The Australian Heritage Festival is back with more than a thousand events across April and May – many of which are free. It’s a once-a-year chance to explore buildings, landscapes and sacred sites usually off limits to the public, and engage with their histories.
Victoria has more than 260 events on its 2019 festival program, including late-night cemetery walks, adventures through underground mines, Indigenous stargazing, mid-century open houses and street-art bike tours through the bush.
From April 18 to May 19, there are daily tours of the colourful underground Buchan Caves, which boast elaborate stalactites and stalagmites. Or, you can explore Wanthaggi’s network of gold-mine tunnels. On a torch-lit tour of Mount Rothwell you’ll meet rarely seen native species, plus Melbourne General Cemetery is hosting spooky after-dark history lessons.
Cape Schanck Lighthouse is offering hourly tours, too, on April 27 and 28, and on May 5 the Whittlesea’s historic, and mystifying Bear’s Castle is open to the public for one day only.
Drive through the scenic Winton Wetlands, or take a guided cycle tour, to discover works by internationally renowned street artists, and local Indigenous and contemporary artists among the red gums. Or on May 17 astronomer Dr Duane Hamacher, Kamilaroi woman Krystal De Napoli, and Gunnai and Yorta Yorta man Wayne Thorpe are leading a night of Indigenous astronomy at the 19th-century Rippon Lea Estate, followed by stargazing on the lawn.
From May 11 to 12, Smeaton hosts its huge heritage weekend at Anderson’s Mill, with tours, art, amateur radio and plenty to eat and drink. And, on May 10, Heritage Victoria’s Artefact and Research Centre in Abbotsford will be showcasing its thousands of archaeological treasures on a rare open day.
Plus, there are ghost tours of St Kilda’s 140-year-old but newly revamped Esplanade Hotel, and a speaker series in the home of iconic mid-century architect Robin Boyd.