Beautiful Beechworth Beckons
Autumn rarely gets more beautiful than in the small Victorian town of Beechworth, now a magnet for discerning food and wine lovers from across the country.
As if a painter has visited in the night, the leaves have changed their hue as summer crosses into autumn in northeast Victoria. The trees become adorned in colours of marmalade, scorched apricot, bursts of burgundy, and the tint that first made this region glisten with promise: gold. Welcome to beautiful Beechworth.
The cadence of seasonal change in Beechworth not only enchants with its visual symphony, it also provides the ideal conditions for nature’s bounty to prosper, both below and above the ground. Grapevines cascade down hilly slopes and fill vacant patches of land on the periphery of town. Orchards burgeon, bees are busy pollinating, and quiet conversations between earth and maker proceed ever at the edge of hearing.
It is a place to both restore peace and gain energy. It retains its history as a well-preserved gold rush town and former centre of government, weaving a different yet no less intoxicating spell than that of its founding period through its landscapes, creativity, community and first-class food, wine, and tourism. If you’ve been sleeping on visiting this sleepy little township, be mindful to not miss the moment as more and more people awaken to its bucolic charms.
PRODUCE, PROVIDORES AND PLENTIFUL PLEASURES in Beechworth
Along Beechworth’s historic streetscape, the recognisable scent of coffee drifts through various open doors. Project 49 Local Providore and Wine Store is a stylish little coffee shop that also operates as an Italian-style deli, stocking the best of local produce and wine.
“We’re a small community filled with diverse individuals,” says Lisa Pidutti of Project 49. “The shop is a meeting place for locals to gather for coffee and catch-ups, and there’s always a lineup of tourists eagerly awaiting to come in and taste the flavours as the smells waft down the street.”
The Beechworth Conservatory, a recent establishment at the top of town, serves great coffee in a quaint building, filled with plants, books and cosy nooks to catch up and be inspired. Meanwhile, The Cellar Door Wine Store offers consistently good coffee throughout the day. Table Three Seven Four Seven is where to enjoy breakfast or brunch with your morning brew.
Lake Sambell is a perfect picnic spot.
On the steps of The Beechworth Conservatory with proprietors Megan and Oliver.
OUT AND ABOUT ON FOOT
Beechworth begs to be travelled by foot, with beautiful Victorian and Federation houses aplenty to see as you wander along its wide, tree-lined streets. The Spring Creek Walk runs beside the creek that weaves its way by the side of town, past the Chinese Gardens and Lake Sambell – the ideal spot for a picnic or barbeque. Hire a bike, canoe or kayak while you are there, from the caravan park, and take to the water.
There’s a much-loved walking track that snakes its way around the outskirts of the lake, while the Historic Gorge Walk is also a well-worn trek for locals and visitors alike with huge granite outcrops rising out of the bush and water cascades glinting in the sunlight as you pass near the historic Powder Magazine.
As an old gold town, Australian history radiates still in Beechworth. The Beechworth Historical and Cultural Precinct in the centre of town caters for all history buffs. There is much to be learnt as you visit the Old Telegraph Building, the Court House and the Robert O’Hara Burke Memorial Museum where one can be immersed in the ‘Street of Shops’, replicating the streets of Beechworth in the 1850s.
The Echoes of History Walking Tour is lively and fun. There are over 30 buildings listed with the National Trust and the stories are as entertaining as they are informative. The Old Beechworth Gaol also has regular guided tours, which bring to life the rich tapestry of events over its 140-year history, including when Ned’s Kelly’s mother, Ellen Kelly, was held there. And for the brave and curious, the Asylum Ghost Tour takes place in the heritage gardens of the Mayday Hills precinct at the very top of town.
Ford St, one of Beechworth's well-preserved streets.
Hit the cycling trails around Beechworth to experience Autumn at its most beautiful.
If you happen to be in town on the first Saturday of the month, the Beechworth Farmers Market is well worth a morning meander, and a fantastic way to taste first-hand the quality of the region’s produce. Of course, if you get tired of walking, you can always hire a bike and feel the wind dance through your hair along one of the many bike-friendly streets in town.
Beechworth Bike Hire is available to those without wheels, and the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail is heaven for cycling enthusiasts, letting you choose your own adventure and ride to nearby towns such as Everton, Milawa, and Yackandandah… or all the way to Bright, if you’re bold.
Meanwhile, thrill-seekers and families alike can enjoy the Ride High Country Mountain Bike Park. Running through bushland on the outskirts of town, there are plenty of trails to experience to tire out the kids, especially after a day berry picking at High Grove Berry and Cherry Farm where, alongside the fresh berries you’ve picked, you can treat yourself to a berry ice cream or homemade jam.
Larger groups of children will also enjoy the Bee School at Beechworth Honey, while art aficionados will be drawn to the Beechworth Contemporary Art Space – local artworks adorn the walls, giving a feel for how the region’s beauty continues to inspire.
Beechworth has no shortage of historic buildings such as the old Courthouse.
The Echoes of History Tour in Beechworth is catnip for history buffs.
DINE AND UNWIND
Beechworth offers a lovely blend of relaxed and stylish venues. Bridge Road Brewers has a thirst-quenching, vibrant and intriguing selection of beers on tap, brewed locally and best enjoyed with some fresh pizza. Nestled beside the brewery entrance you will find Eldorado Road: inside the attractive old building is an intimate space with stools and round tables made for gathering; or, take a seat outside for a streetscape view that lets you watch the world go by as you sample a wine and some local produce.
Beer lovers also shouldn’t skip Billson’s Brewery. Located a short walk from the town centre, it’s had new life breathed into it by its new owners. Formerly the old Murray Brewery factory dating back to 1865, the brewery’s contemporary incarnation nods respectfully to the building’s history, showcasing its original cordials, now complemented by new gin varieties and mixes.
For those seeking the charms of an old-time bar, Tanswells Commercial Hotel showcases many of the original features of the pub dating back to the 1870s, while The Empire Hotel’s grand old Victorian building has large fireplaces and a veranda overlooking the streetscape below.
More upmarket fare awaits at the award-winning Provenance, located in the beautiful old Bank building. The two-hatted restaurant is here to gift you with a memorable dining experience. Alternatively, The Ox and Hound is a place to linger and gaze out at the streetscape, as you enjoy a delicious series of food courses, paired with matching local wines.
By now you’re likely nursing a full belly and are thinking of bed. Thankfully, Beechworth offers many places to rest your head and relax. Whether you’re after a quiet garden setting to read a book or a spot right in the centre of town, there are ample accommodation options.
Try Freeman on Ford Bed and Breakfast, The Brewers House, Ned Kelly’s Marlo Cottage, George Kerferd Hotel and the French Cottage Beechworth – all have their own unique ambience, comforts and charm.
Pennyweight Winery in Beechworth is the product of over 150 years of Morris family winemaking.
Billson's Brewery in Beechworth is a must-visit for craft-beer lovers.
Beechworth is home to a variety of bespoke wines, each personifying the region and the unique conditions from which the flavours are derived. The crops are carefully tended through frost-laden winters and the inclement weather that criss-crosses from season to season. The process, from planting to picking, is accompanied by great attention to detail, delighting the palate and the eyes alike.
Try a Tempranillo or Beechworth Chardonnay from Fighting Gully Road, a Nebbiolo from Sentio Wines, a glass of Syrah from Castagna Wines, or a Gamay from Pennyweight Winery or Sorrenberg Vineyard. “Beechworth is a unique region where we have diversity of soils and altitudes and climates allowing for a range of varieties to thrive in this region,” says Sorrenberg’s Barry Morey. “The resulting wines show varietal depth and strength without too much intervention.” Gapsted Wines is also but a short drive from town.
The more time you have, the better, to linger and capture the spirit of this winemaking mecca. After all, Beechworth is a place to gather yourself beneath its big expanse of sky. A place to feel the crunch of dirt underfoot, to walk the historic streetscapes, listen to the birdsong, enjoy flavoursome produce grown down the road, and sip wine made from the grapes grown on the vines you can almost reach out and touch.
It’s a place that lets you make time for yourself. Why not take it up on that offer?