Day 1: Melbourne to Bendigo
195km, about 2.75 hours
The towns and villages between Melbourne and Bendigo are renowned for their antique shops that overflow with treasures, including furniture, silver, china, paintings and bric-a-brac, and for their abundance of gourmet restaurants and wineries.
Weave your way through the tree-lined streets and magnificent gardens of Mount Macedon. Call in to sample local wines at the cellar doors of boutique wineries. At the summit of the mountain in Macedon Regional Park, a short walk from the car park, you'll find the Memorial Cross and several lookouts, from which you can see as far as Melbourne on a clear day.
Next, explore Hanging Rock, the haunting backdrop to the book (and film) Picnic at Hanging Rock, and nearby Woodend, a town with a historic streetscape featuring a number of heritage buildings and a clock tower.
From Woodend, you'll pull up in Kyneton. Piper Street has a small cluster of antique shops, and the town is home to mineral springs and 19th-century botanic gardens, plus a raft of outstanding dining options using local produce.
To see antiques in situ, visit the Buda Historic Home in Castlemaine, and follow up by searching out your own vintage goods at The Mill. Revive with coffee and strudel at Das Kaffeehaus while you're there. The legacy of the gold-rush boom is present in the historic buildings throughout Castlemaine, and the old-world charm and the National Trust–listed streetscape in the nearby tiny town of Maldon.
From Maldon, carry on for roughly another 30 minutes to Bendigo for the night.