Victoria’s fourth largest city is one classy dame, Laura Waters explores why this appears at no.23 on your list of Top 50 Aussie Towns.
Find the complete list of the Top 50 Aussie Towns here.
History meets modernity
Ornate Alexandra Fountain stands proud in the middle of Pall Mall as cars loop around it. Wide streets are lined with Victorian-era architecture, and hectares of lush parkland are dotted with trees that are almost as old.
Like an aristocratic lady, Bendigo has the kind of timeless beauty that isn’t flashy or try-hard. Her history stretches back to 1851 when the discovery of gold made her (for a while) the richest town in the world.
Bendigo is a timeless beauty. (Image: Visit Victoria)
I’ll admit that it’s often one thing that lures me here initially. Bendigo Art Gallery has made a name for itself internationally, hosting absurdly impressive exhibitions for a regional town – Princess Charlene of Monaco visited to open Grace Kelly: Style Icon; Priscilla Presley to open Elvis: Direct from Graceland. But there is so much more to Bendigo than this much-lauded gallery.
Art is a big part of Bendigo. (Image: Visit Victoria)
Wine, dine and fine art
Bendigo has an enticing mix of good food, wine and shopping, laced with a hefty dose of history. On View Street, wine bars, restaurants and theatres reside inside heritage beauties such as a grand bank, a red-brick schoolhouse and an 1898 fire station.
Boutique shops in Bendigo are refreshingly different. A five-minute walk away, Chancery Lane has an entirely contrasting vibe with restaurants spilling out onto a narrow laneway colourful with graffiti.
The vibrancy continues in the murals and street art found up Dimples Lane. Stories of the Dja Dja Wurrung Peoples are shared through Djaara Lights, an installation featuring neon artworks and augmented reality around Oscars Walk and the Bath Lane Precinct.
Bendigo Art Gallery has made a name for itself internationally. (Image: Visit Victoria)
Golden town highlights
I like that plenty of Bendigo is walkable. From Melbourne, it’s two hours by train (only minutes slower than driving) and, once there, the historic Bendigo Tramways run the length of town.
A 45-minute round trip pauses at many of Bendigo’s biggest draws: Central Deborah Gold Mine, where you can descend 61 metres to subterranean tunnels from which 929 kilograms of gold was extracted; peaceful Lake Weerona, popular with joggers and walkers; Bendigo Joss House Temple and Golden Dragon Museum, which are both a reflection of the time when a fifth of the population were Chinese miners and merchants.
You can venture beyond the city centre to visit Bendigo Pottery, Australia’s oldest working pottery (since the 1850s), or the 48-metre-high Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, an ambitious Buddhist complex that’s constantly evolving. And then there are the dozens of surrounding wineries, renowned for their bold reds. Whatever draws you to this old gold town, you’ll leave richer for it.
Bendigo Pottery is Australia’s oldest working pottery. (Image: Visit Victoria)