Beechworth is one of Victoria's best-preserved goldrush towns. Four million ounces of gold were mined in 1852 as thousands of hopefuls rushed here to seek their fortunes. The town's prosperity has left a wonderful legacy, of which the Beechworth Historic and Cultural Precinct is an excellent example.
More than 30 buildings listed by the National Trust include hotels, churches and government offices, miners' cottages and the jail where Ned Kelly was imprisoned. Beechcworth offers great bushwalking, gold panning and excellent eating and drinking. The 19th-century streetscapes have fine antique stores, cafés, restaurants, craft shops and tea rooms.
Beechworth Hotel, built in 1876 and largely intact, was once Beechworth Lunatic Asylum. All it took to be classified a lunatic was to refuse or be unable to answer a judge's or police sergeant's questions! The asylum was later renamed Mayday Hills Hospital and operated as one of country Victoria's major asylums until 1995. A walk around the property has 15 interpretative sign boards providing historical facts.
It is now a campus of La Trobe University, run as a hotel and conference centre. Its magnificent gardens date to 1878, the result of the hard work of landscape gardener John T Tozer and inmates of the asylum. Improvements were undertaken in 1912 and again in 1930 when many exotic shrub and tree species were planted. Some of its native eucalypti are believed to be over 200 years old and one 55-metre Douglas fir is the tallest tree in the garden. Extensive plantings of rhododendrons and azaleas have thrived. The Grand Oak drive is one of the garden's most outstanding features.
Beechworth Bakery is recommended by everyone. It was a small, one-storey building in 1857, but a second storey and balcony were added around 1900. Production and baking areas were extended and eventually an outdoor area opened. It's still flourishing and over 250 different products are baked each day. Breads, pies, pastries and cakes are made with the freshest ingredients and customers are welcome to BYO and enjoy live music every Sunday.
Many people find breaks a good time to replenish their wardrobe. There are good clothing outlets in Beechworth, but you won't see many signs. Everything has to be heritage approved, so you need to go in and look.
Ian and Ann Smith's Beechworth Classic Apparel stocks many Australian labels, including RM Williams, plus accessories, shawls and wraps, shoes and boots.
Rocco and Lisa Espofito's Wardens Food and Wine offers modern Mediterranean and excellent wines, including Australian, Italian, French and Spanish.
Black Springs Bakery B&B is reached by a winding road lined with shady trees. Granite outcrops covered in vines are seen from every angle and flowering crab apple trees lead you to a beautiful two-storey stone cottage.
Top quality furniture and furnishings have been used throughout the B&B and views are superb. The kitchen has travertine cobblestones, handmade oak table and chairs and topline appliances.