Picturesquely located on the banks of the Barwon River, Winchelsea is a rural town steeped in history and surrounded by the fertile farmland of Victoria s Western District. The National Trust homestead, Barwon Park, at Winchelsea, is where rabbits were first introduced to Australia.
Location: 37 km west of Geelong on the Princes Highway at the junction of the Cape Otway road leading to Deans Marsh and Lorne on the Great Ocean Road.
Fishing is popular in this section of the Barwon River, with brown trout, redfin and eels commonly caught nearby. There are also lakes and reservoirs close by that are popular with anglers.
Winchelsea began life as a hostelry on the Barwon River and today retains much of its 19th century charm thanks to it early banking buildings, a public library, shire hall and some quaint timber structured shops. a bluestone bridge close to the Barwon Hotel (1842) was opened in 1867 by Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, during Australia's first ever Royal visit. The magnificent 42-room bluestone mansion Barwon Park (105 Inverleigh-Winchelsea Road) belonged to Thomas Austin. His claim to fame (or infamy) is introducing rabbits into Australia. He took delivery of 24 rabbits from England on Christmas Day, 1854.
Barwon Park is a majestic 42 room bluestone mansion and stables set in a sweeping rural landscape. Built in 1871, the bluestone mansion and stables is largely in original condition, and resonates with the glory of Victoria s pastoral heritage. The property was owned by only two families, the Austins and the Batsons, before being left to the National Trust of Australia (Victoria).
As you might expect in an area steeped in such history, there are a collection of antique, gift, art and craft stores in town, and traditional fare can be found in tea houses and cafes in town.
Origin of name: was first named Austin's Ford, then The Barwon and finally was officially named after Winchelsea, one of the Cinque Ports on the south-east coast of England. They are sister cities today.
Mt Gellibrand (17 kms west): a volcanic cone with a flat top rising to 280 metres and about a kilometre in diameter. On the eastern boundary of the area lies Mt Pleasant, a much smaller volcanic cone, rising only about 30 metres above the general level of the plain. Mt Hesse, just beyond the northernmost extent of the Mt Gellibrand stony rise lava flows, has been described as a small scoria cone, with surrounding lava flows.
Brief history: situated on the Barwon River the town developed as a popular watering place for coaches travelling between Geelong and Colac. The first Europeans to reside in the area were squatters who established grazing runs here in 1837. The town developed around the Barwon Hotel and a general store, both of which were established in 1842 on the coaching route between Geelong and Warrnambool.