History & Heritage
A rich history.
The King Valley could be described as a little part of Italy set amongst the hills of North East Victoria.
This stunningly picturesque area has a rich history which includes ancient Aboriginal occupation, the bushranging history of Harry Power and the Kelly Gang, and that of nineteenth century Chinese and twentieth century Italian immigrants.
Many spots along the King River flats, especially at Oxley, had significant camp sites and corroboree grounds for the local Aboriginal peoples, some of whom maintained a semi-traditional lifestyle there as late as mid-1880s.
The Chinese came from the Goldfields in the mid 1800's and brought with them a rich heritage as market gardeners, tobacco growers and merchants. Roads in the Valley today carry the names of the more prominent families like Mahlooks, Honey and Fosangs.
There is a link between Whitfield and Melbourne's tourist railway Puffing Billy. In 1897 the Victorian Railways accepted the tender from the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, U.S.A. for narrow-gauge locomotives of the ‘A’ Class, (two 2 foot 6 inch-gauge locomotives) and the first two to be received were placed on the Whitfield/Wangaratta line construction project. Thus the line has the distinction of being the first narrow-gauge line to be built in Victoria. Some of the whistle stop name-boards such as Angleside, Claremont, Dwyer, Pieper and Jarrott can still be seen. There is now a bus service that has replaced the old train system, still taking the same route in and out of Wangaratta.
Italian migrants came to the region in the 1940's and 50's and following the Chinese grew tobacco but it was not long before they realised the enormous potential of the region to produce European wine varietals.
Besides its food and wine offering, the King Valley is breathtakingly picturesque, set amidst the backdrop of the Victorian Alps. At the head of the Valley you can access the Alpine National Park or enjoy some fishing on Lake William Hovell. Visit Power's Lookout on the way to Mansfield and take in the same view that Australian bushranger, Harry Power, used to his advantage to keep an eye on approaching police in the 1870's. Power is also renowned for mentoring bushranger, Ned Kelly, and legend has it that Ned's grandparents dobbed him into the police. The site of Kelly's grandparent's home is near Cheshunt South just below Power's Lookout.