A former gold-mining town about 90 minutes' drive north-west of Melbourne, between Bendigo and Ballarat, Castlemaine is enjoying a great revitalisation. Quality eateries in heritage buildings focus on fresh, local produce, well-stocked boutiques invite hours of happy browsing, and a historic theatre and lovely botanic gardens add to the town's appeal.
The apartments resemble a heritage terrace from the outside but are newly built, providing a cosy atmosphere with polished boards, comfortable furnishings and a large, well-equipped kitchen. The lounge room's sliding doors open onto a balcony with a tranquil view across the garden to a railway bridge, providing a perfect vantage point for trainspotting. The apartments are just a short walk away from town, but feel private and peaceful.
Castlemaine has plenty to keep visitors amused without feeling quite as bustling as nearby Daylesford, where it can be hard to find a parking spot in the main street, or a table for lunch. Castlemaine is popular with tree-changers from Melbourne's inner north, but retains the feel of a country town, with a relaxed pace that allows for an amble through the centre without risking footpath rage from other visitors.
The Wesley Hill market, just outside town on the Pyrenees Highway, is an absolute gem. Held every Saturday morning, it's a happy hunting ground for fresh bread, coffee, walnuts, relishes and jams and second-hand clothes. Chatting with the stallholders is a highlight; our favourite was the minestrone man, who serves up steaming bowls of soupy goodness best enjoyed at a nearby picnic table in the sunshine.
Need to know
Cost: From $230 a night for a minimum two-night stay on weekends.
Distance: 1.5 hours' drive (120km) north-west of Melbourne.
6 Johnstone Street, Castlemaine, Vic
PHONE: 0427 721 196