Castlemaine and Maldon
North on the Calder Highway, is Victoria's heartland and the towns of Castlemaine and Maldon. Maldon was declared Australia's first "Notable Town" and is still in very close to its original form.
Leaving Melbourne we travel North along the Calder Highway, before turning off towards historic Chewton and then onto Castlemaine, one of Victoria's most impressive medium towns and home to one variety of our favourite Australian delicacy -
THE VANILLA SLICE.
If you're not familiar with it, the vanilla slice is a block of custard, which has pastry on both top and bottom, with a layer of icing spread over the top layer - yummy.
If you don't "fancy" eating one, we will be more than happy to take yours home with us. We have friends forming a queue.
We're leaving the information about the gaol here, because it's currently closed, but we're hoping it will open again soon. It would be a pity to lose it.
We visit the old Castlemaine Gaol, formerly a very busy prison. It's now used for tourist accommodation, but we certainly won't ever be staying there. Too creepy for us.
The old hanging beam, from which the condemned were launched into eternity, is still stretched over the main gallery. This building certainly gives you an idea of the claustrophobic nature of old prisons, built in the best British penal traditions.
Castlemaine is also home to one of the most unusual do it yourself and home renovation outlets we have ever seen. Some of the tools available for sale, defy description. You might also find the piece missing from Granny's English fine-china dinner set here, as they have plates and cups from tons of patterns. Amazing!
Castlemaine is also home to one of the finest botanical gardens in Victoria, designed by Baron Ferdinand Von Meuller at end of the 19th century. His influence can also be seen in the gardens at Malmsbury, a little further down the highway. Buda House is also in Castlemaine.
As an idea of Castlemaine's wealth during the Goldrush period, every week for 10 years, a coach left for Melbourne, carrying 1000 ounces of gold. No wonder we had so many bushrangers.
From Castlemaine, you board the Goldfields Railway, a volunteer-reclaimed steam railway line, which travels a leisurely route to Maldon. Your booking on the Train will be in the new Tambo luxury carriage, which has been painstakingly restored by the VGR volunteer staff, to its former glory. Not quite the Orient Express, but very comfortable. I wonder how the people in coach class feel?
Your vehicle and guide meets you at the Maldon station to go to Carman's Tunnel mine, for a guided tour of this facility, which looks virtually the same as the day the last miner left. You get to see the mine much as the miners would have worked it, by candlelight.
The North British mine is only across the road and worth a quick visit.
Into Maldon for a walk around the village that has a strict limit on how many new buildings can be constructed. There are some unusual shops, including old-time boiled lollies (sweets) a Teddy Bear shop and a model railway specialist.
The Railway runs only on Wednesday and weekends. At other times, we can visit Porcupine Pioneer Settlement, just a short distance from Maldon. You may choose to substitute the train, for this visit, on the normal tour. The choice is always yours.