Bendigo is a large regional city in Victoria, Australia, population 100,000 (making it the 3rd largest settlement in the state). Bendigo is located some 140 km (105 miles, 1.5 hrs drive) north-north-west of Melbourne.
It is beautiful city with grand Victorian architecture, more opulent than that generally seen in country Australia. This is as a result of the Gold Rush.
Bendigo grew to a bustling town during the Gold Rush Era of the 1850s. The wealth created during this period resulted many fine Victorian era buildings in the down town and surrounding areas. This type of architecture is not common to most country towns in Australia.
An influx of people from the city has brought the population of Bendigo to just over 100,000. Even so it still retains a friendly country atmosphere.
The town has more sunny days per year than Queensland. Being north of the Great Dividing Range, it has also far less rain than Melbourne. Summers are hot and dry, up to 40 degrees Celsius or more on some days. Winters tend to be mild; with lowest temperatures around -5 degrees Celsius overnight and around 15 during the day.
Sheep, cattle, fruit, wine and cereal crops are the most common products of the area. Gold is being discovered again in large quantities at deeper levels in the old mines with new technology.
Before European settlement the area was occupied by the clans of the Dja Dja Wrung people. They were regarded by other tribes as being a superior people, not only because of their rich hunting grounds but because from their area came a greenstone rock for their stone axes. Early Europeans described the Dja Dja Wrung as a strong, physically well-developed people and not belligerent. Nevertheless the early years of European settlement in the Mount Alexander area were bloodied by many clashes between intruder and dispossessed.
Major Mitchell passed through the area in 1836. Following his discovery, the first squatters arrived in 1840 to establish vast sheep runs. Bendigo Creek was part of the Mount Alexander or Ravenswood sheep run.
It is generally acknowledged that Mrs John Kennedy and Mrs Patrick Farrell, wives of workmen on the Ravenswood run, found gold at ‘The Rocks’ - now an identified location that can be visited at the junction of Bendigo Creek and Maple Street.
The first ‘rush’ took place in November 1851 when miners at Castlemaine (Forest Creek) heard of the new discovery. Alluvial gold was found in the area of its first discovery (present day Golden Square) and then the miners followed the gold down the creek to what is now Epsom and up the creek to the present suburb of Kangaroo Flat. Further discoveries were soon made in the tributary creeks at Eaglehawk and Diamond Hill.
As a result of the rush of people to the area, the Gold Commissioner’s Office, the Police Barracks and the courts were erected on Camp Hill, now the present Rosalind Park in central Bendigo. The “diggers”, as the miners were called, numbered as high as thirty thousand and came from all over the world; from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland – along with Germans, Italians, Swiss, French and Americans. The Chinese population reached many thousands in the early gold rush period but their numbers dropped rapidly as the nineteenth century progressed.
Bendigo quickly grew from a “city of tents” to become a substantial city with great public buildings. The first hospital was built in 1853 and the first town plan was developed by 1854. A municipality emerged and the first Town Hall was commissioned in 1859.
Bendigo was connected to Melbourne by telegraph in 1857 and it was from here that the first message reporting the deaths of Burke and Wills was sent in 1861. Frequent Cobb & Co coaches ran to Melbourne until the railway reached Bendigo in 1862.
In the following decade it made the transition from small mining town to large and wealthy city, and becoming established as a key centre for surrounding settlements.
Water supply was always a problem in Bendigo. This was partly solved with a system harnessing the waters of the Coliban River, designed by engineer Joseph Brady. Water first flowed through the viaduct in 1877.
Architect William Charles Vahland left a major mark on Bendigo during this period. He is credited as innovating what was the most popular residential design of the period, low cost cottages with verandahs decorated in iron lace which became a popular style right across Victoria. He transformed the Bendigo Town Hall between 1878 to 1886 into a grand building and designed more than eighty more public and private buildings, including the Alexandra Fountain, the Masonic Temple (now the Capital Theatre) and the Mechanics Institute and School of Mines (now the Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE), 'Fortuna Villa' in Golden Square, (which was the home of 'Quartz King' George Lansell), the Law Courts, former Post Office and the expanded Shamrock Hotel in Pall Mall.
A tram network began in 1890 and was used for public transport.
Bendigo is just over one and half hours drive north of Melbourne on the Calder Freeway (Highway). The freeway is now all dual carriageway. The final stretch of the Calder duplication project opened to traffic on 20 April 2009.
If you are coming from Sydney, take the Shepparton exit from the Hume Freeway, and then follow the signs from Shepparton to Bendigo.
While Bendigo does have a small airport, it will likely be much more convenient to fly into Melbourne. From there, hire a car and take the M79 (Calder Freeway) which starts just by the airport. If you do not wish to drive, take the Skybus into Southern Cross Station and get the train to Bendigo. Alternatively take the shuttle direct to Bendigo from the airport. For a cheaper option, catch a 479 to Sunbury Station and get the train to Bendigo.
Bendigo is served by trains which run from Melbourne's Southern Cross Station into the south of Bendigo. These usually run about once an hour. The journey takes approximately two hours from Melbourne. As the route is used by many commuters trains may be more crowded in the early morning and late afternoon/early evening on week days. From the station, most of the CBD is within walking distance. Alternatively buses run into the centre of the city and other parts of Bendigo from the station. In addition to the main station, the trains also often stop at the outer Bendigo station of Kangaroo flat. It is unlikely to be a better option than the main station due to having less connecting public transport and little of interest in that area.
Vline also operates a coach twice daily from Adelaide direct to Bendigo.
Bendigo has a local bus service. Services on some routes may be infrequent on weekends, sometimes as little as once an hour. There is also a tourist hop-on/hop-off tram running up and down the main street.
Parking is metered in most parts of downtown. Expect to pay about $1 per hour for parking, and to have parking limits of 1–2 hours in the city centre. Because of these restrictions parking is generally easy in the city centre. Parking is free on Saturdays however time limits do still apply. You can also find free parking at some larger shopping centres.
- The tourist information centre is housed in the old post office building on Pall Mall (the main through road) - opposite the Shamrock Hotel. It also has an interesting exhibition of Bendigo Heritage.
- There is a Chinese Arch, Chinese Garden, and Chinese Museum which has tours and one of the original Joss houses is open to the public. You can get to this by taking the Tourist Talking Tram Tour from the Central Deborah Gold Mine, which is close to the city centre, or it is just a short walk east along Pall Mall from the town centre and the visitor information centre. Access to the arch is free. Access to the museum, garden and shrine has a small charge. The museum has many old Chinese exhibits. The garden has goldfish, is Chinese styled, but has a fair bit of concrete to detract from the effect.
- Rosalind Park is just behind the visitors centre. It has the potential for a river to flow through it, but this usually only happens after rare storms. Otherwise a basic garden with a fountain and a memorial. From the main section of the park it is a short but somewhat steep walk up to the Poppet Head Lookout or to the Bendigo Art Gallery.
- Bendigo Mosaic and Poppet Head Lookout. At the high point of Rosalind Park, you can climb a look out created from an old mine shaft. From it there is extensive views over the region. There is a mosaic of tiles explaining the heritage of Bendigo at the base of the tower.
- Sacred Heart Cathedral. Quite a spectacular cathedral for a town the size of Bendigo. It is used by the local catholic community. Set on the high point of the town, it is a short walking distance from the town centre.
- Art Gallery is located on the edge of Rosalind Park, between the Poppet Head Lookout and the Cathedral.
- The Easter fair procession, is the oldest continual festival in Victoria. The imperial dragon called Sun Loong takes pride of place each year at the festival needing over 50 strong members of the public to carry it. A variety of other activities take place over the Easter weekend including markets and carnivals.
- Visit the wineries . Bendigo is the centre of a thriving wine area - a number of nearby wineries are well worth the visit. Bendigo Shiraz is generally very full flavoured and big.
- Central Deborah Mine (2 minutes drive or a short walk towards Melbourne from the town centre). There are three variations on the mine tour. There is the surface tour where you can look around the mine workings, which have been reconfigured a little for tourism. There is gold panning available, and you can climb the poppet head and follow the overhead link to the battery crusher. THe standard underground tour goes underground into the old minue workings. There are various types of drilling rigs, and other demonstrations making for a very interesting tour. This tour also includes the self-guided surface tour. The third adventure tour does all that the first two tours do, but also includes about 30 minutes on level 3 of the mine. This involves going down ladders, and seeing a section of the mine that hasn't been extensively modified for tourism use. It also includes a lunch or cornish pasties back in a function room that has been built back on the main level of the mine.
- Bendigo Tramways. Ride the historic Bendigo tourist tramway
- Swim at public pools around the city.  $3.50 for kids, $4.50 adult, $11.50 family (2 kids, 2 adults). The closest to the city centre is the Bendigo Aquatic Centre which features a water slide, 10m and 5m diving platforms, diving boards, an Olympic pool, a kids pool and a baby pool. If you like a cold swim, go to Brennan Park. East Bendigo is usually more than half-filled with lap-lanes. The only indoor pool is at the Peter Krenz Leisure Centre which also features a gym and mini-golf.
- The Zone Family Entertainment Complex, 1 Gildea Lane, East Bendigo, ☎ . Under 9yo activities: Mini go-karts, playground with ball pit. All ages activities: Laser tag, roller rink, 18 hole mini-golf, arcade machines, outdoor maze. Other activities: Go-karting is popular but you must be over 8 years old and over 130cm tall. Paintball is available for over 18 year olds. Single tickets can be bought (prices range $6-45 depending on activity) or there are combo passes which are better value. Staff will help to find the best pricing for the activities you want to do. The Zone sells food, drink and coffee.
- It is also worth visiting Online Bendigo to see what upcoming events are on prior to your visit.
- The Marketplace. An indoor shopping plaza with clothes, electronics, jewellery, massage, manicure, woolworths, other specialty shops, and a food court. It is on Mitchell Street opposite the train station and has large, free parking lots.
- Hargreaves Mall. An outdoor pedestrian mall with cafes, clothes, and several arcades branching off it with more retail and some art spaces. It is the home of the original Myer Shop. Bendigo Original Pie Shop does awesome chicken. It is the stretch of Hargreaves street between Mitchell Street and Williamson Street. There is a large multi-storey parking station opposite the Library just off Williamson.
- Bath Lane. Overshadowed by the Bendigo Bank building, it is a one-way street with cafes and boutiques, including Indulge Chocolate which have amazing hot chocolates!
- The Bendigo Pottery, 146 Midland Highway, Epsom, ☎ . You can buy pottery. There are also tours, a cafe, and hands-on pottery workshops.
- There are antique shops and second hand shops on View Street, opposite the Bendigo Art Gallery.
- Other shopping centres include Strath Village in Strathdale, Centro Lansell in Kangaroo Flat.
- Clogs - a famous local restaurant on Pall Mall in Bendigo. It has a wide selection of Pizza / Pasta and other dishes (modern Australian)
- Bull St - There are many casual restaurants in this small street of Bendigo, including The Match.
- The Woodhouse - wood-fired pizza and fancy steaks in a hearty atmosphere. Williamson street.
- Malayan Orchid - an excellent restaurant specialising in Asian cuisine.
- Bunja Thai - an restaurant specialising in Thai cuisine.
- GPO - modern Australian cuisine impressively presented opposite the historic General Post Office Building.
- Typhoon - Thai cuisine in a casual and friendly atmosphere.
- Guards Room @ Wine Bank - Fine dining upstairs at the Wine Bank.
- Whirakee - Lovely restaurant in centre of Bendigo with view of Alexandra Fountain in city centre.
- The Dispensary - Chic new eatery in Chancery Lane off of Pall Mall, fine food and great wine list in funky atmosphere.
- Wild Mint - cafe under the new Bendigo Bank headquarters in the main CBD. Asian inspired light lunches and more substantial evening meals.
- Bendigo Shiraz - some good Bendigo wineries are: Chateau Leamon, Waterwheel, Balgownie, Mandurang Valley, Harcourt, Blackjack, Connor Park. Many other small wineries are in the district.
- The Rifle Brigade Brewery - located on picturesque View St Bendigo. pumps out some very nice beers and meals too.
- Wine Bank - in View Street. A great selection of wines, both local, Australian and imported, in the relaxed atmosphere of an old bank building from the Gold Rush period - ornate ceilings and architectural detail are just part of the experience.
- The Newmarket Hotel, Cnr of Charleston Road & Nolan Street. Live music and open mic nights, encourages local bands. Pool table and bar on one side, stage on the other, beer garden. Bottle-o next door. Corner of
- Star Bar, Corner of Pall Mall and Mundy Street. Known as 'Star'. Plays Top 40 music from resident DJs. Sometimes hosts events. General age 18-25. There is an outdoor area, the main dance floor, the 'rave cave' and a quieter area for sitting down (not that quiet, you're in a nightclub remember!)
- Universal on McRae, McRae Street. Known as 'Uni'. Plays Top 40 music, similar to Star Bar but in general the age bracket is slightly higher (20-30)
- The Metro and Puggs Irish Bar, Bull Street. Live Music with a dance floor and a pub atmosphere.
- Huha Bendigo, Bull Street. Downstairs is a glamorous room. Dancefloor upstairs has a dark atmosphere, plays Top 40 music/electronic, decorated interior with an upper landing with more dance space. Smaller than Star and Uni, and has a reputation for underagers however they are cracking down more now.
- Black Swan - opposite Star, a nightclub, targeted age group above 25.
- The Pub (currently closed) - Cnr Hargreaves Street and Mundy Street.
The Shamrock Hotel provides luxury accommodation.
- Shamrock Hotel.
- Kenrode House, 94 Abbott Street, Bendigo, ☎ .
Bendigo is generally a safe city, although like anywhere it is important to take common sense safety precautions.
Bendigo is an ideal place from which to explore the Goldfields region of Victoria. From Bendigo you can visit neighboring Castlemaine and Heathcote. The train from Bendigo to Melbourne stops in Castlemaine. It takes approximately 25 minutes to reach Castlemaine by train
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