Treasures of Victoria's Goldfields
March 17, 2021 • Miriam Blaker
7 min read
It’s easy to be swept away by gold fever when visiting Victoria’s goldmining countryside. With tales of riches and discoveries, the Goldfields offers a fascinating history and a relaxed getaway. Amongst peaceful countryside you’ll find monuments and relics, historic towns lined with wide picturesque streetscapes and all sorts of discoveries, an area where you’ll likely strike gold in more ways than one.
Life’s grand on Broadway. That’s the name of the main street in this quaint gold mining township located two hours from Melbourne. Like many towns in the “Golden Triangle” Dunnolly boasts historic and impressive buildings to take you back in time. You’ll find stores that were once libraries, garages, pharmacies, hotels, theatres, health centres and hardware stores, a blend of the old and the new, and a wonderful streetscape to explore on foot. Around the turn of the century Dunnolly had over 60,000 miners digging in an area a little larger than 20 square miles. Close by at Moliagul the largest gold nugget in the world was brought to be assessed, cut up and weighed.
These days you can take a self-guided tour through town and learn its history. Enjoy lunch at the award-winning bakery and nearby is the Post Office and the Old Bendigo Hotel with Cobb and Co stables at the rear. If you’re looking to try your luck prospecting the closest shops, supplies and tours are at Maryborough. At the Goldfieds Historical and Arts Museum, open on weekends and public holidays, there’s a replica of the 66kg “Welcome Stranger” gold nugget found in 1869. There’s plenty of trails in the surrounding forest where you can try your luck at finding your own nugget.
One of the most exciting galleries to open on Broadway is Rory Stainton’s Puzzleflat Gallery. As you walk in the first thing you’ll see is an extraordinary huge piece of work called “No Beginning no End”. It’s a wow factor piece of rock wall art in this exceptional gallery.
Driving into the heritage listed town of Maldon you can feel how it would have been in the gold rush era. That old world charm and grandeur, a wide streetscape and stone buildings still gives a feel of yesteryear.
In 2006 it was awarded the ‘most intact heritage streetscape’ with its lovingly preserved nineteenth century buildings and its colorful facades on verandahs. It’s a relaxed place with a friendly vibe and, although largely frozen in time with its 19th century streetscape, inside these heritage buildings is an array of gourmet eateries to delight the most discerning foodie.
Maldon Caravan Park is an ideal base from which to explore this area. Located at the base of Mt Tarrengower and within close walking distance of the main street, this small, picturesque park enjoys a peaceful ambience, powered and unpowered sites, two camp kitchens and well-equipped cabins spread throughout the park.
From the caravan park you can drive to Mount Tarrengower to climb the giant look-out tower and take in the views. The road up the mountain was constructed so that the tower could be dragged up the hill by horses. It was first used for a hill climb for motor cars in 1928, four years after the tower was built. Climb the spiralling staircase for sprawling views of the surrounding areas and peaks, ranging from Mt Alexander near Harcourt to Mt Macedon. Here, according to the plaques, you’ll be standing in roughly the centre of Victoria. In October each year the Mount Tarrengower Hill Climb attracts car lovers far and wide and is followed by the Legendary Maldon Folk Festival, a huge event which showcases the talents in the various precincts of town.
One of the must do attractions when visiting Maldon is the Victorian Goldfields Railway, a rich part of Maldon’s history which links the historic townships of Maldon to Castlemaine by steam train. Step through the impressive brick station building and be transported to an era long gone, one that started way back in 1884 when the railway first reached the town.
There are options available for family outings, a romantic couple escape, or you can even pre-book to ride with the driver for an up close and personal experience. For us it was first class all the way back to our caravan park after a relaxing journey back in time.
Located between Ballarat and Daylesford the former gold mining town of Creswick is surrounded by thick pine and eucalyptus plantations. You’ll likely enter town via the majestic Avenue of Honour, 286 mainly Dutch Elm trees that stretch for 2.9km and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
It’s not a big town to explore but it’s definitely worth stopping for a coffee at one of their many great looking cafes, including the fantastic Red Fox Coffee Lounge and Smokeytown Café. Lining the main street are historic buildings like the post office, former town hall and various banks and churches. At the corner of Albert and Raglan Streets is a bandstand dating back to 1897.
Close to town is the picturesque St Georges Lake, popular for picnics and walks and slightly further afield there’s plenty of scenic drives and bushwalking through the adjacent Creswick Regional Park. It’s here you’ll find bush camping at Slaty Creek Campground and plenty of fossicking opportunities.
Ballarat and Lake Burrumbeet
Gold was first discovered in Ballarat in 1851 leading to a gold rush that would last until the late 1860s. It transformed Ballarat from a small sheep station to a major settlement. They came in their droves to dig for their fortune. Gold was the catalyst for great change in Australia with the infamous Eureka Stockade in 1854 the beginnings of major freedoms and democratic reform as miners fought for their rights.
There’s so much to see and experience in Ballarat. Step back in time as you visit Sovereign Hill, a place that depicts how Ballarat’s first ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851. Pack a lunch and head to gorgeous Lake Wendouree, visit the Tramway Museum and the Art Gallery to learn more about the area. For an interactive and fun experience head to the Ballarat Wildlife Park. Wherever you are, it’s hard not to miss the impressive Arch of Victory located at the end of the tree lined Avenue of Honour.
Ballarat is known for its cooler temperatures so warm up with a trip to one of their many cafes and restaurants. Along Lydiard Street you’ll find an array of pubs, bakeries and cafes as well as the Grand Regent Theatre in this beautiful street which is an important living everyday historical monument in its own right. It provides a wonderful history of the mining era with ornate buildings from the time and newer ones like the Regent and the Provincial Hotel. Ballarat celebrates both the old and the new and it’s worth a stroll along Lydiard Street for its grandeur, gourmet delights and photo opportunities.
As well as many caravan parks located in and around town one of the most picturesque places to camp is at Lake Burrumbeet, only fifteen minutes away from the centre of Ballarat. As well as a caravan park there’s a huge free camping area on the foreshore. With plenty of shady spots, prolific bird life, peace and serenity this is a great place to enjoy swimming, fishing, boating or simply relaxing. Lake Burrumbeet is a hidden gem and a perfect base to enjoy exploring this area.