Bonnie Doon

Bonnie Doon is a rural township and locality on Brankeet Inlet, which is on the northern extremity of Lake Eildon. It is about 115 km north-east of Melbourne. Originally called Doon, the township was on the Brankeet Creek. The name was changed to Bonnie Doon shortly before 1900, and in 1956 the town was moved to higher ground when Lake Eildon was enlarged.

The name ‘Doon’ was given by an early settler, Thomas Nixon, probably after the Doon Loch in Scotland.

Selectors took up land at Bonnie Doon in the 1870s. A school was opened in 1871. Church buildings came rather later, Catholic (1885), Anglican (1899) and Presbyterian (1900). The Presbyterian church was dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria, and is recorded as the first monument in the British Empire to be so dedicated after her death. In 1903 the Australian handbook described Bonnie Doon:

The mention of gold concerns mainly Maindample and Dry Creek, although gold was mined from time to time at Bonnie Doon. The township also had several stores and a mechanics' institute.

In 1912 the forerunner of Lake Eildon was constructed, damming the Goulburn and Delatite Rivers. As farming expanded in north east Victoria the demand for irrigation water grew, and immediately after the World War II there was the prospect of Bonnie Doon being inundated by an enlarged water storage. Despite the loss of farm land, the enlargement of Lake Eildon proceeded, and by 1953 the physical transfer of houses and buildings to higher ground near the Anglican and Presbyterian churches took place. The local population more than doubled for a few years while the dam works were under way.

Not all residents remained in the new town. Some adjusted to Bonnie Doon's water-side environment, which became a venue for water sports and boating. Holiday settlements developed at Bonnie Doon and a few kilometres to the south, on the bank of Lake Eildon.

Bonnie Doon is on the Maroondah Highway just west of where the Bonnie Doon Bridge crosses the Brankeet Inlet. Beside the road bridge was the railway, which ceased to be used in 1978. During droughts in 1982-83 and the 2000s many of the old buildings were uncovered as Lake Eildon's water level fell. Bonnie Doon has a caravan park, a community centre, a recreation reserve, hotel-motels and numerous holiday houses. It offers camping, fishing, water skiing and boating. The school closed in 1998. West of Bonnie Doon is Merton, a pastoral district with a small village.

For a popular holiday spot, Bonnie Doon has had unfortunate links with criminal events. In 1983 prison escapees held up local workers and stole their vehicle. In 1984 a resident, Jennifer Tanner, was found shot in suspicious circumstances, and 11 years later a skeleton of a person missing since 1978 was found behind the Tanner farm.

Census populations have been:

area Census date Population
Bonnie Doon 1871 26
  1901 133


  1966 102
Bonnie Doon and environs 2011 526**

*included 266 men, some working at Eildon dam site   **included Maindample

Further Reading

Historical aspects of Bonnie Doon, Bonnie Doon Back-To and Centenary Committee, 1978

Reflections in time: Bonnie Doon 1978-2003, Bonnie Doon, 2003