You'll find Wangaratta, Victoria, just 230 km to the northeast of Melbourne along the M31. The small city of 17,000 sits near the intersection of the King and Ovens Rivers, and was originally named for one of them. The area was first settled in the late 1830's, and was known as Ovens Crossing by the settlers. It wasn't until 1848 that the area was renamed Wangaratta. The name was borrowed from a nearby cattle station and bestowed by an official surveyor, and the name stuck. The area's first blush of fame would follow in the early 1850's, as gold fever struck the area and prospectors flooded in to find their fortunes. Today, Wangaratta is a destination for foodies and wine lovers but also attracts lovers of the great outdoors. Delightful boutiques present plenty of opportunity for retail therapy, and the men aren't forgotten with a turf club and excellent golf courses on hand.
Just 10 km away from present-day Wangaratta is the small town of Glenrowan, and it was here that the legendary bush ranger, outlaw, and perhaps folk hero Ned Kelly was captured in a brutal shootout with police. Some believe that Ned Kelly and his family were unjustly persecuted for decades. Others believe that he was simply a bloodthirsty murderer. The truth is likely somewhere between, but either way it all came to ahead on 28 June 1880. Ned and his gang took more than 30 hostages and holed up in a hotel. But the most interesting point of the day was the homemade suits of armor that the desperadoes were wearing. Each of them wore roughly 44kg of armor, adapted from stolen ploughshares. The armour was heavy enough to stop bullets from penetrating, but the lack of leg covering was to be Ned Kelly's downfall, and ultimately led to his capture and execution.
Wangaratta Guided Walking Tours: Spend a pleasant hour in the company of knowledgeable guides to explore the stories and sights of Wangaratta.
Wangaratta Festival of Jazz: The festival is the key event in Wangaratta's annual social calendar and has been held annual since 1990. The concert series also hosts the National Jazz Awards competition, and draws top-shelf modern and contemporary jazz talent from around the world. Aspiring musicians can attend workshops and master classes with top talent, and side events like cocktail parties and launch parties are definitely worth booking.
Wangaratta Turf Club: The Wangaratta Turf Club is part of Victoria's Country Racing program. Horse racing has been a part of Wangaratta since 1845, and the club has been at its present location since 1855. With twelve race days scheduled each year, there's bound to be an event that you can attend.
Murray to Mountains Rail Trail: Australia has done a great job of improving the quality of life for cyclists, and this corner of Victoria follows suit. With more than 100 km of sealed bike paths, there's no better way to enjoy Victoria than on two wheels. The dedicated nature of the paths (closed to motor traffic) ensures cyclist safety, and the route is well-planned. Plentiful signposts help you keep on track, and riders of all abilities will find frequent rest areas when a break is needed. Run like the Tour de France and push to the finish, or take your time to enjoy the scenery, and to stop along the way at area wineries for a spot of refreshment.
King Valley Prosecco Road: An absolute must for lovers of fizzy wine and good food, the Prosecco Road is a tour through the 6 vineyards in the Kings Valley. Each vineyard tour is an intimate outing with the owners who wax lyrical about their wines and offer rustic Italian food as the perfect accompaniment. The scenery's not half bad either.
Eldorado: You'll find this charming village about a 20 minute drive from Wangaratta. Nestling on the banks of Reedy Creek, it's a natural delight that was once a gold mining area. The gold and tin dredge is still a worthy place to visit, as are the Eldorado Pottery, Museum and the village's 3 churches.