GREAT DRIVING TOURS AND HERITAGE TOWNS
WHY GO: Beyond the Bendigo goldfields lies the country where a machine once reaped a golden harvest of a vastly different kind.
DISTANCE FROM MELBOURNE: 160km north of Melbourne
TIME: two hours driving time to Elmore, but allow a full day for relaxed sightseeing.
ROUTE: take Tullamarine Fwy north towards Sunbury and turn right onto Lancefield Road, continuing through the scenic hills around Romsey and Lancefield to Northern Hwy near Heathcote; right again on the Northern Hwy to Elmore. For the return route you can travel via Bendigo on Midland Hwy and an easy run home on Calder Fwy – it takes about the same time. It's worth visiting Elmore en route Echuca, less than an hours' drive north.
ON THE WAY: the shops and weekend market at Romsey are worth a look en route, as are one or two of the wineries around Lancefield - Cleveland Winery on Shannons Road is close to town. At Heathcote the bakery is hard to resist (but you should), and there’s a playground to give the kids a break. Antiques, craft shops are also worth browsing here before continuing through more winery country – shiraz is a specialty of the region.
WHAT TO DO: In Elmore you should head straight for the Campaspe Run, an unpretentious museum in the main thoroughfare – you can’t miss it, and you shouldn’t, either. Within the wooden building are exhibits, artefacts and implements tracing the development of the Sunshine Stripper/Harvester, a machine much underrated in Australia’s history. The new-fangled harvester heralded a revolution in agricultural methods world-wide and the humble grain-growing Elmore district was its genesis.
The Campaspe River forms Elmore’s eastern boundary, and much reliance was placed on this as a water source for the town. In these days of drought a mere trickle remains in the river bed, but the town’s history records years of good rainfall with the occasional flood. When the railway line opened between Bendigo and Echuca in 1864, steam engines re-watered in town. Elmore’s station opened in 1870 and it remains much as it was in those days, minus the station staff and passengers. One train that still runs is the scaled-down version for kids, located near a small playground alongside the highway; it operates at odd times during school holidays and weekends.
Old shops and pubs toe the footpath along Northern Highway, but this was not always Elmore’s main street; so take some time to walk or drive around streets opposite the station because there are plenty of clues to the town’s heritage.
The over a century Elmore has been considered a quiet rural district but it has had some historic moments. Explorers Burke and Wills stayed at the Elmore Hotel (built in 1846) on their travels north, and a few years later the pub hosted a robbery under arms: three bushrangers robbed the publican and travellers, locking them in the cellar before getting away with the grand sum of eighty pounds in cash and valuables. The ill-gotten gains were hardly worth the trouble – the outlaws were caught two days later and sent to gaol for 14 years.
EATING AND DRINKING: Elmore’s bakery is worth a visit - cakes and pastries, light lunches are available here, and while the range isn’t huge it is fresh and tasty. The Shamrock Hotel’s ancient façade exudes some mysterious appeal, and while I haven’t eaten there a Sunday counter lunch could be interesting. There’s another pub and take-aways available in town, and a fairly new cafe.
©PETER ROBINSON 2007
see my images at www.australianplaces.net
For the past
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