Tarilta is a rural locality and former gold-mining town 12 km south of Castlemaine. Its neighbouring places are Guildford (4 km north-west) and Vaughan (3 km north-east).
Originally known as Kangaroo Flat, near where the Kangaroo Creek enters the Loddon River, gold was discovered there in 1853. A school was opened in 1860 in a Wesleyan chapel. In 1864 a township was surveyed and named Tarilta, the word being derived from an Aboriginal expression thought to mean kangaroo. In 1865 Bailliere’s Victorian gazetteer described Tarilta as being an alluvial and quartz gold-mining town with three quartz-crushing mills and three horse-puddling machines. There were two hotels. Tarilta’s elevated country was accessible only by horse and dray, or on horseback like Cobb and Co’s mail service.
Mining activity virtually ended by the 1880s and a diminishing rural population kept the school open until 1925. Tarilta’s census populations were: