Christmas Hills

Christmas Hills is a rural locality 37 km north-east of central Melbourne, between Kangaroo Ground and Yarra Glen. From north to south Christmas Hills extends from St Andrews to the Yarra River at Chirnside Park, a distance of 12 km.

It was occupied for grazing by 1842 and a shepherd named David Christmas became lost. He was found at a rise which became known as Christmas Hill, and the name was given to the district.

Unlike neighbouring areas Christmas Hills did not have goldmining or significant amounts of agricultural land, although the One Tree Hill on its western side was a mining site. Nevertheless it helped numerous settlers who earned income from firewood as their selections were cleared. In 1884 a primary school was built, and three years later the district's population was boosted by a temporary workforce employed on building an aqueduct from the Watts River weir to Preston reservoir. In 1903 the Australian handbook described Christmas Hills as:

Access to Christmas Hills was improved in 1912 when the railway was extended from Heidelberg to Hurstbridge. Christmas Hills' elevated landscape attracted tourists and holiday makers.

The cutting of trees for firewood did not clear all the schlerophyll forest, and several major fires have affected Christmas Hills. A fire brigade was formed after the 1939 bush fires. In the same year at the western side of Christmas Hills the Light Car Club formed the Rob Roy Hill Climb, a venue for motor sports for well into the post-war years. In 1958 the Christmas Hills area was transferred from Eltham shire to Healesville shire. Two years later it was connected to the electricity grid, and in 1962 suffered a disastrous bushfire.

In 1972 several farms in Christmas Hills were served land-acquisition notices for a water storage on the Sugarloaf Creek. The project also involved a proposed Yarra Brae storage further south at Kangaroo Ground and Wonga Park. Protest stopped Yarra Brae, but the Sugarloaf reservoir was completed in 1980. It is also a recreational and boating site.

The former One Tree Hill mining area in the west of Christmas Hills is a forest reserve, and the Rifle Range Reserve is a little further north. The ‘township’ has a memorial park, primary school (20 pupils, 2014), fire station, hall and tennis courts. The area's proximity to Melbourne has attracted population growth in later years. At the very south of Christmas Hills, on the Yarra River flats, there is the Henley golf course.

The census populations of Christmas Hills have been:

area Census date Population
Christmas Hills 1911 146
  1933 128
  1954 115
Christmas Hills and Bend of Islands 2006 566
  2011 344

Bend of Islands

West of the Henley golf course there is the Bend of Islands rural/residential conservation area. It is an environmental living zone, originally prescribed in 1976 under an interim development order. Permits are needed for any clearing of vegetation, restrictions are placed on exotic vegetation, and cats and dogs are prohibited. The social centre is the Christmas Hills South country fire station. Census populations have been:

census date population
2011 279

Further Reading

Alan Marshall, Pioneers and painters: one hundred years of Eltham and its Shire, Thomas Nelson, 1971

Mick Woiwood, Once around the sugarloaf, Bend of Islands Press, 1992

Mick Woiwood, The Christmas Hills story: once around the Sugarloaf II, Kangaroo Ground, 2010

Christmas Hills centenary 1865-1965