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Destination Beechworth Australia; Mayberry in the Land Down Under

By Glenn Harris on 13th November 2018

Many of us remember Mayberry as Smalltown USA where everyone knows each other, it’s safe and friendly, and where there is a cast of characters that make the small town as interesting as any big city. There’s a place down under like that that’s become a sought after tourism destination where although you won’t find Sheriff Andy, Barney Fife or Aunt Bea, you will find colorful small town people who are just as warm and friendly and who couldn’t be more welcoming.

The town of Beechworth is a well preserved town and, other than the paved roads and fancy cars, looks just like it did back in the early 1900s. The town is well preserved with signage and architecture and buildings that look just as they did when this was the most affluent town in Australia as a result of the gold rush of the 1850’s. This town is also renowned for some not-so-nice characters such as their version of Billy the Kid, Ned Kelly, who was a marauder and famous tenant of their jail for a number of years.

This is a town where guests really soak up the Australia of yesteryear and also have a chance to rub elbows with some of the current colorful characters that are part of the town’s population of just under 3,000 inhabitants. Up and down the town’s three main roads are a mix of quaint small town bistros, boutiques, and artisan shops selling crafts, curios and keepsakes. There is one of the town’s most famous exports, Beechworth Bakery selling some of Australia’s most loved cakes and tasty pot pies, as well as the ice cream shops and a Bee farm.

For such a small town they have a number of wonderful places to fill up as well as to rest one’s head after a day of exploring and conquering comes to a close.

The Finches of Beechworth is perfect for a stay in Beechworth. Margo and Peter  are the innkeepers who take time out to chat and see how your day is going and to recommend the best spot in town for dinner, for a tour, or where to bend an elbow with locals. Each evening they have a nice surprise where guests gather for local artisan snacks and local wine and a chance to catch up for advice from Margo and Peter or to share the day’s adventures with other guests.

The B&B offers a welcoming stay with personalized hospitality, exquisite décor and uber comfortable accommodations.  The Finches B&B is absolutely stunning with a perfect restoration of a turn of the century Victorian home with a wide wrap around veranda, outdoor gardens with beautiful roses and flower beds,  a gurgling water fountain and refreshing swimming pool.

Margo’s previous life as an interior designer is evident in the decadent interior color palate, crystal chandeliers, chic objects d’art, and sexy wall hangings that create a treat for the eyes as well as a warm place to relax and reconnect with a loved one. Breakfast is scrumptious as well, with Margo’s delicious homemade treats and a full hot brekkie. This is one place to rate as a perfect 10 if there was such a thing on Trip Advisor, although it does regularly garnish top B&B awards on Trip Advisors and other purveyors of luxury hotels.

The Graces of Beechworth is a luxurious B&B located just a block away from the sleepy center of town where their version of a traffic jam is when three cars are in the roundabout at the same time. It is next to the one of the towns many magnificent churches and the feeling of  serenity and peace clearly is part of the experience. Elaine is the proprietor of this exquisite B&B where you can expect the finest of details in the décor, hospitality, and the experience.

After entering through  the Victorian garden, the interiors are elegant and detailed with a collection of beautiful collectables, Monet prints and lavish furnishings with gilded finishes. The décor is French provincial meets British high street with antiques and sophisticated touches with dentelle fringed cloth napkins, table cloths and a lovely collection of tea service cups and silverware.

There are only four rooms which is enough for Elaine to provide her warm touches and personalized attention.  This is her home so you feel that as she welcomes guests to stay, providing a wonderful full breakfast with local artisan cheeses, meats, honey, as well as some wonderful treats of her own that she provides each day.

Beechworth may not be the ideal place a night out on the town with your  sequin dress or Armani suit, but if you’ve got a pair of RM Williams boots and some jeans, there are plenty of places to fill up and have a less fancy type of good time.

The Press Room is one of those places with the owners as colorful and “exotic” as the rustic Catalonian style interior décor of their town-favorite Spanish Tapas and Wine Bar restaurant. This a cozy and intimate quaint eatery with only about 20 tables yet is always lively and fun with a lot of laughter and groups of friends out to dinner. Mike, the funny , jocular host and owner, is normally at the bar whipping up some really delicious cocktails or regaling in some funny joke or story.

It is a Spanish tapas restaurant, but don’t think small plates. This is about sharing of food and conversation and engaging with your group of friends or loved one. What it is not is the type of place to check your Instagram or Facebook page in the middle of dinner. It is about talking, laughing , drinking good local wine and eating what the owner, Heather, Mike’s other half,  has put together for the evenings exceptional menu.  Expect a fun night out with dishes like their well spiced Chargrilled Lamb Rump, hummus, pomegranate & tomato medley, oregano or the  Port Arlington Mussels in chilli & garlic sauce w/ warm sourdough.

In the center of town is where you’ll find the Ox and Hound  which is a town hotspot with a clean and country chic interior. It’s in a storefront along the main strip between the historic buildings and boutique shoppes that make Beechworth worthy of your visit.

The restaurant is exclusive not so much out of snobbery but because they only have 11 tables. As such, they are full most days of the week during dinner so if you don’t make a reservation, don’t blame them, blame yourself.  And they are full with good reason. The food is delicious with mainly haute Italian bistro cuisine  with dishes like handmade chestnut fettuccini with local wild rabbit in a Nebbiolo red wine braise and for the main you cannot go wrong with the grass fed Victorian eye fillet ,carrots glazed, pureed and crisp.

For a sweet ending the legendary honey pannacotta with  cinder toffee, fresh honey, lemon curd ice cream is of legend throughout the town and with good reason. The evening is made all the more enjoyable with a friendly, knowledgeable staff that are quick to share the special of the day as well as make the perfect wine pairing.

One of the town’s tasty dinner options is the Empire Hotel which was once a dilapidated old 19th century hotel that is now newly renovated and arguably the coolest spot in town with a thriving bar scene with good food, cocktails and entertainment.

The cellar room is a fine dining  experience offering gourmet cuisine from their talented chef who creates a wide range of dishes from what she finds available from local producers nearby. The menu changes quarterly based on her inspiration and often has Asian fusion dishes such as the Snapper, tamarind broth, ginger flower, jasmine ice or Italian influences such as the rabbit ravolo.

Australia and this region in particular is where you’ll find some of the worlds top wines. This region is known for their cool weather Shiraz and Chardonnays. It’s often hard to find some of Australia’s best wines overseas because they pretty much drink it all there, so when you’re in Australia you’ll want to snap up few bottles for dinner and a few to take back home.

One boutique winery that seems to make just enough to keep Beechworth stocked with his limited production is  Barmutha Wines. Like many of Australia’s family run, mom and pop wineries, this one is run by a home grown do-it-yourselfer.

Vinnie is a colorful character who you’ll see buzzing around town in his 1964 Holden Camino with a wine barrel in the back and a delivery of his exclusively produced Shiraz and Chardonnay. He’s also happy to bring a fortunate guest or two to his vineyard and winery for a couple of hours of talking and sampling wine in his retro rustic tin shack indicative of the style of cabins from the area’s goldminers of 200 years ago. He’s happy to talk shop about his last harvest while swirling and sipping and enjoying some of his homemade salami. It doesn’t get much better than that; drinking wine in the old shed of the wine maker, talking about wine, nibbling on local cheese and his salami and just shooting the breeze in a quaint little winery in the hills outside of Beechworth.

The entire Beechworth area is breathtaking, surrounded by farms and mountains. Aside from that, there’s a lovely lake to explore in town as well as plenty of nearby trails to hike and take in the beautiful nature of the area.

For those visiting Melbourne, don’t just stay there. Travel outside and see some of these charming gold belt towns north of the city. Beechworth is one of the most well preserved and has an interesting story beyond worthy of three or four days experiencing this town full of wonderful characters and places to visit.