I had been planning a little sabbatical for what seems to be near on a year ago, just to take three little days off for a short road trip to Maldon, Castlemaine area just 100 minutes away. Unfortunately, living in the most locked down state in the world didn't help. However, when freedom did come, I felt like Mel Gibson on a horse in Braveheart, charging into town, screaming FREEEEDOM, if only for a few short days. There's nothing like a road trip to clear the cobwebs of the mind as you leave the congested traffic behind and ahead is open road, fresh air blowing through your hair, and magically, more trees and greenery, cows and sheep, start to appear on the scene. It already started to feel like a holiday.
Here I have to inject my relationship with Jamie Heffernan from Maldon Getaways and Experience Maldon. I say a relationship because after all the lockdowns and both of us apologetically cancelling on each other for near on a year, we got to know each other almost like old mates laughing (or you'd cry) about all the cancellations and lockdowns. This came in very handy because when we finally were in each others company, we were so comfortable with each other, we the travellers got lucky and were privy to Jamie giving us a tour of a handful of empty properties of the 17 he managed. The result - I'm able to share a few of the pics with you, but had to pare it down of the many I had taken because it was all so exquisitely beautiful.
Above three pics as you can see is the Sunday House. So-called because the outside is like an old church, and that alone is enough to pique one's interest. Who doesn't love living in an old Sunday Schoolhouse? It's also very much in the style that Maldon Getaways offers, a range of unique, holiday-rental properties ranging from quaint gold-rush cottages to stylish retreats. Something a little different, well kept, and interesting. Honestly, all the properties we visited and the one we stayed in were beautifully well kept and welcoming, not to mention clean and beautifully styled, along with a little supply of thoughtful staples to make you feel welcome and cared about. I asked Jamie why all the lights were on with music flowing, when no one was in it. Aha, little did I know at the time of questioning, holidaymakers were about to descend upon those properties and it was Maldon Getaways' way of making them feel welcome, entering a bright and welcoming abode.
I don't need to get into the details of the properties I visited, as you can read all about it via the links and on the website. However, it may interest you to know that Sunday House is heritage listed and meticulously renovated; such is the calibre of all the properties at Maldon Getaways. With a huge abode like this that sleeps 8, it's easy to envisage heading down with a few friends, or a couple of families and sharing the cost for an affordable holiday in such beautiful surroundings. I keep saying beautiful a lot don't I? because it all is. To digress, Maldon is surrounded by so many beautiful private gardens and all the accommodations we visited also had exquisite gardens. It seems as if everything grows beautifully in Maldon. The roses seemed plumper and bigger, the leaves lush, the trees healthier and an abundance of strawflowers aka paper flowers growing everywhere. They're like dried flowers and stay beautiful without water. I have some right now at my window looking back at me as a reminder of my beautiful stay in Maldon.
The other two properties we visited were Maldon and Me, and The Maldon Dairy. Maldon and Me is an 1800's miner's cottage that has been renovated and definitely extended to fit three bedrooms, ensuites, an outdoor cinema and more. It was the pink lady of the group of accommodation as I like to think about it with its huge splashes of pink throughout the house that just worked beautifully and looked professionally styled. Like I said, just follow the links and drool over the pictures. The Maldon Dairy as the name suggests, was a milking shed and home to farming equipment built by Romulus Gaita, father of renowned philosopher Raimond Gaita and the titular character in his esteemed 1998 book, Romulus My Father. That was made into a movie starring Eric Bana, which I thoroughly enjoyed; its quietness, its sadness, the little boy - a must-watch if you haven't seen this brilliant Aussie film. I do digress.
Finally, Fairbank House where I stayed. We chose this abode because we had someone with a disability in our party and Jamie suggested Fairbank House could be the most suitable. The pictures certainly looked beautiful, but it was nothing in comparison with the reality of this Victorian home with two queen bedrooms and a twin, and extensive indoor and outdoor entertaining options. The welcoming hamper was the best, filled with fresh bread, milk, bacon, egg, juice, butter, local honey, cheese, crackers, strawberries and more. The panty was filled with staples as MasterChef would say; all you need for cooking like your sauces and salt, pepper, oil and so on, and of course the cupboards with all the crockery and cutlery and saucepans you'd need. I have seen MasterChef saucepans on offer at Coles, but until I used the frypan to cook bacon and eggs for breakfast the next morning, I was very impressed with what I thought was a very lightweight frypan. You'll have to forgive my many digressions, much like a holiday.
Well, the place certainly had a good workout being tested as an abode suitable for people with disabilities and it didn't disappoint our needs. The front entrance from the street front as such is never really used, as you drive right up the long driveway and park at the back. There's an entry via the kitchen and a ramp that takes you up towards the pergola attached to the front lounge room that has double doors able to fit a wheelchair coming through. The areas are very spacious and both the two of the three bedrooms can easily accommodate shower and grooming needs with a shower seat on the ready, as well as a walking frame for use under the shower if the person is able to stand, for stability. Handheld showerheads make it easy if the person requires help with their shower. For those who use incontinence products, it can be changed standing or if the person has to lie on the bed, a pouffé is easily available to sit at the end of the bed to help change that person. We were duly impressed as it made the three days effortless to have a good time and really enjoy being there.
On first impression, Maldon is a one main strip town as I call it. There's the main strip with the Maldon Hotel serving pub food, the Maldon Cafe (places we ate at) serving up lunches and hot drinks and a spattering of shops and more. As always, whenever I land somewhere, the first place I visit is the Visitor's Centre and it's where I got all the information I needed of places to visit and see. Adding Castlemaine close by to the mix made it even more interesting as Castlemaine has The Mill, a vintage marketplace, with the Botanical Gardens right opposite, which was lovely. Then there's the amazing Buda House with its stories and history, which I thoroughly enjoyed visiting, along with the lovely ladies manning the grounds and selling giftware and a pop-up market of homemade goodies like chutney, sauces and pickles.
We did try to get onto the iconic steam train in Maldon, but they were in the midst of moving the engines to Castlemaine, which was going to be their new headquarters, instead of Maldon. Still, it was very pleasant watching the drivers at work as they were shunting the engines back and forth and chatting to one that was giving me the inside story. Another impressive place we visited was the Cascade Art Gallery in Maldon. It was just so romantic that it was in a converted church and that the couple who owned it lived on the premises in the priest's quarters. The gallery was spaciously and beautifully set out, but as we all know, art is very subjective. I was certainly impressed by a few of the artists and artwork that just spoke to me, especially some sculptures (much like my quirky ugly dolls I used to love as a kid) that I would definitely have snapped up were they not already sold.
The gallery is also worth a visit because it's a historic Wesleyan Church and Parsonage built in 1858 and the earliest church building still intact in Maldon. Following the church trail, you also have the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, the Baptist Church, Welsh Baptist Church, Welsh Congregational Church, St Brigid's Roman Catholic Church and Presbyterian Church to visit. Jamie gave us a quick whizz around town through a few places, including the South German Mine Workings. These sites have slowly deteriorated over time and there's little left to see of the great industry which placed Maldon on the world map of rich gold production.
The New Beehive Mine Chimney stands tall and alone and unmissable since 1863 as you drive into town against the Maldon skyline and it remains as a testament to the bricklayer who built it. Standing 30metres high, it is the only one of its age and size still standing in Victoria. Two metres were removed from the top after damage from a lightning strike in 1923 and there has been some repair work at the base. This stack provided draught for the steam boilers and were once a common sight in mid to late 19th-century quartz mines. Its significance has already been recognised and it's now a landmark and heritage symbol for the township of Maldon, Australia's first notable town.
If like me you like visiting the cemetery in a town of note, there's the Maldon General Cemetery, the main gates of which were erected in 1890. It's always interesting to read the gravestones that gives you a sense of its history and the people who lived there. The Maldon Post Office is a lovely building as well and prior to its completion in 1870, the Post Office business was conducted in various tents and small wooden buildings that dominated the early goldfields. You'll find the history of Maldon began in 1836 with settlement of the area in 1840 with the intention of establishing an Aboriginal settlement.
Gold was found on the Cairn Curren property at the end of 1853 on the region that was first called Tarrangower, eventually to be called Maldon. In all, Maldon ended up with approximately 40 mines in the region that produced over 2 million ounces of gold, which is over A$2.7 billion at 2019 prices. The sudden rush to the area had a lot to do with the population increasing to about 40,000 people back in the day. Speaking of Mt Tarrangower, we also visited The Lookout Tower. The drive through was amazing because kangaroos were in abundance and we drove very carefully so we wouldn't collide with any making a quick dash across the makeshift roads. It was so lovely seeing them in their natural habitat and some of them had literal muscles on them! Wow.
The surrounds of the lookout tower was also where there was an abundance of those dry wildflowers I mentioned earlier, and a plucking we went to bring home a handful of blooms that served as a reminder how childlike a moment that gave us; excitedly running up to roos to take pictures, and plucking unbelievable everlasting flowers like a wild child in a field of golden yellow everlastings. We also visited all buildings of note like the school and the hospital in Maldon, and a few places in Castlemaine as well.
This is how I would sum up my personal experience. I do believe we went for too short a time, because my psyche needed a couple of days to settle in and unwind mentally and emotionally. The day we were about to leave is when you start to feel comfortable and at home and ready to just 'be' like a Maldonian? if there is such a word. If not hey, I just coined it. I really enjoy immersing myself into the fabric of the places I visit as a local, whether it be a journey on home grounds or overseas. I see myself as being more than just a tourist, but an observer of life. We certainly missed the quiet as soon as we started to hit city traffic, which was full-on on our return. Once settled at home was when it hit us all; that we had such a wonderful time that was leisurely, quaint at times, and definitely enjoyable.
I cannot express enough how much Maldon Getaways made such a difference; having such beautiful accommodation. Me gushing about it all is because I was very impressed by the hospitality, not because I'm being paid to advertise them, and would highly recommend them to anyone going to Maldon. Jamie was a treasure and surprising to me that I even missed him so much the next day after we got home. His ready smile, his company and childlike exuberance in showing us around and making us feel at home. Thank you Jamie for such a wonderful stay and for your warm welcome. Remember to check out the WEBSITE if you're planning on a little break. Going weekdays comes with its own bonuses but there's a lot more to do and a lot more open on weekends, and don't forget to visit Experience Maldon which Jamie has a lot to do with, for a town he truly loves.