Dunolly is a small country town with a population of around 700 people located in Victoria’s Goldfields region two hours drive from Melbourne, one hour from Ballarat and 45 minutes from Bendigo. The nearest large town, Maryborough, is 23km away.
In the 1850’s there were several gold rushes in Dunolly and its current location is actually its fifth site, having moved several times as the diggers searched for gold. In 1856 Dunolly was the site of one of the largest gold rushes that Victoria has ever witnessed.
As many as 60,000 people flocked to Dunolly after the discovery of rich gold deposits. Most of these of course were diggers intent on striking it rich with a lucky find. Broadway, Dunolly’s main street, stretched for several kilometers and was lined on both sides with timber and canvas structures. There were numerous establishments of all sorts selling their wares to the diggers. Grocers, drapers, ironmongers, banks, bootmakers, breweries, gunsmiths, even undertakers and of course several hotels and saloons all vied for the diggers’ custom.
In those hectic days the population, both diggers and storekeepers, moved from one gold rush to the next. Dunolly’s population fluctuated as each new discovery of gold was made. As the town became established, several fine buildings were erected and many of these remain today. When the gold finally ran out Dunolly, like most other gold towns, declined but we are left with many reminders of how the gold rush helped to forge the future of Australia.
Many of the worlds largest gold nuggets were found in the region including the famous “Welcome Stranger” which remains the largest pure gold nugget ever found. This 69kg gold nugget was discovered in 1869 at nearby Moliagul and brought to Dunolly to be sold at the London Chartered Bank – a building which still stands today.
Dunolly is now a working town with several local traders including a baker, butcher, grocer, hardware store, fish & chip shop and a laundromat. There are also several specialty shops including an antique dealer, a gold prospecting supply shop, an old fashioned lolly shop and a café that sells local wines and produce. There are two pubs, The Royal and The Railway. The Railway Hotel has recently changed ownership and is currently being refurbished by the new owners and will re-open sometime in the future.