If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know I love history. Any history! Basically all the old things.
So when the opportunity to visit a perfectly-preserved Gold Rush town in rural Australia visits me, I obviously say yes with gusto.
And although I definitely did not drift into a daydream about living in the 1800’s (would I own a horse and cart? Or have my driver take me in my brand new only-just-been-invented Rolls? Or would I be dead because I’m basically blind as a bat and good eye care hadn’t been invented yet) Beechworth, Victoria, delivered – in every sense of the word.
Quaint, photogenic and utterly charming this picture-perfect town in the Victoria High Country is an ideal mix of old and new.
1. Wander the old town and fall in love with its charm
A long legacy precedes Beechworth, beginning with the discovery of gold in the mid 1800’s at Spring Creek. The resulting gold rush saw the town boom, attracting over 8,000 miners worldwide.
Prudent investment in the towns amenities such as the hospital and mental asylum (um, what?!), meant that when the gold disappeared, the town continued to grow and stay economically viable.
Wandering the main street you’ll feel as if you’ve gone back in time. Perfectly preserved 19th century store facades line the road hiding cute artisan shops and gourmet eateries. Several pubs in original condition offer hearty food and local brews, while the courthouse remains – as it was – when the infamous outlaw Ned Kelly was arraigned (Seriously, how cool is that?!)
RIP Heath Ledger, you and Orlando Bloom in that Ned Kelly film were my biggest teenage crushes.
2. Explore the Beechworth Gorge at sunset
Speaking of Ned Kelly, the Beechworth Gorge right behind the town was once a hideout for Kelly and his gang, and is a beautiful, if not slightly eerie (I was the only one there) pitstop. I headed out at sunset, so it was extra pretty (ideal for my five million Insta shots of the pink sky threatening rain).
The steep sides of the gorge are forged by smooth granite rock, with several stunning waterfalls and small pools to dip my tired feet into. No wonder, Kelly liked it here. The vibes were beautiful and creepy.
There are also multiple bush walks throughout the gorge, none of which I did – I had a belly ache from eating too many cherries an hour earlier. Also snakes.
3. Pick cherries and enjoy the local produce
Just outside of Beechworth in the nearby town of Stanley is Black Barn Farm, with the most amazing cherry orchard. Full disclosure: come with very loose waistband. I spent several hours here learning about sustainable farming and living off the land, and of course, eating my body weight in cherries.
With many local food producers around Beechworth and nearby Stanley, you’ll never be in want of good local produce. Home to orchardists, beekeepers, winemakers and farmers, you will not only eat well but be rewarded by the stunning beauty of rolling hills and lush farmland in the Victoria High Country.
Cherry season is December and January.
4. Dig into a local event
There is a real sense of depth in Beechworth, yet the vibe is relaxed and fun. With plenty of local events on throughout the year, I definitely recommend hitting one of them up, like the Feast High Country.
While I was there, the old jail (or gaol as it was known back then) hosted an Asian street food festival inside its courtyard. Love. It.
I had an awesome evening making friends with locals and chowing down on some of my favorite dishes listening to local music. It was an awesome introduction to Beechworth.
You can also take tours inside the old jail, which is even more eerie than visiting Ned’s old hideout at dusk. It’s also a little bit thrilling, if you’re into that sort of thing. It housed Kelly before his execution, as well as his mother, and played a significant part in the dissolution of this well-known gang.
And if you’re really keen on the Kelly history, you can now go and see a permanent collection of Ned Kelly memorabilia at the Kelly Vault (located right next door to the courthouse). It is the largest of its kind in the world, and includes Ned’s gun, his death mask and even a suit of armor he once wore.
Creepy but cool.
5. Indulge at the Beechworth spa
Another must do, is a visit to the brand-spanking-new, Beechworth Spa.
Unsurprisingly, it’s located in a beautiful historic building, but inside – the old merges with the new seamlessly. Wood, natural fibers, and neutral colors abound. You’ll as if you’ve stepped inside the most relaxed version of yourself.
And the treatment rooms have baths, so you can have a soak in a custom blend bath salt afterwards. Heaven!
I left feeling truly rejuvenated.
6. Dine at Provenance
While I was here, I was lucky enough to get a table at Provenance, one of Australia’s top regional restaurants. The Japanese-inspired cuisine, a degustation menu paired with local wines and, once again, a lovely historic building make Provenance a jewel in an already sparkling crown.
Michael Ryan, award-winning owner-chef of Provenance is famed as Beechworth’s best chef, and a dinner here tops the list of many a foodie’s wishlist. Just remembering it makes me swoon.
Provenance has been an Age Good Food Guide two chef’s hat restaurant for the last 9 years running and is No. 30 in the current Gourmet Traveller Top 100 Australian Restaurants.
Make your reservations soon and if you only do one thing in Beechworth, make it dining at Provenance.
From gold to Ned Kelly, craft beer to fine dining, orchards to hiking, Beechworth, one of Australia’s best preserved gold rush towns, is a glistening education in both the old, and the new.
Beechworth is nothing short of cute, a charming town perched among a wild rocky landscape. As it steps into its role as a popular holiday spot for Australians and international visitors alike, Beechworth bridges the gap between new and old world tourism, making it a unique hot spot worth checking out!
Have you ever been to Beechworth? Do you swoon over historical places too? Spill!