Situated between Geelong and Ballarat, Steiglitz is almost a ghost town today but in the 1860s and 1890s it was a busy goldmining township with hotels, shops, churches and a population of over 1000. At the height of the 1860s gold rush, Steiglitz township had more than 1500 residents, four hotels, a newspaper, a variety of shops and even an undertaker.
The first three years of Steiglitz existence witnessed explosive growth, frantic activity and spectacular finds of both alluvial nuggets and reef gold. However alluvial ground was limited and it soon became obvious that future prosperity lay in the development of hard rock underground mines. By 1856 there were about 2500 people in town and seven quartz crushers were in operation or being built. Due to the need for capital to fund deeper workings, the first companies were formed in 1859, but poor management saw many of them falter and mining activity declined in the early 1860s.
Later in the decade however the prospects of Steiglitz began to improve as companies were taken over by local managers who had a much greater interest and belief in the field than the previous incumbents. The wider availability and improved efficiency of steam power also helped to fuel the resurgence. This new wave of mining activity naturally encouraged a flurry of commercial business as well, and Steiglitz experienced a golden period from 1868 to 1873. By then however the richest zones had been extracted and the remaining gold was deep, so a slow decline set in, lasting until about 1890.
Mining activity escalated rapidly in the last decade of the nineteenth century due to the introduction of new technology (the rock-drill and cyanidation), the availability of cheap labour, and the ability of mining companies to acquire large tracts of contiguous leases. Once again the population of the town reached about 2500 but, as before, the lack of large tonnages proved an economic obstacle and the field gradually waned as companies wound up their operations one by one. The last hotel closed in 1917 and the last mine in 1941.
The Steiglitz Post Office s history closely follows the town s history: it opened on 15 March 1856 and closed in 1966. the population as of 2006 was less than 100.
Now most of the town and its surroundings are included in the Steiglitz Historic Park. Enjoy a pleasant bushwalk, relax with a picnic or pan for gold. Of course, a trip to the park wouldn t be complete without a visit to the Steiglitz Court House, with its display of photographs, maps and relics of gold year. The court house is open on Sunday and public holidays, and at other times by arrangement.
Gold panning is permitted only in the section one kilometre downstream from the Meredith Road Bridge on Sutherlands Creek. Prospectors with a miner s right are permitted to use pans, cradles and hand tools within the creek bed only. Please protect the creek bank environment.
Deadman s Loop Walk 5.4km, 1hr 45mins Moderate to Difficult (yellow markers): Walk one kilometre south-west along Stawell Street to the creek. Follow the creek bed on western side approximately 750 metres and locate orange markers where a small waterfall joins the creek. Follow the markers north-west through bushland, turning right at the Meredith-Steiglitz Road. Return to Steiglitz along the road, passing the old Catholic Church (c1868) and cemetery.
Beards Gully Walk 6km, 6hrs min Difficult; Expect hard off-track walking, steep climbs and dangerous mine shaft areas. A car shuffle is recommended. Leave one car at the Court House and park another at the start of Sailors Track. Drive south from Bert Boardman Recreation Area along South Steiglitz Road to Sailors Track, or walk from the Court House Carpark (1 hour). Walk down Sailors Track and turn north on reaching Sutherlands Creek. Look for signs of early goldmining. Watch your step! Old mineshafts and uncovered holes are often hidden by long grass along the edge of the creek. Follow the creek north, rock hopping along the creek where possible.
Upstream you may see quartz in the creek bed. After walking about two hours, look for interesting rock formations on the left side of the creek, north of Miners Track. Continue along the creek to intersect Deadmans Track and follow Stawell Street to the Court House Carpark.