The gold rush saw all manner of mismatched people come together in a patchwork community with one common goal. This quirky spirit still characterises the Goldfields, and locals are all too willing to share with you the compelling, off-kilter experiences that will stay with you long after you leave.
1. Drive a train at Castlemaine
For those with a keen appreciation of classic steam or diesel locomotives, the Victorian Goldfields Railway offers you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive a heritage train for yourself! The Victorian Goldfields Railway runs between Castlemaine and Maldon, and the handsome, glossy trains thrill visitors of all ages. Feeling the brawn of these grand old machines in your own hands conjures the steam train’s long-gone heyday, and makes for a truly immersive historical experience.
2. Visit the Central Goldfields’ rail-side masterpiece
On the topic of railways, the little town of Maryborough’s train station, in the Central Goldfields, is a not-to-be missed cultural institution around which folklore swirls. Mark Twain once described Maryborough as ‘a station with a town attached’, because the Queen Anne–style, red brick structure could comfortably fit the town’s whole population with room to spare. The station features a woodwork ceiling of English Oak and Australian Mountain Ash, Dutch gables, spectacular tessellated floors in its foyer, bluestone steps, and a magnificent verandah that runs the length of the platform – the longest in country Victoria.
3. Hear harrowing tales at the Port of Echuca
Way back when, the Port of Echuca was Australia’s most significant inland port. Today, this bustling historical precinct is home to artisanal boutiques, including a fudge and wine store – both of which offer tastings – and offers fascinating insight into riverside life in the 1800s. For visitors with a penchant for the spooky and macabre, delve into Echuca’s dark past with the Port After Dark Tour. On this lantern-lit tour, you will learn about unearthly happenings, the port’s resident ghosts, and the stories of the souls who perished here over the past 150 years.
4. Sample Shepparton’s famous chocolate-apple delicacies
Jack and Rose, Lizzie and Darcy, Harry and Meghan, chocolate and apples – some love stories are just meant to be. Vibrant regional centre Shepparton, on the northern fringe of the Goldfields, is home to the Chocolate Apple Factory. This must-visit foodie destination was born when someone had the genius idea to marry chocolate and apples, because life is all about balance. Sticky caramel, juicy apples and devilish chocolate make for a melt-in-the-mouth symphony of deliciousness.
5. Play with clay at Australia’s oldest pottery in Bendigo
Bendigo Pottery is a Goldfields historical icon and a breathing relic of gold rush–era Australiana. Built at gold rush fever pitch in 1858, the pottery is now Australia’s oldest, and possesses the world’s most impressive collection of ceramic woodfired kilns – all of which are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. There’s no shortage of messy fun for visitors to have: try your hand at Ghost–style wheel throwing; decorate, glaze and fire your very own mug to take home; or let the kids’ imagination run rampant at sculpting workshops.