posted on 15 Mar 21 | by

It's time to celebrate! We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief at finally having the opportunity to attend a festival and indulge in what we all love - the Arts! The stage is set for the return of the Castlemaine State Festival - a three-week program of thrilling events encompassing performance, music, literature, visual arts, film and more. Check out their website for the full program of events and make sure you pre-book your tickets to avoid missing out. The Castlemaine Fringe Festival also runs over the same dates and features the Reactivate Window Art Installations by various artists across town, a night party on Saturday 27 March and much more.

But the festivals are just the beginning; there's so much more going on in Castlemaine, Maldon and Surrounds during this time - see our hit list of must do activities below. Book accommodation here and we'll see you soon! 


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Venture into the secret garden! (19 March - 18 April)

Buda Historic Home and Garden is a beautiful and intriguing place at the best of times, but during the Festival it comes alive with their 'Secret Garden' program of delightful events for all ages. Exhibitions, hands-on workshops (try making a felt garden or perhaps a cyanotype) and wonderful discussions as part of their literary lectures. The garden is superb at this time of year, so why not order a gourmet picnic, settle in and enjoy the festivities for an afternoon? 

Pre-order your picnic hamper or check out all the events taking place during the Secret Garden. And don't forget to visit their gift shop which is stocked with local artistan-made goodies. 


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Meet artists in their studios - Open Studios (19 March - 3 April)

The Open Studios program is a rare opportunity to peek inside the creative cauldron's of our local artists in Castlemaine, Newstead, Muckleford and surrounding towns. This intimate foray into the lives of these creative minds allows you to ask them questions about the making process, hear specific stories about individual pieces and purchase their art with a whole lot more meaning attached. A detailed map can be found in the Castlemaine State Festival program, or you can pick one up from the Visitor Information Centre. The Newstead artists have got a little trail as well, take a look here.

Image: The Grain Shed Gallery - Andy Indrans Photography 

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Relax onboard the historic steam train through the countryside

The Victorian Goldfields Railway offers a charming train ride from Castlemaine to Maldon on a Wednesday and Sunday. Choose from the excursion class on the historic red rattlers carriages with their large compartments perfect for families, or upgrade to the magnificently restored first class carriages boasting art nouveau and art deco interiors and complete with stewards pouring you wine and beer while you travel! Upon arriving into Maldon you have time for lunch and a stroll through the shops before the journey back. For details, timetable and pricing view their website

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Celebrate the art of hot rodding (20-28 March)

For lovers of vintage cars, you must head to Autopia to indulge in an incredible display of hot rods, street rods, customs and street machines built in the 50s, 60s and 70s, all meticulously maintained by their owners. These cars are works of art in their own right, and are proof that cars of this era were made with such craftsmanship and made to last. You'll not only see the cars but you'll see the working artists, slot car machines and more! This exhibition will take place at Autoplex Castlemaine, a former secondary school that is being transformed into an exciting new Castlemaine Hot Rod Centre. For more information, check out their Facebook page here

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Devour our delicious local epicurean creations

As we are part of the Bendigo UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy the word is out about the quality of epicurean products that our producers are bringing to the table. You've no doubt heard of French cheese makers Ivan and Julie Larcher making fresh artisan cows-milk cheese and dairy products at Long Paddock Cheese, or the Gung Hoe Growers team who dig up nutritious and delicious organic vegetables for sale at our Farmer's markets, or what about our fifth generation apiarist from Warral Honey who provides us the golden nectar to slap on our crumpets? Well, truth is we actually have hundreds of locally made products -  wine, cider, beer, coffee, tea, bread, cheese, chocolate, fruit & veggies, meat, eggs, small goods, puds, biscuits, muesli - you name it, we've got it. Lunch and dinner boxes during the Festival might make replenishing yourself between shows and exhibitions a bit easier, Mulberry's Deli will get you sorted. One thing's for sure - you ain't leaving hungry! 

For more information visit our Local Produce section of the website. 

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Take home something that suits your individual style

Our retail offering is creative, curated and curious and you will find our passionate store owners as interesting as the things on their shelves. Wander up the East end of Mostyn Street to find a mix of eco goods and quirky vintage at Merchants of Mostyn, visit the fashion boutique of a well-regarded theatre set designer at Rike-Design or the new Indie beer and wine stockist at Fermentus. Find something you're not looking for at the vintage heaven that is Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar at The Mill, pick up one-off jewellery and gifts from Tribe and Corner Store Merchants or discover the plethora of homewares and fashion housed in the beautifully maintained shopfronts of Main and High Streets in Maldon. Various opening hours - check their insta/fb for times. 

Image: Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar 

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Visit Mica Grange - Autumn sculpture garden (27 March - 25 April)

These gardens are located on a hill with gorgeous views out over the rocky outcrops of Sutton Grange. You'll find a magic faraway tree at the entrance, and 40 hectares of immaculate gardens that sing with the seasons. Sculpture art placed thoughtfully around the garden creates further interest and colour to complement the already visually appealing layers of natural beauty. Cake and coffee can be enjoyed on the patio while soaking up the views.  Mica Grange is open from 10am - 4pm on weekends with an entrance fee of $7 per person. 

For more details visit their website. 

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Get active outdoors!

Hire a mountain bike and hit the many MTB trails, including La Larr Ba Gauwa in Harcourt and Goldfields Track or take a shorter ride to Chewton to visit the Garfield Water Wheel and enjoy lunch and a gig in the beer garden at the Red Hill Hotel. Take a walk around the historic gold sites dotted around the town or walk to scenic lookouts at Mount Alexander, Rock of Ages and Mount Tarrengower or join Main Rollers for a fun Skate Fit session or roller disco! For maps and more information on walks, rides and active pursuits - chat with the friendly team at the Visitor Information Centre - you can hire bikes from the Visitor Centre too! 

More information here. 

Phone 1800 171 888.

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Take a spiritual tour with an Indigenous Elder (27 March)

Experience Maldon offers a small group adventure on country with a Dja Dja Wurrung elder Aunty Marilyne Nicholls. Walking to the top of Mt Tarrengower offers spectacular views across Maldon and the surrounding countryside, but this place is even more special when it is brought to life through the stories and culture of the Dja Dja Wurrung. Departing at 9.45am this tour is a cultural experience not to be missed. $225 per person. 

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Grab some food and drink

For places to eat and drink you are very spoilt for choice. The Castlemaine State Festival has compiled a list of eateries in Castlemaine with info on their opening hours during the festival. If you fancy getting out of town, you can head to Maldon where you'll find the Kangaroo Hotel, Maldon Hotel and lots of cafes to devour tasty and wholesome food in the pretty heritage surrounds. In Newstead there's plenty of indoor and outdoor seating at both Dig and New Boots and the pub. Harcourt is home to two very good options in the Harcourt Produce and General Store and the Goldfields Track Cafe. In Guildford you must try out the Guildford Family hotel for a gig and a meal and the pop into the Guildford General Store for pies, sandwiches and friendly faces. 

We also have lots of new outdoor dining pop up spaces where you can feel the festival vibe while eating your take-away lunch: 

Frederick Street Castlemaine has been transformed into the 'Village Square' with music and activities and even a pop up wine festival on 4 April. 

Old Bank Corner in Maldon has undercover seating and the perfect vantage point for people watching! 

Image: The Taproom @ Shedshaker