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Warburton Eel

Thursday, March 9, 2006
Warburton, once a gold rush town, is now a charming resort town. It is in a fertile valley by the Yarra River, surrounded by forests of mountain ash.

Around 2000 people live there, and being so close to Melbourne, it is a popular place for quick — or lingering — visits to Yarra Valley wineries, restaurants, galleries, craft shops and a spot of trout fishing. There are many pleasant walking tracks, bike trails, walks and establishments offering alternative medicines and therapies.

Generally, life in Warburton is quiet, but a recent event has the town divided in its opinion. The story began in February 2005 after storms flooded the Yarra River. It is alleged one very large eel slithered across the grass and into Tommy Finn's Trout Farm. An Irish tourist swears he saw a four metre eel, his story backed up two weeks later by another sighting.

The now-legendary Warburton eel, known as Eddy the Eel, has escaped bounty-hunting fisherman. For many locals it is an unwanted attraction. The long-finned eel has been described as big as a car and stories abound, including some which has it devouring a Jack Russell dog, a goose and far too many precious trout.

There is no photographic evidence and eye witnesses are few and far between but the eel stories going about are most entertaining and amusing. It was born in either Japan or Siberia, apparently, and a lot of people have a brother whose neighbour's cousin's father-in-law has actually seen it. Others believe it was definitely there but has escaped.

Gippsland Water, the local sewerage authority, was obviously convinced that Eddy the Eel existed. They mailed a colour brochure to homes warning people to keep their toilet lids closed for a week — just in case.

The $1000 bounty for taking Eddy alive was doubled and plenty of people arrived in the town hoping to land him. So far he has remained elusive, but no doubt the stories will grow until Eddy slips up and ends up in an aquarium somewhere!

If you decide to join the thronging crowds in the hunt, The Alpine Retreat Hotel is a good place to base yourself. There is plenty to do and see in the lovely town and the hotel has 33 rooms — 20 have ensuites and some have views of the river and mountain ranges.

They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and mix classic hotel fare with innovative dishes. It's quality at a reasonable price and the hotel offers a variety of eating areas — the dining room, the outside deck or the unique atrium.

Local wines are a feature of the wine list, with many award-winning Yarra Valley wines available, as well as a selection of quality wines from around Australia. And don't forget the beer. A good country hotel should always take pride in serving the perfect ice cold beer. Here the Alpine never disappoints.


Warburton, an hour north-east of Melbourne.


The Alpine Retreat rooms are $40 a night with share bathroom, with ensuite $60-70 midweek and $70-80 on weekends. Full breakfast is $15.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information

The Alpine Retreat Hotel
12 Main Street
Warburton 3799
Ph: (03) 5966 2411

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