Going for gold: cycling the Goldfields
Cyclists of every shape, size and speed can enjoy the rush of exploring Central Victoria’s historic Goldfields region.
The Goldfields Track – Victoria’s longest off-road cycling trail – winds through the heart of this green and gold corner of the world. It takes cyclists from wide boomtown boulevards, along the spine of the Great Dividing Range and through peaceful bushland past long-abandoned mines. Evenings offer diversions such as fine regional dining or a soak in a mineral spa after a day’s ride.
Running from Mount Buninyong near Ballarat through Creswick, Daylesford, Hepburn Springs, Castlemaine and Harcourt to Bendigo, the 210km route is divided into three sections – the Wallaby Track from Buninyong to Daylesford; the history-packed Dry Diggings Track on to Castlemaine; and the Leanganook Track into Bendigo. Ongoing upgrades and improved signage are making this bucket-list ride increasingly accessible. For a comprehensive insight, find the Goldfields Track: Walk or Ride Guide in local visitor centres and bookstores.
Rail trails offer a more sedate option for off-road cyclists. The 18km Maldon to Castlemaine rail trail was unveiled last year, chasing the Victorian Goldfields Tourist Train as it puffs between the towns. For a pleasant daytrip, cycle out to quaint Maldon for a coffee before popping your bike on the heritage steam train for the return trip. Back in Castlemaine, unwind in the new cultural precinct The Mill.
The 49km O’Keefe Rail Trail runs between Lake Weeroona in Bendigo via pint-sized Axedale to Heathcote, navigating pretty eucalypt forests filled with native birds and wildlife. The 53km Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail is open to all ability levels, leading from Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour past history-packed sites such as the Chinese gold-mining settlement at Nintingbool, and Nimmons trestle bridge.
Town and country
The bitumen byways of the Goldfields region also have plenty to offer weekend warriors of all abilities. The prosperity that poured in at the height of 1850s gold fever can still be felt in the increasingly vibrant, cycle-mad cities of Bendigo and Ballarat. Swing past Welcome Nugget Bike Hire next to Ballarat Railway Station and potter around the popular 6km Lake Wendouree circuit nearby, or set out on the 9km Ballarat Heritage Ride to historical hubs such as the Eureka Stockade Memorial Gardens and Sovereign Hill.
Explore cultured little Bendigo on a compact 1970s foldable bike from Brompton Bendigo Bike Hire in Wine Bank on View. The Bendigo Art Gallery is an essential stop, flanked by other heritage buildings in View Street’s arts hub. If you’re keen to join locals for a more intense session, see bendigotourism.com for regular cycling meet-ups.
Gourmands will find ample reason to take the treadlie on the back roads of Harcourt. Wind your way around the base of Mount Alexander to Sutton Grange Winery for live music on Sundays, pick up a souvenir bottle of BlackJack Wines’ acclaimed red and visit the Bress cellar door on Harmony Way for paddock-to-plate dining – with an easy pedal back downhill to Harcourt afterwards.
Maldon Steam Train to Castlemaine. Image supplied by Visit Victoria.