Located approximately 150 kilometres north west of Melbourne, Bendigo’s unique heritage makes it one of the largest and most appealing cities in regional Victoria. Since the decline of the gold mining boom that provided its early economic success, the city and surrounds have transformed into a tourist destination with several local attractions paying homage to its unique history.
Bendigo is Australia’s fourth-largest inland city and Victoria’s fourth-largest by population. Due to a combination of its size and location, it retains a charming settlement appeal while providing all the amenities of a large city. It is surrounded by an abundance of green spaces, parks and a 17,020-hectare national park that give the essence of a planned city.
Don’t know what to do in Bendigo? Visit one of Australia’s oldest art galleries or take a vintage tram ride, stopping at the city’s main attractions, just to name a few. With so much to see and experience, we asked some of the people behind the scenes at Southern Phone about their favourite places to visit in Bendigo. Here are their picks:
Bendigo Art Gallery
Regarded as one of Australia’s oldest and largest regional art galleries, the Bendigo Art Gallery was founded in 1887 under its original name, Sandhurst Fine Art Gallery. Over time, it has developed a reputation as a cultural centre renowned for its national and international exhibitions.
The gallery is home to an extensive range of works; from Australian, British and European paintings to sculptures, decorative arts and more. The design of its most recent contemporary wing also draws admirers interested in the amalgamation of history and modern architecture.
Greater Bendigo National Park
If you’re nature-lover looking for a full day of activity, the Bendigo National Park is the perfect spot for you! Located a short drive north of the city, the park is one of the best places to visit in Bendigo and serves as the origin of the Great Dividing Trail linking Bendigo, Castlemaine and Ballarat.
Keen birdwatchers should keep an eye out for the Honeyeaters, Warblers and Swift Parrots who call the reserve home. If you’re looking to camp at Bendigo National Park, there are three sites across the reserved offering a range of facilities that are sure to make your visit even more enjoyable.
Central Deborah Gold Mine
A visit to Bendigo is incomplete with stopping off at town’s historic Central Deborah Gold Mine. Providing a literal deep dive into the city’s gold mining past, this famed attraction is a bucket list activity giving you the opportunity to explore a network of hidden underground tunnels from the mid-20th century.
How deep you choose to go is up to you with tours ranging from 61 to 228 metres below the surface! With plenty of free all-day parking and space for caravans, this is one of the most exciting things to do in Bendigo.
Lake Weeroona Park
To see more of Bendigo’s natural beauty without straying too far from the city, take a 15-minute vintage tram ride from the city centre out to the picturesque Lake Weeroona Park. This man-made body of water is set across 18 hectares on a site once occupied by a working mine. Feel free to take a leisurely walk along the pathways, enjoy a coffee or grab a bite at one of the park’s surrounding cafes and restaurants.
Golden Dragon Museum
Take a different perspective on Bendigo’s history through the eyes of the city’s Chinese immigrant community at the Golden Dragon Museum. Operated by the Bendigo Chinese Association, the museum is a truly authentic experience that preserves the heritage and ongoing contribution of the immigrant community that originally settled to make their fortunes during the gold rush era.
Fun fact: The building design, including the Yi Yuan Gardens and Guan Yin Temple, is all based on the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
Bendigo Vintage Talking Tram Tour
Before cars were the norm, Bendigonians were served by a network of electric trams moving people and goods around the city. Eventually, modernisation and development rendered the Bendigo Tramways obsolete as a commuter service. However, the city’s love affair with the trams was far from over and efforts were made to turn it into an ongoing tourist service.
Today, it is Australasia's largest tourist tram system with over 40,000 visitors welcomed annually. The heritage-listed tramway’s depot, which you can take a self-guided tour of, is the oldest operating in Australia. Hop on and off the Vintage Talking Tram Tour to see many iconic Bendigo landmarks and attraction, many of which are mentioned in this article!
Vintage Talking Tram map and timetable available here.
Just eight kilometres north lies the former borough of Eaglehawk, best known for its beautiful heritage architecture and impressive town hall. The iconic Eaglehawk Town Hall now houses the city’s only boutique film house, the Star Cinema.
For visitors in March, don’t miss the annual Eaglehawk Dahlia and Arts Festival in the adjoining Canterbury Park, featuring art exhibitions, family fun activities, floral show and a large street procession. If you’re looking for things to do just outside Bendigo, this is definitely worth the short trip!
PepperGreen Farm is a unique experience for your next visit to Bendigo. Located five minutes from the city centre, the precinct is set across two hectares of farmland, public space and art studios that each contribute to a shared sense of community hospitality. Visit one of the monthly markets to pick up some hand-grown produce or home-grown crafts from across the Central Victorian region. Entry is free with plenty of onsite parking available.
Another one of Bendigo’s unique gold rush era attractions, Fortuna Villa is a private residence which offers visitors a glimpse into life as part of Bendigo high society. Book yourself in for one of its famed morning and afternoon high teas - including local produce or wine/beer - all accompanied by a string quartet.
The main house is over 140 years old and sits as the centrepiece of a larger estate featuring an ornamental lake, gardens, Roman-style baths and fountains. These can be toured extensively as part of your high tea experience. Spaces are limited.
Heathcote Wine Region
The Heathcote region has helped cement Bendigo’s reputation as a top producer of Shiraz wine. Drive or join a tour exploring one of many cellar doors in the area for a day of tasting some of Australia’s best grape varieties. Those looking for something different can also sample a growing selection of Mediterranean-style reds and other varietals.
For eager enthusiasts, the annual Heathcote Wine and Food Festival continues to attract over 4000 people each year to become one of regional Victoria’s signature industry events. Many wineries also offer accommodation, allowing you to experience the full range of all the region has to offer.
●Notable Mention: Post Office Gallery
The Post Office Gallery on Pall Mall is the first of its kind in Australia. Designated as a 'social history' museum, its collection of culturally significant artefacts and material explore the region’s colourful history with a varied annual exhibition program.
Located in the former grand Post Office building, from which it derives its name, the gallery is open every day (except Christmas Day) and attracts both locals and interstate history buffs.
Have your own suggestions for this list? We would love to hear from you!
Contact the Southern Phone team today.