Beechworth, Victoria, Australia: Colorful shops on Ford Street

7 Most Overlooked Towns in Victoria

Discover the incredible diversity and richness this state has to offer beyond the familiar allure of Melbourne's bustling laneways and the iconic surf breaks of the Great Ocean Road. Victoria is a tapestry woven with hidden gems that remain largely untouched by the typical tourist throng. It's in the quiet, overlooked towns scattered throughout our state that the true heart and soul of Victoria can be discovered.

These towns, each with their own unique charm and history, are places where the past and present merge seamlessly, offering a glimpse into Australia's rich cultural heritage while inviting exploration of their stunning natural landscapes. From the gold rush era architecture that defines towns like Beechworth and Maldon to the serene beauty of coastal retreats like Port Fairy, Victoria's lesser-known locales are a testament to the state's varied and vibrant character.


Historic Beechworth town center on a warm summer day in Victoria, Australia
Historic Beechworth town center on a warm summer day in Victoria, Australia, via FiledIMAGE /

Nestled in the heart of Victoria's High Country, Beechworth is a well-preserved historical town, renowned for its significant role during the gold rush era. The town's meticulously maintained 19th-century architecture transports visitors back in time, with the Historic and Cultural Precinct serving as a focal point. Here, the Courthouse, where the infamous bushranger Ned Kelly was tried, stands as a testament to Australia's rich colonial history.

Beechworth's charm extends beyond its historical allure. The town is surrounded by lush national parks, offering a plethora of outdoor activities. The Beechworth Gorge Scenic Drive and the cascading Woolshed Falls are just a short distance from the town center, providing breathtaking natural scenery and ample hiking opportunities. For gastronomy enthusiasts, Beechworth's burgeoning food scene, highlighted by local wineries and artisanal producers, offers a taste of the region's rich culinary heritage.

Port Fairy

Port Fairy on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria
Port Fairy on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria

Port Fairy, located at the end of the Great Ocean Road, is a coastal town that exudes a quaint, old-world charm. Known for its wide streets lined with 19th-century cottages, beautiful Norfolk pines, and a picturesque fishing port, Port Fairy feels like a step back in time. The town's rich history is intertwined with the whaling industry, and many of its historic buildings now house boutique shops, galleries, and cozy cafes.

The natural beauty of Port Fairy is equally compelling. Griffiths Island, accessible via a causeway, offers a serene escape with its walking paths that lead to the charming Port Fairy Lighthouse. The island is also a sanctuary for shearwater birds, which return at dusk throughout the breeding season, providing a spectacular natural display. Additionally, the town hosts the Port Fairy Folk Festival annually, attracting music lovers from across the globe to its vibrant shores.


Castlemaine town hall, which was completed in 1898
Castlemaine town hall, which was completed in 1898, via Nils Versemann /

Castlemaine, a gem in the heart of the Goldfields region, boasts a rich history and a vibrant arts scene. The town's gold-rush heritage is palpable, with grand Victorian buildings, historic mines, and the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park offering a glimpse into its prosperous past. The Theatre Royal, Australia's oldest continuously operating theatre, is a cultural landmark, hosting a variety of performances and film screenings.

Modern Castlemaine is a hub for artists and creatives, drawn by the town's eclectic charm and community spirit. The Castlemaine Art Museum, which showcases Australian art, and the bustling Wesley Hill Market, where local artisans sell their crafts, are testaments to the town's artistic vitality. The surrounding countryside, with its rolling hills and abundant wildlife, offers endless inspiration and recreation opportunities, from bushwalking to cycling.


Main Street of the former gold mining town of Walhalla, Victoria
Main Street of the former gold mining town of Walhalla, Victoria, via Hans Wismeijer /

Walhalla, once a thriving gold mining town, now stands as a secluded haven nestled in a deep valley within the Victorian Alps. The town's rich history is evident in its restored buildings and the Long Tunnel Extended Mine, offering guided tours that delve into the challenges of 19th-century gold mining. Walhalla's Goldfields Railway, a heritage train line that winds through the scenic mountain landscape, provides a unique way to explore the area's natural beauty.

Despite its remote location, Walhalla offers a peaceful retreat with a sense of stepping out of time. The town has no mobile phone reception, encouraging visitors to disconnect and immerse themselves in the tranquility of the surrounding forests. Hiking trails, such as the Australian Alps Walking Track, offer adventurous paths through the stunning alpine scenery, making Walhalla a perfect destination for nature lovers and history enthusiasts alike.


Historic Victorian architecture in the old gold mining town of Maldon, Victoria
Historic Victorian architecture in the old gold mining town of Maldon, Victoria

Maldon, recognized as Australia's first "Notable Town" by the National Trust for its authentic colonial appearance, is a living museum of the gold rush era. The town's well-preserved 19th-century streetscapes, complete with historic buildings, antique shops, and vintage steam train rides, offer a captivating journey into the past. Maldon's vibrant community life, with festivals and markets celebrating its heritage, adds a lively dimension to its historical charm.

The surrounding Maldon Historic Reserve provides a natural counterpoint to the town's architectural heritage, offering scenic walking and cycling trails that traverse old mining sites and panoramic lookout points. The Maldon Folk Festival, held annually, brings together musicians and artists from across the country, showcasing the town's enduring appeal as a cultural and historical landmark.


The historic gold mining town of Yackandandah on a warm summers day in Victoria, Australia
The historic gold mining town of Yackandandah on a warm summers day in Victoria, Australia, via FiledIMAGE /

Yackandandah is a picturesque town in Victoria's High Country, famed for its stunning autumn landscapes and strong community spirit. The town's main street is a tableau of beautifully maintained Victorian buildings, housing an array of unique shops, cafes, and galleries that reflect the creativity and warmth of the local community. Yackandandah's commitment to sustainability is evident in its status as a Transition Town, aiming for energy self-sufficiency through community-led initiatives.

The natural surroundings of Yackandandah are a drawcard, with the Yackandandah Creek providing a picturesque backdrop for the town and offering delightful swimming spots in the summer. The nearby Stanley State Forest and Mount Big Ben offer trails that cater to hikers, mountain bikers, and nature enthusiasts seeking to explore the beauty of the High Country. Yackandandah's vibrant arts scene, highlighted by the annual Yackandandah Folk Festival, celebrates the town's cultural richness and community-oriented ethos.


Streetscape of the tiny gold rush era township of Clunes, Victoria
Streetscape of the tiny gold rush era township of Clunes, Victoria, via Norman Allchin /

Clunes is a town steeped in history, recognized as the site of Victoria's first gold strike in 1851. This event marked the beginning of the Victorian gold rush, transforming Clunes into a bustling hub of activity. Today, the town's historical significance is celebrated through its well-preserved 19th-century architecture, including the grand buildings that line its main street. Clunes is also renowned for its bookshops and annual Booktown Festival, attracting literary enthusiasts from across Australia.

The natural landscape around Clunes adds another layer to its appeal, with the nearby Creswick Regional Park offering opportunities for bushwalking, picnicking, and wildlife observation. The town's scenic beauty and tranquil atmosphere make it an ideal destination for those looking to explore Victoria's historical and cultural depth away from the crowded tourist spots. Clunes embodies the charm and legacy of Victoria's gold rush era, offering a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

In Conclusion

Victoria's overlooked towns, from Beechworth's historic streets to Clunes' literary heritage, offer a rich tapestry of experiences for travelers seeking depth and diversity. Each town, with its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, invites exploration beyond the well-trodden path. By venturing into these lesser-known locales, visitors can uncover the stories, landscapes, and communities that define Victoria's heart and soul.

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