52 Great Weekends

No 41: Casterton (Kelpie Country)

So much more than the birthplace of the Australian Kelpie

Casterton is an historic rural town situated on the banks of the Glenelg River in a valley surrounded by rolling hills. Situated 352km west of Melbourne and 63kms west of Hamilton and 45mins to Mount Gambier just over the SA border. It is the ‘Birthplace of the Kelpie’ breed with an annual Queens Birthday ‘Australian Kelpie Muster’, Australian Kelpie Centre and Kelpie Walking Trail along the banks of the Glenelg River.

But there is so much more to discover in Casterton than just kelpies. Stay is a historic hotel with the warmest of regional hospitality and sample the hand-crafted, small batch gin at the inhouse distillery. Start the day on a high at Mickle Lookout, enjoy morning tea at the local larder, some retail therapy at the newly established boutiques then relax at the charming cellar door of Wando Lodge. Make sure to toast this historic town just off the Great Ocean Road.

Australian Kelpie Muster - Queens Birthday Weekend

See Casterton in full swing at the annual Australian Kelpie Muster on the Queen’s Birthday Weekend in June. It’s where kelpie breeders such as the lovely people at Wilderness Kelpies showcase the unbelievable skills of their working dogs.

The Casterton Kelpie Festival takes over the main street on the Saturday as the clever canines literally stop traffic with their unique abilities. City-based Kelpies take on their country farming cousins in a series of endurance and skill tests. Among the attractions is the Kelpie Hill Climb, the Stockman’s Challenge, the 50metre Kelpie Dash, but the Kelpie High Jump is the crowd-pleaser with dogs vying to beat the world record of 2.951 metres set at the event in 2016.

On Sunday find out just how valuable these hard-working heroes are at the Australian Premier Working Dog Auction on Sunday. The annual Auction provides visitors with a unique demonstration of working dogs prior the much anticipated Australian Premier Working Dog Auction at 3:00pm when the dogs go under the hammer to challenge the current record price of $35,200 set in 2021 by a 26 month-old working dog.

STAY: THE ALBION HOTEL

This grand historic hotel has stood proudly in its prime position on the main street for over 100 years. Nestled in the valley of the Casterton township it is central to all of Casterton’s main attractions with the banks of the Glenelg River and start of the Kelpie Walking trail are only 50m away.

The 1907 hotel is undergoing extensive refurbishments to bring it back to its former glory including works to the grand central staircase, public front bar & bistro and elegant function rooms. The iconic hotel currently offers a variety of 3.5 star accommodation options – from refurbished motel units near the river, renovated pub rooms with shared facilities and private workers units.

Cumberland River Holiday Park

10AM: AUSTRALIAN KELPIE CENTRE

Missed the muster? Don’t worry, for the rest of the year you can get to know this hard-working breed at the newly built, all-purpose Australian Kelpie Centre. The architecturally designed Henty Street facility boasts an interpretative display showcasing the history of the Kelpie working dog and the Casterton Visitor Information Centre. Once you’ve wondered at the impressiveness of these animals, the friendly staff can point you in the right direction of Casterton’s other attractions – starting with the Kelpie Walking Trail conveniently only a short stroll away.

11AM: KELPIE WALKING TRAIL

Pick up a map from the Australian Kelpie Centre and let the Kelpie Walking Trail give you a tour of the town. Choose from 3 route options to discover the five unique sculptures revealing the fascinating life and times of the Kelpie – each with their own educational signage.

Route 1 will tour you along the main shopping district and heritage themed streetscape.
Route 2 will see you traverse past towering River Red-Gums and riverbanks.
Route 3 wanders along the River Walking Trail following the banks of the Glenelg River.

Whatever scenic route you choose it’s a great walk discovering the 5 unique statues.

#1 ‘Jack Gleeson’ Artist: Barb Dobson. The exchange of the first kelpie for a horse.
#2 ‘Australia Kelpie Muster’ Artist: Annette Taylor. Large scale reproduction of George Haddon’s artwork in the RACV Royal Auto magazine article on the Australian Kelpie Muster.
#3 ‘Man’s Best Friend’ Artist: John Dixon, Lyons. Depicts the loyalty and reliability of the Kelpie breed.
#4 ‘On the Sheep’s Back’ Artist: Annette Taylor. Represents how Australia rides on the sheep’s back.
#5 ‘Kelpie’ Artist: Peter Corlett. Celebrates Casterton’s claim to fame as the birthplace of the Kelpie.

3PM: GIN TASTING CASTERTON DISTILLING CO.

Casterton’s newest attraction is the recently launched Casterton Distilling Co. – a small batch craft gin distillery, located in the historical Albion Hotel. Taste the range for yourself in freshly built tasting rooms – the lovingly, hand-crafted spirits already rival some of the most established gin brands.
Spend time talking with head distiller Nicholas Cleave and from the viewing area see how his premium gins come to life. Hand-crafted onsite from start to finish, using local ingredients – just the way Nick believes they should be. To discover more of his spirit making secrets join a Distilling Master Class and craft your own unique blend of gin while sipping on a gin cocktail or two.

PRE-DINNER DRINKS: THE ALBION HOTEL FRONT BAR

The drinks will keep flowing at the Albion Hotel front bar – the laid back locals’ favourite watering hole perfect for a refreshing Saturday afternoon ale. Sit up at the carved wooden bar by the roaring fire and feel right at home at this warm and friendly bar.

DINNER: THE ALBION HOTEL BISTRO

Taste the best of regional hospitality served up by the Albion Hotel’s incredibly talented in-house international chef, Andy Beswick. You’ll find delicious country classics dished up with fine dining flair on his every changing bistro menu.

Sunday

7AM: MICKLE LOOKOUT

Start your Sunday on a high at Casterton’s Mickle Lookout. Get the camera ready, it offers a great photo opportunity looking straight down the main street and surrounding rolling hills and farmland.

8.30AM: ESS LAGOON

Unwind with nature at Ess Lagoon, just a five-minute walk to the main street of Casterton. Trout fisherman, self-sufficient campers and walkers alike will enjoy this tranquil, peaceful spot perfect for a picnic.

10AM: RETAIL THERAPY AT SUNNYSIDE & CO

Sunnyside & Co is a gorgeous home and fashion boutique on the main street of Casterton, one of the pioneering businesses of the emerging retail scene. The stylish store offers a great range of Australian brands along with leading international labels and distinctive gifts sure to delight.

11AM: MORNING TEA AT ELEMENT CAFÉ AND LARDER

Peckish? Take your pick from the cabinet of baked goods and enjoy a barista fresh brew at Element Café and Larder. Sit in the shade of the lush courtyard or tempt yourself further by choosing a table beside the in-store larder laden with local produce.

12.30PM: WANDO LODGE CELLAR DOOR

Welcome to the winery estate of Wando Lodge. Sit back and relax as you sample the wines with a locally sourced cheese platter at the cellar door, charming crafted from a renovated shearing shed. Not only a vineyard, Wando Lodge is also a working farm and thoroughbred stud. When you finish your wine make sure to wander through the vines and say hello to the new foals.

Watch the episode

Top 5 things that made the weekend great

  • Attending the annual Australian Kelpie Muster

  • Meeting the clever Kelpies from Wilderness Kelpies

  • Enjoying country hospitality at the historic Albion Hotel

  • Sampling the hand-crafted small batch gins at Casterton Distilling Co.

  • Sipping wine the charming cellar door of Wando Lodge

Have a great weekend at the historic town just a little off the Great Ocean Road.


 

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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.