The tiny town of Kaniva – located about 400 kilometres north-west of Melbourne – is one of Victoria’s hidden gems, and is well worth a visit.
The Western Highway is known as Commercial Street as it passes through the town centre which is notable for the colourful shrubbery in its expansive central plantation, as well as the historic buildings which line it.
Many of these shops and hotels have impressive wide verandahs. It’s also impossible to miss the big windmill, which stands as a symbol of the abundant underground water supply that helped the town – and surrounding farms – grow.
However, it is a more recent addition to the streetscape which really captures the eye, and has helped put Kaniva on the grey nomad map. Back in 2010, local artist Sharon Merrett came up with the idea of celebrating Kaniva’s sheep history by creating a flock of painted sheep structures. The original fibre-glass flock has been growing ever since … and there are now 50 sheep, two dogs and three lambs ‘grazing’ in the streets.
Indeed, with a current population of less than 1,000 it’s not inconceivable that the humans in ‘Victoria’s Garden of Eden’ might one day be outnumbered by the not-so-woolly jumbucks.
All of the sheep are unique and have been painted by Kaniva locals, and each is linked to a specific community group. There is plenty else of interest in the town centre, too. The Rotary Fauna Park is a great place to observe native animals including emus and kangaroos, as well as cockatoos, parrots and rosellas. The park also has a variety of waterbirds in its wetlands.
The town will also soon be joining the silo art trail once work on painting its silos is completed, and the Club Hotel has been given a serious facelift – complete with mural – courtesy of a popular television renovation show.
The post office in Kaniva opened back in 1882, soon followed by a Methodist Church, and later Anglican and Presbyterian churches. The uniquely designed railways station was constructed in 1887.
Kaniva has traditionally been a very strong mixed farming region but, since the decline of the wool industry in the 1980s, many farmers had turned to growing agricultural crops. Large plantations of canola can now be found in the district, creating a colourful display during the early springtime. The Kaniva Historical Museum, which boasts a large range of household items and farming relics, is the best place to find out more about the settlement’s agricultural roots.
Just south of Kaniva is the 132,000-hectare Little Desert National Park, and other nearby spots worth a visit include the Billy Ho Bushwalk five kilometres out, and the picturesque Mooree Reserve.
Travellers speak highly of the pet-friendly Kaniva Poolside Caravan Park which overlooks beautiful farming landscape, and there are also a variety of other camping options in the general vicinity, including the Serviceton Camping Ground near the SA border.
With all that in its favour, it’s not hard to see why grey nomads are following the fibreglass sheep in ever increasing numbers.