Warburton - AKA 'Warby' - Warburton Highway - Victoria

Dawn comes early but sunrise is late in Warburton. At the eastern end of the Upper Yarra Valley the intricate pattern of mountains, valleys and forests of the Great Dividing Range, sometimes mingled with cloud, diffuses the start of each new day.

A new day to seek the hidden treasures of Warburton - treasures of history - dating back to the mid 1800s when gold was found. There are still a few abandoned mine shafts about but they're hard to find. Easier to discover are two diversion tunnels on the Yarra River to the east: Little and Big Peninsulas, which left large dried sweeps of the river to search for alluvial gold.

Easy access to timber helped miners shore up their mines and, when gold ran out, the forests provided the next industry. By the First World War, and into the 1920s, there were more than 60 timber mills around the town and 320 miles (500km) of tramways. Today, timber still provides employment and revenue, but on a much reduced scale.

Vast stands of majestic Mountain Ash line the road up to Mount Donna Buang, Melbourne's closest snowfields, and many other roads and tracks. At Cement Creek, a forest gallery takes visitors into the canopy of ancient giants and down into a green world of ferny gullies and tiny waterfalls.

In the 1930s and 1940s the town had been Victoria's 'Honeymoon Capital' with 14 guesthouses. In those days most visitors came by train. During the 1990s tourism began its second era in Warburton.

Today the rail easement has become the Warburton Trail for walkers and cyclists, while guesthouses have given way to motels, B&Bs, restaurants and interesting shops.

The hidden treasures are still to be found - in, around and beyond the town; pleasant, invigorating walks along the Yarra (the locals say g'day and love a chat), while drives and rides in every direction unlock a breathtaking hinterland.

A day, a weekend, a week! Visitors find Warburton is a hub, an ideal base for searching out the hidden treasures of the Upper Yarra.

Although the Highway ends at Warburton, the journey eastward along Woods Point Road offers its own rewards. Warburton East, a quiet village of about 200 surrounded by small farms and orchards, has its own thriving primary school and a well used community hall

Still loosely following the Yarra the road snakes past smaller hamlets and larger acreages, ever deeper into state forest. The family owned sawmills are now gone but timber harvesting still takes place in the warmer months as many logging access roads will testify.

McMahons Creek is home to the historic Reefton Hotel, which has witnessed so much local history, including the tragedy of the 1939 bushfires and the boom surrounding the construction of the Upper Yarra Dam.

A little further on is Reefton and the dam itself. One of Melbourne's largest water storages, its well maintained surrounds are popular with picnickers and campers alike. Cumberland Junction offers a choice between heading back via Marysville (perhaps along the magical Acheron Way) or delving deeper into wild forest toward Big River; Matlock and Woods Point.

For more information - including business and tourism guides - see the local website www.warburtoninfo.com