Narbethong, 65 km north-east of Melbourne, is midway between Healesville and Marysville. It is on the former Yarra Track, the route from Melbourne to the Gippsland goldfields in the 1860s. In 1864 the track was surveyed and by 1866 a number of proposed towns along it were also surveyed. Narbethong was laid out in 1865, at a spot where Frederick Fisher had built a timber shanty where the track crossed a creek. Fisher came from near Narberth in Wales, which suggests an origin of the proposed township's name. The addition of ‘ong’ to the name was common to several Victorian towns at the time. However, according to Bunce's Language of the Aborigines of the Colony of Victoria (1859), Narbethong is an Aboriginal word meaning cheerful.
The shanty or inn became a changing station for horse-drawn coaches to the goldfields, and was named the Black Spur Hotel after the range over which the road passed a few kilometres southwards. Selectors took up farms and a post office was opened in 1883. Timber harvesting began at about that time.
Narbethong was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:
Narbethong in 1909 had a primary school, a store, a hall, a timber mill and was known as a tourists' retreat. By the 1930s several mills around Narbethong employed over 200 workers, and the post office added a savings bank in 1938. Most mills were destroyed in the 1939 Black Friday bushfires, but it was profitable to quickly rebuild most of them to harvest the burnt trees.
Other places in the Narbethong district were St Fillans (country residence of (Premier) James Munro, built in 1887), and the Hermitage about 3 km south of Narbethong, home and guest house run by John Lindt, traveller and photographer.
On 1 October 1963, Narbethong, Marysville and Buxton were transferred from Healesville shire to Alexandra shire.
On the afternoon of 7 February 2009 a bushfire from the Black Range about 40 km north-west of Narbethong engulfed the district, destroying over 90% of Narbethong's buildings. The Black Spur Inn survived.
Narbethong is noted for its scenery, providing bush walking, fishing and horse riding. Berry farms and a large pine plantation are north of Narbethong, and some of the timber was milled and treated in the township.
The census populations of Narbethong and environs have been:
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John Waghorn, Narbethong Post Office centenary 1883-1983, 1983