You may have driven along the Bass Highway to Wonthaggi and wondered on the significance of an historical marker for a “Pit Entry”?
Coal was discovered in this part of Gippsland in 1826. To stabilise Victoria’s coal supply the State Coal Mine was opened in 1910, and the township was established to supply the mine and accommodate its workforce.
The coal produced from the mine was chiefly for use by Victorian Railways.
However, when steam trains were replaced by newer technologies the mine eventually became uneconomic and was closed in 1968.
Hence the historical markers dotted around the area, remnants of this fascinating past.
The township, now the centre for agricultural industry, is about 25km from Phillip Island via the Bass Highway, a drive of about 30 minutes – perfect for a day trip.
The State Coal Mine museum, about 2km from Wonthaggi town centre, is well worth a visit.
The museum consists of old buildings and machinery associated with coal mining, set around the grounds.
It offers two underground tours each day, at 11.30am and 1.00pm. Check with the museum if bookings are recommended in busy times.
Visitors need to pay a fee for these tours – but your ticket at the museum café.
The tour takes between one hour and one and a half hours.
After being decked out in a hard hat your guide will lead you through various tunnels pointing out interesting aspects and imparting lots of information about the mine.
Remember to wear closed toe shoes, not sandals.
A warning – this might not be the tour for you if you have problems with claustrophobia!
Instead of climbing up a steep slope, exiting the mine is via a “train” - a fun touch and loved by children (and adults!).
Near the pit exit there is a wonderful museum building which gives an insight into the life of the miner – both work and social.
Apart from driving to Wonthaggi, another option is the Bass Coast Rail Trail.
After visiting the Sate Coal Mine, continue your day trip on to Cape Paterson and Inverloch via road C435.
Follow the signs to Cape Paterson which is only 12km away and take the coastal drive through Bunurong National Marine Park towards Inverloch.
Pull off into parking areas and beach access points to admire the often spectacular views of the cliffs, beaches, Venus Bay and the distant Cape Liptrap.
The rugged area has sandstone cliffs, sandy coves, rocky headlands, caves and rock pinnacles.
The accessible beaches are great for sunbathing, swimming (take note of any warning signage), exploring and snorkeling.
There are some wonderful rock pool areas where a variety of marine creatures can be found. The best time for exploring rock pools is at low tide.
Stop for a coffee at Inverloch before returning to the Bass Highway and back to Phillip Island.
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