February 27, 2023
4 mins Read
Regional cities hold the nation’s most precious gems. But, like all valuable stones, they could do with a good polish every so often to revive their glimmer. Nestled in Bendigo’s central Rosalind Park, the Bendigo Ernest Hotel is the latest establishment to buff the colonial edges of Victoria’s gold-mining city, while tastefully celebrating its colloquial charm.
Opened in early 2022, the 10-suite property combines majestic architecture, impossibly high ceilings and features from its colourful past (including a bullet hole in an original window pane; a memento from a heist) with the fresh viewpoint of directorial duo David Cook-Doulton and Martin Shew.
The boutique hotel is the pair’s first collaborative venture, however, you wouldn’t know it when walking into the impeccably styled welcome lounge. Skills garnered through decades working in marketing, hospitality and creative services are expertly applied to a new medium to replace regional guesthouse clichés with elevated touches.
Named after Cook-Doulton’s grandfather, who was a vocal supporter of his creative endeavours during his formative years, the Ernest Hotel is part-residence, part-stage for lesser-heard voices and experts of craft. It’s this intentional dismantling of power within the city’s oldest banking building that so cleverly softens the space and connects historical and contemporary narratives in unexpected ways.
Each of the hotel’s bespoke suites is a design-lover’s dream and themed around an artist’s work selected from Cook-Doulton’s private art collection, which is the product of 20 years’ patronage. The boutique hotel features works by Melbourne Studio School director Richard Birmingham and Archibald finalist David Bromley.
Expect to be welcomed by plush velvet and felt couches, plaid wool blankets, softly lit wishbone seating and plumes of a woody fragrance custom-designed for the space by Melbourne-based aromatherapy consultancy Aromacare.
Stroll into the walk-in bank vaults and find two micro lounges that feature works by female artists that highlight the inequality of labour value between genders.
Dedication to balanced aesthetics is something that the whole team takes seriously. Staff are educated in the composition of each room so spaces can be reset daily, to create an experience that is reassuringly consistent, no matter if it’s your first or 101st stay.
While the bathrooms might feel a bit retro (we predict a renovation is on the horizon), every lamp, bathrobe, cushion and appliance complements the artwork to cocoon visitors in visual harmony during their stay. Weekend guests may also meet Fletcher, the owners’ affable Airedale terrier, whose coiffed curls are as much a part of the decor as the ochre espresso cups.
Above all else, the Bendigo Ernest Hotel is a modern take on traditional hospitality with a sincere passion for old tales and new memories at its core. A heartfelt reminder that Victoria holds treasure troves of hidden wonders within its colonial shrouds, if you only know where to look.
Address: Bendigo Ernest Hotel, 10–12 View Street, Bendigo, Vic
Verdict: A welcoming art-lovers retreat that unearths local history and celebrates fresh perspectives, where each luxurious detail tells a story.
We rated: The pet-friendly, accessible ground-floor suite, perfect for dog owners and visitors who need accessible shower facilities.
We’d change: Being an older building, single glazing is retained in some rooms leading to early-morning street noise.
Green credentials: Local artists, furniture designers and producers are on display, cutting down on the carbon footprint.
Notes: Weekday stays are charged at a reduced rate and are ideal if you are planning a visit to Bendigo Art Gallery outside of busy weekend hours. Look out for the team’s second destination, Hotel Vera in Ballarat, which is due to open later this year.
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