Castle­maine

A 90-minute drive from Mel­bourne, the for­mer gold-rush town of­fers rich pick­ings for thrifters, trail rid­ers and cof­fee lovers. By Emma Mul­hol­land.

Qantas - - QNEWS. -

Fri­day

For a taste of Castle­maine’s famed boho life, check in to the su­per-eco, rain­wa­ter-fed Rivers­dale Re­treat in Chew­ton (airbnb.com.au), 15 min­utes’ drive from the cen­tre of the town. Short-listed for a cov­eted World Architecture Fes­ti­val Award, the house is scat­tered with Ja­panese el­e­ments, in­clud­ing a tatami area for quiet con­tem­pla­tion. Out­side, there’s bush­land and roos and a firepit beg­ging to be lit.

But where to for din­ner? Drive to Castle­maine’s The Mill din­ing precinct (mill­castle­maine.com. au) for wood­fired piz­zas at The Tap­room, a brew­ery co-owned by ex-Hun­ters & Col­lec­tors drum­mer Doug Fal­coner. Stick around for live mu­sic af­ter 8pm.

Satur­day

In need of a de­li­cious pickme-up? On your way to Har­court’s moun­tain-bike trails, swing past Johnny Baker’s DriveIn patis­serie (john­ny­baker.com.au) where tat­tooed, bearded bak­ers turn out exquisite treats and crack­ing pies. Order the frank­furt crois­sant, made with Bel­gian but­ter and a snag from Castle­maine’s own fleis­cher­meis­ter, Ralf Fink.

Opened in March, the 11 bike trails at La Larr Ba Gauwa Park (lalar­rba­gauwa.har­court.vic.au) are prized for their bush views. The 2.3-kilo­me­tre Wan­yarra track is ideal for first-timers (you can hire gear at the Castle­maine Vis­i­tor In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre; mal­don castle­maine.com.au).

After­wards, tuck into a clas­sic Wiener schnitzel at The Mill’s Das Kaf­fee­haus. Co-owner Elna Schaerf-Trauner has re-cre­ated the Vi­en­nese cof­fee houses of her youth, where in­tel­lec­tu­als would gather to talk pol­i­tics. Be­fore you leave The Mill, call into Castle­maine Vin­tage Bazaar, a store the size of four bas­ket­ball courts, brim­ming with well-trav­elled lug­gage, kitschy tea tow­els and all things macramé.

For din­ner, take a seat by the fire at the Rail­way Ho­tel (rail­way hotel­castle­maine.com.au) and order the pork belly with pick­led cab­bage. With its wooden bar, vel­vet cur­tains and pool ta­ble, this English-style pub is beloved by lo­cals (to blend in, be sure to pro­nounce the “cas­tle” in Castle­maine like “has­sle”).

Sun­day

If the weather is play­ing along, take break­fast on the rooftop at the cheery Togs Cafe (togscafe.com.au), housed in old gold­min­ers’ cot­tages on the town’s main drag. From there, it’s a fiveminute drive to the Shades of Gray gallery (shades­ofgray.net.au), where sculp­tors Peter and Chelly Gray work magic with re­claimed metal (in the ’90s, their pieces were shown at New York’s Guggen­heim Mu­seum). It’s open on week­ends in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber.

The real world awaits but you can swing by Bress win­ery (bress. com.au), a patch of pro­vin­cial France in Har­court, 15 kilo­me­tres away. Linger over a chardon­nay, cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bress’s sis­ter win­ery in Bur­gundy, or set­tle in for osso buco at a long, lazy lunch in the sun – the way Sun­day lunches are meant to be.

(From top) Das Kaf­fee­haus at The Mill; Johnny Baker’s ex­cel­lent fruit tart; Castle­maine’s orig­i­nal fire sta­tion; Bress win­ery

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