Well Worth It!

Nestled in Victoria’s high country region, Beechworth is well worth a visit.

If Ned Kelly rode into Beechworth today, he would feel right at home in his old stomping ground. Sure, times have changed since Ned was a frequent visitor. However, most of the buildings from his era have been magnificently maintained in their original state making Beechworth perhaps Australia’s best-preserved gold town.

Its wide streets are lined not only with grand trees but also with imposing old buildings of historical significance. Thirty-two of these buildings are classified with the National Trust.

Ned would be happy to know that many of his former haunts still remain. His first appearance at the courthouse was as a teenager for horse thieving. He would return later to court in 1880 to stand trial for murder. History shows that the outlaw was found guilty leading to his execution by hanging in Melbourne.

Nearly everywhere you turn in the Beechworth streets has a connection to Australia’s most famous bushranger. The gaol operated for nearly 150 years and all four members of the Kelly gang plus Ned’s mother were imprisoned there.

Hotel Nicholas is also the scene where he (aged 19) fought and won a bare-knuckled boxing match with Isaiah “Wild” Wright that lasted 20 rounds. Afterwards Ned was declared the unofficial boxing champion of the district.

The Beechworth story begins long before Ned Kelly and the discovery of gold. It starts with the Ya-itma-thang people, the dominant aboriginal clan who occupied the region. Other indigenous groups such as the Dhudhoroa, Pangerang, Jaitmathang and Minjambuta also travelled through the area or camped in the valleys. Art sites of significant importance to Aboriginal people can be seen at nearby Mount Pilot.

In 1852 Gold was discovered near Beechworth and thousands of miners flocked to the Spring and Reid’s Creek goldfields. By 1857 no less than half a tonne of gold left the fields on the fortnightly gold escorts to Melbourne. Shallow alluvial mining and sluicing were used to extract gold from the deep layers of sands and gravels. Most of the work was done by hand and many miners received little or no reward for their efforts.

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