Bottle Museum and Tourist Information
The Clunes Bottle Museum, at 70 Bailey St (at the corner with Suburban St) has over 6000 rare and unusual bottles dating back to the early goldrush era. This is reputed to be the largest collection of bottles in the Southern Hemisphere. It is housed in the 1870s schoolhouse of South Clunes State School which was a knitting mill from 1923 until very recently.
It also functions as the local information centre. There is, moreover, a woodwork gallery, a ceramic workshop, an art display, a restaurant and a gift shop. It is open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily, tel: (03) 5345 3896.
Brochures available here outline walking tours of the town, Creswick Creek, the historic buildings and goldmining relics. There are also signposts around town which indicate sites associated with the gold era, such as the Port Phillip Mine (where gold was first found and where there were underground riots), the Lothair Mine (where the Chinese strikebreakers were repelled by local miners), the South Clunes Mine, the old gasworks and the cordial factory.
Bailey Street Buildings
Bailey St runs parallel to the town's main road (Fraser St) but at a higher elevation. It contains the prominent Mannerist courthouse and town hall (both completed in 1872). The latter was designed by the architect responsible for the Ballarat town hall.
The Italianate post office (1878), at the corner of Bailey and Service Sts, is now a second-hand bookshop. St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church dates from 1873.
Commercial development began along the creek flats at the western end of Fraser St in the 1850s. However, few of those buildings remain. Business shifted further east along Fraser St in the 1870s and it is from this period that many of the present buildings date. Fraser St is wide and elegant, full of 19th-century shops with original storefronts and distinctive verandahs, and lined with oak and elm trees planted last century.
The former London Chartered Bank (1871), now the RSL clubrooms, is a two-storey cement-rendered building centred on a projecting porch with Tuscan columns and fronted by an iron-palisade fence.
The Club Hotel (1870) is a two-storey Classical Revival rendered building with an interesting verandah that is one of the few surviving examples of its type.
Other buildings in Fraser St are the 1865 Union Bank building (at the Templeton St corner), the former National Bank (1871), and the National Hotel (1862).
The Weavery Studio and Gallery features award-winning hand-woven wool items, including wall hangings, shawls, jackets and scarves, tel: (03) 5345 3414.
Next door to the Club Hotel, at 36 Fraser St, is the Clunes Museum, situated in a two-storey bluestone building that was originally a warehouse (c.1868). It contains an interesting collection of memorabilia from the gold era, a family research department and a craft shop. Tourist information can be obtained here, including maps and a brochure outlining a walking tour of the town. It is open from 10.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on Saturdays, 11.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on Sundays and all public and school holidays, or by appointment, tel: (03) 5345 3592 or, after hours, (03) 5345 3020.
The Uniting (formerly Methodist) Church (1863) in Service St is a Gothic Revival structure with elaborate ornamentation, particularly on the octagonal tower with its weighty spire of patterned slates. St Andrew's Presbyterian Church (1861) is also located in Service St opposite the old Masonic hall (1868). St Paul's Church of England (1871) is in Alliance St.
The historic primary school is a splendid building which has recently been restored. It is situated in Canterbury St.
Victoria Park and Queens Park line the northern bank of Creswick Creek and are divided only by Cameron St. Both make ideal picnic areas. Queens Park was constructed out of earth removed from the creek when it was deepened to prevent flooding. The European elms and silver poplars were planted in the late 1870s and 1880s.
Creek Walk and Scenic Drive
A walking tracks meanders alongside Creswick Creek (where platypus can occasionally be seen), through the pleasant environs of Victoria Park, and up to the lookout which affords panoramic views of the town.
Nearby is the site of the old Port Phillip mine which produced over 16 metric tonnes of gold. A marker on the roadside indicates the proximity of the mine site which is on private (but unused) land behind the lookout. On the other side of the fence is another marker, established by the miners in the town's early days, which indicates the precise location of the original find which was the first gold strike in Victoria.
The lookout can also be accessed by car along Scenic Drive (go to the western end of Fraser St, cross the ford over Creswick Creek, then take the first right). There are information boards at both the foot and the crest of Scenic Drive which display photographs of how the area looked from these two perspectives in the gold days.
Butter Factory Gallery
The Butter Factory Gallery is located in Cameron St.
Mount Beckworth State Park, 7 km south-west, is noted for its many birds and spring-time wildflowers and as the hideout of bushranger 'Captain Moonlite'. It is a good spot for picnicking, rock-climbing, birdwatching and bushwalks. Short-stay camping is available at Cork Oaks.
Head out of town along the Learmonth Rd and the signposts will appear after about 4 km (only the last section of road is gravel and that is of good quality).
Mt Beckworth Wines, established in 1984, is located at RMB 915 Learmonth Rd. It produces chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet and shiraz and is open on weekends and public holidays from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and on weekdays by appointment, tel: (03) 5343 4207.
Further south on Clunes Rd, at Coghills Creek, is Eastern Peake Vineyard which was established in 1983 . It produces pinot noir, chardonnay and a blanc de noir known as 'Persuasion'. The cellar door is open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. weekends or by chance, tel: (03) 5343 4245.
Merin Merin Swamp and Middle Swamp can be seen from the Newstead Rd about 10 km north of town. Walks and 4WD tracks lead into the area which is noted for its waterbirds.
Black Duck Hotel
18 km north-east, on the Newstead Rd, is the charming Black Duck Hotel which virtually constitutes the village of Campbelltown. Its somewhat isolated location is owing to the fact that it was built by a local property owner who was fed up with his employees travelling to Newstead and Clunes for alcoholic beverages. There are some other historic sites nearby such as the old school and football field.