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Country gems come at a cost

A CLUTCH of historic country properties may tempt city tree changers this spring - but they won't come cheap.

The expected $3 million sale price of one of Bendigo's finest heritage-listed estates will get you a Pompeii fountain, parade ground, coach house, stables and, oh, a mansion as well.

In the 1860s, a gentleman named George Lansell became the gold-rush town's quartz king when he purchased the 180 Mine, part of the fabulously rich New Chum Reef.

Within weeks, Lansell had recouped his investment and went on to accumulate great wealth, which he spent on the appropriately named Fortuna Villa above the fabled reef at 22-48 Chum Street.

Fortuna is now being sold by the Defence Department, which has used the extensive grounds and buildings for its signals section since the 1940s.

A little closer to the city in Fryerstown, near Castlemaine, another gold-rush homestead is also seeking its fortune - $2.95 million worth.


Like Fortuna, Lambruk Estate boasts a coach-house, conservatory and colonial-legacy gardens that surround the 1863 sandstone home.

But much more run-down and in need of a Lansell-like benefactor is the historic Mintaro mansion in Romsey. It will go to auction this month with a reserve of $3 million.

The ornate 1882 Italianate home north of the city on the Melbourne to Lancefield Road was designed by boom-time architect James Gall and has survived two world wars and years of neglect.

Until recently, its three-storey central tower, ornate hand-painted ceilings and marble fireplaces carved with cherubs were surrounded by the shells of dozens of decrepit cars that can still be spied on Google maps.

Not to be outdone, Queenscliff, 90 kilometres from Melbourne on the Bellarine Peninsula, has two historic properties for sale.

During the paddle steamer era the town was a favoured getaway for Melbourne's society set, who left a lasting legacy - six grand old colonial hotels.

One, the Ozone, was controversially turned into apartments in 2010 but the other five are going concerns, each with a slightly different flavour from fine dining to beer barn.

The elegant Queenscliff Hotel, formerly run by famed Melbourne foodie Mietta O'Donnell, is for sale with a price tag around $5 million.

''We have probably had more interest from interstate than anywhere else. It's a unique building,'' said Kerleys estate agent Neil Laws.

Around the corner, another pub, the Royal Hotel, is on the market for about $3 million.

If history fails to take your fancy, there's a 120-seat Yarra Valley restaurant and hideaway to drown your sorrows.

The Mt Rael Retreat on the Healesville to Yarra Glen Road east of the city with views over local wineries, is expected to fetch around $1.8 million.