The Victorian goldfields are littered with some amazing villages and towns, but few more fascinating than the tiny community of Chiltern.
Nestled near the hills of the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, the streets here are lined with beautifully-preserved historic buildings boasting wonderfully wide verandas. More than 20 of the buildings are either registered or owned by the National Trust, and a stroll through the village will takes visitors past the historic post office, courthouse and masonic hall.
The original police cells still stand, as does the Federal Standard newspaper office and the famous Dow’s Pharmacy. The red-brick Lake View House, which was the childhood home of author Ethel Florence Richardson – who wrote under the pseudonym, Henry Handel Richardson – is also well worth a look.
A visit to the Athenaeum Museum is a must in order to really get to grips with the area’s incredible history, which was kick-started by the discovery of gold in late 1858 and the subsequent arrival of an army of fortune hunters.
It’s amazing to think that many of them would have had a drink or two at the Grapevine Hotel, formerly known as the Star Hotel. As well as being a top spot and having a lovely veranda to enjoy, the hostelry is also famed for having the Southern Hemisphere’s longest grapevine. Planted in 1867, the vine is still growing strong in the courtyard! Chiltern flourished as gold and quartz were pulled from the ground and it once supported 12 hotels and three banks.
However, by the early 1900s the good times were over and all mining operations had ceased. Grey nomads who still have a bit of space in their rig might look to pick up some goldrush memorabilia in one of the superb antique shops here, and those who haven’t got space might enjoy a browse anyway. The Chiltern Antique Fair is held every August, and the monthly Chiltern Market is a great place for travellers to stock up on local produce and to enjoy some wonderful arts and crafts.
The Lake Anderson Caravan Park is set on four acres overlooking picturesque Lake Anderson and enjoys a good reputation with travellers. There’s also some great camping at nearby Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park.
Created in 2002 to conserve what remains of Victoria’s box ironbark forests and woodlands, the park boasts some superb forest trails and offers visitors the chance to uncover goldfield relics, indigenous rock paintings … and some fabulous scenery.
A walk up to Mount Pilot Lookout will be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views over the surrounding countryside. It’s also well worth a trip out to Donkey Hill Lookout, and to the original Indigo goldfields cemetery.
There’s so much to do, and you should allow plenty of time to do it.