Given Heathcote has a colourful gold rush story and a rich indigenous history, there’s plenty to learn about and see throughout the town and its surrounds.
Take a stroll down High Street for a closer look at some of the charming heritage-listed buildings such as the former courthouse, shire council chambers and town hall. These buildings were constructed in 1863 and designed by Melbourne architect, John Flannagan (who was also responsible for the design of the Royal Hotel in Queenscliff and the famous Young & Jackson’s in Melbourne).
A short stroll from here, in Herriot Street, you can visit the Camp Hill Historic Precinct, including the old gaol. Built in 1859 when a prisoner escaped from the original 1853 gaol, the Camp Hill stone building still stands today.
As the gold mining industry changed in the 1880s and sluicing work began, a particular area started to reveal itself as somewhat colourful. The fittingly named ‘Pink Cliffs’ is an easy walk from the centre of town and now a geological reserve. The fine, pink clay has an almost talcum powder like texture, and the colours of the hills change with the time of day.
In the McIvor Range Reserve, you can find the old Powder Magazine – built in 1864 to store gunpowder that was used in gold mining and quarrying. The fine stone masonry and brick vaulting work in the building is a wonderful example of a rare building type.
If gold mining is of interest to you, you still have the chance to strike it rich – in Victoria you can purchase a Miner’s Right for under $30 and fossick for gold or minerals on unreserved crown land (of which there is plenty around Heathcote). Visit www.dpi.vic.gov.au to purchase your permit.
For transport buffs, we’ve got both planes and trains. The first Australian plane to fly was in 1910 by the Duigan brothers at Spring Plains in Mia Mia, just a few minutes drive out of Heathcote. A monument was constructed in 1960 for the 50-year celebrations at the entrance of the Spring Plains property. Heathcote was also served by railway from 1889 until 1968 and much of the old infrastructure – including bridges – still remain, offering a great chance to explore the old rails today.
Many well-known travellers have passed through Heathcote over the years, including 1860s explorers Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills as they attempted to cross Australia from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Burke and Wills Track has been established to show their path in this area.
Explore Heathcote and discover all the wonders yourself. Visit the Heathcote Visitor Centre for more information.