Magazine (1864), McIvor Range Reserve,
Rural service centre at the foot of Mount
Heathcote, at the foot of Mt Ida, is situated
amidst attractive bushland beside McIvor Creek,
109 km north of Melbourne via the Northern
Highway, 47 km south-east of Bendigo and 220 m
above sea-level. Its population is about 1800.
The principal products of the district are wool,
timber, cattle, honey and wine.
Heathcote is clustered around High St (the
Northern Highway) which presents an interesting
and diverse streetscape of old shopfronts,
hotels, churches, some distinguished homes and
the post office. The trees which line the main
street and the plantation at Queens Meadow were
planted in the 19th century on the advice of
Baron von Mueller who made a significant
contribution to Melbourne's Royal Botanic
A number of prehistoric quarry sites have
been found at Mt Camel Range, to the north of
Heathcote, providing evidence of ancient
Aboriginal associations with the land. It is
thought that the Wuywurrung Aborigines inhabited
the district prior to white settlement.
The first Europeans in the area were the
exploratory party of Major Mitchell who passed
through in 1836. Mitchell named McIvor Creek
after a member of his party and this title was
later applied to the shire.
Pastoralists soon moved into the area and a
track (with a couple of roadside inns) developed
through what would later become the townsite,
along which produce was carted to and from the
northern sheep stations.
However, the town itself developed on the
back of a series of goldrushes along McIvor
Creek which commenced in 1851. One of the major
strikes (1852) was at Golden Gully (behind
Heathcote's old courthouse). By 1855 the
alluvial gold was running out and reef mining
had commenced. Consequently, the population
dropped to about 6000 by 1860 as ex-miners took
up land or began timbergetting in the forests -
an industry much aided by the arrival off the
railway later in the century.
The town was apparently named by Lord
Heathcote; not in honour of himself but because
of the quantities of heath growing in the
district - if that is plausible.
At the peak of the goldrushes there were
allegedly 35 000 people, largely housed in tents
and shanties on the fields. 3000 Chinese walked
to the diggings from Robe in South Australia
where they had disembarked to avoid paying a tax
levied upon Chinese disembarking at Victoria.
There were also three breweries, 22 hotels, two
flour mills, reflecting the emergence of
wheat-cultivation in the district, a bacon
factory, a hospital and several wineries.
Although the population remained steady until
the 1880s it was down to 1090 by 1891 as gold
reserves dwindled. Other local mining
communities were Balmoral (later known as 'Redcastle')
which once had 17 000 people but ceased to exist
when mining ended around 1910. Costerfield, 12
km north-east, once employed 700 men but closed
down in 1925. At one time it produced 92 per
cent of the state's antimony. Greytown, 30 km
north-east, allegedly had 60 000 on its fields
but was short-lived.
In 1910 the Duigan brothers made Australian
aviation history when they built and flew the
first Australian-made aircraft at Mia Mia, 18 km
south-west of town. However, the achievement
must be kept in perspective. The contraption
lifted off the ground for a total of seven
The Heathcote Bush Market is held on the
first Saturday of the month in the centre of
town. There is a Bush Carnival at Heathcote
Showgrounds (at the corner of Cauldwell and
Chauncey Sts) in September with fun activities,
a bush market, pony and horse rides, live
country music and family games. The Golden Grape
Festival occurs in October and the agricultural
show in November.
Things to see:
The town's information centre is located at the
corner of High and Barrack Sts. It is open from
9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily, tel: (03) 5433
McIvor Range Reserve
From the information centre you can walk along
Barrack St past Lions Park and the swimming
pool, over McIvor Creek (a good fishing spot).
Take the signposted right turn past Queens
Meadow (where you will find a caravan park in a
forest setting) and the Valley of the
Liquidambers to the reserve.
Within Range Reserve is the old powder magazine
which was built in 1864 to store gunpowder used
in gold mining and quarrying. The fine stonework
is a notable feature and it is considered a rare
example of its type.
A track leads past the powder magazine to
Viewing Rock, a rocky outcrop which offers
expansive views of the town and area. A more
direct but arduous route is past the Scout Hall.
Another track in the reserve leads to Devil's
Cave, occupied by prospectors as far back as
1864. It leads up a gentle incline through a
forest. The route is signposted from the Valley
of the Liquidambers. There are some good views
of the town en route and wildflowers in season.
Camp Hill Gaol
The town's original gaol was built in 1853 but a
breakout in 1859 led the commissioner of police
to order a new structure and Camp Hill Gaol
(1861) was the result. It is located opposite
the corner of Barrack and Hospital Sts.
Adjacent is the hospital. The original section
was built of sandstone in 1859.
Pink Cliffs Rd runs off Hospital St. It leads
past deep canyons and gorges which were created
by sluice mining in the gold days. The colours
of the cliffs range from bright pink to yellow
and golden ochre. There are a number of paths
through the reserve and a picnic area.
Mount Ida Lookout
At the northern edge of town the Northern
Highway branches off to the right, heading north
to Elmore. Along here is a signpost directing
you along a good gravel road to the Mt Ida
Lookout (450 m) which offers excellent views of
Where the Northern Highway branches off, the
main road continues north-west to Bendigo as the
McIvor Highway which leads right by the eastern
shore of Lake Eppalock, the state's
fourth-largest reservoir with a dam wall
measuring 700 m long and 50 m high. Eppalock was
built for irrigation and flood-control purposes
and has been developed as a recreation area. The
Moorabbee Foreshore Rd offers fine views of the
Derrinal Pool which is popular with anglers,
swimmers, yachting enthusiasts and
power-boaters. There is a boat ramp as well as
toilets and dressing sheds.
The Central Victorian Yabby Farm is located 3 km
south of Heathcote on the Northern Highway. You
can investigate how they are farmed or buy some,
tel: (03) 5433 2332.
On the Mia Mia-Lancefield Rd, west of town, is a
memorial which commemorates the occasion in 1910
when the Duigan brothers built and flew the
first Australian-made aircraft.
Heathcote Winery, established in 1978, is
located at the northern end of town (185 High
St). It produces viognier, chardonnay, shiraz
and the Seventh Horse Range and is housed in an
old Cobb & Co coaching house and miner's store
(c.1850s). The cellar door is open from 10.00
a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Thursday to Sunday, tel: (03)
One kilometre north along the highway is Zuber
Estate, established in 1971. It produces shiraz,
cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and chardonnay
and is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.,
tel: (03) 5433 2142.
Head north along the highway for another 5 km
then turn left into Drummonds Lane. Along here
is Jasper Hill which was established in 1975. It
produces shiraz and riesling and is open on
weekends from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., between
August and October, when the wines are released.
At other times ring before making a visit, tel:
(03) 5433 2528.
Return to the highway and continue north for
another kilometre turning left into Tunnecliffs
Lane for Huntleigh Vineyards which was
established in 1975. It produces dry red and
white wines including cabernet sauvignon,
shiraz, traminer and riesling. The cellar door
is open weekends, public holidays and most
weekdays from 10.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., tel: (03)
Wild Duck Creek Estate
Wild Duck Creek Estate is located 5 km west of
town in Spring Flat Rd. It produces a cabernet
bordeaux blend, a shiraz and a merlot and the
cellar door is open from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.
on weekends and, with prior arrangement, on
weekdays, tel: (03) 5433 3133.
Eppalock Ridge Vineyards, established in 1976,
is located west of Heathcote near Lake Eppalock
in North Redesdale Rd (on the Coliban River). It
produces rich, full-flavoured red wines and is
open from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. daily but be
sure to ring first (a) to make sure they know
you're coming and (b) to obtain directions, tel:
(03) 5425 3135.
Osicka Wines, established in 1955, is noted for
its award-winning reds and port. It is 24 km
east off the Heathcote-Nagambie Rd and is open
from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. every day but
Sunday when the hours are 12.00 p.m. to 5.00
p.m., tel: (03) 5794 9235.
Munari Wines, established in 1992, is 13 km
north of Heathcote at the corner of the Northern
Highway and Schoolhouse Lane. It produces
shiraz, a cabernet blend, chardonnay, riesling
and traminer. The cellar door is open from 10.00
a.m. to 5.30 p.m. weekends and, by appointment,
on weekdays, tel: (03) 5433 3366.
Further north, at 290 Cornella Road, Toolleen,
is Barnadown Run which produces six varieties of
red and white wine. It is open weekends from
10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and, by appointment,
from Tuesday to Friday, tel: (015) 321 404.