(Where a Whole Lot is Happening! Think Music, Art, Food, Cocktails and Vintage)
Time for a getaway and you’re after it all: convenience, fresh country air, bike and bush trails all to yourself, great food, live music, THE best cocktails, shopping, peace and quiet, galleries and wineries, stunning scenery, open fires (and did we mention cocktails…?) Well, welcome to Castlemaine, the town bang smack in the heart of beautiful Central Victoria which truly does have it all. And more!
Here’s some ideas to get you started. And the first and the best? Add an extra night or two. There’s simply too much to see and plus you’ll need rest time in between the adventures!
Of course, you’re staying at BIG4 Castlemaine! With the beautiful Castlemaine Botanical Gardens right next door and the vibrant and amazing exciting Mill Complex just across the road, you’ve arrived at some of the best Castlemaine has to offer. So, welcome!
Arrive in Castlemaine in time to enjoy a light lunch – Superhero Banh Mi or Lunchbox Sushi are local favourites for something quick and delicious. Then head off for a wander through town. Call in to the Castlemaine Art Museum to take in some noted Australian art, a current special exhibition or two and a fascinating and comprehensive display on the area’s early history. Drop in to the Visitor Information Centre, housed in an historic market building, browse some boutiques and shops, admire the architecture, and perhaps pick up a bottle or two of the region’s award-winning wine.
It’s off to the charming Castlemaine Maurocco Bar in the Midland Hotel for cocktails followed by a memorable dinner, perhaps at Wild restaurant, noted for local produce and wines, or Phamily Kitchen for up-market and delicious Vietnamese.
Lunch is a choice between Das Kaffeehaus, a Viennese coffeehouse and coffee roastery or a Greek mezze meal at the Boomtown Wine Co-Operative. Either is good! Or browse the small food producers who call The Mill home – you’ll find makers of craft beers, cheeses. amazing chocolates, smallgoods and breads – and pick up a few supplies for later or enjoy a picnic lunch in the Botanical Gardens right next to BIG4 Castlemaine.
Time for a long walk! Perhaps a section of the Goldfields Track, a 210-kilometre track that traverses some of the most beautiful mountains, landscapes and small towns of Central Victoria. Perhaps try Vaughan Springs, Dog Rocks near Harcourt, or Expedition Pass Reservoir. Enjoy the scenery, the views and the fresh air, and perhaps visit a local winery or cidery on the way back to Castlemaine.
Decisions, decisions! Fine dining with a set degustation menu at the intimate Bar Midland (advance booking essential)? Or a relaxed dinner at a local pub? The Bridge Hotel, just a three-minute walk from BIG4 Castlemaine, serves great pub meals. Or perhaps you’ll choose to just enjoy a picnic of cheeses and meats with a glass of wine on your private deck and watch dusk settle over the trees of the Botanical Gardens? Then head off to the Taproom and Shedshaker Brewery at The Mill for one of their great live events, served up with excellent handcrafted beers and local wines, or it’s into town for cocktails at the iconic Theatre Royal and some live music or a movie.
Departure day and more decisions! If it’s the first Sunday of the month, the Castlemaine Farmers’ Market is happening, which means great coffee, snacks and treats and plenty of outstanding produce to load up the car with! Or enjoy a walk to the hole-in-the-wall specialty coffee shop Tortoise Espresso on the town’s main road, which offers up to 50 different coffees to try!
Head home the slow way via the historic town of Maldon, with its carefully preserved gold-rush era streetscapes. Enjoy the architecture and shops and a long lunch at one of the pubs or restaurants. Or head back to Melbourne through Hepburn and Daylesford, again enjoying lunch at one of the noted restaurants in that area and perhaps taking in the views of the region from the top of the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens.
Or just spend a last day lingering on in Castlemaine. A visit to the eclectic and lovely Lot 19 Art Space. Yum Cha at the Taste of the Orient on Barker Street or a long lunch at the Guildford Winery 15 minutes from Castlemaine (book ahead!) And finally, some Sunday afternoon live music at one of the local pubs or at the Midland Hotel and then the slow drive home.
There’s also seriously fabulous food and wine on offer, from the lauded Lakehouse Restaurant to numerous eateries offering everything from dumplings to pastries to pub classics along Vincent Street, Daylesford’s main street.
And, of course, there are some excellent and eclectic galleries and creative art spaces to visit. Start at The Convent, a 19th century school and convent building now home to seven gallery spaces over four levels as well as a museum, chapel, café and bar and spectacular views. Also check out Daylesford’s calendar of events and festivals – Chill Out, the Words in Winter Writers’ Festival, the World Circus and Cabaret Festival are just some of the amazing events that attract big and diverse crowds.
Other towns well worth a visit that are within a 30-to-40-minute drive of Castlemaine include Kyneton, home to trendy Piper Street eateries and shops, and Macedon and the Macedon Ranges. For something very special visit the extraordinary and beautiful Hanging Rock in the Macedon Ranges, also known as Ngannelong, where indigenous people were performing ceremonies more than 25,000 years ago!