Harcourt has long been known for its delicious apples and is regarded as mainland Australia’s apple epicentre. It is great to visit year-round, but we recommend timing your visit with the Applefest in March to celebrate all the simple pleasures from this special spot.

Biting into a crisp, recently plucked apple, with a resounding cracky-crunch sound is one of life’s simple pleasures.  Almost as wonderful as that first sip of ice-cold apple cider after a long, hot day.  Harcourt has long been known for its delicious apples and is regarded as mainland Australia’s apple epicentre. Each year on the March Labour Day long weekend the town celebrates the late summer apple harvest with the Harcourt Applefest, home to local produce, music concerts and friendly sporting contests.

Apples are lovely, but quality dry apple cider is even lovelier, and Henry of Harcourt, Harcourt Perry & Cider Makers, and Bress are outstanding producers.  Bress also has a range of exceptional wines, and no small number of bottles of Bress chardonnay and pinot has been consumed at my house over the years.  There are several other great wine producers, with Harcourt Valley Vineyards, established back in the 1970s, having won countless awards and trophies over the years, and Blackjack Wines also being highly regarded.

Sitting around drinking wine and cider all day is best reserved for special occasions, so I find that balancing a decadent life with a bit of nature and exercise is less guilt-inducing.  Fortunately, Harcourt has lots to offer here too.  Most notable is the famed Goldfields Track, an epic walk/ride stretching from Ballarat to Bendigo and passing through Harcourt.  You can quite easily ride from Castlemaine to Harcourt, then park the bike and pop into Goldfields Track Café or Blumes Historic Bakery, with its locally-built 143 year old Scotch Oven, for a snack.  A short ride from town will take adventurous mountain bikers to La Larr Ba Gauwa  Mountain bike park. Here, riders can tackle world-class mountain bike trails, but there are plenty of ‘green’ rated trails for kids and beginners as well.

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Bress Vineyard, Harcourt North

The Dja Dja Wurrung people are the Traditional Owners of the area, and La Larr Ba Gauwa means ‘stones and mountain’ in Dja Dja Wurrung language. Harcourt’s granite stone is widely used through Australia for soldier memorials and headstones and Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra in bedecked with Harcourt granite.  The Dja Dja Wurrung lived in the region for between 600 and 800 generations. The Liarga Balug and Gal Gal Gundidj clans both camped, hunted and gathered their food in the valley. Many old trees in the areas are scarred from when they removed bark for practical use.

Sadly, the indigenous way of life was changed forever, not long after European settlement.  Harcourt was in the thick of the gold rush, and that account of the town’s history needs its own story told.  However, it is worth mentioning one infamous local from days gone by. Notorious bushranger ‘Mad Dog’ Morgan, who was arrested for the first time at Barker’s Creek (just to the south-west of town) was known as ‘the most bloodthirsty ruffian that ever took to the bush in Australia’. Mad Dog usually plied his nefarious trade solo, however, he did have several accomplices over the years, and one, named ‘German Bill’, was caught with Mad Dog in a shoot out with the authorities. Thinking laterally, Mad Dog shot his Germanic accomplice to create a diversion and escaped. Should you wish to learn more about Mad Dog Morgan, check out the eponymous film, starring Dennis Hopper, Jack Thompson and David Gulpilil.

Harcourt is great to visit year-round, but we recommend timing your visit with the Applefest in March.


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About the author

Steve Wroe, Daylesford Macedon Tourism
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Steve’s passion for mountain biking takes him all around our region. He lives in Daylesford with his wife, two young girls and three chickens. On most weekends, he and his family explore; either piling into the car and taking a drive to a small town, or putting on the hiking boots and going for a bushwalk. Steve is a big believer in the benefits of rural living and loves introducing his girls to the history, culture and nature of the region. Occasionally they take their bantam chook, Lulu, on their adventures.