Many travellers are thinking about the ‘big tour’ somewhere, such as Europe if you live in Australia, or Australia if you originate from the United States or Canada, or anywhere that’s not on a fault line for those who live in New Zealand. However, while it’s all very nice to plan such trips it’s also easy to forget about the marvels you have on your own doorstep while you’ve got your head buried in guide books.
A good case in point occurred recently, when nine members of my local U3A (University of the Third Age) group — of which my wife, Jacqui and I are members — took a quite short trip of little over an hour to visit the small township of Briagolong, which boasts a population of about a thousand people. For those unfamiliar with the destination, Briagolong is a small town in Victoria, located about 270 kilometres east of the state’s capital, Melbourne and in the Gippsland region. While it mightn’t have been one’s first choice for a visit, it turned into the perfect stop for a weekend leisurely drive.
We started our drive from Yarram to Sale and 30 minutes on was Briagolong. It was a warm day, with the sunshine streaming through the windows. We were met by Briagolong local, Jessie, who assumed responsibility for our ‘tour’ through the town. It was certainly something special. We found something of interest for every member of our group — from collectables, antiques and craft supplies, to jewellery, art and gifts.
The very centre of Briagolong boasts a ‘major’ crossroads and it’s around this feature that almost all the main points of interest are clustered, which was very convenient for nine people of more ‘mature’ years! One feature, on the south-eastern side of the junction, is the Briagolong Art Gallery, where we were treated to a magnificent exhibition by local artist Helen Banks called ‘Vestige — Travels of a Busy Woman’. It was a beautiful collection of work in various art media including some intriguing photogravure illustrations. The gallery also possesses a well-stocked woodworking area where magnificent items are produced — the smallest of thimbles to large pieces of furniture — using the local hardwoods.
It was easy to spend a lot of time at the gallery, but when the clock struck lunch we headed to the conveniently located pub at the other side of the crossroads. Here we enjoyed excellent food at reasonable prices.
After lunch we all strolled across the road (again!),= and had a look at the exhibition of, mainly old, clocks at the clock repairers quaint little shop, before crossing the road one more time to the antiques emporium, displaying several rooms of furniture and old-world bric-a-brac.
Next we took what amounts in Briagolong to a ‘fairly long walk’ (of about 100m) to the historic Briagolong Mechanic’s Institute Hall. This is an old but quite lovely structure built entirely of native hardwood, but looking almost as fresh as the day it was built, due to the care given to its upkeep by local volunteers. We were treated to a ‘potted’ history of the place and the legendary characters who had been responsible for creating both the hall and the town itself, plus the extensive historical library that is still housed there.
Strolling back to and past the ‘famous’ crossroads we made our way to the local RSL, a magnificent log cabin that had been built by the members after they had been kicked out of the Mechanics Hall, because of their habit of indulging in a little alcohol during their meetings, something rather frowned on in those days of abstinence! I think they proved to be winners on this one as the log cabin is a great building. There is also an exhibition inside and we were treated to an extensive historical talk by one of the present RSL members.
There are several other points of interest, just outside of Briagolong, such as the swimming hole known as Blue Pool for instance, and numerous excellent walks, varying in difficulty from simple to difficult, but by this time we ‘oldies’ were feeling tired and in need of tea, so … Our great day out was completed with afternoon tea at the Briagolong Café, before returning to Yarram, tired but happy that we had enjoyed what turned out to be a most enjoyable outing.
I suppose what I am trying to say is, it doesn’t have to be big to be good, many small towns have just as much to offer the tourist and all you have to do is go.