The township of Toolangi is situated on the edge of the Toolangi State Forest. This forest is very popular with bushwalkers, trail bike riders, horse riders, 4x4 drivers, birdwatchers, campers, nature lovers and those who just wish to go for a drive within 1 1/2 hours of Melbourne. Motor cyclists love the winding roads.
The name Toolangi is an Aboriginal word meaning tall trees. It is believed the area was known as Mt Rose up until the 1890's. Toolangi was first inhabited in the 1860’s by paling splitters and then timber cutters who camped deep in the bush. They were attracted by the huge stands of mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans), a tree that split easily, and the messmate timber that proved durable as a building material. Toolangi Post Office opened on 1 August 1900 and closed in 1974.
It was not until the early 1960’s that electricity came to Toolangi, and together with the opening of the Melba Highway, the impetus was there for industrial expansion in the area. An early development was the Potato Research Station (1945) which was followed by the Strawberry Certification Scheme.
As you drive through the town of Toolangi you will see a strange shaped wooden building surrounded by tall Eucalypts and Mountain Ash, this is the Toolangi Forest Discovery Centre. Open to visitors Monday to Friday, this building is used for Forest Education; thousands of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary students visit yearly. There are also several walking tracks which are detailed in information available at the centre - The Wirra Willa Rain forest walk through local rainforest, the Forest Sculpture Trail takes in nine works by sculptors of international repute and views both of Melbourne and the district and the Yea River Walk opposite the centre.
Toolangi was the home of one of our country’s most beloved poets, the late C. J. Dennis, the author of The Sentimental Bloke, Jim of the Hills, The Glugs of Gosh, Rose of Spadgers, The Singing Gardens and Ginger Mick, to name a few. Dennis joined artist Hal Waugh on an expedition to Toolangi in 1908. Dennis stayed on after the expedition attracted by the ambience of the area. He enjoyed the freshness and inspiration of the bush and its people. His work captured the feel of the bush and the true Australian characters both of the bush and the pubs. In 1915 he purchased 3.5 acres for 22 pounds. This included a mill house. Over a period of 10 years, with the help of a local handyman, they converted the mill house to a commodious two storey house named “Arden”. His house has long since burned down, but his gardens remain in the tender care of Jan and Vic Williams, surrounding their Tea Rooms - 'The Singing Gardens" which offer Devonshire teas and light lunches every day from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. but close in August and on Christmas Day.
Opposite the gardens is the pottery of David Williams who creates unique crystalline glazed ceramics which have been exhibited in the National Gallery of Victoria.
The Toolangi Tavern, situated at the intersection of Myers Creek and Chum Creek Roads (aka Healesville-Kinglake Road) is a favourite meeting spot for those living in and travelling through Toolangi. The tavern was opened in 2006, and serves meals for lunch and dinner seven days per week. The Tavern building also doubles as a General Store, so that soft and alcohol drinks can be obtained, as well as lots of confectionery lines, bread, milk, and take away food. The tavern features an open fire in winter and huge windows that look out into the state forest.
The Toolangi Tavern has an interesting history. The former Toolangi Hotel burned to the ground in 1975, and in an ironic twist of fate, while the building was totally destroyed, the locals saved the beer. For weeks afterwards the locals would gather under the trees at the old pub site, and assist in depleting the stocks of "that rich amber fluid". The former licensee decided not to rebuild the pub, and the town remained publess for decades.
In late 2001, Michelle Owen, who was then working as a real estate agents representative, visited Toolangi to conduct a valuation, and stumbled across the former General Store, which had been closed for about 2 years. The store is situated just across the road from where the old pub stood. One glance told her the store site had potential, with its million dollar views of the forest. Michelle's partner, John, was quickly roped in to conduct searches of official registers (he teaches Property Law at RMIT University) and discovered with delight that the bottle shop liquor licence was still "alive". Quick payment of arrears of fees and timely completion of paperwork saw that licence isuue to Michelle before the end of December 2001. The General store was reopened on Australia Day 2002. Plans for the new Toolangi Pub were drawn up, and the battle commenced. Once the application was lodged with the council, 7 groups within the community opposed the development, representing about 35 people in total. However many other people sprang to Michelle's assistance, lobbying and writing letters to councillors and the local press, and eventually over 2 years later, the permit was issued by the Murrindindi Shire Council.