Three ways to see the Goldfields
Discover the rich history of Victoria’s gold rush.
With long and short trails to suit varying fitness levels, the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is a top spot for a ramble through local history. Starting in Chewton, follow the Leanganook Track for about 20 minutes to find remnants of the Garfield Waterwheel. Built in the 1880s to power the local quartz crushing mill, the waterwheel was once one of the biggest in the world, yet all that remains now are the foundations. You can see pictures of it in its prime at Chewton Town Hall. Afterwards, sample a local beverage at the Scottish-themed Red Hill Hotel. It stocks ales from Castlemaine’s Shedshaker Brewing and wines from vineyards in Chewton, Macedon and Woodend. Hungry? Try a ‘Glasgow Salad’ (also known as hot chips) or order a chicken schnitzel for a hearty meal.
Beyond the hubs of Ballarat, Castlemaine and Bendigo, the region’s smaller towns are ideal for a drive through history. About 15 minutes from Castlemaine, the quiet main street of Newstead is home to quaint shop facades and heritage buildings. Grab a coffee and watch the world go by from the veranda of Dig Cafe, then head inside to stock up on jams and condiments. Further afield, the deserted town of Moliagul is worth a look. The birthplace of John Flynn (founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service) and the site where the world’s largest alluvial gold nugget (dubbed the ‘Welcome Stranger’) was found in 1869, Moliagul’s old stone church, general store, school and hotel are reminders of the town’s heyday. Just down the road, the charming gold rush town of Dunolly has a timeless feel.
Stretching from Daylesford to Castlemaine, the Dry Diggings section of the Goldfields Track is best suited to serious mountain bikers. The 61-kilometre stretch can be broken into shorter rides depending on your stamina.Starting at the Chocolate Mill in Mount Franklin (a pre-ride hot chocolate, perhaps?) the 21-kilometre stretch to Vaughan Springs reveals native wildlife (look for swamp wallabies under the eucalypts), gold rush-era mines and settler shacks. For an easier ride, cycle 17.7 kilometres along the Castlemaine-to-Maldon Trail, then enjoy a steam train ride back for $35.