Pure Gold: Melbourne to Bendigo travel guide

There was once gold in these hills, but these days it’s all its other attributes that make Bendigo shine. This thriving city in central Victoria delivers excellent food and wine, as well as culture and nature.


Bendigo Court Buildings Rosalind Park

This is where Victoria’s wealth began. At one point during the 1880s, about three decades after the discovery of gold in a creek, Bendigo was the richest city in the world. Today, this golden past still shines, with majestic buildings and monuments beautifully preserved at the city’s centre. With a state-wide push to grow regional centres, it’s also become a growing hub for business and government. Combined with its location that sees nearby pockets of fertile farmland found along creeks and rivers, it has developed everything associated with a good time away: a thriving creative scene, excellent local food and wine – recognised in its designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy – and the chance to enjoy the great outdoors. Outside the city, explore wineries, national parks and quaint country towns.


Visitors checking out contemporary artwork at Bendigo Art Gallery

It’s one of the oldest regional spaces of its kind in Australia, and thanks to a substantial expansion in 2014, Bendigo Art Gallery has gained a reputation for attracting exclusive blockbuster exhibitions – Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary and The Costume Designer: Edith Head and Hollywood are just a couple that have attracted crowds from far and wide. The permanent collection has a strong focus on Australian art from the 1800s, but there’s an excellent local contemporary element too. Visit on a weekday morning during winter – a beautiful time in Bendigo – and you might feel as though you have the whole gallery to yourself.


  1. Country towns often rely on independent retailers, but Piper Street seems to have more than its fair share. It’s one of Kyneton’s original thoroughfares and its shopfronts remain virtually unchanged since 1850. Now, the old buildings house antique shops, boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. Highly recommended for a delicious road trip lunch is the tiny trattoria called Spaghetti Bar.

  2. Once the processing plant for wool grown in the region, The Mill Castlemaine has been transformed into a haunt for those who love food, art and shopping. Spend hours browsing through the treasures at Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar, view local art at several gallery spaces then tuck into the good stuff. There are handmade chocolates at Cabosse & Feve, small-scale organic dairy products at Long Paddock Cheese, craft beers at Shedshaker Brewing and Viennese coffee and wurst of all varieties at Das Kaffeehaus.

  3. Established in 1858, Bendigo Pottery continues to create clay works of distinction – in the 1920s, its Langley Ware took the country by storm – but these days it allows visitors to observe how it’s done. Learn about production, visit the artist studios, shop for tableware and perhaps even take a class.

  4. Nearby Heathcote is a wine region attracting attention, especially for its shiraz. There are about 30 cellar doors in the area, most of them small, family-run operations. A favourite is Shiraz Republic, also home to Cornella Brewing. The cellar door overlooks the vineyard, pizza is on the menu every day, and live music takes place during the monthly Sunday Sessions.

  5. In 2019, Bendigo was anointed a UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy, recognised for the region’s commitment to food, beverages, sustainability and culture. Experience it all at restaurants like Masons of Bendigo, long considered the city’s finest dining establishment thanks to the commitment to local producers shown by chefs Nick and Sonia Anthony.


Northern Arts Hotel

One of Castlemaine’s old pubs has been converted into the Northern Arts Hotel, initially by a furniture designer and more recently the owner of a boutique hotel in Melbourne. There are nine guest rooms, each individually styled.

Allawah Bendigo

Allawah Bendigo offers a range of apartments and suites, with a mix of traditional design and contemporary updates, around the city’s CBD. Six of the rooms are located behind the popular Wine Bank on View.

Oval Motel Bendigo

The set-up at Oval Motel Bendigo is more conventional, with updated, comfortable rooms just a five-minute walk from the centre of town.


Kangaroos graze in front of Hanging Rock (Mount Diogenes) near Woodend and Mount Macedon in central Victoria

Book a vehicle to collect from Apex Car Rentals at Melbourne Airport on arrival. Bendigo is a 90-minute drive to the northwest, but there are plenty of places to stop along the way. Historical towns like Kyneton and Castlemaine, as well as famous Hanging Rock, are just off the Calder Highway, but short detours can deliver you to Daylesford and Trentham. Bendigo is a popular weekender for Melburnians, but there’s plenty to fill a week in the region.


Echuca Moama Paddle Steamer

Extend the drive and set the GPS for Echuca Moama. These twin towns are set on the mighty Murray River, and your first stop should be a cruise on a paddle steamer – from the 1850s to the early twentieth century they transported people, livestock, traders and wool along the river. Hire kayaks, stay on a houseboat, explore the silo art trail and, in summer, pick your own fruit at the Big Strawberry.