Victoria's little secret
Join the rush to explore historic Bendigo.
Bendigo may be known for its gold rush history but the city is definitely not stuck in the past. With a thriving culture of arts, a strong music community, and an acclaimed food and beverage scene there’s plenty to explore in Bendigo.
Food & Drinks
You may not expect Bendigo to be a top choice for dining but the city was recently designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. This listing recognises the culture of great food and dining in the city. There are several farmers markets that showcase produce from around the region. Check out the Saturday morning market outside Rosalind Park for great fresh vegetables, olives, bread, cheese and more.
Bendigo has plenty of hipster joints too; laneway cafes are no longer confined to Melbourne. Try the breakfast burrito at Gordo’s in Chancery Lane or explore the street art in Bath Lane.
Farther out of town you can taste more of what the region has to offer by visiting one of the many wineries and breweries that are an easy drive from Bendigo.
Tooborac Hotel and Brewery makes a very tasty chilli chocolate stout and their golden ale is another favourite for those who prefer beer a little lighter. Be careful where you wander, we were warned that the cellar is haunted!
Shiraz Republic is a boutique vineyard that makes beautiful wines and also houses Cornella Brewery which makes craft beers in the English style. The cellar door plays host to live music events with their monthly Sunday sessions: the perfect time to grab an ice-cold Shiraz Spritzer and listen to some local music.
History & Culture
Bendigo is rightly proud of its rich history and cultural diversity. The heritage trams that run through town offer a hop-on, hop-off tour of the city’s attractions and
the Dja Dja Warrung tram provides a history of Bendigo’s first peoples.
The Dja Dja Warrung word for ‘gather together’ is the name of Ulumbarra Theatre; a new performing arts space in the old Sandhurst Gaol.
Bendigo also has an interesting Chinese history, beginning with Cantonese miners who first came to the region during the 1850s gold rush. The Chinese community still forms a strong part of Bendigo’s identity. The Golden Dragon museum has fascinating displays about the challenges faced by Chinese immigrants when they joined the gold rush and you can also see the famous dragons that have become a tradition in the Bendigo Easter Parade. The Dai Gum San district also houses a Chinese garden and the Joss House Temple.
And any trip to the Bendigo region wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a gold mine. Central Deborah Gold Mine is easily accessible via tram and you can experience life as a miner on one of their underground tours. Visitors can descend 61, 85, or 228 metres below ground – if they dare!
Explore the Outdoors
After visiting the mine, you might need an afternoon in the sunshine. Rosalind Park in the centre of town hosts regular events or you can enjoy a picnic on the grass. Don’t forget to look up to see the native fruit bat population that makes its home in one corner of the park.
Cyclists will enjoy Bendigo’s cycling infrastructure with over 350km of tracks and trails around the city and further afield. The 49km O’Keefe Rail Trail takes riders along the old railway line that linked Bendigo and Heathcote in the 1800s. The trail encompasses natural bushland and historic townships and has water stations along the way. Thrillseekers can head out to the Spring Gully Mountain Bike Track for a high- adrenaline adventure.
Arts & Music
The main event on the Bendigo music calendar is the Bendigo Blues and Roots Festival, held annually in November. This festival features more than 150 acts at 80 venues across the city, many of them free.
If you’re visiting at another time of year, don’t despair. There are regular gigs and performances at The Old Church on The Hill and The Rifle Brigade Hotel. Once a month you can take a trip on The Blues Tram to hear local blues performers while travelling on one of Bendigo’s heritage trams.
Art lovers should head to the Arts Precinct to visit LaTrobe Arts Centre and The Bendigo Art Gallery: one of Australia’s oldest regional galleries. For those wanting to get a little more hands-on, the Bendigo Pottery offers lessons and ‘clay play’ for all ages.
Bendigo is easily accessible from Melbourne by train and is also part of the Sydney Melbourne Heritage Touring Route and the Great Southern Touring Route for those driving around the region. There are a range of accommodation options in and around Bendigo to suit everyone. Check out the Bendigo Tourism website for more details.
Story Lucy Ridge