For a period of time immigrants came from all over the world for the new gold rush in the Victorian hills north of Melbourne. The gold rush has long past (leaving a legacy of architecture in Melbourne and the surrounding towns), but there is much history to experience in this easy day trip from Melbourne.
The Goldfields is best explored by car. Everything in the Goldfields is a scenic 60-minute trip from everything else.
There are two major freeways running from Melbourne to this region, depending on where you want to go in this region. The M79 Calder Freeway heads northwest up to Bendigo, passing through much of the Macedon Ranges, while the M8 Western Freeway goes up west to Ballarat.
- Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve, ☏ (ranger), toll-free: 1800 244 711. The 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock, directed by Peter Weir, has made this awe-inspiring location famous. According to the plot, widely believed by many (erroneously) to be a true story, during a private school excursion, two school girls and a teacher went missing from the Rock on Valentine's Day 1901, with no trace of them ever found. The area is well developed, with walking trails, lookouts, interpretive displays, large picnic areas and barbecues, and a cafe. A short exploration of the area with its crevices and sharp drops will show you how easy it would be to disappear here. There is little danger staying on the well marked trails though. Take a picnic. $10 car; $8 motorbike; $4 per person without car.
- 1 Sovereign Hill, Bradshaw St, Golden Point VIC 3350 (Train or Western Freeway to Ballarat, then follow C294 south from City Centre.), ☏ . 10am - 5pm. Open air museum showing the early stages of Ballarat during the Gold Rush. Featuring many attractions, like a mine tour and a light show, this is a must see if you're nearby. It has many places to eat and drink, as well as facilities like toilets and gift shops. 39 AUD.
The Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail is a 46km route for cycling or horseriding from the city of Ballarat to the town of Skipton along the old Skipton railway line.
Where you eat and what you eat significantly varies on where you are, but there's not much variety outside of Bendigo and Ballarat.
The Goldfields region has a large number of wineries and vineyards in the region and it's pretty easy to find one.
It is advisable for inexperienced country drivers to avoid driving at dusk and dawn, to avoid coming into contact with kangaroos who have been spotted crossing roads as close as the edge of town. If you must travel during these high-risk times, drive carefully and enlist your passenger as a "spotter" for wildlife, particularly kangaroos.
If you plan on driving on any non-major roads, it is advisable to bring water in case you break down and need to stay with your car whilst awaiting assistance. Most roads in the central goldfields are well traveled, and someone will come across you within hours at worst.
During bushfire season (December - February) check the bushfire danger rating daily on the CFA website.
If the danger rating is extreme, be aware of the names of the towns and regions you plan to travel to throughout the day, and keep tuned to 107.9 FM in the small chance that a fire does break out. Any news broadcast regarding a new or existing fire will be preceded by an alarm tone, you won't miss it.
If the danger rating is code red, reconsider your need to travel out of the town. Code red days are only announced once every 10 years or so, and are extremely high risk days for fast moving dangerous bushfires.