Visitor information centres can be tourist attractions in their own right
When we arrive in a town that we haven’t visited before, we generally go straight to the visitor centre to collect some maps and information about local tourist attractions. Sometimes the visitor centre turns out to be just a sign by the roadside, with ads for local attractions and businesses. In other towns the visitor information can be a simple rack of leaflets, maybe located in the local general store, library, post office or caravan park. Still others are situated in small, unremarkable offices or kiosks.
But sometimes the visitor centre turns out to be much more interesting than we had expected. Some are housed in architecturally impressive buildings. Others have an on-site museum that repays those who stop to look around, or have Big Things to make that perfect holiday snap.
Australia has a lot of highly varied visitor centres, some located in historic buildings, like town halls, post offices, railway stations, courthouses or prisons. These buildings may be humble or grand, small or large, but they are generally interesting and are often connected with important aspects of the town’s past.
For example, Bendigo in Victoria proudly claims to have “Australia’s grandest visitor centre”, since it is located inside the imposing 19th century post office building. Built during the height of the Victorian gold rushes, the Renaissance Revival style post office has a soaring clock tower and a five-bell carillon.
In northern Queensland, Maryborough visitor information centre is housed in the grand City Hall, which was built in American colonial style in 1908. The building has an imposing exterior, with columns, portico and a tall clock tower. At York, 100km east of Perth, the visitor information centre is located in the town hall. Constructed in 1911, the building has a bold tower up front and is the most impressive looking building in the town.
The Tourism Top End visitor information centre in Darwin is housed in the heritage listed Reserve Bank building, constructed in 1966-7. Yarram visitor information centre in Gippsland is housed in the ornate old court house, which dates from 1907. At Buninyong in Victoria, the information centre is in the reading room of the proud old public library, which dates from 1861.
Esperance Visitor Centre on the south coast of WA is located in the town’s historic Museum Village, a collection of old buildings from the local area that have been renovated and relocated to a grassy site near the town centre.