Amphitheatre is a rural village on the Pyrenees Highway in central-west Victoria, about midway between Ararat and Maryborough.
It is situated on the Avoca River near where it is joined by the Glenpatrick, Amphitheatre and other creeks, in land surrounded by hills. The name describes the topography of the locality.
Gold was discovered near Amphitheatre in 1853, but it was during 1858-59 that a substantial rush of miners led to the establishment of a permanent village. An Anglican school was opened in 1861, and a Union church (used by Anglican and Presbyterian congregations) was opened in 1865. Prior to then there were hotels south and west of the village, and in 1865 the Amphitheatre Hotel was rebuilt and several stores followed with a few years. A Catholic church was opened in 1867.
Beginning in the 1870s market gardens were established, mainly by former Chinese miners, and orchards were planted. Amphitheatre apples were a well recognised product by the end of the century. Pears, cherries, grapes and potatoes were also grown, and pastoral activities occupied the less fertile areas. Mining also continued, and a large gold dredge worked the Avoca River as late as 1951-57. The railway line through Amphitheatre to Ararat was opened in 1890. In 1903 the Australian handbook described Amphitheatre:
There was also a mechanics’ institute (1901), and saw mills near the station cut wood taken from the surrounding ranges. Wool was transported to Geelong from a wool store, also near the station. During the inter-war years Amphitheatre had populations of about 300 to 450 people, with a mixed economy of fruit, wool, firewood and some gold.
After World War II rail passenger and freight volumes fell, causing closure of the line during 1959-66; its re-opening was for grain transport from the Mallee to Portland.
By 2010 Amphitheatre had a school (19 pupils, 2014), a hotel, a general store, a recreation reserve, two churches and a public hall. However many of these institutions were under threat. The hotel closed, reopening in 2010 as a B&B and ice creamery. A 2013-15 Amphitheatre Community Action Plan sought to address the ramifications of the closure of community infrastructure including the local shop, hotel and child care centre, and sought to strengthen community facilities and address environmental concerns such as wind farms.
Its census populations have been:
|Amphitheatre and environs||2011||236|
In 2011 farming and fruit growing accounted for 34.6% of employment.
Margaret Oulton, A valley of the finest description – a history of the Shire of Lexton, 3rd ed, Pyrenees Shire, 1995