From its early beginnings during the gold rushes to its current incarnation as a wine, food and tourist hub, Victoria’s northeast has combined influences from many cultures to make it an intriguing and enticing place to enjoy a short break.
Victoria’s northeast has been multicultural almost since European settlement. With the discovery of gold at Spring Creek near Beechworth in 1854, hoards of miners fresh from the Californian goldfields arrived in Australia. By 1857, word of the vast riches to be found had travelled to China and in that year alone, more than 20,000 Chinese miners arrived in the South Australian coastal town of Robe, thus avoiding the taxes imposed at Victorian ports but necessitating an incredible journey on foot across to the goldfields.
As gold dwindled, the miners stayed on to work in the river trade on the Murray paddleboats and in the fl edgling wine industry that was starting around Rutherglen. Australia quickly became known as John Bull’s vineyard and the district established a reputation for fortifi eds that continues to the present day. It’s one of the remarkable features of this region that many of those wine industry founders, including the Morrises, Campbells, Chambers and Killeens are producing to the present day with the current generation of winemakers representing the fifth and sixth generations of their family in the industry.
Out & about
From hiking in summer to snow skiing in winter, the Alpine and Mt Buffalo National Parks provide a host of fabulous locations to enjoy the great outdoors. Fisherfolk will not be disappointed, whether it’s dropping a line in the mighty Murray or casting a fly for trout in the mountain streams.
Horse riding, hot-air ballooning, kayaking and mountain biking are other options and one of the region’s highlights is the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, which follows sections of a disused railway line from Wahgunyah on the Murray to Bright and covers approximately 150 kilometres in total. The Wahgunyah to Rutherglen section of the trail is nine kilometres one way, with an extension loop that takes in a bike path along the banks of the Murray.
For those keen to ride the entire trail, there is a designated route that connects Rutherglen to the main Rail Trail at Bowser. From Bowser, cyclists can either make their way back into Wangaratta or continue along the trail, passing through the towns of Everton, Beechworth, Myrtleford and Porepunkah before finishing at Bright. You can hire bikes or join escorted tour groups from Rutherglen, Milawa, Myrtleford and Beechworth.
Rest & recreation
Koendidda Country House takes its name from the indigenous Pangarang word for running waters and indeed the Indigo Creek flows through the splendid 10 acres of parkland that surround this 150-year-old homestead midway between Beechworth and Rutherglen. Owners Karen and Edward Fenn offer bed-and-breakfast accommodation and dinners by arrangement in the gracious two-storey mansion with five guestrooms, each with ensuite bathrooms. Karen is a font of local knowledge and often directs guests to lunch at the French-accented cafe at Jones Winery or The Terrace Restaurant at All Saints Winery. While they’re there, she suggests they take advantage of a tasting of the Indigo Cheese Company’s range and, of course, a sampling of All Saints’ famous wines and fortifieds.
Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Tourism Victoria