If you’ve set up base in Portland for your summer holiday, you should know that there are some great inland day trips you can take to mix up your time in Victoria’s south west.
For instance, Casterton is just over an hour from Portland. When driving there, you’ll see vast farmlands, forests and hills – and even the famous Grampians mountain range in the distance.
You may know Casterton as being in one of Victoria’s oldest sheep and cattle farming districts and home to the kelpie dog breed.
Today, the town is definitely still all that, but has kept up with the times in terms of food, shopping and enhancing the visitor experience so they can learn about the rich local history.
Worth noting: Casterton is roughly half way between Melbourne and Adelaide, so if you’re planning an annual family gathering, this is the ideal location to meet, with everything you need!
On the way to Casterton (from Portland), stop at the little farming town of Merino for a look. The Drovers’ Nightmare sculpture is at the starting point of the Merino Old Stock Route Walking Trail, which is one of the oldest in Victoria, and still in use. There are old photos along the trail that tell the story about significant sites, which are a fascinating part of Australia’s stock farming history.
Casterton might be a small provincial town, but the quality of food and shopping is right up there with the best!
Award-wining Say Grace Cafe and Bistro on Henty Street is just one of the places where you can enjoy good coffee and home-made meals and snacks; many made with local produce. Mel, Bruno and their team are great hosts, and the cafe stocks some great take-home goodies.
Wander down the main street and browse the antique and second-hand shops, old and new book shops and art and leadlight galleries. There are also some great fashion and specialty stores.
Casterton is known as the birthplace of the kelpie, and this story is told at the impressive Australian Kelpie Centre via an interpretive display. In this building you’ll also find the local Visitor Information Centre and amenities. If you want to see these highly intelligent working dogs in action, the Australian Kelpie Muster is held each June.
Tip: the Centre is on the Kelpie Trail, which is an easy walk around town and features interpretive signage and sculptures. There are three routes: through the town; along the historic railway precinct; and along the Glenelg River.
Get up to Mickle Lookout and whip out your camera for a prime photo opportunity of the town’s historic main street.
The view back from the main street is also interesting, with the ‘Fleur De Lys’ (Scout Emblem) carved into the side of the hill. The emblem is 91 metres in circumference.
Ess Lagoon is only a five minute walk to the main street of Casterton. It’s a peaceful place where you can throw in the fishing rod and hopefully catch a trout for dinner.
If you have another day up your sleeve, head to the Wilkin Flora and Fauna Reserve, which covers total of 3,600 hectares. Popular with four-wheel drive enthusiasts, the tracks are still suitable for two wheel drive. You’ll get to see lots of beautiful natural attractions like:
– Wildflowers in spring (including native orchids)
– Mill Swamp
– Birds like Magpie Geese, Blue-billed Ducks, Dusky Woodswallows, Brolgas and the endangered Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo.
The Reserve is accessible via the Glenelg Highway between Strathdownie and Casterton.
Tip: Mill Swamp is a free camp area, but visit the Parks Victoria website prior to your visit to check conditions.
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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.