The Victorian town of Horsham sitting on the banks of the Wimmera River makes for a fantastic base from which to explore the numerous attractions of this stunning part of the world.
Located about 300 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, it originally developed on the back of the wheat and wool industry. However, these days it is the scenery and wildflowers of the nearby Grampians National Park, Black Range State Park, and Wartook Valley region that piques the interest of most visitors.
The community is also flanked by several large lakes, with those to the east being mainly freshwater and those to the west being mostly salt. The most famous lake, Green Lake, is actually a reservoir built for irrigation that is now a very popular spot for fishing, boating and birdwatching.
It lies just 10 kilometres out of town on the Western Highway. About 40 kilometres west of Horsham via the picturesque town of Natimuk – which is packed with historic buildings – is a startling landmark sometimes referred to as ‘Wimmera’s Uluru’.
The 140-metre Mount Arapiles is apparently some 400 million years old and is a mecca for rock climbers, hikers and photographers. While the area is truly special, so too is the town itself. With a population of 18,000 or so, this is a lively regional centre with great shopping, services, restaurants, cafes, and caravan parks.
As mentioned earlier, the town sits on the Wimmera River, and a stroll along its banks perhaps stopping for a picnic, or a spot of fishing, or simply to enjoy the sunset is a highlight for many relaxed victors.
The Botanic Gardens are also well worth a visit. They were designed in the 1870s by William Guilfoyle who was the curator of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. The Horsham Art Gallery, which is housed in the art deco former town hall, is very well thought of and contains a collection of paintings from local boy Mack Jost, and also hosts a superb collection of the best of Australian photography. The town has a strong artistic heritage and it boasts a calendar full of festivals and musical performances.
Horsham also prides itself on its ‘public art’ including the likes of a scar tree sculpture, a totem pole and a startling mural or two. It is also situated about 50 kilometres or so from Rupanyup, at the southern end of Victoria’s Silo Arts Trail.
Wheat and wool are still important to the local economy, as are the fruit and vegetables and olives that are grown in the area, and tourism is growing in importance all of the time … and the grey nomad market is a critical part of that.
Although camping is no longer allowed at the showgrounds, there is still an awful lot for visiting caravanners and motorhomers to like about this friendly community.
As American writer Mark Twain put it when he visited in the early 1890s, Horsham is ‘a country town, peaceful, reposeful, inviting, full of snug homes, with garden plots, and plenty of shrubbery and flowers.’
And he described the remarkably flat landscape as becoming ‘a horizonless ocean of vivid green grass the day after a rain’.