The charming little villages of Clunes found itself on the world stage way back in 1851, when it was at the heart of a gold rush that made Australia – briefly – the wealthiest country on earth.
Few towns in Australia – or the world for that matter – have preserved the beautiful mid-1800s streetscapes, and retained the small-town charm that city-dwellers dream of, as Clunes has.
It’s a small place, but every time I go, it has a bit of bustle about it. People don’t just acknowledge you on the sidewalk; they greet you. Locals come into grab a coffee at the stunning Quigley & Clarke, grandparents stock up on lollies for the grandkids at the beautiful Widow Twankeys Confectionery Emporium, and across the road, visitors are gazing at the stunning artwork in Red Door Gallery. Personally, I quite enjoy having a cold pot of beer at the classic country pub, the National Hotel.
Many people have heard of Clunes because of its long-running annual book fair, Booktown. Every year some 20,000 people descend on this small town to hear author talks and panel discussions, and to browse rare and collectible books. Food, wine and music create a buzzy backdrop. But it’s a book town year-round, with a number of bookshops having been established for many years, and the ‘Booktown on Sundays’ gives bibliophiles a reason to come, every weekend.
Even the less literary amongst us will be familiar with Clunes. It is famous for being featured as a set in the original Mad Max film, and many hit TV series have had parts of their productions filmed here. It’s just that authentic.
There are great nature walks, fantastic farmers markets both here, and in the equally-charming village of Talbot, and all sorts of charming accommodation options.
Only an hour and a bit from Melbourne, Clunes provides a great respite from city life.
Clunes Farmer’s Market is held on the second Sunday of every month
Talbot Farmer’s Market is held every third Sunday
Booktown is early May every year – this year it's held on May 2-3
Check clunesbooktown.com.au for details of ‘Booktown on Sundays’
More information is available here:
Photography: Aldona Kmieć