Central Gold Fields
RICH IN HISTORY and one of Australia’s emerging wine regions, the Goldfields area of Central Victoria is a perfect city getaway. Once the dynamo of the Australian economy during the gold rush years, Bendigo and its surrounds lay claim to some of Victoria’s most important history.
The world’s largest gold nugget was found in the heart of the region at Moliagul in 1869. The region offers a diverse range of activities from wine tasting to water sports to rock climbing, and even the opportunity to try your hand at prospecting.
Bushwalking/fossicking: Kooyoora State Park was once the hideout of the gold rush-era bushranger Captain Melville. Check out his old hideout before exploring the diverse flora and fauna of the 11,350ha park. Nineteen species of rare, interesting and restricted plants occur in the park, with an array of orchids carpeting the area when in flower. Fossicking (or prospecting), caving and abseiling can all be arranged prior to travel with a tour operator.
Water sports: Fifteen minutes from Kooyoora State Park, Bridgewater-on-Loddon is a popular regional destination for waterskiers (hosting the Australian Masters Tournament in January) and a relaxing spot to throw in a fishing line or dive into the local swimming hole. Whitewater rafting (Grade 3) is a popular feature when water levels are high.
Mountain Biking: A good way to connect with Victoria’s intensely rich history and lush natural landscapes is by bike, especially the superb 210km track from Ballarat to Bendigo. This route separates into three tracks, each of varying difficulty, from scenic rides to a challenging expedition. And you won’t be too far off the beaten track – you can stop in one of the many cafes and restaurants in local villages and take a load off.
Location: Bridgewater-on-Loddon is located on the Calder Highway, 35km from Bendigo; Kooyoora State Park is 85km from Bendigo (220km from Melbourne) west of the Calder Highway between Inglewood and Wedderburn, access from Melville Caves Road.
Accommodation: Camping is available in the Kooyoora State Park, Bridgewater Caravan Park and Loddon Bridge Hotel in Bridgewater.
Food/drink: Great pub meals and supermarkets can be found in surrounding towns in Inglewood and Wedderburn.
Points of interest: Water Wheel Winery, Bridgewater-on-Loddon, Inglewood, Melville Caves, Mt Kooyoora lookout