Whitfield is a very pretty and very small town situated in a dairying and tobacco growing district in the highly scenic King River Valley where lush river flats are surrounded by some magnificent high country. Wine is the main produce of the valley, along with gourmet foods, apples and berries.
Whitfield is located 245 km north-east of Melbourne, 60 km north-east of Mansfield and 50 km south ofWangaratta. It has a general store cum post office, a vehicle repair service, two caravan parks, public toilets and the attractive Mountain View Hotel which is situated by the intersection of the roads to Wangaratta, Cheshunt and Mansfield. It has a restaurant and a beer garden. Just south of the hotel is a scenic nine-hole golf club.
The state's first narrow-gauge railway from Wangaratta to Whitfield was once the main form of transportation into the valley and the former station signs remain at locations such as Docker, Byrne, Angleside and Claremont.
Bushranger Harry Powers once operated in the area in the 1860s and, in 1869, formed an association with a 13-year-old Ned Kelly. As a result Kelly was arrested and held in custody for seven weeks as a suspected accomplice but the charge was dismissed. Power was captured in 1870 and sentenced to 15 years at Pentridge prison.
At a later date, when Kelly was a wanted man, he allegedly rode his horse down the hallway of the Mountain View Hotel which is still in existence. More solidly, it is known that Dan 'Mad Dog' Morgan stole a horse from the Evans station at Whitfield in 1860. Pursued by Mr Evan Evans and a Mr Bond he was fired upon and hit with buckshot. He returned to the station on April 6, 1865 and set fire to some haystacks and, when the people from the property appeared, Morgan held them up. He asked for Evans who, fortunately for him, was absent. Morgan explained he wished to see Evans and Bond as a result of the previous incident. After eating, Morgan departed with the police soon in pursuit. He was killed three days later.
The King Valley Virgin Wine, Food and Arts Festival is held at Whitfield each November, starting, in 1999, on November 19. It features the 'Shed Show' where over 80 wines made from King Valley grapes are available for tasting and judging by the public, culminating in a dinner when the winners are announced. The art and woodworking exhibition offers $3500 in prize money and there are wine and food stalls, performing arts events, artisan displays, petanque competitions, paddock to plate displays, children's activities, free entertainment and a quality craft market.
Things to see
NORTH OF WHITFIELD
Wineries of the Whitfield Rd
The Avalon Vineyard, established in 1981, is located 4 km north of Whitfield on the Whitfield Rd which joins Whitfield to Wangaratta in the north. It is a small vineyard with views of Mt Buffalo. Avalon produces cabernet sauvignon, semillon, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir methode champenoise, shiraz, pinot noir and chardonnay. It is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5729 3629.
La Cantina Winery is about 6 km north of Whitfield on the Whitfield Road. They produce red and white, preservative free, table wines made on the premises. Tastings are conducted in a traditional Tuscany style stone building. The winery is open seven days a week from 10.00am-5.00pm and 10.00am-6.00pm during daylight saving. It is closed on Christmas Day, tel: (03) 5729 3615.
King River Estate Wines are also located on the Whitfield Rd at Edi, 14 km north of Whitfield, tel: (03) 5729 3689. Accommodation is also available here.
Newton's Organic Prickleberry Farm
At Newton's Organic Prickleberry Farm frozen berries and berry jams are available all year round and fresh berries can be obtained from November to April.
To get there, follow the Whitfield Rd north from the Mountain View Hotel for just 1 km then turn right into Gentle Annie Lane. Just along this road, on the eastern side of the King River is the Gentle Annie Caravan Park and on the western side is the farm.
There are no set opening hours but if the sign is out the front they are open for business. If you are making a special trip it is best to ring first, tel: (03) 5729 8272.
Black Range Trout Farm
If you follow Gentle Annie Lane to its end (it is only 1 km long) you will reach a T-intersection with the Cheshunt to Edi Back Road. Turn left and then, after 2 km, turn right into the road to Mt Emu. The Black Range Trout Farm is about 12 km along here in a picturesque valley between the Black Range and Mt Emu. You can catch your own fish (rods and bait are supplied) or buy some smoked trout or trout pate, tel: (03) 5729 3508.
Moyhu is a small settlement located 23 km north of town on the Whitfield Rd. It features a general store, caravan park, a hotel offering accommodation, counter meals and local wines.
Bar-W-Trail Rides and Outfitters can arrange trail rides, hunting and fishing trips of any duration. They also offer a 4WD guiding service for those who prefer their own vehicle. They are located near Myrrhee 16 km north-west of Whitfield, tel: (03) 5729 7576.
SOUTH OF WHITFIELD
Wineries of the Cheshunt Rd
Lana-Trento Vineyard and Winery is 1.8 km south of the Mountain View Hotel on the road to Cheshunt. Producing sangiovese, nebbiolo, sauvay, riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, it is open from midday to 4.00 p.m. daily, tel: (03) 5729 8278.
3 km from Whitfield, on the road to Cheshunt, is Darling Estate. They produce chenin blanc, gamay, pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and shiraz and are open by appointment, tel: (03) 5729 8396.
Cheshunt is a lovely little hamlet located 4 km south of Whitfield on the King River. The village has an all-purpose general store for supplies.
Dal Zotto Wines
Dal Zotto Wines are located 1.5 km north of Cheshunt on the Cheshunt to Edi Back Rd which follows the eastern side of the King River, tel: (03) 5729 8321.
At the crossroads in Cheshunt there is a signposted right turn into the Upper King Valley Rd which leads to Lake William Hovell. 3 km along this road is Chrismont Winery. For location and more information check out:http://www.chrismont.com.au
Lake William Hovell
17 km south-west of Cheshunt on the Upper King Valley Rd (sealed) is Lake William Hovell which is the main reservoir for the valley. This beautiful high-country recreation area has full barbecue facilities, fishing opportunities and walking areas.
On the way there you will pass Cheshunt Boat Hire where boats and canoes, rods and bait are available, tel: (03) 5729 8374.
Adrenalin Whitewater Adventures
Also along the road to Lake William Hovell is Adrenalin Whitewater Adventures - an experienced and fully accredited and licensed outfit offering customers the latest in safe rafting technology and trained staff to take you on excursions through the rapids of the King River (one or more days), the Mitta Mitta Gorge (two days) and the Snowy River (5 days). There are also fishing expeditions, a create-your-own-itinerary rafting option, summer whitewater canoe trips on the Goulburn River, tuition in kayaking and whitewater rafting, corporate team-building courses with school groups, end-of-day parties, shower, change and barbecue facilities and even 'raftcam' to videotape your trip. The best rafting is from June to December, tel: (0500) 531 531 or (03) 5729 8288.
If, at Cheshunt, you proceed past the crossroads and continue east on the Myrtleford Back Road, it is 2 km to Warrawee Orchard which grows red apples. Visitors are welcome to purchase fresh fruit and have a break at the tea rooms, tel: (03) 5729 8331.
Adjacent Warrawee Orchard there is a turnoff on the right which is signposted for Paradise Falls, located 20 km south of Whitfield in the Wabonga Plateau State Park section of the Alpine National Park. The falls drop precipitously for 31 metres and an overhanging rock face allows walking behind the falls. Keep your eyes pealed as you must turn again when you are 500 metres from the Myrtleford Back Road. However, the route is fully signposted. Ring Parks Victoria on (03) 5729 8266 for further information.
Powers Lookout and Other Scenic Attractions
17 km south-west of Whitfield, en route to Mansfield, is a turnoff on the left to Powers Lookout. This vantage point on the Wabonga Plateau was used by bushranger Harry Powers in the 1860s to keep an eye out for potential prey and predators. It offers fabulous views across some truly scenic high country and there is a picnic area with facilities.
Those with a 4WD may wish to explore Dandongadale Falls (Victoria's highest) or Lake Cobbler.