Only 90 minutes from Melbourne, Bendigo is a vibrant epicentre of wine, food, festivities and cultural events that celebrate everything the region has to offer.
If you arrived in Bendigo back in the 1850s you might have had a tin pan, pickaxe, and spade loaded up on your overpacked horse, ready to join the Gold Rush.These days you’re more likely to arrive in style by car or high-speed train, with a hearty appetite for the region’s culinary offerings and plans for one of the many Bendigo festivals and events on offer every year.
Even between festivals, Bendigo is a fabulous place to visit.
Not only is this busy historical city Victoria’s fourth largest, but it’s also one of the state’s most celebrated attractions. It’s Australia’s first UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy, and it won not only Victoria’s Top Tourism Town Award in 2022 but also landed the Silver for the Australian Top Tourism Town.
Whether you’re a regular visitor or a newbie, Bendigo has it all – from dramatic history and perfectly preserved architecture to world-class art and theatre and award-winning food and wine. Now all you need to do is plan your next getaway around these upcoming events.
1. Lost Trades Fair
When: 11-12 March
Held over two jam-packed days, the Lost Trades Fair features over 150 master artisans hard at work with clay, glass, leather, metal wood and various decorative arts.
Watch a demonstration and learn a lost trade while the kids learn to carve toys or join the potato sack race, then fuel up on local fare or sit back and enjoy the line-up of folk, indie, instrumental and bluegrass music on the big stage.
Find over 150 master artisans at the Bendigo Lost Trades Fair.
2. Australiana: Designing a Nation
When: 18 March – 25 June
This ground-breaking exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery, held in conjunction with the National Gallery of Victoria, explores the idea and tumultuous evolution of the Australian identity and style.
Expect to see over 200 displays of fashion, design, painting, and photographs from some of Australia’s most iconic figures, including icon Ken Done, fashion house Romance Was Born and Girramay/Yidinji/Kuku Yalanji artist Tony Albert.
Find ‘Australiana: Designing a Nation’ inside the Bendigo Art Gallery.
3. Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle from Melbourne Opera
When: 24 March – 30 April
One of the biggest worldwide productions, this $5 million performance involves around 250 Australian singers, musicians, creatives, and technicians.
On stage at the beautiful Ulumbarra Theatre, the Ring Cycle is a 15-hour experience performed over two weekends, with a plot that many say inspired The Lord of the Rings and featuring highlights such as Ride of the Valkyries, featured most famously in the film Apocalypse Now.
Settle in for the 15-hour Ring Cycle experience, performed over two weekends,
4. Castlemaine State Festival
When: 24 March – 9 April
Held across the region, the biennial Castlemaine State Festival is a 17-day celebration of music and arts.
There are loads of free events, family-oriented fun and big-name acts such as Frente, Vika & Linda, Jem Cassar-Daley, and Ella Hooper. The much-loved Dialogues program will be held again at the Goods Shed Arts, and a range of local and interstate comedy, circus and cabaret acts can be enjoyed at various venues.
Bask in the arts at Castlemaine State Festival.
5. Bendigo Easter Festival
When: 7-10 April
Join one of Australia’s biggest easter egg hunts with over 80,000 eggs for you and your family to find. The Bendigo Easter Festival has it all – live music, markets, local food, and a convoy of illuminated floats in the Torchlight Procession.
On top of that, as part of Awakening of the Dragon, you’ll enjoy around 100,000 firecrackers and, Dai Gum Loong, the world’s longest Imperial Dragon, making its way past Bendigo’s historic budlings and parks.
Hop to one of Australia’s biggest easter egg hunts at Bendigo Easter Festival.
6. Bendigo Writers Festival
When: 4-7 May
Bringing together over 100 presenters who’ll take part in over 70 events, the Bendigo Writers Festival features five venues running hour-long sessions with some of Australia’s best wordsmiths.
When you’re not listening to authors talk, you can read their books and network with them in the Festival Hub. Festival passes for this four-day event go on sale in March and they will sell out. So, get in quick.
Listen to some of Australia’s best wordsmiths at the Bendigo Writers Festival.
When: 6 May
Inspired by Buddha’s life, Illumin8 celebrates all things peace and harmony. This family-friendly event features light installations, cultural performances, food stalls selling vegetarian and vegan food and entertainment all to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha according to the Tibetan festival of Saga Dawa. You can even join in Buddhist ceremonies to purge your negative emotions.
Tickets for this event are limited, and they are on sale now from the event website.
Celebrate peace and harmony at Illumin8.
8. Heathcote on Show
When: 10-12 June
Located just a short drive from Bendigo, the Heathcote region is known for its full-bodied Shiraz wine, and this festival celebrates all things wine, food, beer and music.
Be one of the first to sample new releases, participate in exclusive wine tastings, and try local food and beer at over 30 different locations. Leave the car at home and book your spot on the hop-on, hop-off shuttle buses so that you can enjoy the festival to its fullest.
Wine lovers must make the trip for Heathcote on Show.
9. Bendigo Annual Tulip Display
When: Mid-Sept – early October
To celebrate the milder temperatures and bluer skies, the city of Bendigo puts on a floral display like no other.
From mid-September, you’ll find around 53,000 local tulips decorating the main street of Pall Mall and Conservatory Garden. There are curator talks, myriad Instagrammable moments and Bloom After Dark, where the displays will be expertly lit to shine as the sun goes down.
Wander through a tulip display like no other.
10. Bendigo Uncorked Festival
Finish the year with the region-wide Bendigo Uncorked Festival, highlighting the wineries, winemakers and chefs that are making waves in the industry. Book your spot at cellar-door experiences, curated multi-course dinners, new wine releases and wine tastings.
Look out for the Spring Wine Fiesta as part of the festivities and book your ticket to enjoy the local gourmet offerings alongside live music and rolling hills scenery.
Enjoy local wineries, winemakers and chefs from the Bendigo region.
What else to do in Bendigo
While visiting these festivals, don’t forget to leave time to experience what else Bendigo is famous for. Try your hand at clay making at Bendigo Pottery, hop on one of the Heritage Trams, travel 61 metres down to visit the Central Deborah Gold Mine, browse the vintage and artisan shops or enjoy the Bendigo Art Gallery’s latest exhibition, before exploring the eclectic mix of food, fashion and art in Chancery Lane.
Find food, fashion and art in Chancery Lane.