Weekend getaways with kids around Melbourne. Every family holiday planner in Victoria should include at least a day trip out to Beechworth, a town in northern Victoria with a great reputation as a family holiday destination. The heritage town boasts a gorgeous streetscape of shops and restaurants that all maintain a country escape feel. Just outside of town there are farm stays, wineries and cycling trails. For a taster of just how pretty regional Australia can be, don’t miss Beechworth.
The Destination – Beechworth With Kids
Wrought ironwork, old fashioned signs, preserved heritage buildings, vintage cars and high street shops of yesteryear; these are the things that give Beechworth its charm and make it such a drawcard for locals doing family weekend getaways.
All along the streets the heritage theme has been maintained and there are signs everywhere acknowledging the history of the region and listing shop owners, former business tenants and how the landscape has changed over time.
Even just stopping here for a couple of hours is delightful. Purchase an ice cream and wander looking in shop windows, exploring curio and antique stores or having a cold glass of local wine or beer as the children play in the sunshine. Beechworth with kids is a delightful reminder of the peacefulness of country living from a time long forgotten.
Beechworth is conveniently located in the heart of some of the most famous parts of regional Victoria. It is only a short drive from Rutherglen, Chiltern and Wodonga and it also makes for a nice side tour on the way from Melbourne to Sydney or vica versa.
The Activities in Beechworth With Kids
Ask most Victorians why you should visit Beechworth with kids and the first answer will usually be: Beechworth Bakery. What makes this bakery so famous is the quaint, old fashioned feel about it. There are loads of baked goods from hot pies and sausage rolls to desserts, pastries and lots of cookies and bread. The bakery is quite large and there is plenty of seating upstairs (which includes a small play pen area for kids) but it gets extremely crowded on weekends and, in these conditions, can be quite hard to move around inside with a stroller.
The other very proud success story of the town is Beechworth Honey which sells all different types of flavoured honey from chocolate to lemon myrtle to ginger. While you can purchase a limited range of standard Beechworth Honey products in most supermarkets around Australia, it is only in Beechworth proper that you can actually taste the more interesting varieties.
Confusingly there are two Beechworth Honey buildings in town quite close to each other. The Beechworth Honey Experience is a retail shop where you can actually sample all the different varieties of honey and buy lots of bee and honey-themed paraphernalia including toys, clothes, candles and soft drinks. There is a free tour to show visitors about the process of making honey but, unless your children show a particular fascination for honey making, the tour can be a bit tiresome for young kids.
The Beechworth Honey Discovery is more of a café combined with bee museum. You can still buy and sample some products here too. As well as sitting down for a honey inspired meal, there are a couple of bee displays the kids can check out and a small outdoor area where kids can play (BYO toys).
Another place you must spend at least a few minutes is the Golden Era Garage (34 Ford St., Beechworth, Victoria, Australia, +61 3 5728 1272 ) on Ford Street.
This is an actual operational garage doing vehicular repairs and towing (they don’t sell petrol) but what’s really charming for kids is the sheer volume of vintage cars (toy and actual) on the property. After you’ve admired the trucks outside, head inside to see the walls lined with toys vehicles and the miniature model sawmill on display.
This is a personal collection, not a museum, so while there is no charge to simply go and take a look, it is pleasant and polite to have a chat to the friendly owner and collector Ian Downs.
If you really want to get into the olden days vibe of Beechworth with kids take a ride around town in a horse drawn carriage. Beechworth Carriages operates most weekends and school holidays and rides take about 15 minutes.
If you think your kids are old enough to enjoy being frightened, book a Beechworth Ghost Tour of the old Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum. The guided walking tours take you through much of the empty, abandoned asylum including the cells and surgical rooms and are accompanied by paranormal story telling. Because of the nature of the ghost tours, they are not suitable for kids under 8. For the faint hearted they also offer shorter 90 minute day tours which are a little less daunting for kids. The tours do involve some stairs so they are not stroller friendly.
Beechworth is home to several small local vineyards where you can drop into the cellar doors for tastings. A particularly notable experience is the Indigo Vineyard wine flight where you sit down for an hour to a guided tasting of the cellar door range. To avoid driving with kids afterwards, book into their family friendly accommodation homestead on site.
If it’s too much to expect your kids to sit still through a wine tasting, the Beechworth Provender is a combination café and providore that has a comprehensive selection of local wines you can purchase to take home with you.
If you prefer to exercise while travelling then bring your bikes and do some cycling with kids. Beechworth is part of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail which is sealed and offers some pretty sights along the way. Alternatively if you are a more intrepid family, opt for the Beechworth Mountain Bike Park on Alma Road that includes a cross country circuit suitable for all ages.
Food in Beechworth With Kids
Apart from the obvious and practically compulsory stop at Beechworth Bakery, there are plenty of places to sit down in Beechworth for afternoon tea or a decent meal.
Perhaps the most relaxing of these for adults and kids is the Bridge Road Brewers. Walk down an alleyway and it opens up into a pleasant courtyard with playground, live entertainment some weekends and is a friendly space where families can spend several hours sampling the local beers and ordering pizzas in the sun.
The nearby Stanley Pub (just outside of town but a close drive away) is another pleasant venue to visit with kids. The menu is a good mix of café and counter meal and it has an enclosed grass patch with a few tables outside, a good climbing tree and colouring in utensils are available.
If you are after a special meal out, don’t miss a booking at Provenance restaurant, ranked by food critics as one of the best in Australia. The menu is modern with hints of Asian flavour but it is definitely fine dining so not really suitable for young children. Provenance also has accommodation on site behind the restaurant if you want to hire a babysitter while you eat dinner.
Shopping in Beechworth With Kids
The main attraction in Beechworth is walking down the promenade, so all along Beechworth’s main street there are plenty of stores to keep little ones occupied. The Beechworth Sweet Co. is a gorgeous traditional style candy store with jars lining the walls full of nostalgic boiled sweets and homemade fudges. There is a display area in the front window where you can watch lollies being freshly made and there are some fun toys also available for purchase.
Bang! stocks cool retro interiors, funky nightlights, giant hamburger bean bags and funky portable record turntables perfect for decorating kids rooms.
In keeping with the vintage theme of Beechworth, Beechworth Toys and Collectables has some pretty heirloom toys and country-inspired décor items for kids.
You can also get second hand Australiana and other children’s book at the Quercus Community Bookshop housed in the Beechworth Neighbourhood Centre.
Family Friendly Accommodation in Beechworth With Kids
About 10 minutes drive out of Beechworth are the two cabins and one cottage that make up Mount Pilot Tourist Farm. Farm stays in Victoria for kids are popular with local families because they allow kids to interact with animals in a rural and relaxing setting and Mount Pilot is no different. Here there are pony rides and farm animal interactions for the kids included in the accommodation price. On top of that kids can go on hay rides, motorbikes, go horse riding or roast marshmallows in the barbeque area. The accommodation is also pet friendly.
For a bit of a novelty, about 45 minutes drive from Beechworth is the quirky family friendly accommodation called Running Creek Castle. This bed and breakfast really is as it sounds – it’s a purpose built themed castle set overlooking a beautiful creek in a quiet rural setting. Despite its distance from Beechworth, this is worth considering if your kids are really into playing knights and princesses as the building is an odd but interesting mixture of turrets, stained glass windows and many other medieval architectural features. Plus there is a pool, playground and sandpit.
Images: suitcases&strollers, Ewan Bell, Gavin Hansford, Roberto Seba, Running Creek Castle, Visions of Victoria