabout which was erected in 1880 as a tribute to constables Lonigan, Kennedy and Scanlon who were killed by Ned Kelly at Stringybark Creek to the north-east of town in 1878. They are buried in the cemetery at the end of Highett St.
The imposing Highton Manor, in Highton Lane, was the town's first two-storey brick home. Built in 1896, it features impressive stained-glass windows. Its original owner, Francis Highett, was a Victorian tennis champion. Also a notable singer he performed duets with Dame Nellie Melba and sang in St Paul's Cathedral in London. Highett was given to long bouts of solitary meditation in the tower where he communicated with his family through a speaking tube which remains. It is now a guesthouse.
Sailing, fishing, canoeing and boating can be enjoyed on Lake Nillahcootie, 20 km north, adjacent the Midland Highway.
Goughs Bay, on Lake Eildon, is 20 km south of Mansfield, off the road to Jamieson. Nearby is the Delatite Arm Reserve. This is a good area for boating, waterskiing, fishing and camping. There are established sites with pit toilets. Fees are charged and bookings are necessary in peak periods, tel: (03) 5775 2788 or 131 963. Houseboats can be hired from High Country Houseboats, tel: (03) 5777 3899 and more conventional accommodation is available at Fernleigh Cottages on Goughs Bay Rd, tel: 03 5777 3531.
Bonnie Doon is a small town of around 300 people at the northern end of the lake, 21 km west of Mansfield on the Maroondah Highway. Accommodation possibilities include the Bonnie Doon Caravan Park (tel: 03 5778 7254), Bonnie Doon Holiday Apartments (tel: 03 5778 7445), the Lakeland Resort Hotel (tel: 03 5778 7335), the Starglen Lodge Resort, 10 km north of town (tel: 03 5778 7312), Peppin Point Holiday Park and Houseboats (tel: 03 5778 7338), 9 km south of Bonnie Doon, and the Lakeside Leisure Resort, tel: (03) 5778 7252. The latter has a waterskiing school.
The Mansfield-Whitfield Road (61 km), to the north-east of town, offers spectacular scenery of the King River Valley. The best viewing area is Powers Lookout. The name derives from the fact that it was once a vantage point for bushranger Harry Power. A 15-year-old Ned Kelly was charged as being an accomplice of Power in 1870, but the charges were dismissed for want of evidence. Head north-east along the Mansfield-Whitfield Rd for 44 km and turn right onto the gravel road. The lookout is 4 or 5 km away.
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 north of Mansfield. 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 north along the Whitfield Rd for 10 km. When you get to Bridge Creek continue ahead insteading of turning right towards Whitfield. After 4 km take the turnoff on the right onto Blue Range Rd. For details ring the Department of Natural Resources on (03) 5761 1611 or Parks Victoria on 131 963.
For access to the northern end of the park see the entry on Benalla.
Delatite Winery, established in 1968, is a beautifully-situated winery in Stoney Rd (signposted off Mt Buller Rd), about 11 km south-east of Mansfield. It produces a large range of dry red and white table wines and a sparkling wine and it is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. There are picnic and barbecue facilities, tel: (03) 5775 2922.
Merrijig, 19 km south-east of Mansfield on the Mt Buller Rd, is a small town which has a resort complex for off-mountain skiers. The area to the north of town was used in the filming of The Man From Snowy River and its sequel. A major rodeo is held here on the Labour Day weekend in March.
Accommodation is available at Willawong Bed-and-Breakfast (tel: 03 5777 5750), Carrathool Guesthouse (tel: 03 5777 5591), Merrijig Motor Inn Resort (tel: 03 5777 5702), Pinnacle Valley Resort (tel: 03 5777 5788) and Highlander Lodge (tel: 03 5777 5511). There are picnic areas beside the Delatite River at Merrijig and further east on the Mt Buller Rd at Sawmill Settlement and Mirrimbah.
Howqua Hills Historic Area
The Howqua Track heads south-east from Merrijig to the Howqua Hills Historic Area. The Howqua River was used as a major trade and war route across the Great Dividing Range for the Aborigines. They used the hard greenstone outcrops along the river for manufacturing spearheads, stone axes and cutting tools.
This land was taken up a spart of the Howqua run by the Watson and Hunter Pastoral Company in the 1830s and it is still being used for grazing purposes.
Gold was discovered in the valley in the 1860s and a major reef was located the following decade. Three large companies were established and the township of Howqua was proclaimed in 1888. There was an hotel, a post office, some boarding houses, a blacksmith's and a butcher's. Mining ceased with the closure of the Great Rand in 1905 and the village was deserted.
A number of relics remain from the goldmining days. There is a brick chimney associated with a smelting furnace. Further east is a 100-metre tunnel which was cut through Tunnel Spur to bring water from the Howqua River to a 4-km water race. The race, which conveyed the water to an 18-metre waterwheel located near the chimney, can be seen above the road which links Tunnel Spur and the chimney.
Fry's Hut and Pickering Hut were both built by local bushman Fred Fry whose life formed the basis of Nevil Shute's novel The Far Country which was later filmed in the area. They cannot be used for overnight camping. However, camping is permitted at Sheepyard Flat where shepherds yarded their sheep at night. Fry's Flat is for summer access only and Davon's Flat is a day visitor and horse camping area with horseyards. The historic area is ideal for camping, bushwalking, fishing and horseriding. Ring (03) 5733 0120 or 131 963 for further information.
Howqua is not actually a town but rather a locality on the edge of Lake Eildon, near the junction of the lake and the Howqua River. It is a popular spot for waterskiing, boating and fishing. There is a caravan park with a general store which also hires out houseboats (tel: 03 5777 3588). Other accommodation possibilities are offered by Plough Cottage Guesthouse (tel: 03 9808 8570), Kallarroo Lakefront Homes (tel: 03 9842 5164) and Hillside Howqua Bed-and-Breakfast (tel: 03 5777 3522). There are boat-launching facilities.
Horseriding, Camel Treks, Watersports and Other Activities
The excellent alpine and lakeside scenery of the area lends itself to excellent trail riding and there are numerous outfits to cater to that possibility. They are Homestation Trail Rides (tel: 03 5777 3576), Kratlund Park (tel: 03 5775 1443), McCormacks Trail Rides (tel: 03 5775 2886), Sawpit Gully Lodge (tel: 03 5776 9562), Stoney's Bluff and Beyond (tel: 03 5775 2212), Watson's Mountain Country Rides (tel: 03 5777 3552) and, in Bonnie Doon, Starglen Lodge (tel: 03 5778 7312). Merrijig has Lovick's Mountain Safaris (tel: 03 5777 5510) and Merrijig Lodge (tel: 03 5777 5590). Howqua has Sunset Ranch, tel: (03) 5777 3730.
High Country Camel Treks, 4 km south of Mansfield on Rifle Butts Rd, can be contacted on (03) 5775 1591.
Abseiling, mountain-bike riding, trekking, white-water rafting etc can be pursued with Mountain Adventure Safaris, tel: (03) 5777 3759. The Helicopter Service Australia conducts joy flights, tel: (03) 5775 2008. Stirling Experience offer high country 4WD tours from November to May, tel: (03) 5777 3541. Trout-fishing tuition and camping trips are available with Catch Wild Trout, tel: (019) 328 585. Hot-Air Ballooning is available from Ballooning Global, tel: (1800) 627 661.
Peregrine offer rafting expeditions along the King River which depart both from Mansfield and Melbourne, tel: (03) 9662 2800 or the Peregrine Travel office in your state capital.