Thorpdale is a small town nestled amongst lush rolling hills, best known for its potatoes and, in many ways, with an aspect and history not too dissimilar to that of Mirboo North. Thorpdale was first settled in the mid-1870s as a timber harvesting area and soon after established a school, hall, stores and a pub, with a railway station opening in 1888. When the timber industry began to slow down, farming became a major activity and potatoes were a natural for the region. Thorpdale potatoes are especially famous because of the rich, deep red, soil that covers the rolling hills. Thorpdale has long been associated with potato growing, which is still the main and most prized produce.
Thorpdale is located on the Mirboo North Trafalgar Road, approximately halfway between Mirboo North and Trafalgar. While it once hosted a number of services, the town has dwindled in size since the 1950s and now hosts just a few shops, a pub, a post office, a fantastic bakery, a pool, lawn bowls green, a primary school and churches. As with Mirboo North, the railway line was discontinued when road transport began to dominate, which also affected overall services to the township. While Thorpdale is a relatively quiet township nowadays, those travelling through, to say Wilsons Promontory or other places south, will experience a beautiful scenic drive. Mind you, the road is not really ideal for large caravans, so those travellers would be better advised to go via Morwell and the Strzelecki Highway.
Like many small townships, the locals try and find ways to provide things of interest to encourage travellers to stop along the way and have a break. One such encouragement are the local produce stalls dotted in the area, where you can source goods directly from the farm. And another solid reason to stop at Thorpdale is the bakery, for some of the best pies anywhere, but make sure that you don’t arrive too late or they’ll be sold out. Thorpdale is also host to an annual potato festival, which began in the late 1970s but then died off for a number of years and was subsequently resurrected in 2015. The Thorpdale Potato Festival looks set to become a regular and well-attended event, given the number of reported attendees last year (unfortunately, we were unable to attend).
While many people would be familiar with Thorpdale potatoes, I suspect that not many would have given much thought about where they actually come from, the township, where it’s located and its history. Yes, Thorpdale is a small country town that’s often bypassed; however, if heading south from the Princes Highway, turn off at Trafalgar and give yourself a treat and see some of the countryside most people miss.