The first European known to have visited the district was Thomas Mitchell in 1836. By 1851 about 400 Europeans lived on some 16 pastoral properties in the area.
Late in 1852 gold was discovered at McIvor Creek. Within six months some 40,000 miners were camped in the vicinity. It proved to be one of the richest finds during the gold rush period but the gold was so easily found that it was soon largely exhausted and by the end of the year a large proportion of the miners had already left. This was not before the Victorian government gazetted the township of Heathcote on the site and ordered the construction of several official buildings.
With the decline of gold mining the region took on an increased importance as a pastoral district.
A weekend early in October is dedicated to the Heathcote Wine and Food Festival held at the show grounds. This is a dynamic event that has grown rapidly since its inception in 1994. March is host to a relatively new event which began in 2010 to showcase local produce and boutique breweries of the region; the Snag, Beer and Bubble Fest. This event also features local musicians and bands.
Heathcote does not have a museum.