Wonthaggi is the destination town of South Gippsland. That sort of makes it the ‘capitol’ of this region. There is a lot to like and admire about Wonthaggi. The traveller will delight in the coal mining history in the town. The name "Wonthaggi" is an Aboriginal word (from the Woiwurrung - Eastern Kulin) which means "to drag, carry or pull with the wind
The town, known originally for its coal mining, is now the regional service centre for tourism, beef and dairy industries. Coal and tourism are now intertwined.
Coal was discovered by explorer William Hovell at Cape Paterson in 1826, and was subsequently mined from the Powlett River fields in the region, between 1859 and 1864.
Much of the coal for the colony of Victoria was sourced from Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. After the 1909-1910 strike by coal miners in the Hunter Valley, the Victorian state government was determined to ensure stability in local supplies of coal. The State Coal Mine and the town of Wonthaggi came into being in 1910 to supply coal for the steam trains in Victoria.
Miners were also prominent in establishing the local hospital, friendly society dispensary, union theatre, and a co-operative store, and in supporting miners in New Zealand in the 1912 Waihi miners' strike.