Dog walks near Melbourne: the abandoned goldmine

Cyanide tank, Eureka Reef near Castlemaine
  • Distance – 1.8km
  • Grade 3
  • Duration – 1 hour
  • Type – circuit
  • Toilets – no
  • Dogs – on-leash
  • Notes: Don’t be tempted to let your dog off the lead. There are mineshafts in the area and you don’t want your dog to disappear down one.

The walk

Pipit averages a serious injury roughly three times a year. These normally result in stitches, with off-lead play being strictly forbidden for several weeks after. Whippets *sigh*.

So, a gentle on-lead walk through the fascinating landscape of Castlemaine Diggings was a perfect distraction for our energetic little pup.

Your guide, Pipit, at Eureka Reef

Fascinating landscape? Really? Yes. Here’s why:

170-year-old ruins

The landscape is heavily scarred and recovering from the terrible overexploitation of the 1850s goldrush during which it resembled either the First World War trenches or the furnaces of Isengard, depending on your preferred cultural reference point. The forest is now back in charge, incorporating the ruins of industry into the understory.

Flowers and kangaroos

The woodland is box-ironbark forest, a fairly rare habitat because it grows in the goldfields and so was the handiest timber for powering the industrial processes of Victoria’s mid-19th century goldrush as firewood and a construction material. On the forest floor there are more orchids than any other Victorian ecosystem. The profusion of flowers sent forth by the plants means there are a lot of nectar- and pollen-eating birds such as honeyeaters and parrots to be seen. The forest also supports more Eastern Grey Kangaroos than other habitats.

As any seasoned dog walker will know, it is useful to have a fascinating landscape to admire while your dog stops to sniff fascinating smells and eat fascinating new types of marsupial poo.

The goldmine’s history is very nicely explained by Parks Victoria on an information board in the Eureka Reef carpark. The board is an absolute classic of the genre, with a lengthy list of safety precautions and warnings on the front. But walk around to the back of the board and you’ll find a wonderful numbered map showing the highlights of the walk and interesting facts about the ruins. Take a photo of it before you begin your walk and refer to it when you come to the numbered posts along the trail.

Walking past the information board, the first point of interest is Eureka Reef itself. A reef is another name for a vein of rock, in this case quartz. Back in the 1850s-60s, miners cut pieces of the quartz off this reef and crushed them up to extract the gold, creating toxic pollution in the process.

Next up are the Aboriginal rock wells which have miraculously survived this area’s period as a mine. Continue up a hill and pass various other industrial remnants, including mine shafts, a cottage, cyanide tanks and a tram line. The walk loops around and takes you back to the car park. It’s best to use the map that you took a photo of or there is a fairly good chance of going the wrong way and doing a shorter walk than expected. Even so, finding the right way is easy and there’s very little chance of getting lost.


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