On a rather damp and dark day on Victoria’s Surf Coast, we decided to head inland from Torquay to visit Barwon Park. This 42 room bluestone mansion was built in 1872 and bequeathed to the National Trust in the 1970s.
I have wanted to visit since I was a girl – always curious as we passed the brown tourist sign on the main highway through Winchelsea, but not able to stop as this was a place we drove drive through to get somewhere else (usually further down the coast).
But if you are driving this way – or holidaying in the area – I recommend you stop and visit. From a historical perspective, I wonder if there is anywhere else in Victoria that rivals this property. I knew none of its history, but now my children do.
It was the place where rabbits were introduced into Australia – by property owner, Thomas Austin, who was a keen hunter and even hunted them with the Duke of Edinburgh who visited in 1867.
Apparently, Thomas’ wife, Elizabeth, was so embarrassed by the home in which she had to entertain the Duke, she asked her husband to build her a new one – and that is the current mansion you see today.
That makes Elizabeth sound pretentious, but she was actually a prominent philanthropist, who was responsible for the establishment of Melbourne’s Austin Hospital and she also established accommodation in Geelong for aging servants who had no-where to live when they finished work.
On the day of our visit, the mansion was almost deserted, so we made our way up the majestic staircase and around the rooms.
Everything was going well, until I read out some information about strange lights being seen in Elizabeth’s bedroom. Well, that was enough for Miss 9, who spend the rest of the time in the building, firmly fixed to my side, insisting she’d had seen enough.
When visiting, also make sure you venture out the back of the mansion, where you can visit the renovated stables.
Don’t forget to check out the small gift shop. My daughter bought a lovely old-fashioned fob necklace while I purchased some Como Polish – natural beeswax furniture cream. I love the smell!
Barwon Park Mansion is not open every day, so make sure to check. But it does host special events, including the Trick or Treat Kidz Fest in October. It also holds special events, such as a military re-enactment to coincide with the Gallipoli landing, as wellas exhibitions featuring famous wedding dresses and costumes from the movie, The Dressmaker.
Learn more about Barwon Park Mansion, including opening hours. Interested in historical properties? Check out our visits to Woolmers Estate in Tasmania, another wonderful piece of our pastoral heritage, and Port Arthur. To find local properties in your area, visit the National Trust.
Need somewhere to stay on the Great Ocean Road? Check out our accommodation.