No, this is not a town where they mine tourists, as the sign might suggest. Walhalla is an old Victorian gold-mine town that got deserted in 1915, but has been kept very much as it used to be and is now a touristic village.
After a suggestion from someone on the Dutchies in Melbourne Facebook page, we decided to pack up our camping gear and head out to mountains. It is only a two hour drive East of Melbourne, so easy to reach.
Meaning of Walhalla
In Norwegian mythology ‘Valhalla’ is heaven/paradise for war heroes. In Dutch it is an expression that is still used for: the ideal, best or most important spot for something. When a place is a Walhalla for a certain activity, that means that it is a very good spot for it. So naturally for us, this had to be a Walhalla for camping.
Camping in Walhalla
Driving into town this is the first thing that we saw:
So maybe the Australian meaning of Walhalla is the same as the Dutch? Since all these people seem to have heard about the camping heaven too.
North of town there is an official campsite that we drove to and set up camp. Again, we were not alone. There were lots of families with four+ children. We stopped counting when there were more than four children. And that happened a lot.
And the best thing is, the North garden camp ground is within walking distance of town and completely free of charge. You will have to miss out on luxuries like a shower and laundry machine, but there is running water and even flush toilets! Another big plus: no mobile phone reception on the campsite, so really out and away from it all. Sounds very much like the Dutch Walhalla, doesn’t it?
We quickly discovered that the whole town is an open air museum when we promised the kids something nice from the bakery, after seeing on the town map that there was one. Only to find out, after walking past it, that the bakery was closed down more than a century ago. That was a hard one to make up to the kids.
Walking around town it is easy to step back in time and feel what life was like during the gold rush. From the scripts on the buildings to the wine cellar in the rocks. Although there are a lot more trees now, since back then all the trees where cut down to be used in the steam engines that were used in the mine. But walking on the street you can almost hear the hustle and the bustle of the old days. At the peak of the rush the town had 4000 residents. Today it has less then 20, but many buildings are owned as holiday properties. Read more about Walhalla.
Activities in town
The four main activities that are offered in Walhalla are:
- walking around in the historic town, reading all the signs with lots of history
- a 50 minute tour through the gold mine, read more about this in our next blog post
- a 20 minute train ride (ironically, the mine was closed two years after the track was finished)
- a ghost tour at night. Mining was a dangerous work, so probably lots of ghosts are still hanging around this town.
We only had time for the first two activities, and there are many hiking tracks in the vicinity, so I guess we have to go back again. Poor us!