No regional Victoria explorer should forego a trip to the Central Goldfields Shire; a region just a couple of hours north-west of Melbourne. Maryborough and its surrounding towns of Carisbrook, Dunolly and Talbot might not be the largest population-wise, but they're blessed with picturesque landscapes (a walk through the box-ironbark forests is a must), heritage buildings and a thriving arts and music scene. In 2018, Maryborough is proudly part of the Regional Centre for Culture; an area comprising the four key Central Victorian regions of the City of Greater Bendigo, Mount Alexander Shire, Central Goldfields Shire and Hepburn Shire.
For more insight into all the exciting festivals, events and surprises that the Regional Centre for Culture has in store, check out our ultimate guide to the RCC.
Where to eat and drink
Sitting on the edge of the Goldfields Reservoir in Maryborough is Ripples on the Res, a mud brick made structure that centres around a huge log fire pit. Here they serve up simple hearty meals for a nice price: our pick is the twice cooked pork belly or the spicy house made potato gnocchi, which go down a treat in the middle of winter. Park yourself beside the big windows and watch day turn into night with bush views over the reservoir.
Pep up at Daily Dose where they’re serving arguably the best cuppa joe in town. This spacious and funky space serves up country-style big breakfasts with a city attitude. Think balsamic pork belly salad, loaded pulled pork fries, chickpea pancakes and satay noodle bowls with plenty of vego and vegan options too. Scan the front dessert cabinet for daily sweet specials including cheesecakes, vegan brownies, fudge slices and Golden Gaytime bombs.
The historic Maryborough railway station forms the centre of the town, and it’s here you’ll find an antiques shop, art gallery and a friendly bistro and wine bar. Opened in 2015, there’s a certain industrial feel to the Railway Café, which seats up to 60 in the Great Hall of the station complex. At breakfast they’ll whip up a mean cup of coffee, which you can pair with a big plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. Later in the day we suggest grabbing a glass of wine with brioche sliders or salt and pepper calamari while you take in the marvellous sky-high ceilings, original fixtures and station doors that are still intact from the 1890s.
Where to stay
Maryborough is a regional Vic jewel, unhurried and unassuming. Just off the main drag you’ll find Maryborough Caravan Park, a bargain pitstop only a short drive from countless Goldfields attractions. They kick casual accommodation up a notch: there’s cabins, villas, powered caravan parking spots and camping options with nightly rates starting from a measly $32 during low season. The best part? It’s right opposite the picturesque Lake Victoria.
Things to do
Central Goldfields Art Gallery
Art-lovers won't want to go past this charming art gallery, located in the fire station, built in 1861. The permanent collection is constantly growing, and much of the work provides an insight into the history of the region. Look for pieces by Arthur Boyd, Pro Hart, Dean Bowen and Ray Crooke, and marvel at the textile work in the Golden Textures exhibition.
If the idea of a 'living ghost town' fills you with intrigue, then make a beeline for Talbot; a small town which was once a bustling Gold Rush settlement back in the 1850s. These days, visitors meander through the peaceful streets, past heritage buildings, museums and the contemplative London House community garden. Of course, it's not totally devoid of inhabitants; the town's friendly inhabitants welcome visitors to their popular monthly farmer's market. Plus, there are bookshops, nurseries and clothing stores packed with character.
Put on your walking shoes and have your camera at the ready: it's time to delve back into the history of the goldfields. Highlights on Maryborough's Heritage Trail include the Bristol Hill Tower (built out of materials from the Maryborough Gaol during the Great Depression) and the beautiful bluestone Worsley Cottage Museum, where you'll learn about what life was like for the earliest Gold Rush settlers.
A major drawcard of the Maryborough region is the varied nature and wildlife experiences on offer. Take a walk through the box-ironbark forests, take time out in the Phillips Botanical Gardens, check out the four rock wells dug by the Dja Dja Wurrung people, and visit Quartz Mountain: the largest quartz outcrop in Victoria. It's surrounded by wildflowers and eucalyptus trees, and features a 40-tonne boulder balancing precariously on the outcrop.
Discover more of the RCC
What do the four shires surrounding the buzzing Victorian centres of Bendigo, Daylesford, Castlemaine and Maryborough have in common? In 2018, they’re teaming up to form the Regional Centre for Culture. Over 12 big months, the RCC will host music festivals, shows, exhibitions and community events. For a comprehensive look at where to go, stay and eat, check out our guide to the RCC.