Like most Australian quiet rural townships, Little River would have been little more than a blip on the landscape for passing motorists had fate not stepped in and given it a place in Australian popular culture. Australian rock band Little River Band was named after Little River by its inaugural band members after seeing the name on a road sign on their way to a gig in Geelong in 1975. Graeham Goble, Beeb Birtles and Derek Pellici had been members of the harmony country rock band Mississippi - an American river - so it may well have seemed like a natural progression for their next band to be named after an Australian river. Under the guidance of producer Glenn Wheatley, Little River Band became one of Australia's most successful bands to make it big in the USA.
The wide, straight roads that cut through the vast, mostly treeless plains around Little River were the perfect setting for the dystopic world of peak oil, petrol-thirsty mega hoons and the lone righteous warrior depicted in the classic Australian feature film, Mad Max. Many of the high-speed car stunts for the movie were shot on the roads here in 1977 and the geography is still recognisable all these years later. One Mad Max fan has created a Mad Max filming locations day tour that takes devotees past many of the locations used for this seminal Australian film in Melbourne, and around Little River, nearby Point Wilson and Avalon Beach.
Mad Max Filming Locations Tour >>
Most of the filming locations around Little River have not changed since 1977, like the ruins of a house near where we see Max and Goose questioning a biker and his girlfriend. The house was originally built by William Perren. The river opposite the ruins, where they shot the scene where Max cleans his injured knee in the river, is the spot William's 6 year old son Thomas drowned in 1850.
The ruins mark the location of the original settlement of Little River, and are all that remain of it. It was built as The Traveller's Inn in 1839 at the point where the Melbourne to Geelong Road crosses the river. The building had apparently been burnt down once previously, and rebuilt, before burning down again. In 1876 the railway line between Geelong and Melbourne was put through, a few kilometres away from this site, and the town followed. The town's historic railway station, which is still used by V/Line passenger services on the Geelong line, is one of a handful of heritage liasted sites in and around Little River.
Little River Railway Station
Some scenes for the Australian television series We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year and Angry Boys were filmed at Little River, although it was referred to as the fictional town of Dunt. Many rural scenes portrayed in the Australian television drama series, Blue Heelers, were shot around Little River. The 2003 feature film, Ned Kelly, starring Heath Ledger, was film in the nearby You Yangs.
Little River Country Fair, held annually in March, attracts visitors from Melbourne, Geelong and Werribee. "Little country towns have a special vibe about them," says parent organiser Sarah Green. "Events like this are so enjoyable to be part of because everyone sets out to have fun. They are the lifeblood of the country." Little River Primary School, 21 Flinders Street, Little River. Ph (03) 5283 1214.
Mt Rothwell gives travellers the opportunity to see what much of Western Victoria looked like when Matthew Flinders became the first European to climb the You Yangs on 1st May 1802. In 2000 revolutionary Australian conservationist John Walmsley and environmental philanthropist Nigel Sharp built a fox-proof fence around 450 hectares of land at Mt Rothwell. They eradicated the feral cats and foxes and reintroduced brush tail rock wallabies, eastern quoll, eastern barred bandicoots, southern brown bandicoots, rufous bettongs and long-nosed potoroos, many of which faced extinction in this part of the world during the 20th century. Once a month there is a two-hour evening torch tour in which participants can discover the great granite tors and experience the wildlife that was lost through the introduction of exotic predators.
In the vicinity of Mount Rothwell, a semi-circular arrangement of rocks now known as Wurdi Youang was discovered and in 2011 described by an astrophysicist from the CSIRO as indicating the setting sun at the solstices and equinox. Although the age is unknown, it could range from 200 to 30,000 years.
Serendip Sanctuary: Magpie geese and majestic brolgas were once commonplace on the wetlands of the volcanic plains in Western Victoria, and they were close to extinction by the 1950s when Serendip Sanctuary was formed on farmland based around a massive dam that once fed a nearby mansion. Autumn (March to May) is the best time of year to see the 1000 or so magpie geese many of which were bred at the sanctuary return to this haven as wetlands dry up in other parts of the state. Allow several hours to half a day to see the other 150 species of birds that live on or visit the sanctuary, including captive bustards and brolga plus wild kangaroos and koalas. Picnic area and barbecues on site.