A Great Place To Live, Retire or Treechange

Michelle Jarni | Wander Vic May 2017

With its proximity to Melbourne, lively arts scene and good facilities, Castlemaine has remained a popular place for treechangers and those looking for a retirement location.  We’ve researched Castlemaine when writing editions of Where To Retire In Australia

art gallery with paintings and a mane wearing a black jumper and denim jeans and a lady in black leggings, grey top holding a painting.
Michelle Jarni | Wander Vic May 2017
Castlemaine Fast Facts
Population: 6,757
Male: 46.2%
Female:  53.8%
Median age: 50 years
Children aged 0 – 14 years made up 15.6% of the population
and people aged 65 years and over made up 28.9% of the population
Ancestry (top responses)
English      31%
Australian  26.8%
Irish         11.2%
Scottish        9.1%
German        3.3%
Population: 6,757
Male: 46.2%
Female:  53.8%
Median age: 50 years
Children aged 0 – 14 years made up 15.6% of the population
and people aged 65 years and over made up 28.9% of the population
ABS 2016 Census
Scene of trees and buildings, a train station looking up a hll in Castlemaine.
Michelle Jarni | Wander Vic May 2017

It’s a fascinating place to visit. Look, however, past the cafés, arts, antiques, historical buildings, galleries, shops (and even a hot rod centre) – what’s it like to live there?

heritage house in Castlemaine with lace work on front balcony.
David Mitchener – 2009 – Goldfields

I asked local identity, Kerry Anderson about living in Castlemaine.

Kerry is an author, speaker and facilitator.  Her latest book is: ‘Australian Rural Entrepreneurs: Redefining the Future’. 

Why live in Castlemaine?
Strange as it may seem, my parents chose Castlemaine as they started their married life together. I believe that they liked its central location and goldfields heritage.

What is perhaps more significant is my choice to stay here as, aided by my travels, I’ve come to realise that it is a lovely place to live. I love the heritage and the bush which is only a few minutes away from the CBD, not to mention beautiful botanical gardens for those wanting a more easy walk.

While it has become much more populated in recent years Castlemaine is clinging to the notion of a country town but with the fringe benefits brought by our urban newcomers. Dare I mention that I can remember the first coffee machine being installed in our local milkbar and Mum taking us down for a special treat once or twice a year? Now there are far more coffee machines and cafes, but I have to say that they don’t keep city hours.

Glass of black coffee with cream on a white marble table top, a spoon held by a lady in a pink shirt with a silver watch.
Michelle Jarni | Wander Vic May 2017

There are many benefits that I appreciate, starting with the train service and close proximity to Melbourne. This makes it really easy for me to reach the airport or CBD.

Often I read my Board papers on the train just before the meeting. We are very lucky with the frequency of the trains. We are also fortunate to have a broad range of health services in town and Bendigo is just a short trip away for urgent matters. And if we want to experience a really small rural town, we can simply travel out to Guildford, Newstead, Maldon or Harcourt; all popular destinations as well.

Changing seasons are another thing I love. From brisk winter mornings to stunning Autumn colours and hot summer days. The hills provide a lot of interesting views as you walk around Castlemaine and give you a good cardio workout in the process.

Street scene of Castlemaine wit red brock building alongside a park with several cars driving in the stret.
Michelle Jarni | Wander Vic May 2017

We have a lot of heritage park (goldfields) and state forest surrounding the township. The walks are fantastic as long as you use common sense, ie. watch out for snakes and don’t step into an old mine shaft (hint: circular dips in the ground). We all need to be especially fire conscious during the summer and have a good plan for ourselves and our animals; that is part and parcel of living in this environment.

Community and volunteering are huge in Castlemaine. I have volunteered for 20 years at Buda Historic Home & Garden and love it. U3A has a big following, and there is a Community House, health organisations, sporting clubs and the arts (our Castlemaine State Festival kicks off this weekend!). This list is far too long to keep going but these groups are a way for people to keep active and to meet new people especially when they first arrive.

Broccoli, Red Capsicum, Tomatoes and Silver Beet at a market stall.
David Mitchener – 2009 – Goldfields

Cost of housing is comparatively higher in Castlemaine to other rural towns and even the larger city of Bendigo, a reflection of how much people love to move here. I do understand that city prices are higher again, so I guess it depends which comparison you apply. Having not lived elsewhere I am unsure about whether the cost of living is higher or not. We are very big on sustainability in this area and you will find lots of new solar passive housing design being applied. The fact that you can grow your own vegies or run some chooks, depending on where you live, is also a bonus.

Castlemaine was established in 1852 on alluvial gold which ran out within a decade. Those that had invested in property and businesses stayed on and quickly adapted to manufacturing. You can still see some of these buildings in use, or repurposed, today. Check out The Mill in my book for an example.

Shovel of Coffee beans about to be roasted at The Mill, Castlemaine.
Michelle Jarni | Wander Vic May 2017

If you look above the roof lines in the CBD you will also notice that many of the original shops remain in service although fitted out very differently inside and serving new purposes. Many visitors were disappointed to find most of our businesses closed between Christmas and New Year which required us to explain that they are family run, small businesses, that deserve a well-earned break. This is the difference between a tourist and country town.

Like most towns there is also a hidden business sector working online behind closed doors. Connectivity has opened up lots of new possibilities.

Castlemaine: a great place for many to live, treechange or retire

Rear more about the enterprising Kerry Anderson here

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