Oceania > Australia > Victoria (state) > Gippsland > Stratford (Victoria)
Stratford is a rural town in Gippsland on the Avon River. Easily accessible from Melbourne by train, Stratford has many parks and cafes to visit, and a yearly Shakespeare festival held in the autumn months, making it a lovely town to see for any traveller looking for a quieter, lesser-known destination.
The Avon River which Stratford sits on was first discovered in 1840 by explorer Angus McMillan. It was named after an Avon River in Scotland. 2 years later, Stratford was first settled in 1842. While the origins of the name are unclear, it is possible it was named after Stratford-upon-Avon, or that it was named as it was a fording place across the Avon River.
When gold was discovered north of Stratford in 1860, many supplies were brought through the town. The post office, Anglican church, and some buildings at the Stratford primary school, date back to this time. Flooding of the Avon River was a frequent issue, and in 1950, a destructive flood smashed the bridge and claimed the life of Stratford resident Florence Evelyn Beechey. Her grave is marked on the banks of the Avon at McMillan Street. The local government finally built a strong enough bridge in 1965 that still stands today.
In 1991, the Shakespeare festival began in Stratford, drawing visitors to the town yearly to see performances of the Bard's plays. It also joined a sister group of other Stratfords across the world, which includes Stratfords in England, Ontario, Connecticut, Prince Edward Island, and New Zealand.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Stratford's climate is generally temperate, if at times a bit colder than Melbourne's. In the summer, while it can reach as high as 40 °C (104 °F), the average high is around 26 °C (79 °F). The winter months can dip to around 0 °C (32 °F). Rain is generally most likely in the spring months, however, like Melbourne, weather can change from sunny in the morning to raining in the afternoon.
The drive from Melbourne to Stratford is mainly along the Princes Freeway (east). From the Melbourne CBD, you can take the M1 route along the Citylink and Monash Freeway towards the southeastern suburbs of Melbourne, which will take you through the not-very-scenic route past Chadstone, Dandenong and Pakenham. When you're on the Princes Freeway (east), however, you'll find yourself on the same road until you get to Stratford — although the road does change from the Princes Freeway (east) (M1) to the Princes Highway (east) (A1) in Traralgon.
You don't pass as many towns as you might expect, as the highway bypasses Warragul, Moe and Morwell, but you will pass the small towns of Yarragon and Trafalgar, which have petrol stations. You'll also drive straight through Traralgon and Sale, both regional centres with chain restaurants like KFC and McDonalds that are useful for a quick snack. Sale can also be bypassed using C491 and C492, which is an unofficial bypass used by freight vehicles. Stratford is the next town after Sale on the Princes Highway. Rental cars can be hired within Melbourne and from Melbourne Airport.
1 Stratford Railway Station is on the Bairnsdale railway line. Train services are available 7 days a week from Melbourne's Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations. Interchanging to a coach service may be necessary in Traralgon or Sale, depending on your choice of schedule. A full list of services is available here.
Myki cards cannot be used to book public transport to Stratford — you must purchase a paper ticket using either the V/Line website or by visiting a V/Line ticket outlet. Among other places, tickets are available at Southern Cross and Flinders Street railway stations. Due to maintenance work or other events, coaches may be replacing trains when you plan to visit. Check the V/Line website to stay up to date.
On Thursdays, a bus service operates from Sale to Stratford, leaving from Gippsland Shopping Centre at 2:15PM and arriving at the Stratford Post Office at 2:30PM. While there are 4 stops in town, there is practically zero usefulness in using them to get around town — the only two areas of interest they connect are the memorial park and the post office, and they're across the road from each other. It's easier to just walk. The full timetable is available here.
Stratford is traversible almost entirely by foot. Stratford has a single BP gas station for refueling. The roads are mainly flat, so cycling is an option, however many roads do not have sidewalks, and the road to Knob Reserve, Old Redbank Road, is a tad steep. There is no useful public transport in the town. Note that the Princes Highway is named "Tyers Street" within the town, and is the main road in Stratford. There is no car rental available in Stratford, but you can hire a car from nearby Sale to get around. There are some signs that have been put up in town that show how far away certain attractions are by walking distance, which are useful in helping you get around.
Sale car rental
Stratford doesn't have a lot of tourist attractions to see, and that's kind of its charm. There isn't nothing, though. Stratford has parks and reserves that are usually pretty quiet which you can visit if you're staying here.
- 1 Knob Reserve. 24/7. A traditional meeting place of the indigenous Gunaikurnai people. Located just outside Stratford, it's a 35 minute walk to get to the reserve from Tyers Street. There are two walking paths among the trees here, before you reach the Avon river. The reserve also has an oval and benches which may be used by local groups. Free.
- 2 Apex Park. At the eastern end of the Gippsland Plains rail trail, which stretches from Traralgon to Stratford. There's two playgrounds, one medieval-themed and one nature-based, a BMX track, as well as benches and barbecue areas. It's located right on the Avon river, and if you're lucky you can see trains going past on the railway bridge.
- 3 Stratford Historical Society and Museum, 14 Hobson Street. Tuesday 10AM-3PM, 4th Sunday of the month 2PM-4PM. Located at the former Methodist church, the Stratford Historical Society operates this museum that's open occasionally with information on the history of Stratford and the former Avon Shire. Gold coin donation.
- 4 Memorial Park, 67-71 Tyers Street. As this park is right on the Princes Highway/Tyers Street, cars will often speed past. There is a shaded picnic area with tables, a barbecue and public toilets, as well as a small kids playground. An obelisk war memorial is located at the park to honour soldiers from Stratford.
Again, there's not a lot of activities to do in Stratford. However, in the summer months, swimming is an option, and there's also a yearly Shakespeare festival.
- 1 Stratford Swimming Pool. Stratford's only swimming pool, open in summer. There are three pools — a smaller baby pool, a shallow kids pool, and a main all-ages pool. Swimming lessons may be taking place in the main pool. Adult $6.60, Child (5-15) $4.40, Concession $5.30.
- 2 Arts Trail. 24/7. A hiking trail along the Avon river, passing Shakespeare themed artworks. The historic railway bridge on the trail is worth a detour, and the history of the bridge is explained along the trail. Free.
- 1 Shakespeare on the River Festival: April – May. Stratford has held a yearly Shakespeare festival since 1991. It includes performances of Shakespeare plays and Shakespeare-themed events. Check the website for more information in regards to the events being held.
Spare some change?
There are no banks in Stratford. There are two ATMs in town — one at the IGA and one at the BP. From the post office, you can transfer money overseas using Western Union. There are branches of Commonwealth Bank, NAB, and Bendigo Bank in Maffra. All of the big 4 banks (Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, NAB and Westpac) have branches in Sale.
There are a few stores and shops in Stratford, all on or around the main road of Tyers Street. Some specialise in specific unique items or crafts, like the model train store.
- 1 IGA, 67 Tyers Street, ☏ . M-Sa 8:30AM-7PM, Su 9AM-7PM. Stratford's only supermarket has the basics of what you'll need to get by. Don't expect any specialty products, but if you're looking for groceries, this is the easiest place to go. There's a liquor section if you're looking for a drink, and an ATM if you need to withdraw cash.
- 2 BP, 25 Tyers Street. M-F 6AM-9PM, Sa-Su and public holidays 7AM-9PM. Petrol station. ATM and a coffee machine available.
- 3 Segue Cafe, 66 Tyers Street, ☏ . W-Sa 9:30AM to 2:30PM. A community house and cafe with local arts and craft, some available for purchase, as well as a gallery. Home of the town's Shakespeare festival.
- 5 Hobbies Plus, 40 Tyers Street, ☏ . W Th F Sa 10AM-3PM. Model train store. Also open by appointment.
- 7 Shaw's Quality Meats, 37 Tyers Street, ☏ . M-F 7:30AM-5:30PM, Sa-Su 7:30AM-12:30PM. Local butcher. Has beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and other goods.
For breakfast and lunch, there are a few good options in Stratford, however the only dinner option open is the bistro at the Avon Hotel. Self-catering may be needed here, and you'll likely want to pick up supplies from the IGA in that case.
- 1 Badger and Hare, 20 Tyers Street, ☏ . M W Th F 7AM-3PM, Sa-Su 8AM-3PM. Cafe inspired by Melbourne laneway culture, open for breakfast and lunch. Dining is available both indoors and outdoors, and the brew of coffee is sourced from Richmond with notes of caramel and chocolate. Gluten free and vegetarian options are available. Breakfast and lunch prices range from $12-$24. Excluding wines, drinks cost $4-$7. 10% surcharge on public holidays.
- 2 Avon Valley Foodhouse, 39-41 Tyers Street, ☏ . M-F 6AM-2PM, Sa-Su 8AM-3PM. Cafe and fast food restaurant.
- 3 Wa-De-Lock Cellar Door, 76 Tyers St, ☏ . 8:30AM-5:30PM, 9AM-4PM on public holidays. Cafe, deli and bottleshop with a focus on local produce. Indoor and outdoor dining is offered, with outdoor dining either in the alfresco area or in the wine garden. Service is quick and friendly. The building dates back to 1870, and has been run by the current owners since 2004.
- 4 The Ticklish Turtle Cafe, 82 Tyers St, ☏ . Australian coffee house.
If all of these have reached maximum capacity or are closed for the public holiday, then there are some popular restaurants in Sale, the next closest city and only a mere 10 minute drive away.
- 1 Avon Hotel, 47 Tyers Street, ☏ . Bistro: noon-2PM, 6-8:30PM. Bar: M-Sa 10:30AM-1AM, Su noon-11PM. Stratford's only pub. It's divided into a bar section and a bistro section, and alfresco dining is also available in the bistro. Their meat, fish and vegetables are locally sourced. Vegetarian options are available. Lunch menu: $16. Full meal at dinner (entree, main and dessert): $35-$64.
- 1 Stratford on the River Tourist Park, 16 McMillan Street, ☏ . Check-in: 2-5:30PM (2-8:30PM in peak season), check-out: 10AM. A caravan park on the banks of the Avon river which has on-site cabins, as well as powered sites that can be used for caravans or camping. Pets are welcome, and there's a small dog wash at the park. Cabins $88-$145 ($98-$155 in peak), Powered sites $35 ($45 in peak).
- 2 Stratford Motel, 26 Tyers St, ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. 11 rooms, including spa room with kitchen, family rooms, BBQ area, free undercover parking, and free wifi.
- 3 Deep Creek Gully Farm Stay Cottage, 35 Gooch Rd, ☏ . Small hotel at a wildlife shelter.
Apart from usual travel precautions, there are no significant safety concerns in Stratford. There's a 1 Stratford Police Station at 89 Tyers Street (☏ ) and a 2 Stratford Fire Brigade at 51 McFarlane Street (☏ ). While there is 3 Stratford Medical Clinic and a pharmacy in town, the nearest hospital is in Sale.
Internet is available at 4 Stratford Library, which is open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10AM-1:30PM and 3-6PM, as well as Sundays from 10AM-noon. In town, mobile phone coverage is available on the Telstra, Optus and Vodafone 4G networks. They can be spotty but are generally fine. There's a 5 Telstra payphone at 11 Hobson Street, opposite the IGA.
- Sale is about a 10-minute drive away, and you can also catch the train here. It's a regional centre, where you can see things such as the Gippsland Art Gallery, go on a heritage cruise from the Port of Sale, visit the Sale botanical gardens, and more. Sale is also useful for food if you're based in Stratford — being a larger town, the choice of cuisine tends to be larger, and Sale is also home to national fast food brands like KFC and McDonalds.
- Seaspray is about a 35-minute drive from Stratford and located on the scenic Ninety Mile Beach. Swimming, fishing and boating are all options.
- Dargo is a small hamlet that's a 90-minute drive up into the High Country from Stratford.
- Maffra is the closest town to Stratford. As it's slightly larger, it's useful for groceries — it has an IGA, Woolworths and FoodWorks. Maffra has a sugarbeet museum chronicling the industry in the town. The Gippsland Vehicle Collection is also located here, which showcases historic vehicles including over 3400 model cars.
- Traralgon is a major city and a major gateway to Melbourne as it is where the Princes Freeway starts.
|Routes through Stratford|
|Melbourne ← Sale ←||W E||→ Bairnsdale → Lakes Entrance|
|Melbourne ← Sale ←||W E||→ Bairnsdale|