I'm a freelance artist/writer living in Seattle USA and have been temporarily visiting my home city of Melbourne. If you like my article please click "like" at the end. Follow me if you want to read more of my work.
Clunes, a Victorian country township with population of approximately 1050 is a ghost town compared to the gold rush days when it was almost 7,000. This charming village has the distinction of being Victoria's first gold town; the site of the first official gold discovery in 1851. This discovery triggered Victoria's world famous gold rushes.
Nestled in a picturesque valley, 36km north of Ballarat, Clunes is an easy drive of 146 km North West from Melbourne along the Western highway. Public transportation via train and bus is also an option. Clunes train station on the Ballarat-Marybourough line will reopen by years end after being inactive since 1993.
'Back to Booktown' is an event held every year in Clunes on the first weekend in May. The festival has become the largest collection of books in any region of Australia and the biggest Victorian regional book event.
Throngs of bookish types descend on the town, searching for literary bargains and feasting at the friendly cafes.
One of the most popular eateries is Widow Twankey's Lolly Shop, which also specialises in locally baked delectable cakes, ice-cream and imaginative delicious lunches. Two other cafes serve light fare but schedules should be checked as these businesses are sometimes closed. The Club Hotel serves a variety of counter meals and lavishly renovated National Hotel is scheduled to reopen as a five star destination resort within weeks.
Fraser St, the wide and elegant, is one block long and boasts impressive historic buildings, dating from the mid 1800s. The oldest of these, The State Bank, is now an antique /gift store. The Commonwealth bank on the corner is The Union Art Centre.
On parallel streets are the original post office, now residential and the distinctive Town Hall with impressive murals. There are at least 3 bookstores housed in restored shops. Locals will be happy to reminisce about the various movies that have been filmed in Clunes including Ned Kelly and Mad Max. Many residents were extras in these movies.
Wesley College established a campus in Clunes in 1999 and frequently students are seen queuing for ice-cream at Widow Twankey's. When the campus was constructed, the Wellesley Chapel, in Clunes, was renovated and college services are held there regularly. Students present community events at various times of the year. Clunes Residential Learning Village Wesley @ Clunes is a purpose built village where Year 9 students have the opportunity to live for eight-weeks. The houses are self-contained, modern dwellings and the students do all their own cleaning, washing, shopping, cooking, budgeting and generally, are responsible for their own lives while in Clunes.
There is a large variety of accommodation in the area ranging from country pubs, holiday houses, farm stays, motels to bed and breakfast options.
Although floods damaged the traditional Esmond Park along Creswick Creek last year the Heritage walk past the site of Port Phillip Mine and up the hill behind the town is still very pleasant, and there are rumours of platypus sightings in the meandering waterway. Not to be missed along the route is a stroll through shady Queen's Park with trees planted in 1870s.
Also to be seen on this informative walk/drive are panoramic views over the township and surrounding countryside from a lookout point. At this time of the year surrounding paddocks house black faced ewes and their frisky lambs.
Clunes has a visitor information centre which occupies the former South Clunes School on the corner of Bailey Street and Suburban Street 2 blocks from Fraser St. The centre is also home to the Clunes Bottle Museum which showcases thousands of rare bottles in Australia. Some date back to the town's gold rush days. Friendly Clunes has something for everyone and makes a great getaway for the day or weekend.