We coasted into Castlemaine, cruised the Main Street and decided pretty quickly that further investigation was needed.

Castlemaine is a vibrant little town nestled in a valley around 120 km northwest of Melbourne.

Traditionally it was inhabited by the Dja Dja Wurrung people a community renowned in the area for their fine stone axes made from a local greenstone rock.

We soon found a neat spot to berth Ripley. It was so neat in fact that we would end up staying the night there.

European settlement took off in Castlemaine during the early 1850’s when gold was discovered by a shepherd and hut-keeper after he was initially poo-pooed by his mates for only finding fools gold.

Later secondary industries developed including breweries, iron foundries and a wool mill.

Today, there is plenty to see including cafes, antique shops, and my personal fave, second hand bookstores.

One of these 3 beings is being sensible.

As the evening set in, we stumbled into an artisanal (a word that just plain reads art is anal to me…and now you will never unsee it either) brewery that had a still sunny courtyard and provided excellent lubrication for the pear and goats cheese pizza that I wolfed down messily.

Stuffed to the rafters and merry on beer (except for Juno who was now the responsible adult in the group), we stumbled back into Ripley and ‘stealthed her up’. That is, we pulled all her window screens, kept the noise down to whispers and childish giggling, made a quiet cup of tea, and turned in for an early night. From the outside Ripley was cloaked in darkness and silence (apart from the giggling). Our stop here would be as invisible and without trace as we could make it.

We were up early to a chilly morning so we decided a lap of the nearby botanical gardens was required to get our juices circulating. The gardens were established in 1860 and include an small artificial lake (Lake Joanna) as well a variety of species of trees. Most of them significant in size and climb-ability.

There were plenty of others taking early advantage of the gardens too. Joggers and a group doing Tai Chi and some dude who appeared to have recently chemically rearranged his chakras….and lots of dog walkers.
Juno put significant strain on his olfactory bulb, keeping up with all the butt sniffing greetings that were required.

Sufficiently warmed we took off to check out the old sandstone gaol that looks out over the town. Built in 1861 it housed “all manner of criminals, including lunatics, debtors and ten men that were hanged within the walls” (Wikipedia).

Today it is a tourist attraction, that we discovered is currently undergoing refurbishment and is shut. But never mind it was still an interesting walk that was repeatedly distracted and protracted by Kelly checking out all the new and refurbished houses in the area.

The Mill. Dogs probably not welcome.

It was a downhill run from here to visit ‘The Mill’, a cool collection of artisans (you know selling…artisanal stuff) and repurposed goods sellers and a cafe and a brewery.
It took all my attention to persuade Kelly from doing significant damage to our credit card in the time we browsed through this area.

Castlemaine is yet another great destination we both recommend.

It was late morning before we finally left it.

Next stop, Daylesford.

Posted by Ian Miller

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