The Beauty of Beechworth
283 kms from Melbourne – 611 kms from SYDNEY.
You could easily lose track of time chewing the fat with Michael Beattie (pictured) about the time he spent portraying one of Australia’s most infamous bushrangers.
For six years his folkie beard and boyish looks made him physically suited to fill Ned Kelly’s boots during Beechworth’s annual Ned Kelly weekends for the re-enactment of the trial in which Kelly was accused of killing three police officers.
’Over that time I was sentenced to death 14 times and on one occasion I went as far as ending up in a coffin for a DVD,’ says Beattie flashing his best villainous grin.
These days Beattie is happy to man the counter as a volunteer at historic Beechwood Courthouse which housed Kelly’s pre-trial before he was sentenced to hang in Melbourne Jail in 1880.
The courthouse, packed with original furniture and equipment, is consistent with Beechworth’s approach to preserving its cracking gold rush history without a sense of commercialised contrivance.
Throw into the mix the scenic countryside of North Eastern Victoria, the walking, biking and wine trails, the vast array of produce and you have the perfect holiday smoothie that goes down mighty well.
We targeted the region in as a girls’ weekend when we dropped our luggage on the doorstep at Maydays Holiday Cottage.
The 1923 cottage with its high picket fence has three bedrooms, each decorated tastefully around themes from vastly different eras.
Renovations a few years back gently nudged the cottage into the 21st century with a modern kitchen an open-plan living area at the rear that looks out to a well-designed garden that once backed on to an old coach house.
Homes like this close to the CBD are subject to heritage guidelines on issues like colour, fences and facades aimed at protecting the town’s old world character.
The cottage is within easy walking distance of pubs, restaurants and shopping in the town centre.
While there is plenty to do and see, it’s not a destination where you need to be constantly putting your hand in your pocket.
A walk through town will give most people plenty to eyeball, especially if you time your visit for the many calendar events throughout the year from Oktoberfest in Spring to the Bluegrass and Old Time Country Music Convention in August.
We loved that ‘Pleasantville’ feel that has seeped into the bones of Beechworth and its surrounding hamlets like Yackandandah.
Wherever you turn there is a little of yesteryear like, for instance, the Golden Era Service Station in the middle of town run by Ian and Joan Downs.
Ian is the RACV district serviceman who rescues stranded motorists in his vintage 1960 Holden FB panel van and 1946 Chev tow truck.
‘’I tell the many tourists who stop to admire the old vehicles at the station that it’s $5 a photo,’’ jokes Joan, who, like her hubby, was born and raised in Beechworth.
And kids of all ages the kids spin out just looking at the three rooms packed with a rainbow of lollies and chocolates in the shop run by Beechworth Sweet company.
It’s located right next to the home-made ice creamery, where we picked up our vanilla and Ferrero Roche double cones for the ride home.