Only three and a half hours from the City of Melbourne, nestled just off the highway bound for Sydney, is the Victorian treasure, Beechworth. If you’re looking for a small Town with big views and great food, Beechworth is the place for you.
What to do
There’s so much to see in Beechworth, it’s hard to decide where to begin.
Clustered together at the end of the main street, are a number of carefully preserved historical buildings known as the Historic and Cultural Precinct. This includes the courthouse in which Ned Kelly was tried and sentenced to death, which has a surprisingly eerie atmosphere. You can peer into the little box in which the man himself would have stood, draped in chains, and almost feel the weight of his conviction. Around the corner are two tiny cells with dirty floors and shabby walls where prisoners were held. Standing in these cells you can really transport yourself back into a very different time in Australia’s past.
You can send your own telegraph at the Telegraph Station, and have a look around the Burke Museum which is filled with amazing artefacts, including those from the gold rush. You can get your tickets and more info here.
A little way up the hill, you’ll find the old Beechworth Lunatic Asylum. Even in the day time, this place in haunting. If you’re feeling brave though, there are ghost tours at night, or you can even watch a horror movie screening hosted within the building.
A quick visit to the graveyard will be worth your while, as well. The Chinese Burning Towers are very cool, and there’s heaps of history there for your perusal.
Once you’ve had your fill of history you can venture out of the main street and see some fantastic geography. The gorge is magnificent, with its dark red rocky slopes and an enormous drop to the bottom. Spring Creek runs through here and out into the bush, and if you happen to be there on a rainy day, don’t despair as this is the best time to see it! You can also go for a walk, push bike ride, or drive around the scenic Beechworth Gorge Walk, which takes you around some spectacular slopes with the best of views.
You can drive a little way out of town to Woolshed Falls to see another great waterfall with an even bigger drop, and rocks at the top that you can jump around on if you want to test your courage. There’s some beautiful scenery around this area, which is ideal for picnicking!
There are Aboriginal rock paintings that’ll make you appreciate the skill of ancient artists, as well as their age. To get to them you have to go on a bit of a bush walk, which is certainly not a downside. The Australian countryside is a great place for adventure, and you might even see a wallaby or two (but you’ll want to take your boots for the snakes).
Beechworth is also close to many other small towns including Chiltern, which is made up of about 7 antique shops and a lot of history, and Corowa, where you can find the Chocolate and Whiskey Factory.
What to eat
For a small town, Beechworth has a very impressive range of delicious food options.
There’s Beechworth Honey Discovery, which shows off a bizarre but satisfying choice of honey filled things, from smoothies and cakes to snacks and full meals. The honey is produced locally, and you can watch the bees themselves as you dine.
A few stores up there’s a lovely little tea room called Moments and Memories with some great tea. Across the road is The Press Room Wine Bar with tapas, and of course, really good wine (you can do a wine tasting here, I recommend it).
The Beechworth Bakery is huge, and very popular. They have a large selection of pies and other baked goods, and you can cross the road again for some more locally produced liquor. There are heaps of parks and gardens, including the Chinese Gardens where you can sit and eat your takeaway lunch.
For dinner, I’d recommend the Bridge Road Brewery for its brand of craft beer and well-coordinated pizzas. There’s a great, relaxed but bustling atmosphere in this restored building and you don’t have to go out of your way to find it, it’s right on the main street.
If you’re in Beechworth on the first Saturday of the month, you can’t miss the Farmer’s Markets that are held at Christ Church. It’s a really welcoming environment and there’s everything from cheese, wine, vegetables and fresh bread. There’s a second hand bookshop close by as well, so you’ll be all set for a night in if you need a break from your adventures.
Where to stay
The last time I was in Beechworth I stayed at The Chevalier Mill House. It’s right on the gorge so the view is perfect, and it’s really close to the centre, about a 10 minute walk. The Old Mill is a restored building which used to produce timber and then flour. It has a fireplace and a spa, and enough privacy without making you feel too isolated.
On either side there’s the Bella Vista and the Old Brewery owned by the same people, so if you’ve got a big group with a few couples, it might be worth booking two or three of these places. That way you’ve got your own space, but in good proximity.
I’ve also stayed at the Country Charm Cottages a bit further up the hill. They are another great, relatively private option, still within walking distance to the centre of town.
So if you want to experience some Victorian history, or if you just need a place to stay on your way between Sydney and Melbourne, you can’t miss Beechworth. It’s the perfect blend of old meets new, and the locals will offer you their very best.