One of my favorite places in all of Victoria is without a doubt the small hamlet of Harrietville in northeast Victoria. Harrietville is not a major tourist attraction and most Victorians probably would not even recognize the name of this town, but I have spent more weekends in the Harrietville area then I have in any other part of the state since I moved to Australia two years ago.
I like this area because it is the closest I can get to feeling like I am back in my home state of Colorado due to the town being located at the base Victorian Alps:
The most beautiful mountain in all of Victoria, the 1,922 meter high Mt. Feathertop rises dramatically over the town:
The best views of Mt. Feathertop can be seen from the east of town where the mountain is at its most spectacular:
Harrietville is located along the Great Alpine Road which is one of the best drives in the entire country.
Harrietville also just happens to be the last town in the Ovens Valley that the Great Alpine Road passes through before it begins its steep ascent up the Victorian Alps and to the Mt. Hotham Ski Resort:
The ski resort is what brings many of the tourist that do come this town during the winter season. The town has a ski shop and plenty of accommodation to support people looking for a place to stay off the mountain:
Besides skiing Harrietville is really a great bushwalking destination as well. Quite possibly the best hike in all of Victoria and one of the greatest in all of Australia is located on the mountain slopes on the outskirts of Harrietville. The Razorback Trail is featured in every major hiking guidebook of Australia and rightfully so with its stunning views of the Victorian Alps:
There is much more to the town then just the ski season and bushwalking though. The town also has an interesting history that began first with aboriginals that used to pass through this area during the summer on their way up to the high country to eat Bogong moths. The Bogong moths are large moths that frequent the high country only in the summer months that the aborigines viewed as a delicacy of sorts. Aborigines however never called the upper regions of the Ovens Valley home.
The first European to settle this area was a man named William Buckland who was giving grazing rights over a large portion of the Ovens Valley. A few years later in 1852 gold prospectors made their way up the valley as they panned the Ovens River:
A mining settlement that was called Germantown at the time was established in the area. A year later famous botanist Baron Ferdinand Von Mueller passed through the area on a government sponsored trip to do a scientific survey of the area. By 1863 grazers had discovered the Bogong high plains above the town and began driving cattle up there during the winter to graze.
By 1876 the settlement had reached its mining peak as the alluvial gold ran out and large mining operations were launched. More labor was needed to work in the mines which brought many Chinese migrants to the settlement. The settlement grew so big that it could support a school filled with 350 children:
In 1879 the Germantown settlement had grown enough to where it was officially proclaimed a town and dubbed Harrietville. Eventually the gold would run out and the town would shrink in size and what remained centered around the cattle industry that was still bringing stock up to the high country every summer as well as the logging industry:
The logging industry advanced to where locomotives were even used to pull trees from off the mountains:
Mills used water power from the Ovens River to keep their operations going:
Fortunately today Harrietville is no longer a logging area with the town surrounded by beautiful swaths of gum trees:
For those interested in learning more about Harrietville’s history the town has a small museum dedicated to presenting the town’s history that is worth taking some time to check out:
Much of the towns historical past can still be seen today as Harrietville is littered with historical buildings such as this church:
Not everything is historical in Harrietville though as many bed and breakfasts and hotels can be found in town as well as many new homes that various real estate companies have for sale:
It appears I’m definitely not the only one who has discovered the charm of Harrietville judging by the new homes going up, but this is definitely a place I wouldn’t mind owning a home at one day myself.
If driving up the Great Alpine Road it is definitely worth spending a day in Harrietville to enjoy the small town atmosphere and spectacular scenery. For those into bushwalking, no trip to Victoria would be complete without hiking the Razorback Trail. Finally for those into skiing Mt. Hotham is the best area in Victoria for skiing as well. So no matter how you enjoy the area the important thing is get out and experience this great part of Victoria.