CASTLEMAINE

Creativity beats in country town’s heart

STORY: MARGARET LINLEY       PHOTOGRAPHY: VISIT VICTORIA

For those with a creative bent, a yearning to be part of something cultural and a desire to learn, Castlemaine could be the perfect destination.

The town of 10,400 is punching above its weight when it comes to events, festivals and things to do and see.

There is a jazz festival; the Fringe Festival; and the Castlemaine State Festival, which is a ten-day event featuring Australian and international acts. Arts Open is an annual event where artists throw open their studio doors to the public. The agricultural show is a highlight on the calendar for many. Hot-rodders will love the Autoplex Museum and it’s the ideal town for anyone who loves a day browsing galleries. There’s also a weekly farmers market and a monthly artists market, a brewery and a winemaker’s cooperative. A media school and a cheese-making school have recently launched. 

Castlemaine is a dynamic and interesting place where you can join a class on food fermentation, or catch an international music act, enjoy an art house or blockbuster movie, head out for a strenuous all-day hike, or relax with a hand-crafted beer.

It is an interactive and evolving place with many entrepreneurial types opening businesses in studio-style places. For many people, this is their dream, and its impact is likely to be felt by the children living in the town. They will see the possibilities of developing an idea, finding a space, and being encouraged by others doing the same. This sense of ‘Why not?’ seems to permeate the town and is a drawcard in itself.

Castlemaine is also a beautiful place with many examples of majestic gold rush architecture, with some reimagined for contemporary use, such as the old gaol which is now, in part, an arts precinct.  Likewise, the goods shed, next to the railway station, which does duty as a performance space

There is a real openness to the town and it’s not always about arranging things. Sometimes it just happens organically, because you’re walking around and involved in the community.

Many of the residential properties also hark back to an earlier time with wide verandas and well-established gardens. The Botanical Gardens is one of Victoria’s oldest public gardens and provides 25-hectares of lush and tranquil space to spend a few hours.

For those wanting to get out and test their mettle, Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park, to the south and east of the town, has the The Goldfields Track, 210 km in all, which takes mountain bikers and bushwalkers through the historic towns and beautiful forests of central Victoria. The track can be done in sections and follows creek gullies and ridges of the Great Divide, taking in areas pockmarked with mine shafts and stone ruins.  

Community services include a hospital with 50 acute and sub-acute beds, and a 141-bed residential aged care facility. There are, of course, all the other usual amenities; supermarkets, speciality shops, hotels, cafes and the like.

The town also has great educational opportunities for its children. There are three government primary schools, each with an average of 200 students. There are also two other government primary schools in nearby Campbells Creek and Chewton which are about half the size of those in the town. Castlemaine also has a Catholic primary school and a Steiner school which offers kinder to year 8. What this means for parents is a comprehensive choice.

Castlemaine Secondary College has an enrolment of 665 students, and last year 97 percent of its Year 12 cohort achieved their VCE. The school offers 39 VCE subjects and both the VET and VCAL programs. There is another secondary school, Olivet Christian College, in Campbells Creek. The P-12 school has just 63 students.

Set on the northern side of the Great Divide, Castlemaine enjoys hot and dry summers and frosty mornings in winter. 

Increasingly, newcomers are drawn to Castlemaine for the creative stimulation provided by opportunities in town,  the beauty of its bush surrounds and its easy distance of Melbourne. With a home studio, or office, local residents are able to strike a happy balance between working remotely and making a 90-minute rail commute to the office when required.

House values have risen 4.8 percent in the last year with the median house sale price now at $550,000.

The Traditional Custodians of the Jaara country, on which Castlemaine stands are the Dja Dja Wurrung people.

SNAPSHOT

WATTLE ROAD 🖤  Castlemaine’s vibrant creative sector and its easy commute to Melbourne.
DISTANCE FROM MELBOURNE: 131 km
POPULATION: 10,400
WHO LIVES HERE?
According to the 2016 Census:
♦ The median age of people in Castlemaine was 50 years.
Children aged 0 – 14 years made up 15.6% of the population and people aged 65 years and over made up 28.9%.
♦ Of the families in Castlemaine, 33.9% were couple families with children, 44.2% were couple families without children and 20.2% were one parent families.
♦ 78.5% of people were born in Australia. The most common countries of birth were England 3.5%, New Zealand 1.1%, Germany 0.5%, India 0.5% and United States of America 0.4%.
♦ The most common occupations in Castlemaine included professionals 29.1%, labourers 13.7%, managers 11.9%, community and personal service workers 11.8%, and technicians and trades workers 11.0%.
CLIMATE: Castlemaine has a temperate climate, with mild summers, cool winters and low rainfall year-round. January’s average temperatures are max 28.3ºC, min 13.2ºC; and July’s average temperatures are max 11.8ºC, min 3.0ºC
MAJOR EMPLOYERS: Don KR Castlemaine; the local hospital; nearby Loddon Prison; education; the foundry.
SCHOOLS: Five government primary schools within a six km radius; a Catholic primary, a Steiner K-8, and one government secondary college and a small Christian P-12 school.
HEALTH CARE: Castlemaine Health offers a comprehensive range of hospital and healthcare services, including surgical, midwifery, rehabilitation, aged care, allied health and outreach services. The town has a number of local psychology and psychiatry clinics.
NBN CONNECTION: Fibre To The Node (FTTN)
PROPERTY PRICES: The median house sale price is $550,000. The median unit price is $414,500.
The median property price has increased 4.8% in 12 months.
SPORT AND RECREATION: golf, football, netball, bowling, billiards and snooker, shooting – pistol and clay target, tennis, men’s shed, community house.
ARTS AND CULTURE:  Jazz festival, Fringe Festival, Castlemaine State Festival, Arts Open, Festival of Gardens, numbers galleries and art studios, cinema, live theatre, live music.

MY HOMETOWN

CHRISTIANA JACKSON

Nick and I were living in an inner-city Melbourne flat above a laundromat with a small baby. We wanted space we could afford and we knew that wasn’t going to happen where we were. 

We’d been here a couple of times visiting friends and we liked that it was close enough to Melbourne on the train line. It had a cosmopolitan feel to it; good cafes, nice coffee. It was pretty close to a lot of things and close to the towns I’ve always loved like Daylesford. It’s close to Ballarat as well and my folks live there.

Our work didn’t dictate we had to be in the city and we had faith in our ability to create work for ourselves. It all just seemed right.

When we moved here, having a small child helped tremendously. You gravitate towards things like community lunch and story time at the library. It’s easy to make friends. We meet up and pitch in with food and cook. Or we meet friends in the Botanical Gardens, or go to the Tap Room, or we just run into friends and things happen that way. There is a real openness to the town and it’s not always about arranging things. Sometimes it just happens organically, because you’re walking around and involved in the community.

This is a great environment to start a new business. I have Mimosa Botanicals; bath soaps, perfumes and aromatherapy products. The move here lay a foundation for me to start that business. There are a lot of small entrepreneurial people here and there’s a feeling that if you’ve got a business idea you can give it a go. 

We’ve been here seven years now.  Our gut feeling said let’s do it, it’s going to be fine. And it is.

MELBOURNE

Travel time is approximately 60 minutes.

TO CASTLEMAINE

FIND A PROPERTY

118 Johnstone Street, Castlemaine

118 Johnstone Street, Castlemaine

$440,000 - $450,000

2 1 1

46 Wright Street, Elphinstone

46 Wright Street, Elphinstone

$645,000

3 2 2

25 Farnsworth Street, Castlemaine

25 Farnsworth Street, Castlemaine

$920,000

3 2 2

148 Hargraves Street, Castlemaine

148 Hargraves Street, Castlemaine

SOLD

4 2 4