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(3799, 68 km E, Yarra Ranges Shire)

A former goldmining and timber township on the Yarra River in the Upper Yarra valley, Warburton was originally called Yankee Jim's after the nearby creek (named after Jim McAvoy, a Canadian who came from the Californian gold rush to discover gold here in 1859). In 1863 it was renamed after the district police magistrate and gold warden, Charles Warburton Carr. This first settlement was south of the present township, on the slopes of Mount Little Joe.

Warburton was the last township before the thickly forested mountains of the Upper Yarra valley. Communication with Melbourne was via a coach service to Lilydale. Originally the rough roads ended here and miners and timber workers going into the hills transported provisions by packhorse. In the 1880s the main settlement moved down to the Yarra River and the original site became Old Warburton. Timber-cutting emerged as the main occupation, but tourism also developed as the attractions of the surrounding scenery became known. A railway line from Lilydale opened in 1901 which stimulated both industries.

The Seventh Day Adventists began a long association with Warburton when they bought land here in late 1904, moving their organisation from Fitzroy. They established Signs Printing Co. and opened a Sanitarium Home based on principles of healthy diet, fresh air and exercise. The Sanitarium Heath Food Co. was established in 1925, producing foodstuffs using hydro-electric power.

The heyday of the Warburton guesthouses was the 1920s, when establishments like the Warburton Chalet (1927) were favourite honeymoon destinations. Camping, caravanning and more exotic resorts gradually usurped their popularity. Sawmilling was also widespread during the interwar years. Many workers commuted weekly to the forest sawmills. Whistle blasts resounded across the hills announcing the beginning and end of their working days. The 1930s depression and the bushfires of 1926 and 1939 heralded the decline of the industry. In 1964 the Warburton railway line closed and is now a walking track. While the 1970s saw a revival of the tourist industry, with the opening of wineries, a trout farm, guesthouses and restaurants, in the 1990s Warburton experienced a downturn in the local economy and the closure of the Sanitarium Factory in 1997.

Jenny Keating