Heading north west from Melbourne are a selection of small towns set amongst the goldfields of Victoria.
There are plenty of places to explore around this area, and if you really want to do it in style then hire a Gypsy Caravan pulled by Clydesdale horses. If you follow the Goldfields Tourist Route you will pass all of the major sites. As well as gold and the history of the area being a major tourist attraction, the Mid West is also a wine growing region.
There are 3 main routes to the Mid West goldfields, all heading north west from Melbourne.
If you travel along the Western Highway you will get to Ballarat, one of the main towns in this region. North of Ballarat is Clunes which was where the first gold was discovered. North again is Daylesford and nearby Hepburn Springs, which are 2 spa towns.
Heading north west from Ballarat is Avoca, set amongst the beautiful Pyrenees Ranges and home to the developing wine growing region. Some of the walking trails around the Pyrenees Ranges are spectacular, passing beautiful waterfalls and gorges. If you've got time follow the 18km Pyrenees Trail which is remarkable, although make sure you carry plenty of supplies.
East of Avoca you pass Maryborough an old gold mining town. Maryborough train station is now the information centre, which is worth a look. You should also visit the pretty Worsley Cottage, an interesting museum telling the history of the area. If you're around this area during the New Year then visit Maryborough on New Years Day, when they hold the traditional Highland Gathering.
Further east is Castlemaine, another old gold mining town from where you can also visit Maldon. Maldon was also a gold town and you can find out a lot about its history by visiting the Historical Museum, Porcupine Township and touring around Carmen's Tunnel Goldmine. They also hold a great festival, every November, called the Maldon Folk Festival.
North from Castlemaine is the large town of Bendigo which attracted many miners on its discovery of gold at Bendigo Diggings, and offers some fabulous Victorian architecture. You can also get to Bendigo by following the Calder Highway north west from Melbourne. There are some great little towns you pass along the way, which are worth stopping at. Just north of Melbourne is Sunbury, which as all you cricket fans will know is home to the Ashes. There are also two historic wineries here, which are worth visiting, Craiglee and Goona Warra.
Further west turn off of the highway you will drive through the beautiful landscape surrounding Mt Macedon. The drive takes longer, although offers fabulous scenery as well as good rock climbing (especially at Camel's Hump). Further north along the highway is another turn off, to the sacred Aboriginal site of Hanging Rock. There are some great walking tracks around the Hanging Rock Reserve, which is also popular on New Years Day, as well as Australia Day when Hanging Rock Picnic Race Meetings are held.