Settled in the 1850’s it’s said that Balmoral was originally named Darrangurt by Jadawadjali Aborigines. European settlers gave it the name ‘Black Swamp’ and finally Scottish settlers named it Balmoral. (Prince Albert had bought Balmoral Castle in Scotland for Queen Victoria in 1852).
The 2016 ABS Census tells us that Balmoral had a population 294, with 54.6% male and 45.4% female and a median age of 53 years.
Located around 340 kilometres west of Melbourne, it’s north of the ‘wool capital of the world’, Hamilton.
English, Australian, Irish, Scottish and German are the most common ancestry.
We asked a local, Sabrina, about living in a small community.
•Have you lived in Balmoral all your life? No, only 30 years as the locals like to say. I’m originally from the western US, and just before I moved here I lived in Washington DC.
•Why did you move to Balmoral? My brother and I were travelling in Australia and we visited a former exchange student from Balmoral. I ended up in a relationship with him, and eventually we married in 1990 and I moved to Australia. While I did move to Balmoral because of my husband, the Balmoral district also captured my heart. There are plenty of very fine people here and it’s an ideal place to raise a family. It is a top place for variety too. We can be in the Grampians in an hour, the sea in a bit over an hour and wineries in under an hour. The seasons are distinctly marked here, with each bringing its unique atmosphere.
•What things would you suggest are good for visitors to do in/around Balmoral?Savour the vistas of sheep grazing in local paddocks among majestic red gums, wander through our local wetlands, hike in the Grampians, camp and fish at Rocklands Reservoir, hit Balmoral’s famous Op Shop, admire the splendid mural on the wall of the Balmoral Community Store and the historic buildings within the town.
•Where can people stay? There are two local caravan parks, one in town and another at Rocklands Reservoir, and plenty of beautiful places to camp around the Reservoir. We also have a small free RV camping area in our town centre. The nearby Southern Grampians Wilderness Resort is a great choice for big family gatherings like weddings or family reunions.
•Where can visitors eat? Balmoral has a Milk Bar and takeaway, and a new Café called Muster and Graze – you’ll notice three life-size sheep mounted on the roof. We also have a community owned general store. For an ultra-friendly dining experience based on local produce try the Bunyip Hotel at nearby Cavendish which is deservedly receiving high praise in the media.
•What’s the best part about living in Balmoral? Hmmm… hard to go past a lovely winter red gum fire in the paddock with family and friends. I’m also partial to visiting the mobile truck library that stops in town on a Friday and then chatting in the street with an arm full of books, usually without having to move for traffic. And I love the Chameleon Arts events that come to town. We have an excellent Bush Nursing Centre catering for the whole community. A prior resident has told me he received better health care here than he now does in Geelong. Not bad for a town of under 200 people!
•Are there many challenges to living in Balmoral? Well, I live outside of the town, and I’m not keen on foxes eyeing my hens, and the scorching February days that give my hydrangeas a hiding! Lucky Balmoral isn’t too far from the ocean and very often we don’t have to wait long for a cooling change.
•Have there been ‘tree changers’ coming to live in Balmoral? If so, where have they come from? Yes, there are many people from other places. The local Post Office is owned by a woman from Sydney, and a Melbourne couple have arrived to renovate a church they purchased. Early this year we welcomed a new resident from Kazakhstan. You also don’t look far to find New Zealanders, English ex-pats, and people from the US and the Philippines. Oh yes, even one from Finland.
•What are some of the local events and activities? Football, netball, golf and lawn bowls are very popular here. It’s also amazing how many organisations there are, with locals working really hard for the things they are passionate about, eg the Lions Club, Bowling Club, Historical Society, Golf Club, Angling Club, the Pastoral and Agricultural Society, and the Chameleon Arts Collective.
Big events on our local calendar include the Balmoral Pastoral and Agricultural Show in March, and the Easter Saturday Market where the whole district, including campers and past and present locals turn out. Home football games are followed with great enthusiasm. Chameleon Arts Collective produces an annual events calendar of first class performances held right here in our atmospheric and historic Mechanics Hall.