Wonthaggi State Coal Mine

State Coal Mine Historic Reserve - State Coal Mine Heritage Area

Useful Information

Location: Wonthaggi, Gippsland. 130 km south-east of Melbourne. Monash Freeway past Dandenong to Cranbourne, then the South Gippsland and Bass Highways. Follow road signs to Phillip Island and Wonthaggi. The mine is signposted from the town.
Open: All year daily 10-16:36, underground tours at 11:30, 14.
Additional tours during school and public holidays.
Closed 25-DEC, Boxing Day and ANZAC Day.
Fee: Above ground: free.
Underground tour: Adults AUD 18.50, Children (5-15) AUD 9.30, Children (0-4) free, Reduced AUD 13, Students (16+) AUD 15.80, Seniors (65+) AUD 15.80, Family AUD 46.10.
Groups (10+): Adults AUD 15.80, Senior School AUD 6.50, Junior School AUD 4.50.
Classification: MineCoal Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Address: State Coal Mine, Garden St, Wonthaggi, Victoria 3995, Tel: +61-3-5672-3053
Parks Victoria Information Centre, Tel: +61-131963. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1909 mine opened.
1934 a strike of fife months ends with a victory of the miners.
15-FEB-1937 in an explosion die 13 miners.
20-DEC-1968 mine closed.
JUN-1997 reopened as a show mine.
2004 closed because it failed to comply with occupational health and safety laws.
APR-2012 reopened with new Visitor Centre and underground tour.


The coal was deposited about 130 to 150 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous.


The heyday of Wonthaggi State Coal Mine was in the first half of the 20th century, when coal was needed to power Victoria's railway network. Before the mine was opened, Victoria was completely reliant on the private collieries in New South Wales for its supply. The prices were high and disruptions to the supply were a constant problem. In 1909 a strike in New South Wales completely stopped coal supply for Vitoria, and the Victorian Government was forced to open an emergency coal mine at the Wonthaggi coal fields.

State Coal Mine soon became one of the largest and most dangerous collieries in Australia. Working conditions were considerably worse than those of the private mines. The State Mine was handed over to the Railways Department, who had little mining experience. In the years before World War I miners from all over the world arrived at Wonthaggi. Many came from Great Britain, where decades of bitter conflicts had forged strong union ideals. Wonthaggi became the centre of a highly organised militant unionism. A strike of fife months in 1934 ends with a victory of the miners.

The mine was still unsafe, and the protest of the union was ignored. On 15-FEB-1937 20 shafts blew up and 13 men lost their lives. This tragedy resulted in a successful national campaign to improve conditions for all Australian miners. However, only twelve years later, in 1949, again record numbers of killed and injured miners were counted. A nation wide strike was ended by the Federal Chifley Labor Government, by sending troops and jailing the union leaders.

The mine was finally closed in 1968, and during 59 years of operation it produced 17 million tons of coal.

The visit inludes historic buildings housing machinery and photographic displays, an audio-visual interpretation of Wonthaggi's history, and a mining museum in the newly built Visitor Centre. A short film traces the history of the mines. A steam locomotive K192 is on display, which burnt Wonthaggi coal as its fuel.

The underground tour starts with a 280 m walk into the East Area mine. The guides tell stories of working conditions underground, the humour and the hardship of being a miner. Underground tours are guided by Parks Victoria staff and volunteers, many of them have personal connections to the mine. Some guides are retired miners.

The mine and the underground tour had to be closed in 2004, because it failed to comply with occupational health and safety laws. Thanks to 3 Million AUD state and federal government grants in 2011 the mine has undergone an extensive refurbishment. In April 2012 a new Visitor Centre and underground tour were opened to the public.