CASTLE­MAINE

THIS FORMER GOLD­MIN­ING TOWN HAS PLENTY OF COM­MU­NITY SPIRIT.

Country Style - - ON THE MOVE - For more in­for­ma­tion, go to vis­itvic­to­ria.com

CASTLE­MAINE IS A HIS­TORIC

re­gional city in the heart of the cen­tral Vic­to­rian gold­fields, 130 kilo­me­tres north-west of Melbourne and 40 kilo­me­tres south of Bendigo. Gold was found at Bark­ers Creek just north of the ex­ist­ing town in 1851 and soon af­ter the area be­came one of the world’s rich­est shal­low al­lu­vial gold­fields. With the gold rush came a pop­u­la­tion boom and th­ese days Castle­maine’s streets are lined with beau­ti­ful mid 19th-cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture and her­itage lega­cies that in­clude the Theatre Royal — one of the old­est con­tin­u­ally op­er­at­ing the­atres in Aus­tralia — and the Castle­maine Botan­i­cal Gar­dens, es­tab­lished in 1856. To­day the vi­brant town has a pop­u­la­tion of about 9000 and is renowned for its arts scene, with a rep­u­ta­tion for great food, wine and re­gional pro­duce, as well as a di­verse and tight-knit com­mu­nity. Key in­dus­tries are health, man­u­fac­tur­ing and hor­ti­cul­ture, with less re­liance on tourism than some other gold­field towns. Add to that the fact that it is ser­viced by a rail ser­vice be­tween Melbourne and Bendigo, and it’s no won­der that Castle­maine has been a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for new­com­ers, many mov­ing from Melbourne. In­grid Gaiotto and Luca Sar­tori moved into town in 2011 with their three young sons. They were look­ing for a town that had a strong com­mu­nity spirit, where they could open their Ital­ian café, Orig­ini. “I love Castle­maine with a vengeance,” says In­grid. “As some­one who came from Italy as a young per­son I al­ways felt home­less…and [Castle­maine] turned out to be the clos­est ex­pres­sion of home that I’ve ever come to.” In­grid now also runs In Giro guided cul­tural tours around Italy (in­giro.com.au), and says Castle­maine is full of in­ter­est­ing peo­ple who, like her, have their feet in two worlds. “You can’t walk down the street without rub­bing shoul­ders with the most in­cred­i­ble ar­ray of peo­ple, from nov­el­ists to ad­ven­tur­ers.”

TRAVEL

It takes about an hour and 45 min­utes to drive from Melbourne to Castle­maine, via the M79 Calder Free­way. How­ever, the town is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble by rail — V Line runs reg­u­lar ser­vices for com­muters from Melbourne, which takes an hour and 45 min­utes, and Bendigo, a 50-minute trip away. 1800 800 007; vline.com.au

PROP­ERTY

Castle­maine has long been a pop­u­lar spot for peo­ple mov­ing from Melbourne, but, ac­cord­ing to Genevieve Cantwell of Cantwell Prop­erty, the age de­mo­graphic has changed re­cently. “Over the past five or six years, with ur­ban Melbourne house prices ris­ing so rapidly, where once it was re­tirees mov­ing here, we have seen a shift to the 35–45 de­mo­graphic,” she says. “They can com­mute to Melbourne on the train, or if they are self-em­ployed — pri­mar­ily that means cre­ative peo­ple — they can work a small busi­ness at home... They are peo­ple who are mak­ing the choice about life­style, bet­ter qual­ity hous­ing and ameni­ties.” As a gold­fields town, Castle­maine has a high num­ber of orig­i­nal homes, along with a mix of dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods. The me­dian house price is around $400,000, but for a ren­o­vated his­toric home, prices are much higher. “They’re get­ting more ex­pen­sive,” says Genevieve. “In the ‘Hawthorn’ equiv­a­lent ar­eas of Castle­maine, with an es­tab­lished gar­den, you are prob­a­bly look­ing at $750,000 and above.” SCHOOLS There are three govern­ment pri­mary schools in Castle­maine. A Steiner School at Muck­le­ford of­fers ed­u­ca­tion to Year 8, and St Mary’s is the Catholic school. There is one high school.

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