OFF THE HUME #2 – Australia’s prettiest town?

The horse and cart may be a modern addition, but the Post Office is old.

The horse and cart may be a modern addition, but the Post Office is old.

I’m open to suggestions here. What’s Australia’s prettiest small town? My bet is that it will be a short list. There are very few Australian towns worth visiting for their appearance.*

Plenty have spectacular locations by beach or forest, some have arty-crafty communities, trendy shops or lively festivals, but hardly any have attractive streetscapes.

So it was a rare treat to duck off the Hume Highway and find a place in northern Victoria where residents have gone to the trouble and expense of preserving some heritage. It seems to be paying off for them.

Making things pretty has simply not been a high priority for most rural Australian communities. Why waste money painting the Town Hall in heritage colours and putting up historical plaques for tourists when the local swimming pool needs re-tiling? You’d feel the same if you had our blazing summers.

The new McDonald’s/KFC/Pizza Hut will bring jobs and give the kids somewhere to hang out, so we’ll let them have the prime real estate on the corner of Main St. They’d like the trees lopped so they don’t obscure the neon sign? No problem. We’re a ‘can-do’ council in Oodagajarrigaringa Shire.

Apart from the fact that few Australian towns have a history of more than 150 years, it takes a time of prosperity to provide the money to invest in buildings worth preserving. Doing it tough in the bush has been more the Australian story.

Beechworth boomed during a gold rush in the 1850s.

The result was a main street lined with elegant public buildings and hotels featuring wide verandahs and elaborate wrought iron.

The main drag of Beechworth, Victoria.

The main drag of Beechworth, Victoria.

HM Prison. Beechworth

HM Prison. Beechworth


The rush was short-lived, but when the gold ran out and the miners left, Beechworth found itself with a grand post office and a gaol.

A very young Ned Kelly passed some time on remand here. In the nearby courthouse his mother was sentenced to three years’ hard labour. The gaol is still a going concern.

These days Beechworth also benefits from being close to the Victorian Alps, and is a convenient stopover for those heading for the ski slopes in winter or the hiking trails and wineries in summer. So although it’s a few kilometres from the Hume Highway, it still attracts a steady stream of visitors, Mevrouw T and I among them, strolling the streets.

It was a shame about the line of parked cars getting in the way of my shots, but we have to be practical. It appeared that every facade has been restored and every sign painted in heritage colours.

They may not all be nineteenth century, but they're trying to look that way.

They may not all be nineteenth century, but they’re trying to look that way.

Signs in colonial colours only, please.

Signs in colonial colours only, please.

The rail trail to Bright, some 60 kilometres away, is another aspect of Beechworth that appeals to me. I must ride it on the bike some day.

The Murray to the Mountains rail trail, some 95 kilometres long, is another aspect of Beechworth that appeals to me. I must ride it on the bike some day.

The local museum is named after Robert O’Hara Burke, co-leader of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition. He was Senior Inspector of Police, stationed in Beechworth from 1854-1857.

Our detour off the Hume added a couple of hours to our trip to Sydney. Time well spent, we felt.

We’d stop the night in Albury/Wodonga, then move on at a leisurely pace.


*I tried to think of examples of attractive Australian towns. Leura in the Blue Mountains, Berry on the NSW south coast…all further suggestions are welcome.

17 Comments

Filed under Travel-Australia

17 responses to “OFF THE HUME #2 – Australia’s prettiest town?

  1. Caroline

    Not far away is the beautiful Yackandandah, which is not only filled with attractive buildings along an impressive main street, but also boasts one of my favourite town names in Australia. It’s townsfolk obviously expected a far grander future for this now little town.

    Did ou know that our G.Grandfather spent some time in Beechworth? Mum went to investigate last year.

    • Good suggestion Caroline. I stopped and took some photos of Yackandandah too. Less grand than Beechworth, and rather more New Age these days.

      No, I didn’t know about the G Grandfather/Beechworth connection.

  2. Millthorpe just outside Orange in NSW – small but perfectly formed. Also Carcoar halfway between Bathurst and Cowra – most of the old buildings are heritage listed, and is historic to boot, having been the site of one of Ben Hall’s larger gold heists.

    Both are much smaller than Beechworth and without the retail pull, but no less attractive.

  3. Australia is a continent to which I’ve never been. Your photos reminds me of New Zealand, though, and their small towns are so lovely. I saw there was a post office in your first picture? I’m happy whenever I visit a real one. I used to work in a real post office when I was younger, and now they don’t exist anymore here in Sweden. They went into the hands of big companies and nothing is really working in that business. People working with these kind of communications have no pride in it and they are not educated properly. If you can sell candy – you can handle everything…

  4. Nice pictures Richard. I read that McDonalds is going to be rebranded Maccas in Australia?

  5. Unofficially it’s already happened, Andrew.

  6. I like the old-fashioned style of buildings too… I’ll just imagine that the line of cars is replaced by a line of horse-drawn wagons, with mules and horses hitched in front of the shops.

  7. john

    did you ride the rail trail?

  8. Rob

    Berrima is pretty, and Montville in Queensland is quaint. Both ‘touristy’. On the subject of our Ned, his remains are being reburied today!

    • Thanks Rob. I agree about Berrima – good for antique shops and art. I’ll have to Google Montville.

      Interesting, there can’t be much left of Ned to rebury. I think his head has been missing for some time. He’ll rest in piece in Greta, I believe?

  9. Don

    I was once driving through an historic town in New York state. They had a McDonalds in a colonial-era red-brick building, with a carved & gilded sign out front displaying the golden arches. No red & yellow plastic in sight. Obviously, the local council had allowed McDonalds in town, but forced them to comply with strict heritage codes. I thought that was petty cool. I think more towns could take that approach, here in Australia, too.

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