Not too many years ago, my largely recumbent inner gypsy took my soul wandering along a drive of over four hours west from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. I lobbed into a little pocket of Ireland, where I stayed in an on-site caravan in a little township, called Koroit, nestled in a green and rolling landscape, under the extinct volcano of Tower Hill. Tower Hill is the site of a scenic lake, and a wildlife sanctuary.
Here I found a site of kismet in Koroit, for all Australians, especially of Irish descent, even in the senior years. The caravan park was tidy and well-managed. Dogs were permitted, to the great relief of pet owners. Adjacent is the Koroit Botanical Garden, modelled on the Melbourne version, with lofty, shady trees of many unusual varieties. Here my dog and I could wander, then sit on velvet grass and enjoy the fresh air, birdsong, and the wide open skies of the bush.
Koroit is a rustic town, situated between the thriving seascape of Warrnambool, and the mixture of luxury and heritage that is Port Fairy, with its beautiful beaches. The farming here relies on the dairy and the potato growing agriculture. The land of the great white spud. The most obvious and perhaps strongest links between Koroit and Ireland are the potato crops that grow in the rich volcanic soild that surrounds the town.
A short walk from the caravan would take me to Koroit’s town centre. This features a luscious bakery with excellent coffee, snacks and cakes. Nearby is a real old-fashioned butcher, with prime local cuts of beef and a range of sausages for the barbecue. The lads here are all members of the local Aussie Rules football team, which pulls the crowds on wintry Saturday afternoons, only a hundred metres away at the footy ground.
Kismet in Koroit can include a browse in an antique bric-a-brac store, or the second-hand bookshop. Walking past the heritage-listed Koroit Hotel, with its whimsical signpost showing the way to Ireland, I could visit the bluestone Post Office, which boasts the origin of the Australian author, Henry Handel Richardson. Yet Koroit really hits its stride when it is time to celebrate the annual Irish Festival.
The Koroit Irish Festival — next held in May 2020 — celebrates the region’s rich Irish heritage. The town’s population doubles for a few days, accommodation is at a premium. There are street festivals, stalls, buskers, parades, with Irish music concerts, Irish dancing competitions, and displays. Happy times for all, even a flaming red-hair contest! You do not have to be of Irish descent, but it helps!
Koroit does boast some very old buildings and housing, vintage Victoriana, but new homes are appearing, as this town is a convenient and peaceful semi-rural setting, ideal for families or for those more mature. Lots of folk here can keep a couple of sheep or cows in the large front yards, as lawn mowers. Part of the appeal, quaint. I always meant to visit the genteel community at the croquet club, but never quite made it. Bushies make their own fun.
These days, I am more of a homebody. The Irish gypsy in me would love to revisit Koroit one day. Maybe the reader might, under the endless skies of the plains. The people always seem much friendlier in the country, the smiles are welcoming and genuine. A fond memory, as I travelled to discover kismet in Koroit.