Last Monday, Jill and I decided to break out of Melbourne and travel east to the little town of Noojee, for lunch, at a quant old pub and bar called ‘The Toolshed’.
Noojee is a town in the Gippsland region of Victoria. It’s a tiny town of about 160 people. It would have seen its heyday in the 1930’s and while it’s now a town in a slumber, it does benefit from tourists passing through to the nearby Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort. There is only a cafe, a pub and one store in the town.
It was first settled after gold was found in the area in the 1860s. Noojee became a major timber town when the railway connected the town to Warragul in 1919. Noojee Post Office opened in May 1920, though an earlier office had been open between 1902 and 1904. The town was destroyed by bushfires in 1926 and again in the Black Friday fires of 1939. The only building left standing after both fires was the Noojee Hotel which served as a community meeting point during the emergency. The hotel also served as the school after the one room school was destroyed.
The Noojee Tool Shed is a fascinating place. Built out of rough timber and corrugated iron, this rustic building is a hive of memorabilia and antiques from a long bygone era.
We had expected this little pub to have plenty of space and that we could just walk in and find a table. We were disappointed to find that every table was already reserved – even the picnic tables out the back. We should have called to make a reservation but we didn’t expect that to be necessary.
After a few minutes of thinking, we decided to drive on to the nearest town of any size – Neerim South, and find an alternative place to eat. The early pioneers of this district clearly had a vivid imagination for place names as on the way, we passed through locations called Neerim, Neerim East, Neerim North, Neerim Junction.
Neerim South is a picturesque rural town, surrounded by rolling hills and lush green grazing land. The town centre is situated along the main Neerim Road which opens up into a wide boulevard with tall deciduous trees along its central strip. The only place that we could find open was a pie shop that was run by a Vietnamese Couple. While their meat pies, pasties and sausage rolls were delicious, this wasn’t quite the relaxing pub lunch that we had planned. We should have made a booking!
On Wednesday, I planned to take Audrey and Violet to the Open Range Zoo at Werribee while their mum was working. I had been given a zoo pass for Christmas and I intended to use it for a visit to photograph some of the animals. The girls were looking forward to a ride on the ‘Safari Bus’ that travels across the flat plains of the zoo past the Elephants, Rhinoceros, Giraffes and other large animals such as the Mongolian horses.
We arrived at the gates of the zoo at about 11.00 am only to find that the zoo had already reached it maximum numbers for the day under Covid regulations. I hadn’t pre–booked tickets, so disappointed, we turned around and tried to find another alternative that would appeal to a fourteen and eleven year old. Once again, we should have booked!
We decided to venture on to Geelong, Victoria’s second biggest city, as we knew of a couple of places there that the girls would enjoy. With the Omicron virus variant in full flight, we wanted to be somewhere where we could maintain a distance from others and avoid spending much time indoors where infection may have been more possible. We needed to protect Violet, who at the age of eleven, can’t get her first vaccination until next week.
Our fist stop was to the tea house at the Geelong Botanic Gardens, situated on a headland along Corio Bay. Here, we could sit outside to eat a sandwich.
These gardens are well laid out, superbly maintained and have a rich diversity of plants. If you haven’t been there before, I recommend a visit. They are one of the state’s oldest Botanic Gardens and consequently they have an estimated 6000 different species of native and exotic plants and a number of trees which date from the earliest plantings in what was then the Colony of Victoria.
Near the Tea House, we came across a Furphy water tanker. The term ‘furphy’ became an Australian slang term for an erroneous or improbable story that is claimed to be true. Furphies are supposedly ‘heard’ from reputable sources, sometimes secondhand or thirdhand, and widely believed until discounted. The word is said to derive from conversations amongst the soldiers in WW1 when they gathered around the Furphy Water-cart and exchanged gossip and stories. A modern day Furphy would be the belief that Donald Trump actually won the last US election
After exploring the gardens, we parked along the city foreshore and took some time to explore the city’s Bay Walk Bollards.
there were over 100 of these brightly painted bollards, made out of recovered wharf pylons, scattered along the foreshore. They depict notable characters relating to Geelong’s history and culture.
John Raddenbury and Lady – Geelong Botanic Gardens’ second curator, John Raddenbury in 1872.
Bathing Beauties – the beach front was the venue for beauty competitions from the 1930’s.
Volunteer Rifle Band – Playing “The Geelong Polka”, this group represents players in Geelong’s first band concerts which were held in the Botanic Gardens in 1861.
A 2nd World War couple representing the Sailors’ Rest institution building, corner Moorabool Street and Eastern Beach Road (now a restaurant).
Eastern Beach Life Savers.
In the centre of the Bay Walk is an area with some amusements and rides. The girls both decided that they were not too old to participate, so they went on rides on the Big Wheel and the very historic Merry Go Round.
The day had become cool and it drizzled with light rain for much of the time. I was really pleased to see the girls having so much fun after having to change our plans from visiting the zoo.