The small town of Talbot could easily be missed when travelling in country Victoria. It is located on Route 287, about 50 kilometres north of Ballarat. It would make a good choice for a day trip for visitors staying in Melbourne who would like to see something of the Australian country, or for locals travelling in the area.
Arriving on quiet weekday afternoon to this town with a population of around 300, it appeared to be a ghost town as I could not see anyone about. It's a different story on the weekends, when many people visit the town from nearby Ballarat and Maryborough. Also on market days pop up tents fill the town square with produce from the local area. The town lies in the area known as the Golden Triangle, as its history lies deep in the Gold Rush days of the 1850s and 60s. It would be an essential destination if travelling the goldfields route as a contrast to the wealthy mansions and grand public buildings of bustling Ballarat.
An painted sign on a wall an old grocery shop of days gone by. These school children were the first souls I saw in the town. Image copyright by this writer.
Rumours of gold in Victoria during the 1840s first started here, but the government kept it quiet, fearing mobs with unruly behaviour. Then in 1849 ex-convict Thomas Chapman's life was turned around when he discovered a 32 ounce nugget at Daisy Hill, which is nearby Talbot. This was the first confirmed gold find in Victoria, and gold was soon to be found all over the golden triangle.
It was not until 1852 that a major find was revealed and the rush was on to Talbot. By 1857 the gold had seemed to dry up and the town had few inhabitants, having left for richer finds in other areas such as Castlemaine. But in 1859 two miners from Sweden and Norway decided to dig in a new location. They were successful and within four months 50,000 miners set up camp again and the rush returned to the area. The huge mine was in the area where present day Talbot stands.
In fact, the curved main street was once the only route past this huge gold mine area known as the Scandinavian Dig, after the men who staked their claim here. To service the miners with supplies, the town sprang up around the huge mine site which was some 650 metres long and 15 metres deep. Hence the main street developed into its curved length still in place today. The riches of the gold boom left a legacy of many fine old buildings from the era. The municipal buildings, playground and park on the main street of Scandinavian Crescent now sit on the land where the mine was.
The main street Scandinavian Crescent. This playground and community centre lies where the old gold mine was many years ago. Image copyright by the writer.
The town has a popular restaurant, art galleries and many fine old buildings to admire. It really is as pretty as a picture. I enjoyed my time strolling around the flat paved streets, taking photos of the old buildings. With no-one about and few vehicles, I had good views to photograph the old buildings. Wander down the side street and you will find the Old Post Office, a quaint old pub still in use and old churches that now house the Historical Society and Museum buildings.
The community cottage garden space makes a tranquil spot to relax. Image copyright to the writer.
The town museum is now proudly housed in this heritage building. Image copyright to the writer.
There are many fine old homes and buildings to see and discover on the Heritage Walking Trail. You can pick up a brochure at the museum. It was here I found some people who were happy to tell me more about their town. The museum is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 to 4 pm and also on Sunday from 1-4pm. Groups can make arrangements to visit at other times. The volunteers can also arrange guided history tours of the town. Entry to the museums include three buildings onsite. It has many fine collections and information about the town, the people and its history. No photography is permitted inside the museum so I have no images to show you of the treasures inside.
Many of the old buildings have plaques explaining the history. Image copyright by the writer.
One big event on the Talbot calendar is the Annual Vintage Farm Machinery day in March. This is organised by the Talbot Vintage Engine Restorers. Many people come from miles around to view the tractors and steam engines, farm machinery and vehicles of the olden days with all the family fun of the fair at the showgrounds. Kids can enjoy a ride on an old horse and cart. There is free camping for all who exhibit if required. On the Sunday morning there is a huge community big breakfast.
A former gothic style church, now privately owned. Image copyright to the writer.
On a walk around this quaint and well preserved little town, it is hard to believe that 160 years ago this place was home to 50,000 miners and their families, with many jobs such as storekeepers and services to keep the miner's families fed and housed. It was a thriving hub of industry and gold fever. The gold soon dwindled out, the miners left, yet a few remained and turned their efforts to the land for agriculture.
Many small towns in Australia are slowly dying. Banks are closing, as are the pubs, with people leaving to require the services of larger regional towns. So escape the city and go visit a small town soon. Spend a bit of money, and help the town economy to survive for all to continue to enjoy the character and history of tiny towns like this in the future.
What to do There
Talbot is 50 kms from Ballarat making it perfect for a Sunday drive.
The Farmers Market is held on the main street on the third Sunday of the month from 9am to 1pm.
Bryces' Bistrot is a quality restaurant housed in a heritage building on Scandinavian Crescent. It is open from 10- 3pm Wednesday to Sunday from 10 -3pm and on weekends opens a little earlier from 9am. The restaurant is open for evening meals on Friday and Saturdays only from 6pm. Please make a booking on 54632521.
Vintage clothing shops and art galleries are open on weekends.
A one hour guided tour with tales of the gold fields days and heritage buildings is available for $4 from the Talbot Visitor Services, but you will need to book on 54632002.
Accommodation is available at the Courthouse Hotel/Motel, BandBs and self catering cottages.
How to Get There
A sign in a closed shop. Image copyright by the writer.
Access is best from Creswick (near Ballarat) on Route 291 via Clunes, then continuing on Route 287. From Ballarat you need to exit via Miners Rest on Route 287. You must cross over the free way to Miners Rest and not go onto the Western Highway. If travelling from the north go to Talbot via Avoca or Maryborough.
Any time is good to visit Talbot, however if you want to have a meal or go in the galleries, it would be best to go on a weekend. If your aim is to photograph the heritage buildings weekdays are best, with middle of the day a good time as when the sun goes over west some buildings will be in shade. There are many old homes in the surrounding streets to see also.
This small place is set off the main highway so speeding cars do not come through town. This makes it a peaceful retreat to spend a few hours or perhaps as a weekend escape in the heritage bed and breakfast venues. I enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere of Talbot and the friendly people once I found them, and will return one day to enjoy more of what this charming heritage town has to offer.