Courtesy of a wonderfully optimistic name, the Victorian town of Rainbow certainly promises grey nomads a warm welcome … and it delivers in spades.
While it would be easy to think it was gazetted following a particularly spectacular rainbow and the new beginning it represented, Rainbow was actually named after a local natural feature known as ‘Rainbow Rise’ where colourful wildflowers grew on a crescent-shaped ridge.
Sitting about 400 kilometres north west of Melbourne, the town – which is known as the Gateway to the Mallee – really came into its own after the railway arrived in 1899. Although grain farming remains the area’s predominant industry, Rainbow’s location on the edge of the Big Desert and the Mallee wilderness area has meant tourism has become increasingly important.
And visitors are made to feel hugely welcome in this vibrant community which boasts an attractive main street, beautiful historic buildings, some truly unique gardens, and an array of eye-catching murals, which deliver a colourful insight into the life of the early pioneers.
Standout buildings in and around town include Kenmare State School which was built in 1903 from local limestone, the Mecca Cinema, the Federal and Eureka Hotels, and Yurunga Homestead, a huge Edwardian home made of brick and limestone with an elaborate cast-iron verandah.
Just west of Rainbow is Pella Church which was constructed from locally mined sandstone in 1901, and which houses a magnificently restored pipe organ. The church is a reminder that the area was settled by German migrants.
For a full understanding of the area’s rich history, a trip to the Rainbow Archive inside the old Masonic Lodge Hall on the main street is a must.
While the past is always on display, Rainbow is very much in the here and now and it offers a good array off shops along Federal Street, which also features some beautifully kept gardens. This is a place that grey nomads and other visitors want to linger and many choose to stay at the Rainbow Caravan Park, located in a quiet rural setting in Railway Street.
There are also some excellent camping options in the wider area, including at the stunning Wyperfeld National Park, famed for its array of native flora and fauna. The series of lakes within the park are only full of water if the Wimmera River, Lake Hindmarsh and Lake Albacutya flood.
Lake Albacutya, situated about 15 kilometres north of town, is designated a wetland of international importance and is great for boating, fishing, and swimming when full … and for four-wheel driving, bushwalking, and bird watching when dry. To Rainbow’s south west is Lake Hindmarsh, the largest freshwater lake in Victoria, which is also a haven for water pursuit enthusiasts and nature lovers.
This is also the spot where Edward Eyre camped whilst exploring an overland route between Melbourne and Adelaide in 1838. Today, many nomads choose to spend a night or two camping lakeside at Four Mile Beach.