Maryborough is located 166 km north-west of Melbourne via the Calder and Pyrenees Highways. It existed as a separate municipality from 1857 to 1995. Artefacts found in the area testify to the original owners of the area, the Jajowurrong people.
The first European settlers in the area were the Simson brothers, who established the 'Charlotte Plains' sheep station in 1840. This was the name by which the district was first known to whites. The first settlement on the station was Carisbrook.
Some of the first gold in Victoria was allegedly found 13 km south-west at Amherst; in 1851 prospectors began to arrive in the area. With the discovery of payable gold at White Hill, about 4 km north of present-day Maryborough, in 1854 a full-scale gold rush occurred near the future townsite of Maryborough. Other major finds followed, and there were soon as many as 50,000 diggers on the local fields.
A survey of the town site was hastily arranged, and a police camp, Methodist church and canvas hospital were established. The settlement was initially known as 'Simson's' but it was soon re-named Maryborough by gold commissioner James Daly after his birthplace in Ireland. The Maryborough Advertiser, one of the state's oldest newspapers, was established in the same year.
In the following year the so-called Tipperary Riots took place between Irish prospectors and other groups, leading to the formation of the Maryborough Mutual Protection Society. Surface nuggests continued to be found, encouraging alluvial prospecting, and in 1855 a nugget was discovered weighing 32 kg. Reef mining began in the late 1850s.
Land sales commenced in 1856. Maryborough became the commercial and administrative centre of the goldfields, and High Street had emerged as a business thoroughfare.
Maryborough became a Borough in 1857. Its infrasctructure continued to develop, and the railway arrived in 1874. Maryborough became a Municipality in 1875. It opened a new town hall in 1887, the year it issued a medal to commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria (NU 20418).
The last gold mine closed in 1918 but in the inter-war period Maryborough developed a strong manufacturing base with the opening of the Maryborough Knitting Mills (1924), a printer and engineering enterprises.
Maryborough became a City in 1961.
On Thursday 19 January 1995 the Central Goldfields Shire Council was created from the former City of Maryborough, Shires of Tullaroop, Bet Bet and Talbot and Clunes.
The Highland Gathering has been held on New Year's Day since 1857. The Agricultural Show is held in March and the Australasian Goldpanning Championships in late October or early November. Maryborough hosted the World Goldpanning Championships in 2001.
In the early 21st century Maryborough had a population of around 8,000 people and was a significant industrial centre.