Only 90 minutes or so up the Calder Freeway from Melbourne is the lovely regional city of Bendigo. With its grand and historic buildings that were built during the gold boom to its famous pottery and its growing food and wine scene, there is a lot to discover on a visit to this regional city. Most things can be seen during a day visit but if you extend your visit to a few days or longer you won’t be disappointed. In this post I am going to share the best things to do in Bendigo in a day or longer.
Firstly, I want to acknowledge that the City of Greater Bendigo is located on the traditional lands of the Dja Dja Warring and the Taungurung Peoples of the Kulin Nation, the traditional custodians of this land.
How to Plan Your Visit to Bendigo
Where is Bendigo?
Bendigo was established in the 1850s after gold was found in this part of Victoria. In fact, so much gold was found here that Bendigo was the richest city in the world in the 1850s. Instead of petering out like many gold rush towns, Bendigo has grown and remains a regional city hub in Central Victoria. It is only 150km north of Melbourne and takes around 90 minutes or so to reach by car or a bit longer if you catch the train. If you need to rent a car check out the RentalCar website which provides details of different car rental companies and cars they have available.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bendigo?
Anytime is a good time to visit Bendigo. However, Winter can be very cold and Summer very hot. Spring and Autumn are perfect as the weather is a good temperature. But it is up to you when you visit, Bendigo isn’t going anywhere.
How long should you Visit Bendigo for?
Definitely visit Bendigo for 1-2 days which will give you enough time to see the major things Bendigo is known for. There is still plenty to do if you stay longer but you will probably be travelling to the local towns to really appreciate what the Bendigo area has to offer. This blog post is for a visit of 1-2 days.
Where to Stay in Bendigo?
Bendigo has a variety of accommodation available, with plenty of places in the CBD and surrounds. The closer you are to the centre of town the easier it is to walk to the major sights.
- The Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo CBD is a majestic structure of some 150 plus years old and worth a stay.
- If after a bed in a hostel check out Bendigo Backpackers.
- The Best Western Cathedral Hotel is where I stayed. It is only a 10 minute walk from the CBD and only 5 minutes from fast food restaurants. It is a great hotel and offered everything I needed for a pleasant stay.
- If towing a van or bring your tent, check out Big 4 Park Lane Holiday Park.
- For other accommodation options check out Booking.com – it’s my go to site where I book all my accommodation.
Here’s the Best Things to See and Do in Bendigo in a Day or Longer
Ride the Hop-on Hop-off Tram
Bendigo Hop On Hop Off Tram Waiting at the Central Deborah Gold Mine
The first thing to do when you arrive in Bendigo is to buy a ticket to ride the Bendigo Hop-on Hop-off Tram. Trams travel between the Central Deborah Gold Mine, past the Sacred Heart Cathedral, through the centre of town travelling along Pall Mall, past Lake Weeroona and end at the historic Joss House Temple. There are 6 stops along the route and you can hop-on and hop-off at any stop you like as your ticket is valid for the whole day. Riding the tram is great fun. The tram driver’s are very knowledgeable and show you the major sights and tell you about them and their history. I started my tram trip at the Central Deborah Gold Mine mainly because there is plenty of parking here. For my first trip I stayed on the tram and did the return trip which takes 45 minutes. You can purchase your ticket on the tram or at the Central Deborah Gold Mine reception area.
Go Down the Mine at the Central Deborah Gold Mine
The Central Deborah Gold Mine is the second must-see and do destination in Bendigo. If you want to learn about the gold rush days in Bendigo, you will discover everything here at this once working gold mine. You can even go on an underground tour in the mine to depths of 228 metres below the surface. You will discover all about the working conditions of the miners of years gone by as well as fascinating stories. If going underground isn’t your thing, there is a great display of gold rush memorabilia on the surface. You can purchase your ticket at the mine.
Bendigo Art Gallery and Rosalind Park
Leave your car at the gold mine and take the tram back into the city. One stop away will see you at View Street, in the centre of the city. Along View Street is the Bendigo Art Gallery which has some great exhibitions. The day I was there, the Elvis Presley Exhibition was on. I was lucky to get a ticket to this exhibition and I’m glad I did. There was so much Elvis memorabilia in the exhibition. From Elvis’ clothes he wore in concert to his beloved car and even the keys to the front door of Graceland. Here’s some pics.
Elvis’ Jumpsuits and his Red MG were my favourite exhibits at the Elvis Exhition at the Bendigo Art Centre
If art isn’t your thing, take a walk around Rosalind Park. There is an old gold poppet head to climb which offers great views over Bendigo. At the bottom of the hill you will find some statues, one of Queen Victoria and the other of George Lansell. George Lansell arrived in Bendigo in 1853 and after opening a number of shops he had a great interest in mining. He worked tirelessly to ensure mining industry standards were met to be able to provide employment. Not too far from the statue is the imposing Town Hall building, which is where you will find the award winning Bendigo Visitor Centre. This building once was the Bendigo Post Office and has been loving restored to keep its character and glory. The Botanical Gardens are just next door for you to walk around or sit and relax. Across the road is the iconic Shamrock Hotel.
Golden Dragon Museum
Chinese history is a massive part of Bendigo. So massive in fact there is the Golden Dragon Museum housing a great range of Chinese artefacts from the gold rush period. It is not far from the Bendigo Town Hall. It is also home to two dragons. Loong is the world’s oldest Imperial Dragon and is the most celebrated dragon in Australia. Loong first appeared in Bendigo in 1892 and was regularly paraded through Bendigo until he was retired in 1970. As well as Loong, Dai Gum Loong also calls Bendigo home. He is the world’s longest Imperial Dragon and thousands come to see him dance through Bendigo’s central business district during Bendigo’s Easter Festival. If you can’t see him at Easter, you can see him and Loong at the museum. You will find the museum at 1-11 Bridge Street Bendigo and it is open Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am to 5.00 pm.
Walk Around the CBD and Shopping Precinct
Bendigo was one of the central points of the gold rush back in the 1850s and a stroll around the CBD will showcase many heritage buildings. Walk along Pall Mall and discover many of the lattice covered awning shop fronts. They provide a lot of character to Bendigo. A couple of streets back is on the other side from Rosalind Park is Bendigo’s shopping mall. Once a street, it was changed to a mall in the 1980s. Lots of great shops from local boutiques to Australian chain shops – plenty of shopping here. And cafes too, to get your fix of caffeine or a local pastry to keep the energy up.
Kiln at Bendigo Pottery
Bendigo Pottery is 6km north of Bendigo so you will need to drive to get there. It is Australia’s oldest and still working pottery with around 45 shops attached to it. These shops are other creators selling their wears along with antique sellers where you could find a bargain. You can purchase a ticket to go on a tour of the pottery or perhaps you would like to take a pottery class. Or perhaps like me, just walk around and admire the extensive array of pottery items for sale and then finish off with a coffee in the coffee shop. It is free to walk around however, you will need to buy a ticket if going on the pottery tour.
Eating in Bendigo
Bendigo is fast becoming a foodie’s paradise and is in fact Australia’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy. The range of Bendigo restaurants and cafes is huge with a lot of the food being sourced locally from around Central Victoria. There are a number of great places to eat along View Street, McCrae Street and on Mitchell Street and close to the Shopping Mall along Hargreaves Street. Perhaps have a meal at the iconic Shamrock Hotel on Pall Mall. Or enjoy a high tea at Fortuna Villa, once the home of George Lansell. There are also plenty of fast food joints and fabulous bakeries. If you truly love your food and wine why not taste your way around the Bendigo region on the Bendigo Gastronomy Trail. (www.bendigogastronomy.com.au/guide. Bon Appetite!
Are You Ready to Visit Bendigo for a Day or Two?
I hope you are ready to visit for the best things to see and do in Bendigo for a day or two or more! If you have any questions about your visit or have visited already, i would love to hear in the comments following.
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