At the height of the ‘Gold Rush’ in the 1850s, the rugged terrains of Dja Dja Wurrung Country in Central Victoria were sprawled with tents and makeshift abodes – impromptu villages pulsating with the dreams and aspirations of miners from distant lands. These now peaceful landscapes, where Spa Country visitors rejuvenate, and hikers reconnect with nature on the Goldfields Track, were once a frenzy of activity and sound – a kaleidoscope of accents and languages, horses galloping and picks striking rock.

It’s unimaginable what the Djaara, who had lived in harmony with this land for thousands of years, must have experienced as thousands of new inhabitants (many of them armed) swarmed this place and set about digging it up.

They refer to the goldfields region as ‘Upside-Down Country’ since this influx of miners quite literally turned the land (the ‘country’) upside down in search of gold – accelerating the disruption of the Djaara’s way of life (turning it upside-down) in the process.


A koala climbing the trunk of a gum tree
The Goldfields Track (Bendigo to Ballarat): A walk through 'Upside-Down Country'

For my People, our djandak is our being. It is a landscape in which the tangible is interwoven with our dreaming stories, our Lore and our Martinga kuli murrup (Ancestral spirits). It is the land that gave birth to our Martiinga kuli and nourished and sheltered them.

– Trent Nelson, Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation

It must have been very odd to see the miners toil for this useless shiny rock – being a soft metal, the Djaara saw no value in gold – but they had little choice to adapt. Many ended up working with the miners either by choice or force and became unacknowledged and mostly unrewarded contributors to the riches that the ‘Gold Rush’ brought to the colony.

While Central Victoria is now strewn with remnants of its gold mining past, very few significant Aboriginal Heritage sites remain. As you traverse the Goldfields Track, remember that the sun-dappled Eucalypt woodlands of the Upside-Down Country are, in themselves, a page in Dja Dja Wurrung history. That eucalyptus scent that mingles with the dusty air was part of life for thousands of years before the shiny rock was found here in 1851.

Note: The majority of the Goldfields Track crosses Dja Dja Wurrung Country, but the lands south of Creswick Regional Park is actually Wadawurrung Country,

As seen on…

Great Australian Walks
with Julia Zemiro

On Episode 3 of Great Australian Walks, Julia walks a short section of Central Victoria’s long-distance Goldfields Track, visiting Vaughan Mineral Springs, Chewton and Castlemaine. This article covers the entire track but see the Dry Diggings section (specifically ‘Cry Joe’ Walk) below for Julia’s route. I can’t help you out with meeting people as interesting those she meets along the way, though. For that, you’ll have to watch the show.

Julia Zemiro walking a section of the Goldfields Track, surrounded by open eucalypt woodland and native grasses

The Goldfields Track

Mount Buninyong, near Ballarat, as seen from afar

Mount Buninyong – Image credit: Ed Dunens (Creative Commons)

One of Victoria’s lesser-known hiking trails, the 210-kilometre Goldfields Track links two iconic hubs of the Gold Rush – Ballarat and Bendigo.

The trail starts just south of Ballarat at Mount Buninyong, and takes in smaller historic towns like Creswick, Daylesford, and Castlemaine before conveniently ending at Bendigo Railway Station.

Goldfields Track is broken down into three stages, but some sources break it down further into four. Since the tourist signs detail three sections, we’ll go with that option here.

Within those sections, the track can be divided into any number of shorter day hikes (or half-day hikes). We’ll cover some of those here, too.

Thru-hikers usually walk from south to north (Mount Buninyong to Bendigo), which makes for less taxing ascents, but there’s no reason it can’t be walked in the opposite direction. To avoid confusion, this guide will describe the trail from south to north.

There is, of course, also the matter of where to sleep at night. Unlike other more popular long-distance hiking trails, you won’t find strategically placed campsites at the end of every day of hiking. I’ll include a separate section on the sleeping options below, once we’ve had a look at the trail.

The Goldfields Track will take you on a journey into Victoria’s gold mining past and beyond, traversing fields that yielded more than 2500 tonnes of gold between 1851 and 1860, and left the Dja Dja Wurrung’s country turned upside-down.

While I discuss hiking the Goldfields Track in this article, I should mention that this is the longest shared-use trail in Victoria. It’s quite popular for off-road cycling. However, those on two wheels will follow a slightly different route, so if that’s you, then you’ll need to do your own research.

Need to know

Length: 210 km
Time: 14 days
Grade: Moderate/ Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: One-Way
Access: Mount Buninyong is 20 minutes / 17 kilometres south of Ballarat, accessed via Yankee Flat Road and Mount Buninyong Road. Thru-hikers who plan to finish their trip with a train back to Melbourne from Bendigo Station usually start their trip with a train to Ballarat and a taxi to Mount Buninyong. Alternatively, you could arrange a car shuffle or a support vehicle.
Maps: There are numerous reports of Goldfields Track hikers losing the trail, so bringing your strong navigation skills, a compass and a good map is advised. The trail is marked with gold-topped posts with directional arrows and trail plaques, but these should not be relied on as your only method of navigation. Printed maps and guidebooks are available online from the GDTN.

Sailors Creek, flowing through Hepburn Regional Park. A fallen tree lies across the river and the banks are dense with eucalypt forest

Sailors Creek (Hepburn Regional Park) – Image credit: Pantini (Creative Commons)

Wallaby Track (Mount Buninyong to Daylesford)

At only 745 metres above sea level, Mount Buninyong doesn’t feature views all the way to Bendigo, but you’ll still feel compelled to pause here and take it all in before you start your hike. On a clear day, you can gaze across volcanic plains from the lookout near the summit.

Descending Mount Buninyong, you’ll pass through the township of Buninyong and the gold rush-era regional city of Ballarat before passing under the Western Highway and into Ballarat’s far-reaching goldfields. First, Ditchfield Bushland Reserve with its hyperactive Blue fairy-wrens and Grey fantails, then into Nerrina Historic Area where you’ll first glimpse the meaning behind ‘Upside-Down Country’.

After passing by White Swan Reservoir, you’ll find yourself in Creswick Regional Park, walking between Messmate and Stringybark. Keep your eyes peeled for Swamp wallabies bounding away through the scrub as they hear you approaching. Passing through the historic township of Creswick, the trail loops back through Creswick Regional Park and, after a brief country road section, skirts Mollongghip Valley and follows a section of the state’s longest timber tramway.

Into Wombat Forest and Hepburn Regional Park, you’ll stroll between tall Eucalypts where those with a keen eye might find a lazy koala or two. A side trip to Sailors Falls is a must before the long uphill trudge to Daylesford. On the upside, you’re in the heart of ‘spa country’, so visiting one of the rejuvenating mineral baths is an option if that’s your style.

Note: This is the section that, according to some sources, is broken down into Eureka Track (Ballarat to Creswick) and Wallaby Track (Creswick to Daylesford). At 96 km, it’s easy to see why a fourth section makes more sense.

Need to know

Length: 96 km
Time: 6 days
Grade: Moderate / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: One-Way
Access: The trailhead is near the Mount Buninyong summit (see access details above)
Further Info: This section is generally broken down into six separate day or half-day hikes: Mt Buninyong Walk (11 km), Whitehorse Walk (7 km), Creswick Miners Walk (25 km), W.G. Spence Walk (25 km), Andersons Tramway Walk (7 km), and Wombat Forest Walk (19 km). Rather than detailing them all here, we’ll focus on the most impressive section…

Wombat Forest Walk
Length: 19 km
Time: 5 hrs
Grade: Moderate / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: One-Way (a car shuffle is required)
Access: This route starts from the old Wombat Station platform (now a Great Dividing Trail rotunda), which is accessed from Leonards Hill (10 km south of Daylesford) by turning west onto Bankstead Road and then taking a right onto Whitepoint Track. Wombat Station is at the intersection with Wombat Station Track.

Daylesford and Daylesford Lake from above

Daylesford – Image credit: Bob T (Creative Commons)

Dry Diggings Track (Daylesford to Castlemaine)

Daylesford’s popular Tipperary Walk is a pleasant start to a more challenging section of the Goldfields Track, skirting the mini canyon that Sailors Creek has carved through the landscape.

The dry, rocky terrain of Beehive Gully will challenge your feet, but its steep rock walls are a worthy reward. These dry gullies cradle gold heritage museums – each remnant you stumble upon is an eery reminder. As you traverse them, the haunting calls of distant birds echoing along the canyon walls send goosebumps down your weary legs.

Follow makeshift water races – built to supply the alluvial diggings of the 1850s – through Box ironbark forests, traversing one mini gorge after another until you reach Vaughan Mineral Springs. To taste the water or not to taste the water… That’s the question.

The 20-kilometre final stretch to Castlemaine – remember, ‘there’s no R in Castlemaine’ – might just be the most gold mining heritage-packed section of the entire Goldfields Track. As you approach and enter Castlemaine Diggings Heritage Park, relics like Irishtown’s gold sluicing site at Red Hill, the stately buildings at Fryerstown, and the Deadmans Gully Burial Ground offer a glimpse of the frenzied gold rush that, for better or worse, helped shape the Australia we know today.

A hike here in spring will impress wildflower and orchid enthusiasts. Those seeking wildlife encounters will be happy to know that sightings of Swamp wallabies, Eastern grey kangaroos and echidnas are common here. Unfortunately, you’re more likely to step in a wombat’s carefully placed, cube-shaped poo than you are to see one in the flesh.

As Castlemaine draws near, the gold mining remnants decrease and after all you’ve seen, the mullock heaps and rubble will be less than impressive. The arid landscape is no less enjoyable, though, at least until you hit town. If you’ve planned a side trip to Chewton or just have no wish to visit Castlemaine, you can veer north just after Eureka Reef onto the somewhat oddly named Chewton Bypass Track – which leads to… Chewton – and pick up Leanganook Track just to the north.

Need to know

Length: 61 km
Time: 4 days
Grade: Moderate / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: One-Way
Access: The trailhead is at Lake Daylesford, near the swimming jetty. Head west on Dry Diggings Track (toward Central Spring)
Further Info: This section is generally broken down into four separate day or half-day hikes: Tipperary Walk (14 km), Mt Franklin View Walk (15 km), Golden Mountain Walk (11 km), and ‘Cry Joe’ Walk (20 km). Rather than detailing them all here, we’ll focus on the most impressive section…

‘Cry Joe’ Walk
Length: 20 km
Time: 5 hrs
Grade: Moderate / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: One-Way (a car shuffle is required)
Access: This route starts from Vaughan Mineral Springs, which is accessed via Guildford (12 km south of Castlemaine on the Midland Highway). From Guildford, turn east on Fryers Street (which becomes Kemps Bridge Road) and after about 3 kilometres, turn south at the crossroads onto Burgoyne Street / Vaughan Mineral Springs Road. After another 5.5 km you’ll see the signed entry to Vaughan Mineral Springs Reserve on your right. Follow the signs to the spring and head south on Dry Diggings Track to start your walk.

Note: ‘Cry Joe’ Walk is the trail that Julia Zemiro follows on Great Australian Walks (minus the detours). 

A massive granite tor on Leanganook (Mount Alexander)

Leanganook / Mount Alexander – Image credit: Dave (Creative Commons)

Leanganook Track (Castlemaine to Bendigo)

The 58-kilometre final leg of the Goldfields Track continues through Castlemaine Diggings Heritage Park, visiting Garfield Water Wheel – a technological innovation introduced to extract gold (obviously). Another spot where you can marvel at how the chaotic human urge for wealth transformed this rugged landscape.

I recommend a brief detour to the Pennyweight Flats Children’s Cemetery, where the few remaining headstones weave tragic stories of a tragic time when average life expectancies were far too short. You’ll find toys and flowers on some of the graves – left in recent times – by the friendly strangers who volunteer their time to upkeep this special place.

The ascent to Leanganook (Mount Alexander) is one of the most challenging and rewarding sections of the entire Goldfields Track. Hikers zig-zag steeply up this sacred mountain, a special men’s place, through rugged forests dotted with Ironbark and white-trunked manna gums, passing unfathomably massive granite tors.  The far-reaching views over the central goldfields aren’t even the most beautiful part.

After descending steeply on Leanganook’s eastern slope, join the Coliban Main Channel – contouring across hillsides, this water race was built in the 1870s and is amazingly still in operation.

After Leanganook’s challenging terrain, you’ll welcome a day of strolling through picturesque farmland dotted with granite boulders. The route passes between privately owned paddocks, so make sure you’re respectful of the landowners.

Soon after passing Sandhurst Reservoir, you’ll enter Greater Bendigo National Park and Bendigo Regional Park for the home stretch. Part of the Bendigo Goldfields, the Yellow gums, Red stringybark and Red box forests here were thinned significantly in the 1800s, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the regeneration – the brightly blossoming wattles accent the incredible vegetation, making for excellent photo opportunities. Now, this place is popular with birdwatchers tempted by more than 170 bird species and is teeming with kangaroos, echidnas, and Black wallabies.

It isn’t long before the landscape slowly opens up before you and forests become grand historic buildings as you suddenly find yourself strolling through central Bendigo, where the trail conveniently terminates at Bendigo Railway Station.

Need to know

Length: 58 km
Time: 4 days
Grade: Moderate / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: One-Way
Access: This section begins at Castlemaine Railway Station, heading through the historic town centre on Templeton Street, Hargraves Street, Lyttleton Street, and Verlin Street, then joining Leanganook Track at Forest Creek (near the Happy Valley Road intersection).
Further Info: This section is generally broken down into four separate day or half-day hikes: Heritage Park Walk (15.5 km), Leanganook Summit Walk (12 km), Coliban Water Walk (20.5 km), and Bendigo Goldfields Walk (12 km). Rather than detailing them all here, we’ll focus on the most impressive section…

Leanganook Summit Walk
Length: 12 km
Time: 4 hrs
Grade: Moderate / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: One-Way (a car shuffle is required)
Access: From Harcourt, follow Harmony Way south for around 4 km to its intersection with McQuillans Road. Park (safely) and follow McQuillans Road to Leanganook Track.

Goldfields Track camping & accomodation

Unlike other trails where your hiking days are laid out for you by the positioning of campsites, the Goldfields Track is a mixed bag. At the end of some days, you can stop hiking and set up camp right on the trail, but other days, you have decisions to make.

Wild camping is an option on parts of Goldfields Track – anywhere that isn’t a National Park, State Park or Regional Park. State Forests and any other crown land are fair game. Do not camp on land managed by Central Highlands Water or Coliban Water, and definitely don’t camp on private property without asking first. Also, don’t tempt fate and camp in a dry creek bed, or anywhere within 20 metres of any waterway for that matter.

Prepare to carry all of your rubbish with you. You won’t find many bins along the trail, and none of the campgrounds mentioned below have bins either.

Wherever you camp, be ready to rug up. The weather in this country can turn from a hot day to a bitingly cold night as soon as the sun goes down.


Wallaby Track

Day 1 & 2: Mount Buninyong to Ballarat

Since the first two days are short days that don’t stray far from town, find yourself some suitable Ballarat accommodation. I’ve been unable to find any camping options out of town in a convenient enough location.

Day 3: Ballarat to Creswick

About 7 kilometres before Creswick, Goldfields Track passes through Slaty Creek Campground – a shady, car-accessible free camp with pit toilets and fire pits. Unfortunately, the creek is often dry, but when it’s running, it makes a beautiful spot to sit in its shallow flow and cool. Alternatively, you could find some suitable accommodation in Creswick.

Day 4: Creswick to Mollongghip

Just a quick 1.5-kilometre detour from Goldfields Track, you’ll find Mollongghip Community Hall, a more than 100-year-old hall where hikers are welcome to set up camp on the grounds for a small fee ($10 per person per night at the time of writing). You’ll have access to a kitchenette, toilets and drinking water (even hot water for washing up). Call or e-mail Rhonnie Dryne (0408 101 751 / to make a booking.

Day 5: Mollongghip to Wombat Station

Goldfields Track hikers can camp for free just by the Great Dividing Trail Association rotunda at Wombat Station. There are no toilets or drinking water, and fires are not permitted.

There aren’t a lot of other accommodation options close to Wombat Station, but apparently Sailors Falls Estate (just outside Daylesford) will arrange Goldfields Track pickups and drop-offs by request. Just be aware that this is luxury accommodation on a vineyard, with a price tag to match.

Day 6: Wombat Station to Daylesford

There aren’t a lot of accessible Parks campgrounds near the end of Day 6, but Daylesford Holiday Park seems popular with Goldfields Track campers. They have glamping options, too, if that’s your thing. Alternatively, if you’re interested in other accommodation in Daylesford, you won’t be short on options.

A close-up shot of an echidnas face and beak

Dry Diggings Track

Day 7: Daylesford to Hepburn Springs Reserve

Hepburn Springs is another spot where the Parks campgrounds are thin, but Hepburn Springs accommodation options are also abundant. Hotel Bellinoza is another option that offers Goldfields Track drop-offs and pickups by arrangement. They can also do packed lunches, in case you’re sick of rehydrating your meals.

Day 8: Hepburn Springs Reserve to Porcupine Ridge Road

Unless you have a support vehicle to taxi you to Mount Franklin Reserve, your accommodation options are few at the end of Day 8. Your best bet is probably Hotel Bellinoza, with their drop-off and pickup service.

Day 9: Porcupine Ridge Road to Vaughan Springs

Vaughan Springs Reserve is one of Parks Victoria’s free campgrounds and one of the most beautiful campgrounds on Goldfields Track. It’s equipped with pit toilets and BBQ facilities, but no drinking water. Those without a support vehicle don’t have a lot of other options at the end of Day 9.

Day 10: Vaughan Springs to Castlemaine

If you’re determined to camp (and don’t want to find somewhere to wild camp), Big4 Castlemaine Gardens is your best bet after traversing Day 10’s spectacular ‘Cry Joe’ Walk. Alternatively, a bed for the night will be easy to find in Castlemaine.


Leanganook Track

Day 11: Castlemaine to Old Calder Highway

If you don’t want to find somewhere to wild camp, The Chocolate Lily B&B offers a Goldfields Track pickup and drop-off service by request. There are no other options that I can find.

Day 12: Old Calder Highway to Sutton Grange Road

You can’t go past Leanganook (Mount Alexander) Campground – lots of space, and set amongst gorgeous forest that’s teeming with wildlife. Alternatively, you could stay another night at The Chocolate Lily B&B (see Day 11) or arrange your own transport and find somewhere to stay in Harcourt or its surrounds.

Day 13: Sutton Grange Road to Sandhurst Reservoir

There’s not much around in the way of accommodation or campgrounds, so many Goldfields Track hikers camp right on the trail at the very basic Goom Gooruduron-Yeran Camping Area. The only facility here is a water tank, which cannot be relied upon for drinking water.

Day 14: Sandhurst Reservoir to Bendigo

If you aren’t catching a train at the end of your final day on the trail, you’ll need to find yourself some Bendigo accommodation.

Water on Goldfields Track

Planning your water for a 14-day hike is a challenge in itself, especially when it’s a trail where many water sources are unreliable at best. When planning your Goldfields Track hike, it’s important to be strategic about your water (and food).

You should plan to carry at least 2 litres of water a day in warm weather. Whether you’re hiking a two-day section of the Goldfields Track or hiking it end-to-end, you need to know where your water is coming from each day.

I’ll try to keep this section updated with any info I come across about where water can be found along Goldfields Track. I’m sure there are other options I don’t know about so please leave me a comment and I’ll add them here. You might even consider doing water drops before your trip.

  • Creswick Water Splash Park – Victoria Street, Creswick
  • Mollongghip Community Hall – Dean-Mollongghip Road, Mollongghip
  • Sailors Falls Mineral Spring – Sailors Falls
  • Daylesford mineral springs
  • Golden Mineral Spring – Hepburn Springs
  • Hepburn Springs mineral springs
  • Vaughan Springs
  • Burke and Wills Mechanics Institute – Fryerstown
  • Fryerstown School – Fryerstown
  • Fitness Centre Showers – Frederick Street, Castlemaine
Buildings at Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

Every step on the Goldfields Track offers a lesson in resilience, reminiscent of both the miners’ struggles and those of the Djaara people. After two weeks of walking through the “Upside-Down Country”, you’ll have experienced thousands of years of history and traversed some of the most arid beauty that Victoria has to offer, with a hint of gold’s allure lying just beneath the surface.

Hopefully, you’ll have found some time to relax as the sun sets and appreciate nature’s magic – be it the golden hues on the horizon or the delicate play of light on the gum leaves as they wave in the breeze. Every rusted mining tool, every alluvial digging, and ancient water race on Goldfield Track tells a tale of the tumultuous gold rush days, but it’s when you experience moments of connection with nature that you’ll feel the ancient secrets of this land.

Have you watched Great Australian Walks with Julia Zemiro? Or have you walked any sections of the Goldfields Track? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.