Bendigo was built on the riches of gold and the stately buildings and beautiful gardens all remain.
DO You can see some of the mining history and do the underground tour at the Central Deborah Gold Mine (76 Violet Street, +61 3 5443 8255). There’s also a vibrant arts community in the city. The Bendigo Art Gallery (42 View Street, +61 3 5434 6088) has an impressive collection and hosts major touring exhibitions, while the Old Sandhurst Goal has recently been transformed into the state-of-the-art Ulumbarra Theatre (Gaol Road, +61 3 5434 6100). History and craftsmanship combine at Bendigo Pottery (146 Midland Highway, Epsom, +61 3 5448 4404) – operational for 150 years – where you can watch ceramics being thrown and buy works from other local potters and artists.
EAT AND DRINK Get a taste of the region on a half-day adventure with Heathcote Grape Escape Tours (+61 408843214) and visit three wineries, sip their wares and meet the winemakers. Chefs Nick and Sonya Anthony take the paddock-to-plate ethos seriously at Masons of Bendigo (25 Queen Street, +61 3 5443 3877) using the best central Victorian produce to create dishes like saltbush-smoked Rockwood Cottage lamb rump with crispy-belly croquettes, pickles and charred onion and wild rabbit fillet with pancetta, roasted cauliflower and quinoa salad. Mr Beebe’s Eating House & Bar (17 View Point, +61 3 5441 5557) serves up rustic, produce-driven small plates, while Cafe Cortille (322 Lyttleton Terrace, +61 3 5444 3082) does all-day breakfast and great Axil Coffee Roasters java. Try local shiraz and sauvignon blanc at Wine Bank on View (45 View Street, +61 3 5444 4655) and the Balgownie Estate Tasting Room (46 Hermitage Road, Maiden Gully, +61 3 5449 6222).
STAY The Schaller Studio (Corner Lucan and Bayne Streets, +61 3 4433 6100) is part of the Melbourne-based Art Series Hotels group, whose properties feature Australian artists. Here, Mark Schaller’s colourful paintings, mosaic creations and large-scale sculptures fill the rooms, public spaces and gardens. The light, bright studios are cool and contemporary and you can hire vintage-style bicycles for zipping about town.
GET THERE V/Line trains take about two hours to travel from Southern Cross Station to Bendigo, otherwise it’s an easy 90-minute drive.