Bayles is a rural village situated in the area formerly known as ‘the Great Swamp’, neighbouring Koo Wee Rup in the Shire of Cardinia. It is 70 km south-east of central Melbourne. Previously known as the Yallock Village Settlement, with the opening of the railway station, the village was named after Frederick Bayles, the first member of the Victorian Railway Construction Branch to be killed in World War I.
Prior to the 1850s the Bunurong tribe of Aborigines camped along Yallock Creek which runs through the village to Western Port Bay. The first subdivisional sale of land took place in 1919 and construction of the railway station – part of the Strzelecki Branch Line which extended from Koo Wee Rup to Strzelecki – began in 1921. The first buildings were those of the railway construction camp. In its early days, the town featured a bakery, blacksmith and wheelwright, general store, butcher, hairdresser and billiard saloon, draper, bootmaker and a boarding house; and later, a hall and primary school (1928). Sporting clubs included cycling, football and tennis.
The Bayles Butter Factory opened in 1921 under the managership of Bill Sage, its growth aided by the railway which brought cream and whole milk from neighbouring Yannathan and Catani and took whole milk and dairy products to Melbourne. Other freight included potatoes, vegetables, chaff and sand (from the Bunyip River). The line was closed in stages: Bayles to Strzelecki, 1930-50; Koo Wee Rup to Bayles, 1959.
The Bayles Fauna Park was established by the local community in 1974 on the railway site. It was extended in 1984, and soon after was estimated to be attracting approximately 20,000 visitors annually. Listed on the Bunyip Byways it attracts visits by families, school groups and tourists.
The decline in the dairying industry, including the break-up of larger land holdings into what are now mainly hobby and poultry farms, contributed to the closure of the Bayles Butter Factory in 1979. It was taken over in 1981 by Bush Boake Allen to process vegetables and chickens produced locally and elsewhere. Asparagus now rivals potatoes as the main vegetable crop grown locally.
Current amenities include a pre-school and kindergarten, regional primary school (115 pupils, 2014), general store, garage, public hall, tennis courts and fauna park. The Longwarry Road bridge (1950) over the Yallock Creek is of unusual construction and is heritage-listed.
Bayles' census populations have been:
Niel Gunson, The good country: Cranbourne Shire, F.W. Cheshire, 1968
Fred Hooper, The good country '- into the dawn of a new day' 1968-1988 Shire of Cranbourne, Cranbourne, 1988
Merilyn Ramsay, Steam to Strzelecki: the Koo-wee-rup to McDonald's track railway, Australian Railway Historical Society Victorian Division, 1991