I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published November 20th 2013
Heart of the High Country Gold Fields
Beechworth is one of those unique historic towns where the visitor could be forgiven for thinking they had actually stepped back in time.
Beechworth's classic goldfields architecture points to the wealth generated here
It's so unique in fact that it is one of only two Victorian towns classified by the national Trust as 'notable'.
The area around present day Beechworth was originally grazing land known as the Mayday Hills. The first gold was discovered there in February 1852 followed by strikes at Yackandandah, Stanley and Wooragee. By late 1852 an estimated 8000 diggers had descended on the area and quickly started taking large amounts of gold.
Many of Beechworth's restored colonial buildings are some of the best examples to be seen anywhere in Australia
When the alluvial gold petered out the diggers took to blasting quartz seams.
At its most productive in the period 1852 to 1866 the Beechworth district returned four million ounces or 115 metric tonnes of gold.
Staggering amounts of gold were mined at Beechworth and the surrounding districts
During that period the affluence of the area saw the construction of a hospital, gaol, aged care facility and a mental asylum at Beechworth, facilities that ensured the town's prominence long after the gold was gone.
As with most Victorian gold fields there was a large Chinese presence at Beechworth. By 1863 it was estimated that almost a quarter of the districts population was Chinese.
In 1857 the nearby Buckland River camp was the scene of one of the worst cases on record of violence against Chinese diggers. An estimated 2000 Chinese were camped there when some 100 Europeans rioted, killing three Chinese and destroying their camp, including a recently built Joss House.
Beechworth is the heart of Victoria's north-east gold fields
Beechworth today is one of Victoria's premier tourist towns with its gold rush history, the historic gaol with its bushranger connection, particularly with the infamous Ned Kelly, and an unprecedented collection of more than 30 colonial era buildings registered by the National Trust.
The Echoes of History Guided Walking Tour commences at 10.15 AM and lasts about 1 hour 15 minutes.
The Ned Kelly Guided Walking Tour commences at 1.15 PM and also last approximately 1 hour 15 minutes.
Both tours cost $10 for adults and $7.50 for concession holders and children.
The Beechworth Bakery is a huge draw card complimented by a long list of pubs, cafes and restaurants.
Local shops include galleries, antiques and old-wares as well as local handcrafts.
Many a tasty treat is to be had in Beechworth's famous bakery
The town and surrounding district host a number of events and festivals throughout the year adding another dimension to a visit to this historic town. These include Opera in the Alps in January, the Golden Horseshoe Festival over the Easter weekend, the Harvest Celebration in May, Ned Kelly Weekend in August, Oktoberfest in October naturally and the Beechworth Celtic Festival in November.
Well serviced by a range of quality accommodation Beechworth is a great option for a relaxed weekend escape in Victoria's picturesque north-east.