10 Towns in Australia’s south to immerse yourself in history

10 Towns in Australia’s south to immerse yourself in history

A history trail could virtually go anywhere in the Australian state of Victoria but there are some destinations that are really a must.  Listed in order to make an itinerary you can follow or just pick the towns you have time to do. 

There are lovely hotels in these towns but also great campgrounds, so you can take a car or get adventurous with a campervan or motorhome.

At each stop don’t just explore European settlement,  rural destinations are proud to showcase their indigenous history and it all goes hand in hand.

1. Ballarat 

You need two days to do everything.   First Stop – Ballarat Information Centre – Opens at 10 am.

Ballarat was once one of the richest cities in Australia so pick up the City Walking Trail booklet and enjoy the glorious architecture – 3km, 3hrs (generous timing), begin and end at the information centre.

For more recent history, take a drive or a walk around Lake Wendouree. An artificially created lake on original marshland. Lake Wendouree was the venue for the rowing and canoeing events at the 1956 Olympics and today is still a popular waterway for recreational rowers and sailors.

Home to the Wadawurrung indigenous people and later the uprising known as the Eureka Rebellion, learn all about the birth of democracy and the goldrush in the Ballarat area at the site of the Eureka Stockade

Eat and Drink – Ballarat has great bars and restaurants so if that’s what you love, book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Craig’s Royal Hotel is a must for Lunch, Dinner or High Tea as well as a historic place to stay.  Search out Hop Temple, down Hop Lane to experience one of Ballarat’s best craft beer establishments, set in old stables it’s both historic and hip.

There are so many old pubs in central Ballarat, maybe a pub crawl is in order? You might also enjoy joining the Ghost Tour, but maybe not after a pub crawl!

So much of Victoria’s history is mired in the gold rush. The Sovereign Hill open-air living museum is the perfect way to understand the period, although it’s specifically about the history of the Ballarat area and the Eureka rebellion it’s a great grounding for your understanding of this period of Australian history.  Spend the full day here, do the night tour, even stay the night on site.

Stay – Big 4 Ballarat Goldfields Holiday Park

 Traditional custodians –  Dja Dja Wadawurrung People


2. Daylesford

Originally a gold rush town but as the gold rush faded and mineral springs were discovered it found new life as a Spa town.  Don’t be confused by the architecture, the area was settled by Swiss and Italians. The town hall is a great example of this collaboration.

‘The Convent’ in Daylesford is a great place to start with Breakfast or Lunch to enjoy a fabulous view of the district and to orientate yourself. Do a walk around town and a drive around Lake Daylesford.

Stay – Jubilee Lake Holiday Park






3. Castlemaine

As a gold rush town, Castlemaine has a beautifully preserved Post Office and Town Hall, but it’s the extensive offering of churches that makes it obvious how prosperous the town was when it had 25,000 mining inhabitants,  Uniting Church (which was the original Presbyterian), Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Church of Christ,  Lutheran, Salvation Army,  Seventh Day Adventist and Pentecostal.  Although it no longer exists there was a Chinese temple as well.   Today there are approximately 7,000 people living in Castlemaine.

For a small town it also a fabulous Botanical Gardens and amazing art gallery.

If you visit on a Sunday or Wednesday you can have the unique experience of a return trip on the heritage steam train linking Castlemaine with another historic gold mining town of Maldon. Check the website for any operational changes. Victorian Goldfields Railway

Traditional custodians – Dja Dja Wurrung people





4. Bendigo

Bendigo proper and its surrounds need at least two days to do it justice.

Bendigo was arguably Australia’s richest goldfield during the rush and much wealth was invested in local architecture and civic beauty. Considered Australia’s most majestic visitors centre, it’s worth visiting just to see the historic Post Office, and fantastic art gallery, the address 51 Pall Mall says it all.

Must do/see:  Fortuna Villa – High Tea, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bendigo Town Hall, Charing Cross Fountain, Star Cinema in Eaglehawk, Deborah Gold Mine, Joss House Temple, Golden Dragon Museum. If you follow the walking guide to the city you will take in a lot of these sites and enjoy the extravagant architecture.

Then do the “Vintage Talking Tram Tour”

The Bendigo region has embraced using its exceptional local produce in world standard restaurants.  You can combine heritage and eating in a very satisfying way.

Restaurants in the City – Wine Bank on View, Mason of Bendigo, The Dispensary Bendigo, The Woodhouse, Bendigo Dumpling House

Bars – there are nearly 50 Pubs and Bars in Bendigo. So we will try to narrow it down for you – Handle Bar, Ms Battermans, Nimbus Rooftop Bar, Brougham Arms Hotel, Old Boundary Hotel, Bull and Mouth Hotel, National Hotel and Flight Bar.  That should keep you well hydrated!

While you are here enjoy the wineries of the region. Lunch at the magnificent Balgownie Estate winery, glamping options to stay the night if you can’t decide on a designated driver.

Stay Golden Nugget Tourist Park about 8 km’s from the centre of town.

Traditional custodians – Dja Dja Wurrung people

5. Echuca

One of the countries most important inland ports, on the banks of the Murray River. Step back into the 1870’s steamer trade, move away from the gold rush and into the wool rush.

Download the heritage walking trail and explore the restored historic building of the town. Visit the Echuca Historical Society.

The Port of Echuca Discovery Centre is your next stop, explore the history of the Port and book your ticket for a steamer cruise.

Try Port 53 Restaurant for a bit of local flavour

 Stay NRMA Echuca Holiday Park

 Traditional custodians – Yorta Yorta people




6. Rutherglen

Explore the history of wine production, hire a bike to do a tour of the wineries of the Rutherglen and Corowa area.

Start at the Rutherglen Wine Experience where you can hire bikes and jump on the Murray to Mountain rail trail, an easy 9km round trip with many cellar doors along. Have a relaxed lunch at one of the wineries and enjoy this terrific experience.


 Traditional custodians – Yorta Yorta people



7 and 8 Chiltern and Yackandandah 

Chiltern and Yackandandah are two of the best-preserved historical towns in Victoria.

‘Lake View House’ Chiltern is the uniquely presented childhood home of Ethel Florence Richardson, better known by her pseudonym Henry Handel Richardson author of “The Getting of Wisdom” and “The Fortunes of Richard Mahony” trilogy.

Thirty minutes down the road is one of the prettiest towns of the region – Yackandandah.  Park at the information centre and do the town walk, before heading to Beechworth.

9. Beechworth

Explore Beechworth the home of Burke and Wills. Have lunch at the Old Beechworth Goal and after you have finished exploring the town The Press Room Wine Bar does great tapas.

Stay  Beechworth Holiday Park 

Traditional custodians – Childers – Gunaikurnai people.





10. Glenrowan

Only 40 mins from Beechworth is Glenrowan the last stand of the Kelly Gang.  Immerse yourself in the interactive bushranger museum.

Traditional custodians – Yorta Yorta people

Stay – Glenrowan Holiday Park 

If you have kids add Swan Hill to your itinerary.

Include the custom-built Pioneer Settlement at Swan Hill, it’s extremely educational for all things colonial.

Stay Big 4 Riverside Holiday Park Swan Hill

There is more to Victorian history than the gold rush and bushrangers but get started with these and we can explore other histories for you soon.

Picture credits  – Visit Victoria

Shelley Richardson

Shelley Richardson

Shelley has been working in the travel industry for over 30 years, in aviation, for tour operators and since 2016 for DriveNow. Having travelled extensively worldwide, alone, as a couple and with her family, Shelley has experience to share about how to make the most of your holiday, especially road-trips to amazing destinations.

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