While gold may have drawn the first wave of old timers to Rutherglen back in the mid-19th century, it’s treasure of a different kind that’s now luring a new breed of adventurers to town. For today’s grey nomads, the real riches to be found in this beautiful area in north-eastern Victoria are the wines, the food, and the history.
Located about 10 kilometres from the mighty Murray River and just west of Wodonga, Rutherglen has a population of around 2,500. Driving down the main street is, in some ways, like driving back in time with old timber buildings and shops largely unchanged from 100 years ago.
The best way to understand and enjoy the historic streetscapes is to take the hour-long self-guided Rutherglen Heritage Walk. Details are available at the Visitor Centre. The Wahgunyah gold rush in 1860 really put Rutherglen on the map, and boom times followed. A brick post office was built in 1863, a court house the following year, and soon afterwards St Stephen’s Anglican Church.
The early promise of gold riches never really materialised and the town turned to agriculture as more schools, banks, and churches were built throughout the 1870s. Lake King was constructed in 1877 as the town’s water supply and a walking path now leads around the picturesque body of water.
Today, it is the old water tower in Campbell Street which offers the biggest clue to the secret of the town’s ongoing success. Back in 1969, someone added a mesh structure to the top giving the tower a wine bottle shape … and an iconic landmark was born.
There are 20 or more highly rated wineries within striking distance of Rutherglen, many particularly noted for their sweet fortified wines and dry reds. Grey nomads who time their visit well, will find the Tastes of Rutherglen festival in March, and the Winery Walkabout in June great ways to really immerse themselves in the region’s wines.
But, while sampling a drop or two at cellar doors will be high on most grey nomads’ agendas, there’s plenty more to the area. The 10-day High Country Harvest Food & Wine Festival is normally held in May and celebrates local produce, such as lamb, honey, Murray cod, cherries, nuts and preserves … as well of course as wine and craft beer. The excellent Rutherglen Farmers Market is also held on the second Sunday of every month.
A short drive away are the wetlands and river red gums around Lake Moodemere, which is a haven for birdlife and great for fishing. And it’s also worth a quick trip out of town to view the Rutherglen State Battery, which was built in 1908 to crush quartz and extract gold using steam power.
There are some great camping options at the Murray River Reserve near Rutherglen, notably at Grantham’s Bend, Shaw’s Flat, and Stanton’s Bend. Excellent caravan park options include the Rutherglen Caravan Park on the shores of Lake King.
Simply put, friendly Rutherglen is grey nomad gold!