You’ve got to love a town that plays The Sound of Music in its main street and puts on a free Sound of Music puppet show. Well, I loved it – Adrian not so much, but he did love the light display.
As if Walhalla isn’t already pretty enough, the old goldmining town has decided to go one better and puts on a special Vinter Ljusfest with a sound and light display throughout August. When we visited, this time last year the display celebrated, you guessed it, The Sound of Music.
Be prepared for a long windy drive into Walhalla – it’s a stunning drive, but there are lots of hairpin turns and narrow bends to slow you down. We arrived around 5pm on a Saturday night. The neighbouring towns of Erica and Rawson were largely deserted so we weren’t sure what to expect with Walhalla, but the town was buzzing, people were still wandering the streets, oh and did I mention the cold? 5 degrees cold (that’s cold for a Melbourner!).
We made our way straight to our B&B to unload – we travel with a lot of stuff, two laptops, two small cases, a huge camera bag, tripod, lightbox… the list is endless, so thought it best to dump our stuff first and check in to our room (I was also conscious the poor owners would be starting to think we weren’t coming).
We stayed at Valhalla House, a stunning little B&B run by Jim and Merilyn, located in the city centre. Merilyn had warned us on the phone that she wouldn’t be here on the Saturday but Jim made us feel very welcome. When we arrived the fireplace was crackling away – looking very inviting! There were also tea and coffee facilities as well as biscuits and chips laid out for guests. And glasses in case you brought a bottle of wine (to have in front of that lovely fireplace).
This was home for two nights, but we didn’t want to get too comfortable, the light festival was calling.
Walhalla dates back to the 1860s. It is an old gold mining town and the evidence is still all around. One of the main attractions in town is the old underground mineshaft. There is also an old band rotunda and old railway to explore as well as a couple of old style shops and a museum and a very interesting old cemetery. And as befitting an old goldmining town, Walhalla is said to have its fair share of ghosts as well!
We didn’t see any ghosts, but we did have a great time chatting with the locals!
Walhalla is also home to the starting point of the Australian Alps walking track – a 650km trek to Canberra – so based on Jim’s advice we decided to walk 5km along the track to Thomson station and catch the scenic train back to Walhalla. The walk takes about 1.5 hours and is an easy walk through a beautiful forest.
Thomson Station is located on Thomson River – a very scenic spot – and you can get tea, coffee and refreshments at the station (important if you’ve just walked the five kilometres).
The train back to Walhalla takes about 20 minutes and passes over eight trestle bridges cut into the gorge more than 100 years ago.
Back in town, we took a slow meander through the main street, stopping to chat to some of the locals and learned a bit about the history of the town from Norm, in the local general store – a real character who, if you’re lucky, may just show you the naked photos of himself standing out the front of the old bank ruins.
After a stop back at the B&B to enjoy a complimentary cheese platter in front of the open fireplace, we headed back out into the cold to visit the cemetery just in time for sunset. The cemetery is built into the side of the mountain – one of the steepest I’ve been to – and dates back to the goldrush days so it has many interesting stories to tell.
We stayed at the beautiful Valhalla House B&B.
We stayed two nights
Was it long enough: We needed another day, but that’s largely due to the extra time we take for photographing the sites and chatting to the locals. Two full days would be enough to see the town.
Highlights: The walk to Thomson station and the train ride back to Walhalla, the open fire at Walhalla House, chatting to the locals and the Wally pub (the only place in town that serves dinner!). This town is so pretty, with or without the light show!
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