Gold was discovered at Smythesdale, 19 kilometres south-west of Ballarat, in 1853. Today you can go back in time to the Police Camp historic precinct and visit the old bluestone police station lock-up and historic court house.
Relics of Smythesdale's gold-mining history can be found in one of Victoria's best preserved gold mining sites, the Jubilee Mine historic reserve, 11 kilometres south of town on Jubilee Road. Relics include old cyanide vats, mullock heaps, brick walls, and water races rusting in the silence of the bush. Nearby Scarsdale, four kilometres away, features a circa 1861 hotel and historic town hall.
Get out the lycra and pump up your tyres. Take a bicycle ride along the 53 kilometre-long Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail and you can just about hear the steam engines puffing and hissing, as they once did when hauling their freight between these two towns.
You'll pass open paddocks and eucalypt forests, native grasslands and bush alive with birds and wildflowers. You'll pedal past the former Chinese settlement site at Nintingbool, numerous railway remains, an impressive trestle bridge near Newtown and historic towns including Smythesdale, Scarsdale and Linton.
The trail starts in Ballarat on the corner of Gillies Street and Gregory Street West, adjacent to Lake Wendouree. A self-guided tour brochure 'Ballarat Scenic Bikes Rides' is available by calling Ballarat Visitor Information on 1800 44 66 33.