Restored historic hotels capture the grandeur of another time, while remaining vital hubs of their communities.

Story John Dunn

The Victorian regional cities of Ballarat and Bendigo have much in common. They were the great centres of the frantic goldrushes of the 1850s, they developed into bustling commercial hubs of what are now thriving rural areas and they are today the proud locations of two of our nation’s few remaining grand, gracious and historic hotels.

Craig’s Royal Hotel in Ballarat and the Hotel Shamrock in Bendigo are magnificent links to another era when the business, social and entertainment life of country communities revolved around their hotels. Usually, one in each area stood out from the others. 

Craig’s and the Shamrock were leaders then, as they are today, following extensive recent renovations. Both are spectacular structures that continue to reflect the style and grandeur of another age. Painstaking preservation and absolute attention to detail by two country hoteliers has brought them back to their glory days.

John and Mary Finning at Craig’s and Jim Hogan at the Shamrock took on these huge tasks. “Craig’s was quite a challenge and it took us seven years,” John says. “It was also expensive because we wanted to be faithful to the past. I think we put more gold into [the hotel] than the diggers took out.”

The Shamrock was equally intimidating. “When it came up for sale and I thought I’d have a go, people said I was mad,” Jim Hogan says. “But I’ve always believed a pub is an integral part of the community and I always knew that the Shamrock was such an icon that it would be a disaster if it was demolished.

This story excerpt is from Issue #125

Outback Magazine: June/July 2019