Tourist Information and Gardens
The Hamilton Visitor Information Centre is located in Lonsdale St, tel: (03) 5572 3746 or (1800) 807 056. A walking tour of Hamilton is available in a booklet available from the Information Centre ($5) and cycling, walking and driving routes can also be provided. A display has been established relating to the recently beatified Mary McKillop who lived in the region in the 19th century.
There are a number of impressive private gardens located in the Hamilton district and around Cavendish, including Middletons, Pierrepoint Proteas, Clifton Gardens, Woorim South, Arrandoovong, Sherwood (also a pottery), Pine Grove, Gawalla, Mistydown Perennials and Glendinning. Some are set around historic homesteads. Most are open seasonally and by appointment only. The Information Centre can furnish details about whereabouts and contact numbers.
The Hamilton Art Gallery
The Hamilton Art Gallery at 107 Brown St (by the Gray St corner) is considered one of the state's leading provincial galleries. The collection includes a series of engravings by 18th-century English satirist William Hogarth, watercolours by 18th-century English artist Paul Sandby, along with a strong collection of 19th and 20th-century Australian paintings. The collection also includes ceramics, furniture, silver, tapestries and artifacts from Tibet, India, Nepal, China and Japan. It is open Monday to Friday from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., Saturdays from 10.00 a.m. to noon and from 2.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m., and Sundays from 2.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. Admission is by donation and guided tours are available by appointment, tel: (03) 5573 0460 or check out: http://www.hamiltongallery.org/
Hamilton Historical Museum
The Hamilton Historical Museum is located in the old mechanics' institute (1865) at 43 Gray St, adjacent the post office. It has items pertaining to local history and is open from 2.00 p.m to 5.00 p.m. every day but Saturday, tel: (03) 5572 4933.
Adjoining the building is The Aboriginal Keeping Place which focuses on the Aboriginal heritage of the Western District with dioramas and displays relating to fish traps, mounds, stone houses, rock art, the Lake Condah Aboriginal Mission, quarries, axe-grinding grooves, grinding tools, the indigenous woman's traditional practices, wooden weapons and tools, fibre craft and the usage of local plants. It is open by appointment.
The museum is adjacent the post office (1878). On the other side of the post office is the Hamilton Spectator printing office (1859).
The corner of Gray and McIntyre Sts is known as Church Hill owing to the presence of St Andrew's Presbyterian and Anglican Christ Church Co-Cathedral (the Sunday school dates back to 1889).
The massive bluestone Gothic Revival form of St Andrew's (1907-09), with its enormous spire and spacious interior, was built on the site of the first St Andrew's (1858). The original services were conducted in Gaelic. There are also some fine historic homes nearby.
Hamilton Botanical Gardens
The Hamilton Botanical Gardens (4 ha) were established on the town's recreation reserve in 1870. The Kentucky coffee tree, Corsican pine, funeral cypress, Himalayan oak, Californian live oak, digger pine, hickory wattle and English oak are on the register of significant trees. The latter has a span of over 30 metres. There is a band rotunda (c.1900), a caretaker's cottage (1881) by the corner of Kennedy and Martin Sts, a walk-through aviary, an animal enclosure, a central pond (1883), a playground and barbecue facilities, a 1920 memorial fountain and a cannon from the HMVS Nelson (c.1860s). It is bounded by French, Kennedy, Martin and Thompson Sts. A guiding pamphlet is available from the information centre.
Apex Park in Abbott St (which runs off Ballarat Rd) is a popular fishing spot on the banks of Grange Burn. Features include a playground, picnic-barbecue facilities and an old steam locomotive.
The Sir Reginald Ansett Transport Museum
After an unpromising start Sir Reginald Ansett put his famous transportation enterprise into the black when he switched his base of operations to Hamilton in 1931. With local money he launched Ansett Airlines from Hamilton in 1937. The Ansett Transport Museum is located within one of the company's original hangars on the shores of Lake Hamilton in Ballarat Rd (i.e., the Glenelg Highway). Displays relating to the Ansett empire include a Fokker Universal, similar to the first Ansett plane. It is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and there is a small entry fee, tel: (03) 5571 2767.
Lake Hamilton is a 38-ha lake at the north-eastern corner of town which is surrounded by 25 ha of parkland. Created in 1977 by damming the Grange Burn, it is a popular venue for fishing and water sports such as waterskiing, boating, swimming, sailboarding, rowing and canoeing. There is a boat ramp. A walking-cycling track surrounds the lake and, at the end of Rippons Rd (which runs off Ballarat Rd), there is a beach, playground and picnic-barbecue area.
'Monivae' is a two-storey bluestone mansion located south of Hamilton (near the Iluka Mineral separation plant). This homestead was built c.1878 on a property established by the first police magistrate of the Hamilton district, Acheson French.
Hamilton Pastoral Museum
Just past 'Monivae', adjacent Ballarat Rd, is the Hamilton Pastoral Museum which occupies a 2.5-ha site. The former St Luke's Lutheran Church (1861) contains items relating to local Lutheran history. There is also a display hall with old domestic wares, a cottage, a blacksmith's, a former bank and lots of antiquated farm machinery. It is open by appointment or during rally days in March and October. There is an admission fee, tel: (03) 5572 2489 or (03) 5572 3746.
The Big Woolbales are located amidst native red gums 3 km west of the city centre at 230 Coleraine Rd (the Henty Highway). They are actually five linked structures which exactly resemble five gigantic woolbales - a tribute to the importance of the local wool industry. Together they form a building within which are wool-related displays such as historical memorabilia, including farming and shearing equipment, wool scales, old horse harnesses, wool presses and weaving looms, along with wool samples and rural clothing. There is also a kiosk and a souvenir shop. Shearing and spinning demonstrations are conducted by appointment. The opening hours are 9.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. daily. There is a small entry fee, tel: (03) 5571 2810.
The 221-ha Community Parklands, located adjacent North Boundary Rd, have been set aside for recreation, conservation and education. They contain valuable remnant indigenous flora. There is a sporting complex, a water reserve, picnic-barbecue facilities, at least 95 species of native wildflowers and other flora and at least 90 species of native birds. Another inhabitant is the Eastern barred bandicoot, a rare and endangered Australian marsupial. The colony in the Parklands and on the banks of Grange Burn is the last on mainland Australia.
Hamilton Institute of Rural Learning
Within the Community Parklands, at 333 North Boundary Rd, is The Hamilton Institute of Rural Learning. A nature trail provides access to a community organic flower and vegetable garden. Pioneering skills and traditional craft skills are taught at the mud-brick headquarters which were erected by the unemployed. They contain information on the Eastern barred bandicoot. The Institute is open on Mondays from 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., and from 10.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and at other times by prior arrangement, tel: (03) 5572 3699.
Nigretta Falls Reserve
This reserve centres on the falls on the Upper Wannon River. They are broader than Wannon Falls with a shorter drop and are thus less spectacular. However, there is some outstanding scenery and good fishing, as well as picnic-barbecue areas, a playground and a deep pool for swimming. Follow the Glenelg Highway west of town for 5 km then take the signposted right into Nigretta Rd. After another 9 km take the signposted left to the park above the falls.
19 km west of Hamilton, via the Glenelg Highway, is a signposted turnoff to Wannon Falls, located adjacent the highway. They are very impressive indeed, particularly in winter (the flow may become a trickle in mid-summer). There is a koala reserve, a sports area, a playground and picnic-barbecue area. Kangaroos abound and both swimming and fishing can be enjoyed. Several viewing platforms have been carved out of the cliff face.
Byaduk Caves and Mt Napier
Byaduk Caves were formed by lava from Mt Napier. There is a viewing platform and it is possible to enter one of the caves.
Mt Napier is a prominent local landmark. There are excellent views from the summit but it can only be reached via a strenuous walking track from an old quarry.
Both attractions can be reached by heading south out of town along Port Fairy Rd (towards Macarthur and Port Fairy). After 8 km take the signposted left into Murroa Lane. The Hamilton Information Centre can explain the rest of the route but it should be signposted. However, it is very rough once you get off the main road.
Cavendish is a pretty little town beside the Wannon River located 25 km north of Hamilton on the Henty Highway. The first runs were established here c.1840. The first house on the townsite was erected that same year. The town, which began to develop in the late 1840s, was originally known as Wilton. Another small settlement emerged about 3 km south to serve a tannery. The state's eighth National School opened in 1852 and it is the only one in the state to have continuously operated on its original site to the present day (cnr Barker and Churnside Sts).
The Hamilton Information Centre has driving tour brochure and the 'Settlers Walk' which takes in the town's historic buildings and sites. It includes the school, the Wannon Store (1868), the old police cells (1862), which are diagonally opposite, and the Bunyip Hotel which was established as Waddell's Inn (1842).
There are two lovely walks along the river. One starts behind the police cells and heads east; the other starts behind the Bunyip and heads west.
11 km north of Cavendish, along the Henty Highway, is a turnoff on the right into McCutcheon's Rd (signposted for 'Sherwood') and it is another 2 km to Sherwood Gardens which is open by appointment, tel: (03) 5574 2242.
Grampians National Park - Chimney Pots and Aboriginal Art Site
26 km north of Cavendish, on the Henty Highway, is Woohlpooer. From this point the Glenelg River Rd heads east off the highway and into Grampians National Park. About 12 km from the highway there is a carpark on the roadside. Nearby is a small campground (due to be phased out) and the starting point for the walk and climb to the top of the rock stack known as the Chimney Pots. 5.6 km return it is strenuous with some ill-defined sections (make sure you have a map).
The small Strachans Campground is situated on an old mill site, beside a creek, about 8 km past the Chimney Pots on the Glenelg River Rd.
About 13 km north of Woohlpooer along the Henty Highway, just south of Glenisla, is another turnoff which heads east into the National Park to the large and very attractive Buandik Campground, located in a forested area on Billimina Creek. There are several Aboriginal art sites in the area. One can be accessed from the Billamina Track (40 minutes return) which is signposted from the campground while the other is at the end of the Manja Track (2.6 km return) which begins from the roadside just beyond the campground. If you ascend another 20 metres after reaching the art site there are excellent views of theVictoria Range.
Rocklands Reservoir and Black Range State Park
Rocklands Reservoir (a part of the Wimmera-Mallee irrigation system) is the major local attraction. This popular fishing and boating area, to the east of Balmoral, is surrounded by state forests and there are a number of camping areas situated amidst open box woodland on the foreshore of the reservoir. The park boasts masses of wildflowers, Aboriginal rock art, colourful bluffs and fine views. There are walking tracks and picnic areas and bush camping is permitted away from designated areas. It is usually a good spot for boating, waterskiing, sailing, swimming and fishing (for redfin and trout). Most fish are obtained by boat but there are many submerged logs so care is essential. For further information relating to bushwalking, maps or regulations concerning fishing, boating and bush camping contact Parks Victoria's info-line (131 963) or the local office on (03) 5574 2308.
On the eastern shore of Rocklands Reservoir is the Hynes camping reserve, located at the end of Hynes Rd which heads west from the small township of Glenisla on the Henty Highway, 66 km north of Hamilton. It has powered caravan sites, a toilet block, hot showers, an electric barbecue and a boat ramp.
14 km north of Glenisla on the Henty Highway is Cherrypool. Cherrypool Road (surfaced but unsealed) heads west through Black Range State Park and by Rocklands Reservoir.
About 6 km along this road is a turnoff on the right into Black Range Road. After about 7 km turn left into Rees Rd and it is about 2.5 km to the Black Range Picnic Ground. You can undertake the walking trail to the top of Black Range, from whence there are excellent views then follow the trail south along the range and turn left into Muirfoot Track. 1.5 km along this road, to the right, is the start of a walking trail that leads to Mount Byron.
The attractions outlined in the previous paragraph can also be accessed by continuing along Cherrypool Rd. About 11 km from the Henty Highway take the turnoff on the right which leads directly into Muirfoot Track (a 4WD vehicular track closed to traffic from July to September). About 5 km along (after passing through a gate which you must close behind you), on the left-hand side of the road, is the start of the trail to Mt Byron. 1.5 km further along Muirfoot Track, on the right-hand side of the road, is the start of the walk to the Black Range Picnic Ground.
8 km further south along Cherrypool Road is the Mountain Dam Camping Area which is located on the reservoir foreshore. It has fireplaces, toilets, a boat ramp and picnic facilities. Cherrypool Road now veers west. After 7 km there is a turnoff on the left to Brodies Camping Area on the reservoir foreshore. Five more kilometres brings you to an intersection. Take the signposted right for Spillway Caravan and Camping Park (tel: 03 5570 1438) and the dam wall where there is a boat ramp; proceed straight ahead along Rocklands Road to Balmoral; or turn left into East Telangatuk Road (see entry on Balmoral).
Rocklands Reservoir and Grampians State Forest
44 km north of Hamilton on the Henty Highway is a turnoff on the left into East West Road. 5 km along here is a turnoff on the right into a 4WD track which leads to Lookout Hill, a fossicking reserve and ultimately on to Henrys and Fergusons camping areas on the foreshore of Rocklands Reservoir. The latter has fireplaces, toilets, picnic facilities and a boat ramp. These two campsites can be more directly reached by turning off the Henty Highway at the tiny settlement of Woohlpooer, 51 km north of Hamilton. Head west along the 4WD track for just over 2 km then veer right into Craigs Road. After 1 km take the left then, after a further 2.5 km, veer right again. After about two more kilometres there is a turnoff on the left for Henrys or just stay on the main track which leads to Fergusons.