To add a little more interest to our road trip from Melbourne to Sydney, we decided to make the first day a history lesson and follow the trail of Ned Kelly, Australia’s notorious outlaw. Ned Kelly was a bushranger who is now a folk hero, well known for the body armour he wore in his final shootout with police.
The trail started a short drive out of Melbourne along the Hume Highway, at his boyhood home in the small rural town of Beveridge. The house is not well signposted (though the street is now called Kelly St) and luckily we stumbled across it. Ned was born in Beveridge in 1854, and lived in this house between 1850 and 1860. The house is not restored or well-kept, barbed wire protecting it from tourists like us! The only indication that it is of historical significance is a sign with details about Ned’s time he spent there. Otherwise, it appears to be any old run-down farmhouse. Maybe one day it will be turned into a more appealing place to visit.
Another hour further along the Hume heading north we came to Avenel. We stopped at an old stone bridge to have a look and discovered that from here the 12-year-old Ned Kelly saved another boy Richard Shelton from drowning. Ned was given a sash for his bravery, which he was obviously very proud of as he wore it under his armour during his last stand at Glenrowan many years later.
Also in Avenal, Ned’s father John ‘Red’ Kelly is buried in the local cemetery. The 12-year-old Ned himself registered his dad’s death. Tucked in the corner of the yard surrounded by fake flowers, the original headstone lone gone, is a stone block placed by the Avenel Historical Society.
We drove on from Avenel to Euroa, looking for the bank that the Kelly gang held up. We were not even sure if the bank still stood, due to conflicting information we had read. We were behind time, had a brief but unsuccessful look for it, and continued on to Benalla, which had many interesting Ned Kelly points of interest.
In Arundel Street is the Old Court House where the Kelly family appeared on several occasions. A small path leads around the back of the courthouse to a door to a cell in which Ned was once held, after being arrested for being drunk and riding his horse on the footpath. Across the road from the courthouse is the Bootmaker’s Shop, where Ned briefly escaped to on his way to the courthouse. Also in Benalla is the Costume and Pioneer Museum, which we did not get to. One of the things on display is the sash Ned was awarded in Avenel.
Another half an hour along the road, we knew we were on the right track when we come across the huge Ned Kelly statue, another one of the big things in Australia. Located in Glenrowan, this town is the focal point of many Ned Kelly stories, particularly his last stand with the police.
Glenrowan is a well-known part of the Ned Kelly story as it is where his reign came to an end (though not his life coming to an end – you’ll have to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol in Melbourne to see where he was hanged). His final shootout with police was at the Glenrowan Inn, which is not standing today – there is an empty block and a replica of the building’s sign.
A short walk from the hotel site you will find where he was finally shot and captured, a vulnerable and armless looking Ned.
We finished our tour in the charming town of Beechworth, an old goldrush town in which Ned had several court appearances. You can also visit the Old Courthouse and Beechworth Goal, but we did not have any time other than to do a drive past on our way to Sydney. We wished we could have spent more time in Beechworth, it seemed like a pleasant laid-back town with wide streets and old buildings, and plenty of interesting things to see and do in the area.
It was a great day out enjoyed by all the family. We did not see all the historical sites related to Ned Kelly, but enough to tell a story, and definitely an interesting and fun way to travel. It took us all day to get only a quarter of the way to Sydney, but made the drive the next day doable with stops in Holbrook (submarine), Gundagai (dog on the tuckerbox) and Goulburn (another big thing!).