While visitors flock to Bendigo these days to visit one of the finest art galleries in regional Victoria, and indulge in the city’s fabulous food and wine scene, back in the 1850s and 60s it was a very different story. There are plenty of unique things to do in Bendigo!
The big attraction then was the possibility of striking it lucky on the Victorian goldfields, which drew thousands of would-be prospectors from across the planet. Throughout the second half of the 19th century, Bendigo yielded around nine billion dollars’ worth of gold at today’s value, making it one of the richest fields in the world.
Here are five ways to step back in time and hit the gold rush trail during your visit to this fascinating city.
Listen to all the amazing things you can do in Bendigo.
Explore the city’s fine period architecture
The story of the gold rush is etched into the facades of the fine Victorian-era buildings that line Bendigo’s streets, and as you gaze at the majestic Post Office (home to the Bendigo Visitor Centre), the honey-coloured Bendigo Town Hall, Temperance Hall on View Street, and the soaring Sacred Heart Cathedral, it’s not difficult to transport yourself back to a different era. Download the Discover Heritage Buildings of Bendigo map and guide from the Bendigo Tourism website. It features a self-guided stroll around town, with stops at 19 historical points of interest.
Go for gold at the Central Deborah Gold Mine
While the Central Deborah Gold Mine next to Bendigo’s CBD doesn’t date back quite so far as the gold rush (operating from 1939 to 1954), it provides a fascinating opportunity to experience the conditions faced by miners working in a shaft gold mine. Don a hard hat and headlamp and head underground on your choice from three tours –
- The Mine Experience Tour (61 metres underground),
- The Underground Adventure Tour (85 metres underground) and
- The Nine Levels of Darkness Tour (Australia’s deepest underground mine tour at 228 metres underground)
Visit the miners’ rest area, walk the network of tunnels and see mining machinery from the period in action. A must if you’re looking for things to do in Bendigo!
Dine in golden splendour
With so many things to do in Bendigo, you’ve probably worked up an appetite! Even chowing down in Bendigo can give you a taste of the wealth that was generated by the gold rush, given that many of the city’s best restaurants and bars are housed in heritage buildings that date back to the era.
Some of the finest examples are Wine Bank on View – which occupies the original Union Bank building, Rocks on Rosalind in the historic National Bank building, and Mr Beebe’s Eating House & Bar – a nod to the reputedly amiable Bendigo architect of the late 1800s and early 1900s, who designed the former Bendigo Fire Station and the Royal Bank building in which the restaurant is housed.
Walk with dragons at the Golden Dragon Museum
Ceremonial dragons, jade carriages, intricate costumes and even a traditional walled garden are all on display at Bendigo’s excellent Golden Dragon Museum, which is dedicated to preserving Bendigo’s rich Chinese heritage. It is estimated that at the height of the gold rush, around a fifth of Bendigo’s population was Chinese-born. The conditions faced by the Chinese miners were harsh and oppressive, and discrimination and violence were common. Today the Chinese community is celebrated for its role in the rise of the city. The museum and the Bendigo Joss House Temple are must-sees during your visit.
Hit the Goldfields Track
The gold rush gave rise to cities and towns across central Victoria and several of them are connected by the Goldfields Track. The 210km track stretches from Ballarat to Bendigo and is popular with both bushwalkers and mountain bikers. Chuck the Bendigo Goldfields Walk on your list of things to do in Bendigo; it is the closest section of the track to Bendigo itself, and can easily be done as a day walk. It starts at the Sandhurst Reservoir and ends at the Bendigo Railway Station. You’ll pass through the Bendigo Regional Park and see plenty of mining remnants that time forgot.
Looking for more things to do in Bendigo? We’ve got you covered.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.