June 13, 2022 11 min read
Written for Auski by Pink Lemonade Social
Visit one of Victoria’s culture-rich towns, Bendigo and see what there is to see and do. With its gold-rush history, must-visit galleries and delectable cuisine offerings, there is a reason Bendigo was awarded UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. While you’re there, you can also pop into Auski Bendigo and say hi!
Bendigo is famous for its renowned and historically accurate attractions, including the Golden Dragon Museum and the Central Deborah Gold Mine as well as a ride on a vintage tram are all excellent ways to explore Bendigo. Bendigo's gastronomic offerings can be explored on a foodie tour, which includes sampling seasonal produce grown in the area and ending the day with a local wine or beer.
Below is our guide to the best things to see and do in Bendigo, as well as some amazing places for feed, in no particular order.
The Bendigo Art Gallery was first opened in the Volunteer Rifle's room in 1887 and has since expanded several times. Melbourne-based Fender Katsalidis Architects designed the striking sculpture gallery that was added in 2001. There is a wide range of art in the Bendigo Art Gallery's collection from the 19th century to the 21st.
European and Australian paintings from the nineteenth century are particularly strong points of the collection. Temporary exhibitions at the museum range from 20th-century cultural icons to ancient artefacts loaned from the British Museum to the public.
Even in the midst of the gold rush, grapevines were planted in the bushland around Bendigo, leading to an amazing wine region that can be enjoyed today. Bendigo has a dry and temperate climate similar to that of the south of France, with warm summers and mild to cool winters where most of the rainfall occurs, in turn, favouring red grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, while Chardonnay is the state's primary white grape.
Cabernet Sauvignon from Bendigo is known for its blackcurrant flavours and hints of eucalyptus-peppermint aromas. Around Bendigo and into the Heathcote region to the east, there are more than 60 wineries and cellar doors spread across the hills and valleys. Browse the range of wineries in Bendigo here.
This science museum in Bendigo, the Discovery Science and Technology Centre, is all about hands-on learning and fun. There are more than 100 wacky exhibits where kids can learn about science without even realising it. Echo tubes, air cannons, and ping-pong ball-shooting devices are just a few of the inventions that can be found in the centre of the room. You can learn about the stars, planets, and solar system while relaxing on a beanbag in the planetarium.
When it comes to headline attractions, there is none better than the vertical slide! Parents and children alike can line up to be dropped down the Vertical with its seven-meter drop and a speed of 30-40km/h! In order to ride the Vertical Slide, visitors must be at least five years old and have a valid ticket (remember to pack your socks!).
The Returned Soldiers' Memorial Hall, dedicated to veterans who served during World War One, was built in 1921. The Soldier's Memorial Institute Military Museum underwent an extensive two-year renovation and expansion and reopened in 2018. The museum features an impressive collection of wartime memorabilia that has been donated or loaned to the museum by both individuals and groups, spanning from the Boer War to Iraq. Diaries, photographs and documents, as well as military uniforms, weapons and "trench art", are all part of the permanent collection.
Bendigo’s Great Stupa of Universal Compassion is the largest stupa in the Western World, the same size and design as Tibet’s Great Stupa of Gyantse, and located roughly 20 minutes from Bendigo’s main street. A stupa is a type of Buddhist architecture (Sanskrit for "heap") but actually predates Buddhism.
This unusual structure, which rises 48 metres above Bendigo's bushland and measures 50 metres wide at its base, is meant to last for a millennium. The Jade Buddha for Universal Peace, the world's largest Buddha carved from gemstone-quality jade, is one of the many revered artefacts housed here. In 2000, the enormous boulder from which it was carved was discovered in Canada. From the stupa's visitor centre, you can go on a tour to see these and other artefacts that shed light on Buddhist and Asian cultures. Artisanal coffee is served at the StupaView Café, which also features a boutique selling unique gifts.
This historic tram system has been open to tourists since it opened in 1890. Since 1903, the Bendigo Tramways have been powered by battery, steam, and electricity. It became too expensive to operate the network as a commuter service after World War II, so it was shut down in 1972 and reopened in 1993 as a heritage line. Between North Bendigo and Central Deborah Gold Mine, you can take a tram through the city centre.
You can see nearly all of Bendigo's major attractions on a hop-on, hop-off heritage tram tour. From the Central Deborah Gold Mine, the Dja Dja Wurrung Tram tells the 40,000-year-old story of Bendigo's first people and their traditions.
The "Blues Tram," which features live music every month, and the "Yarn Bomb Tram," which is decked out in hand-crocheted seat covers, cushions, blankets, and bunting, are also great options.
Between 1939 and 1954, this gold mine near Bendigo's city centre produced nearly a metric tonne of gold. Even during World War II, work continued on the Central Deborah Gold Mine, which opened during a gold rush in the city. Tourists have visited this site since 1986, and the narrow main shaft was widened to make things a little more comfortable. Depending on how daring you feel, you can see more or less of the mine.
At a depth of 61 metres, the basic Mine Experience gives you an idea of the maze of tunnels here. The Underground Adventure at 85 metres or the Nine Levels of Darkness tour, which descends to 225 metres in the original miners' cage, both take about an hour longer.
Go-karts, skating, laser tag, mini-golf, and a slew of other fun activities can be found throughout The Zone in Eastern Bendigo. It's best to stick to the Kids Zone if you have young children. The Kids Zone includes a play area, a maze, and kiddie go-karts. This is a great option for families visiting with kids.
An abandoned railway line runs between Castlemaine and Maldon just outside of Bendigo, Victoria. From 1880 to the 1970s, it was used to provide rural services, but today, you can ride a steam train on weekends and Wednesdays thanks to the efforts of volunteers who helped build the railway. On the Victorian Goldfields Railway, you can enjoy the sights, sounds, and motion of the historic steam train era with this enjoyable family outing while savouring your journey in your own family compartment.
Art deco and Edwardian parlour carriages provide an air of refinement for first-class passengers travelling on the train. During this trip, you'll be able to relive the glory days of rail travel, when the journey was just as important as the destination. Sink into your lounge chair and enjoy the view while sipping on a beverage from the bar. If you're looking for a more intimate look at train operations, you can ride along with the driver for an additional fee (pre-booking is required).
Bendigo Pottery, Australia's oldest working pottery, was established in 1858 and has experienced a revival since the 1970s after a few ups and downs in the intervening years. This historic site, dominated by wood-fired kilns, is a great place to learn about the history of pottery making in Bendigo and the traditional skills that are still used today. Try your hand at making pottery on a wheel while watching live demonstrations.
An antiques and collectibles centre, as well as studios where local artists work on jewellery, sculpture, painting, textiles, and other projects, are all located in the sales gallery.
Lake Weeroona, coined the jewel in Bendigo’s crowns, is undoubtedly one of Bendigo's prettiest spots and was actually a mine from the 1850s to the 1870s. The Melbourne Botanic Gardens' art director oversaw the site's transformation into an 18-hectare lake in 1878. The banks of Lake Weeroona are surrounded by a shady parkland path that winds through the woods, with the complete circuit taking roughly 20 minutes.
Cafes on the east shore offer light fare and a few scoops of gelato, while the enormous adventure playground is ideal for children to run wild. You can catch the historic tramway (mentioned above) from Bendigo’s CBD to Lake Weeroona.
The traditional lands of the Dja Dja Wurrung People are part of the Greater Bendigo National Park. The 17,020-hectare national park features Box-Ironbark forest, broombush mallee, grassy woodlands, and Kamarooka mallee, which are all protected in the park. Swallow-tailed Parrots and other bushland birds are among the park's many resident wildlife species. One Tree Hill Lookout offers a breathtaking view of the setting sun and is a popular starting point for exploring the forest's loop tracks and longer bushland trails. Visitors can learn about Victoria's gold rush past on the Old Tom Mine Walk, and they can even go gold panning for their own stake in the ground. This is a great option for a walk among nature in the Bendigo region.
In order to preserve Chinese culture in Australia, The Golden Dragon Museum was established in 1991. The museum's collection spans from the 1850s to the present day, giving visitors a unique look at Chinese arts and crafts. Visitors can take advantage of the museum's guided historical tours and walks, as well as special interest tours, on occasion.
Chinese people have lived in Bendigo since the days of the gold rush, and the museum showcasing the city's Chinese heritage is located on the site of an early Chinatown in the city. The earliest artefacts found here date back to the prehistoric era (1600-1026 BCE). Also on display are the imperial dragons, which are believed to be the world's oldest and largest. Bendigo's annual Easter Festival has featured the Sun Loong, a more than 100-metre-long float, every year since 1901. The authentic gardens, inspired by Beijing's Imperial Palace and home to a Buddhist temple dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, must also be seen when visiting.
Between Bendigo's Lake Weeroona and Heathcote, via the town of Axedale, there is a 50-kilometre walking and cycling trail, the O’Keefe Rail Trail, that is perfect for a day out exploring. It crosses Lake Eppalock, which is a great spot for watersports, via a causeway through native woodland and wildflowers. The O'Keefe Rail Trail is a popular spot for cycling and walking, with the trail running alongside an old railway line, allowing users to take in natural bushland, waterways, and recreation areas. Take a break in the town of Axedale for some classic pub fare at the Tavern, or pack a picnic. The Campaspe River, a stunning natural river environment and home to platypus is also crossed by the trail. It is possible to see wildlife such as wallabies, koalas, and the beautiful wildflowers that grow along the trail at any time of year.
To understand how a small, provincial city like Bendigo could have a cathedral of this size, consider the city's gold supply in the past. Beautifully constructed in the English Gothic style, the Sacred Heart Cathedral is one of the finest examples in the world. Visitors can take guided tours of the cathedral as well as participate in services and sacraments such as weddings, christenings, and pre-wedding education. The construction of this magnificent Gothic Revival structure began in 1897 and was only completed 70 years later due to the two world wars. The spire of Sacred Heart is the second-tallest in the country, after St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. Step inside to take in the cathedral's 24-metre-high wooden ceiling. You can admire the carved stonework, the stained glass on the west window, the organ (1905), the blackwood pews, and the fine timber panelling in this church.
Bendigo is a beautiful city in Victoria and, as mentioned above, was designated a UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy, meaning it’s home to a variety of restaurants that are worth checking out. Here are five we recommend.
Chicken fried in a skillet. Wings on sale for $1. Chips with a Cajun flavour. Flight Bar should be your new go-to as you wipe away the saliva. Among their most popular offerings is a chicken burger that's both classic and addictive: fresh white buns with a tower of crispy fried chicken on top. Select any of their amazing feeds and wash it back with a craft beer from their enormous selection.
This is the place for you, beef lovers. For the char-grilled Wagyu and Sher Wagyu steaks at The Woodhouse, redgum is used, giving them a distinct smoky flavour that will keep you coming back for more. You can also sample their pizza, which is cooked in a wood-fired oven. Their desserts are also out of this world, so save some room!
Masons of Bendigo Instagram feed will show why they're well worth the effort of a long drive. Enjoy your meal while you watch it being prepared in the open kitchen, which has a sleek, modern design. They also have a lunch roaming menu featuring seven dishes that can be tried in under an hour. There are so many incredible options on their menu, so go with friends and order something different so you can taste them all!
Bendigo's Chancery Lane is a worthy rival to Melbourne's laneways, and The Dispensary Bar & Diner, a hidden gem with floor-to-ceiling liquor shelves, is tucked away in the midst of all the shops, restaurants, and coffee shops. This eatery is an all-in-one shop that serves up everything from oysters and beef carpaccio to pork belly and Cantonese roast duck, with a drink selection that is even more impressive. The bar's extensive drink menu, which includes over a hundred craft beers, 60 gins, 50 cocktails, and a mountain of wine, makes it impossible not to indulge.
Twenty per cent of Bendigo's population was Chinese in the mid-1800s. They came to the goldfields as traders and miners, bringing with them their traditions, culture, and cuisine. The city continues to honour their contributions to it to this day, and you can’t not visit one of the many Chinese restaurants on offer, including Toi Shan Chinese Restaurant, Dumpling House and House of Khong, to name just a few.
For even more finds, make sure to follow the official Bendigo Instagram @explorebendigo
Just under 2 hours from Melbourne (152kms), getting to and around Bendigo without a vehicle would be difficult, but not impossible. In Bendigo, it’s possible to walk between a few of the attractions, including the Central Deborah Mine, Talking Tram, Lake Weeroona, Golden Dragon Museum, and Discovery Science and Technology Center). If you’re getting to Bendigo by train, it will take roughly one and half hours from Melbourne. As long as you have a car, none of these things to see and do mentioned above are more than 30 minutes away.
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