Encounter spellbinding surrounds cultivated, landscaped or natural by design in the Goldfields region, right in the heart of Victoria.
Stroll through one of the local botanical gardens in Bendigo, Ballarat, Buninyong or Castlemaine. Still thriving 150 years after being created by early residents of the region, these gardens are a great place to unwind and recharge. If you're visiting the area in March, be sure to explore the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and see the renowned annual begonia display. In spring, see Rosalind Park's tens of thousands of blooming tulips lining Bendigo's Pall Mall.
Head to Ballarat Wildlife Park on the outskirts of Ballarat to hang with Tasmanian devils, crocodiles and free-roaming kangaroos and koalas. Meanwhile, budding birders should make tracks to Ballarat Bird World to meet some of Australia's colourful avian friends (and stop to pat the full-size animatronic triceratops). For encounters in the wild, lace up your hiking shoes at Terrick Terrick National Park and keep an eye out for wallabies munching spinifex. The national park is also home to the endangered plains-wanderer, a small ground-dwelling bird that flits between the scrub.
Walk or ride your own path
Head out of town to discover national and state parks with dazzling wildflowers, abundant wildlife and stunning scenery. A centrepiece of the region's cultural landscape is the Goldfields Track. The 210km track links Ballarat and Bendigo through Daylesford and Castlemaine, taking in part of the Great Dividing Trail. Take a scenic drive to Terrick Terrick National Park for a bushwalk or picnic. Time your visit with spring to see a colourful display of wildflowers. Kooryoora State Park offers a range of outdoor adventures. Don't miss the Melville Caves at Kooryoora State Park, granite boulders thought have been used as a hideout for bushranger 'Captain Melville'.
Spend an afternoon on the shore of Ballarat's Lake Wendouree, or Bendigo's Lake Weroona or Lake Eppalock – a big part of each city's popular outdoor lifestyle. Make use of the scenic walking and cycling trails, enjoy a spot of bird watching, or paddle about in a kayak or canoe. Trek the 3.7 kilometre trail around Little Lake Boort by foot or bike, or head to Bridgewater on Loddon for an aquatic adventure on the Loddon River. Seasoned kayakers and paddlers can go their own way at any of the Loddon Valley's waterways, or skill up with the help of an experienced guide. For those looking to just soak up the natural surrounds, a picnic or barbeque by the water is just the thing.
Tracks and trails
Mountain bike or bushwalk across a series of landscapes including ironbark and stringybark forests. The tracks sparkle with colour in late winter when the golden wattles are in bloom, and then in springtime hundreds of vibrant wildflowers adorn the trails. The most iconic trails include the Goldfields Track, O'Keefe Rail Trail, Skipton Rail Trail, Castlemaine to Maldon Rail Trail and the Maryborough to Ballarat Trail. The state of the art La Larr Ba Gauwa Mountain Bike Park in Harcourt is a must visit for MTB enthusiasts.