Castlemaine and Central Victoria are beautiful in winter. The stark landscapes and breathtaking views, the long walking and cycling tracks through the bushlands, the beautiful parks and gardens, the cosy cafes: it’s just the most perfect time to explore the great outdoors and the charms of the region’s historic towns.
Best of all, at end of each adventure-filled day you can come home to a warming campfire at BIG4 Castlemaine. Put your feet up, enjoy a glass of one of the renowned local wines and some delicious gourmet treats you’ve found at a farmers’ market or at one of the specialty produce outlets the area is famous for, and start planning the next day’s itinerary. A visit to an art gallery, perhaps. Another long hike along bush tracks you have all to yourself. A ride on a historic steam train. A lazy lunch in an old country pub. There’s so much to see and do you might just decide to stay on for an extra day or two!
To help you make the most of your holiday, here are some of our very favourite winter things to do,
The magnificent and historic 23-hectare Castlemaine Botanical Gardens and Bushland Reserve is right next door to us. Enjoy walking and cycling, admire the birdlife and the garden beds, and let the kids loose in an award-winning play space. Oh, and say hello to Victoria's official 2021 Tree of the Year, a massive and massively beautiful English Oak planted in 1863.
What can we say! This huge and extraordinary foodie and artisan precinct situated in a re-purposed 1860s woollen mill, is just across the road from BIG4 Castlemaine. The Mill is your go-to for amazing meals, coffees, breads, cheeses, wines, beers and smallgoods with vintage shopping and arts and crafts thrown in for good measure. So much on offer! https://millcastlemaine.com.au/
Located in North Harcourt, just 10 minutes’ drive away, this 1400-hectare park has stunning lookouts including the popular Dogs Rocks (fantastic rock-climbing!), walking tracks, and a picnic area. It's a great place to spot wildlife including Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Black Wallabies and a range of birdlife. https://www.bendigoregion.com.au/visit-castlemaine-maldon/mount-alexander-regional-park
This legend in the heart of Castlemaine was built in 1855 and is the longest continuously running theatre on mainland Australia. Go catch a latest release or an arthouse film (by the way, kids’ blockbusters are scheduled for school holidays, perfect for a rainy afternoon) or check out a great live music gig, along with a stunning cocktail or a glass of first-rate local wine. https://www.theatreroyalcastlemaine.com.au/
Head to this historic town just 15 minutes from Castlemaine and continue the outdoor, fresh-air adventures with the two-kilometre Anzac Hill walk and the Mt Tarrengower lookout, both delivering splendid scenery and views. Be sure to explore Maldon as well - there are heritage streetscapes, galleries and great cafes and pubs for a lunch.
This 17.7-kilometre walking and cycling track runs alongside the historic Victorian Goldfields Railway and across scenic farm and bush lands and historic sites. It's certainly a different way of getting from Castlemaine to Maldon! There are plenty of resting places along the way and you can arrange to return to Castlemaine on the steam train! https://www.bendigoregion.com.au/visit-castlemaine-maldon/castlemaine-to-maldon-trail
If you don't want to walk or cycle to Maldon alongside the Victorian Goldfields Railway tracks, hop on the train itself! A journey on the beautiful and luxurious old steam train makes a very special family outing. (And remember, BIG4 Perks Plus members should purchase tickets through us to enjoy discounts) http://www.vgr.com.au/homepage.php
Victoria’s fourth largest city is just a 40-minute drive (or 20-minute train ride) from Castlemaine. Once the site of one of the worlds’ largest goldfields, Bendigo offers grand architecture, beautiful parks, gardens and lakes, extensive bush reserves, great dining, the renowned Bendigo Art Gallery, and plenty of adventures for the family, including the Central Deborah Gold Mine Complex offering underground tours of the mine, the Talking Tram tour through central Bendigo, and the Golden Dragon Museum, which pays tribute to the city’s long associations with Chinese people and culture. Put a day aside for a visit – it’s well worth it. https://www.bendigoregion.com.au/explore-bendigo
This is an ideal starting point for exploring the history of Castlemaine's vast Central Goldfields. A 400-metre track circles around an historic alluvial goldfield and detailed signboards along the way provide fascinating facts and information about the ancient Forest Creek river bed, the gold rush of the 1850's and 1860's, and the remnants and relics of the structures and equipment left behind. https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/castlemaine-diggings-national-heritage-park
Once a large gold rush township, this scenic destination about 20 minutes from Castlemaine is perfect for bushwalking and picnics. There are mineral spring taps to fill water bottles from, great climbing trees, picnic tables and best of all as far as kids are concerned, a giant free slide to play on! https://www.goldfieldsguide.com.au/explore-location/22/vaughan-springs/
This gallery and museum on Lyttleton Street in the heart of Castlemaine is well worth a visit for an hour or two to have a look at the range of art and artefacts reflecting the history and social life of Castlemaine and the surrounding region, along with the gallery’s noted collection of Australian art and contemporary exhibitions. https://castlemaineartmuseum.org.au/
Enjoy an afternoon at Castlemaine’s Buda House, a Museums Australia accredited goldfields villa house and gardens. Purchased in 1863 by successful Hungarian-born businessman Ernest Leviny, the villa was home to the Leviny family until 1981 and houses the family’s significant collection of furniture, artworks and personal belongings. The 1.2 hectares of gardens feature original plantings, a bird aviary, tennis pavilion and garden ornaments and there’s a lovely gift shop where you’ll find that special locally-crafted holiday souvenir. https://budacastlemaine.org/
All this is just for starters! But whether you’re after a little peace and quiet in beautiful winter landscapes, good old-fashioned family fun (think toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate around a campfire) or a few days enjoying some sophisticated wining, dining and arts, Castlemaine and Central Victoria is the place to be.