Charlton ( 36°16’S, 143°21’E), “The Friendly River Town”, is a town in Victoria, Australia. It is a small agricultural community straddling the Avoca River, located at the junction of the Calder Highway and Borung Highway and positioned in the last of the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. Charlton is approximately 105kms (65miles) northwest of Bendigo, 245kms (152 miles) northwest of Melbourne and 305kms (186 miles) southeast of Mildura. This location, almost halfway between Melbourne and Mildura, makes Charlton a popular stop along the way for tourists.
The original inhabitants of the region were the Jaara Aborigines. After extensive travels throughout the region by Major Thomas Mitchell, settlement by Europeans occurred in 1848 when Robert Cay and William Kaye established a station and named the region after a town in Greenwich, England. Unlike many other towns in the region, Charlton was not established as a result of gold mining, but for pastoral purposes and the proximity to a permanent water supply (the Avoca River). The original town was named East Charlton due to its location on the eastern banks of the Avoca River, and the fact that another town in the Victoria was named Charlton (renamed Chute in 1879).
The first bridge to cross the river was erected in 1867 by James Paterson, allowing for expansion on both sides of the river. Throughout the history of Charlton, the Avoca River has been known for its spontaneous flooding after heavy rain showers, resulting in many floods that often surrounded the town or on rare occasions flooded the town. Levy banks constructed to their present levels in the 1950s have prevented any further major floods of the town itself.
One of the town’s most prominent landmarks is the former hotel, the “Vale of Avoca”, which was built on the site of an early bark hut inn by James & Elizabeth Egan in 1879. Built on a reef of stone, Mrs Egan named the building as being in the ‘vale’ or valley of the nearby Avoca River. It was de-licensed as a hotel in 1942, restored in the 1990s and currently operates as a Bed and Breakfast.