In the plains of western Victoria, Horsham is a well-kept agricultural city on the Wimmera River.
This watercourse passes by the to the south, and is edged by parkland and crossed by a new suspension bridge to commemorate the centenary of World War I.
As a regional city, Horsham has a healthy choice of shops and restaurants, as well as a top-notch cultural venue in the multimillion-dollar Horsham Town Hall.
Head out of Horsham proper and in minutes you can be in the breathtaking Grampian range, the wildlife-rich Little Desert or at the foot of Mount Arapiles, one of Australia’s favourite climbing locations.
1. Public Art & Heritage Trail
Horsham has some 180 years of European history and it shows in the cityscape of the CBD and the leafy riverside area directly south of it.
To do the city justice you could take on this 29-stop trail, which weaves its way through the city centre and then down to the Wimmera River in two distinct precincts.
On this route, restored heritage buildings like the Horsham Theatre (1926), old Methodist Church (1912, now Wesley Performing Arts Centre) and the Jubilee Hall (1924) are interspersed with creative and thought-provoking works of public art commissioned over the last 25 years.
A map for the trail is available from the Horsham & Grampians Visitor Information Centre.
2. Horsham Botanical Gardens
William Guilfoyle (1840-1913), the botanist and landscape gardener behind the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, laid out this beautiful space close to the Wimmera riverbank.
Greeting you at Horsham Botanical Gardens are tall mature trees, dainty flowerbeds, pieces of public art, a glorious rose garden and carpet-like lawns that stay lush all year.
You can take a gentle walk along the gravel and brick tracks, and you’ll never be far from the shade of a tree, shelter or the old-style gazebo that can be booked for gatherings.
One quirk that kids are sure to love is the giant version of snakes and ladders, while next door in Sawyer Park there’s a miniature railway.
3. Horsham Town Hall
For culture in Horsham, look no further than this multidisciplinary complex that opened its doors in 2016. Horsham Town Hall is a reworked and extended municipal building, initially designed by renowned Melbourne architect Charles Neville Hollinshed (1899-1993) and completed in 1939. This marvellous piece of Art Deco architecture had outlived its original purpose by 1980, and the regional art gallery soon moved into the former offices.
After many years of planning the entire heritage-listed complex was revamped, and is now an entertainment and culture hub attracting tens of thousands of visitors a year.
In this modern space there’s a 500-seat theatre for live music, dance, comedy, musicals and talks, as well as the first-rate regional art gallery, which we’ll talk about below.
4. Horsham Regional Art Gallery
Retaining that fine Art Deco facade on Wilson Street, this highly-respected regional gallery has been around since 1973 and over the last 50 years has built up a strong collection.
The gallery’s specialty is Australian photography, counting more than 1,000 works by the likes of Olive Cotton, Tony Albert, David Moore and Nicolas Claire.
There’s also a catalogue of pieces by artists from the Wimmera Region, as well as the Mack Jost Collection of paintings and works on paper.
With four temporary exhibitions spaces there’s always something new to see, and in June the gallery is an anchor for the ten-day “ART IS…” festival, held as one of the best community art events in Australia.
5. Weir Park
We’ll see that the Wimmera River is a real asset for Horsham, and this riverside park in the south-west of the city is a fine place to while away an afternoon.
That’s especially true if you have small children in the clan, as there’s an excellent playground set right next to the water but safely fenced off.
After all that fun, families can have a picnic together at one of the modern shelters, while BBQ facilities are also available.
True to its name the park is at the site of the city’s weir, and it’s worth checking out the gates to see if they open.
If you’re up for more of a walk, you can trace the banks (more next) or cross the river for the Yanga track, curling through wetlands.
6. Horsham Weir to Baillie Street River Walk
The banks of the Wimmera River in Horsham are one continuous park, so you’re free to pass a tranquil hour or two ambling in the shade of red river gums.
The watercourse is all the prettier for the weir downstream at the east end, giving rise to a wide and slow- moving band of water.
This produces lots of greenery and attracts a profusion of birdlife.
Walking the trail you’ll be confronted by information signs telling the story of long forgotten structures by the river, like bridges, a lost pumping station, a tramline, a former weir, a brewery and a swimming pool.
7. Anzac Centenary Swing Walk Bridge
As you wander along the Wimmera River banks in Horsham, you’ll arrive at this rather grand footbridge linking the north and south banks with a span of 100 metres.
Completed in 2017 to commemorate all Horsham and district residents who served in World War I, the Anzac Centenary Bridge is a suspension bridge with 30-metre-high supports on each bank.
There’s no better place to gauge the full width of the Wimmera River in Horsham and admire the tall river red gums on the banks.
8. Grampians National Park
Tectonic movement down the ages has created a series of five epic sandstone ridges running north to south.
Easily visible from Horsham, these formations have precipitous, craggy slopes on the east side and a gentle swoop to the west.
The Grampians are cherished for their walking trails, taking you right into range and its beautiful valleys where you’ll see a startling display of wildflowers in spring and early-summer.
This environment is heritage listed for its plant and animal life, and on your adventure you may come across wallabies, kangaroos, emus and other native birds.
To the the Jardwadjali and Djab wurrung peoples this land is “Gariwerd”, and in the national park you can discover one of the richest rock art sites in south-eastern Australia.
9. Mount Arapiles
West of Horsham the Wimmera plains are broken up by a massive rock formation, 140 metres above the surrounding countryside and 370 metres above sea level.
One look at Mount Arapiles’ sheer walls of sandstone you’ll know why it has been a rock-climbing Mecca for almost two centuries.
There are more than 2,000 climbing routes up its cliffs and crags, and if you’re in need of advice or gear there are businesses based nearby to help.
Several can be found in the endearing town of Natimuk, which has a cluster of heritage buildings, as well as an off-road bicycle track through stands of red gums and buloke trees to Mount Arapiles.
10. May Park
In Horsham’s CBD, close to the railway station is another green haven, distinguished by its large palm trees.
The spotless May Park is on one of Horsham’s arteries, Dimboola Road, but is so quiet that you wouldn’t know it.
The park is dominated by an open green space for activities, and at the eastern end is an all-abilities playground.
There are BBQ facilities at either end, while a string of picnic tables and a wash basin are linked by a walking path.
And if you want to bring a takeaway lunch to the park there are cafes and local and chain restaurants on all sides.
11. Green Lake
This off-stream reservoir sits beside the Western Highway to the south-east of Horsham.
Green Lake was originally created as an irrigation water supply, but with the completion of the enormous Wimmera Mallee Pipeline project in the 2010s, is now used to help manage the water quality in the system.
You can make your way to Green Lake to swim, go fishing, picnic by the water and take part in water sports from sailing to water-skiing, jet-skiing and motorboating.
On a sunny day you can find the shade and watch the pelicans.
12. Little Desert National Park
Exactly as the name tells you, this national park north-west of Horsham protects a region of deep sandy soil, at odds with the fertile farmland that surrounds it in all directions.
The land’s traditional owners are the Wotjobaluk People who have lived in the area for many millennia, and whose shell middens and oven mounds are features of the landscape, while stone tools have been discovered in large numbers.
Surprisingly, the Little Desert brims with life as an Important Bird Area inhabited by more than 200 species.
Try to be here around late-spring or early-summer when the temperatures are comparatively low and the bush is a riot of colour from blossoms and wildflowers.
13. Rupanyup Silo Art
Travel into the flat and peaceful Wimmera plains east of Horsham and you might be surprised to see what’s happened to the farming constructions.
In Rupanyup, but also the nearby settlements of Sheep Hills, Rosebury, Brim, Lascelles and Patchewollock, the gigantic steel grain silos have become a canvas for stunning works of art.
The artist responsible is Russian mural artist Julia Volchkova, famed for giant portraits that have popped up as far afield as Indonesia, Siberia and Belgium.
14. Barangaroo Boutique Wines
Raised on a ridge in the bucolic Lower Norton area a few minutes South West of Horsham is a friendly vineyard and cellar door.
The scenery at Barangaroo Boutique Wines is lovely, with clear views to the Grampians in the south and Mount Arapiles to the west.
The winery produces single varietal reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, as well as a refreshing white Vermentino, which also comes in a slightly sweet sparkling variety.
You can taste these vintages at a rustic cellar looking over a timbered creek and those mountains in the distance.
There’s a vine trellis on warm summer days, while in winter you can cosy up by the fire and find out how the winemakers at Barangaroo Boutique Wines practise their craft.
15. Horsham Golf Club
The town’s 18-hole golf course first opened in 1949 but has recently bounced back from bushfires in 2009 that required a complete overhaul.
Even so, Horsham Golf Club is often counted among the 100 best courses in the country, and poses a test for golfers of all standards for its many sand traps, long par 4s and tricky, raised greens.
In 2020, green fees for non-members were $50 for 18 holes and $35 for 9. The club has the only on-course golf shop in the Wimmera, and there’s a driving range open 08:00 to 17:00 seven days a week.