THIS FORMER GOLDMINING TOWN HAS PLENTY OF COMMUNITY SPIRIT.
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.”
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
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.