The Goldfields Track is a 210km network of trails that runs from Buninyong, south of Ballarat to Bendigo through the gold mining towns of Central Victoria. The trail can be covered by bike or on foot, in one large thru-hike or in small sections or day walks. It combines the Eureka, Wallaby, Dry Diggings and Leanganook Tracks to take you through varying landscapes on walking tracks, fire access roads and single track forest trails past the remnants of the historical era that formed Victoria.
I’m undertaking this track in two pieces, the first of which I completed last week with my brother.
Day 1 Outskirts of Ballarat to Slaty Creek Campground No.1 (We started on the outskirts because we are forest kind of people and chose to skip the city trails.)
Distance covered: 15.40km
Time taken (excluding meal breaks): 3hr 44m
Day 2 Slaty Creek Campground No.1 to Mullens Dam
Distance covered: Official on watch 25.12km plus estimated 4km when I forgot to turn watch back on after lunch. Est. total: 29km
Time taken (excluding meal breaks and 4km pause on watch): 5hr 48m
Day 3 Mullens Dam to Daylesford
Distance covered: 22.51km
Time taken (excluding meal breaks): 5hr 10m
Day 4 Daylesford to the Chocolate Mill
Distance covered: 20.00km
Time taken (excluding meal breaks): 4hr 49m
The Goldfields Track is very well marked so it is not particularly necessary to take a map but there are some points where cyclists take a different route to walkers and while the signs will indicate this, we found it useful to have the map to check. We also changed our route a bit so a map was useful to find our way. You can get an excellent guide book with maps and points of interest from here.
For walkers, most of the trails are on bush tracks, usually single track so if you are someone who needs to converse to another person beside you, this may not be the hike for you. There are wider sections on fire trails and access roads. There’s also a rather horrendous (at least it was for us) 10km stretch of gravel and then bitumen road before Mollongghip. Thank goodness we had already decided to skip the township and cut through to Six Mile Siding on the way to Mullens Dam via Dredge Track in the Wombat State Forest. You could visibly see us relax the minute we stepped back under the tree canopy onto a dirt track.
Do be careful, though. The paths can be quite rocky and gravelly and it is easy to slip or trip. I almost headbutted a marker post when my foot slipped and I lost my balance. Fortunately I missed the post and landed on my backpack. No harm done. I recommend a hiking pole. (I had one but in this case it didn’t save me. It did a number of other times though so highly recommend at least one.)
Most trails are marked on the Goldfields Track maps so if you want to change your route and take some different trails it’s not too hard to do.
There are also several extra side trips you can make if you so wish such as a loop into the town of Creswick, a trip to Sailor’s Falls or to explore the Three Lost Children Walk.
The most exciting aspect of this walk is literally walking through history. The remnants of the gold rush of the 1850s are everywhere. Shafts, mullock heaps, water races, building ruins and old tram and train lines scatter the landscape. Sometimes you have to shake yourself to remember that these remains are from people who lived, worked and dreamed of finding gold here more than 150 years ago.
You’ll rarely be bored on this walk as you journey through changing environments from the wet temperate forests near Daylesford to dry plains near Castlemaine, from deep creek gullies to wheezing hills, through towns built on the wealth of gold, past pine plantations and paddocks of sheep and cows. Animals and birds will also be in aplenty if you’re quick enough to spot them. I found talking to the cows a good way to take my mind off a tedious hilly road and who could ever tire of birdsong in the forest?
There are a number of campsites along the route and ‘wild’ camping is permitted in the Wombat State Forest under certain conditions. Check with Parks Victoria. (Pro tip: There are three campsites at Slaty Creek. Try and stay at No 1; it’s the only one with toilets.) We stayed at the holiday park in Daylesford and I have to admit I have never been so grateful for a flushing toilet, drinking water, soap and a hot shower.
Be aware that none of the Slaty Creek campsites have tank water and even creek water can be scarce. The creek was mostly dry when we were there. We managed to find a reasonable-sized pool about 150m up the creek bed to source water. (It had tiny fish in it so we thought it couldn’t be too bad.) All water will need to be filtered or treated. You can get mineral water via pumps at various points near Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. These are tested regularly so if the pump is operating it should be safe to drink. (I did.)
If camping is not your thing, the track goes through or near a number of towns that provide various accommodation options. There’s glamping tents at the Daylesford Holiday Park if you want the luxury camping option.
At one stage on the walk, we started to hear what sounded like someone operating a drill in short bursts. It went on for quite a while. “You’re killing the serenity!” I called out. My brother was sure we were about to come across someone riveting a million bolts into a new creek bridge. I found this a bit odd because I would have sworn the sound was behind us but it’s always hard to tell in the bush. When we stopped for lunch, the sound had mercifully ceased. Until I pulled my pack over to grab my lunch out of the top. The sound started up again. Inside my pack. It was my little rechargeable air pump. Something had obviously been banging against the on-off button, turning it on and off. So when my brother thought it was ahead of us, it was only because I was walking in front of him. We’d been walking for a good half hour, annoyed at a non-existent tradesperson when all along it was me.
Can you see the animal in this photo?
We are planning to complete the rest of the Goldfields Track in another trip sometime this year but in the meantime, I’ll be heading off solo along the Great Ocean Walk on April 18th. I’m feeling ready.
Does the Goldfields Track sound like somewhere you’d like to explore?