I guess that it’s only appropriate that my first story about Gippsland townships should be about my home town Mirboo North, first settled in the 1870s and subsequently becoming a thriving farming and timber region as well as a rail terminus for the timber industry. The first train arrived in Jan 1886 and the last one left in June 1974. The first school was established in 1881, a hotel around 1882 and a general store in 1885. Being a significant dairy region, a dairy factory was opened in 1893. Since those days, there have naturally been many changes, with businesses coming and going, as well as a major change when the council amalgamations occurred in the mid-1990s. Since those days Mirboo North has grown to a population of 2000+ and, from what I’ve observed, is attracting quite a number of tree changers (including us). Apart from being central to a farming and timber industry, Mirboo North also hosts numerous art, craft, music and other events.
Mirboo North resides on the Strzelecki Highway located almost halfway between Morwell in the north and Leongatha in the south, situated approx 250m above sea level amongst rolling hills dotted with farmland and forests. It provides most services (banking, hardware, supermarket, takeaways, mechanics, a newspaper and others) required by the township and surrounding farmlands. It also has an aged care facility, ambulance services, CFA, as well as primary and high schools that are attended by students from around the area, and a golf course (I suspect that every township has a golf course, even if they have nothing else). It’s also a major tourist thoroughfare for many travelling to places such as Wilsons Promontory.
When it comes to events, Mirboo North seems to have plenty and many with a long history. As I noted in my story about the Mirboo North Italian Festa; it’s been running for nearly 50 years and commemorates the Italian community and its history in the region. This year it became a broader reaching festival and drew people from far and wide, far more than anyone expected. If anything, the Italian Festa celebrates food and fun, and looks to become a major feature in the yearly calendar as a family event.
Mirboo North also hosts an annual event called the Arty Gras that’s held in conjunction with the Mirboo North Art Show. It’s an event that’s held during the Mother’s Day weekend and features music, food, community events and a parade. The Mirboo North Art Show has been running for 35 years and features artwork from local artists and artisans.
Other long established and well know features of Mirboo North are the music festivals and concerts held at Mossvale Park each year. The Summer of Soul is one of the best known and attended festivals. There is also the Mossvale Music Festival, Music for the People and others. Mirboo North also holds an annual Idol competition, now in its 10th year, with its focal point being the historic pool. The region as a whole has numerous music festivals and similar events.
One very recent addition to Mirboo North’s events is the Blessing of the Bikes, with the first one held in 2014 and followed by an even bigger event in 2015. If all goes as planned, there’ll be a third Blessing of the Bikes this year. Mirboo North is kind of a Mecca for bike riders, for when the weather is on the pleasant side, they come in the thousands to enjoy the great scenery and riding that the area provides. Mirboo North is a common respite stop for many, before they head onwards with their travels. It’s also the major thoroughfare for bike riders coming from the north to attend the Phillip Island Grand Prix held each year.
Other events include such things as the Berryden Sheep Dog trials held every year just out of town. The event has been held now for over 10 years and brings competitors from around Australia, competing in the annual events that circulate the state as part of the Victorian Sheep Dog Association. These events are typical of rural life in Australia.
Mirboo North is also well known for its brewery, the Grand Ridge Brewery, which has won many awards and accolades for its home grown craft beers and the like. While it’s right in town, it’s almost hidden away, being located to the left of where most tourists turn when they enter the main street. That said, it is usually a full house on weekends and public holidays, especially when the weather is good, as tourists in the know seek it out.
Another feature of Mirboo North is its historic swimming pool. It started out as a natural spring in a broad depression, which was improved over time, to become a favourite summer spot during the hot summer months. With shady gums surrounding the pool grounds and plenty of room to spread out, it’s a very popular place when it gets hot. School kids from around the region come to the pool for swimming competitions and even my wife used to come here from Korumburra in her school days. The pool was under threat of closure recently, but it appears to have received a stay of execution and that’s a good thing, as there aren’t that many outdoor pools of this quality and history in existence anymore.
Nowadays many country towns have a rail trail that has taken over a defunct railway line no longer serving its original purpose, to be used by walkers, bicycle riders and even horse riders. Mirboo North is no exception and the Grand Ridge Rail Trail that travels approx 13 km from Mirboo North to Boolarra, through very picturesque countryside, is one that often draws visitors from further afield. And not far from the rail trail is the Lyrebird Forest Walk that dates back to the beginnings of Mirboo North and takes you through a shady native forest through which runs the Little Morwell River.
And lastly but by no means least, there are the farms and forests around Mirboo North that form a major part of what gave rise and is still the raison d’etre for Mirboo North. Farming consists of potatoes, beef and dairy cattle, sheep, poultry as well as niche products such as garlic (technically in Mirboo), snails, exotic flowers etc, many of which can be found at the monthly Mirboo North market.
So that’s my potted history of Mirboo North, as it was and as it is now, as well as some information about what happens in Mirboo North. It’s not an all-encompassing story, but is intended to provide a brief summary of what there is to Mirboo North at this point in its history.