Go for gold: 18 things to do in Bendigo in 2023
Bendigo wears a lot of different hats. Brimming with history as one of Victoria’s first gold rush towns, it’s now known for its gorgeous architecture, and vibrant food and arts scene. Here are some things to do in Bendigo on a day or weekend trip.
Located just under a two hour drive from Melbourne, Bendigo has a lot to offer.
The city has one of the best art galleries in the country and is internationally renowned for its food scene.
You can discover the city’s Chinese culture, explore a sacred Buddhist temple or travel underground to tour an old gold mine.
There’s plenty of things to do in Bendigo for kids and adults alike.
The best of Bendigo can be experienced over a weekend. I do find it’s a destination I return to again and again – particularly to explore other nearby towns such as Harcourt, Maldon and Castlemaine.
Visit during autumn for a particularly gorgeous display of autumn leaves.
Here are some of the top local attractions within the city and its immediate surrounds.
This guide to Bendigo will cover:
Where to stay in Bendigo
What is Bendigo famous for?
Located on the traditional lands of the Dja Dja Wurrung people, Bendigo started life as a tent city, when gold was struck locally in the 1850s.
People flocked here from around the globe, hoping to nab a nugget. Much of the wealth found was invested back into the city, hence the beautiful architecture that survives to this day.
Its now known for its gorgeous art gallery, which regularly hosts world-class exhibitions and its wealth of cafes, bars and restaurants. Declared a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2019, it’s fair to say Bendigo takes fare very seriously.
When is the best time to visit Bendigo?
While Bendigo is nice to visit year-round, I recommend timing your first visit for either autumn or spring.
Autumn is beautiful just about anywhere in Victoria. Bendigo in particular is worth going to if you’re a fan of fall foliage. The parks there put on quite a show.
In spring, Rosalind Park, right in the centre of the city, comes alive with thousands of tulips. It’s wonderful to wander through and take in all the flurry of colour.
However, the city is worth a visit in the summer months and there’s plenty of things to do in Bendigo in winter, too.
Things to do in Bendigo
Right! Let’s explore some of Bendigo’s nicest attractions.
We’ll cover where to eat in Bendigo and the best places for a tipple. I’ll also recommend where to lay your head after a day’s exploring. There’s a place for every budget.
1. Visit Bendigo Art Gallery
Bendigo Art Gallery is one of the top galleries in Victoria and one of the oldest and largest in Australia.
People flock to NGV in Melbourne, but Bendigo receives many world-class exhibitions in its own right.
Don’t miss the permanent collection, which features Australian art dating back to the 1850s.
2. Ride the Vintage Talking Tram
Get quickly acquainted with the city with a ride on the Vintage Talking Tram.
A 45 minute tour will take you through the city and introduce you to Bendigo’s history, landmarks and monuments.
Well-behaved doggos are also welcome onboard.
3. Wander through Rosalind Park
This park was once woodlands, transformed during the 1850s gold rush to what you’ll find today – 60 acres of grassy open spaces, with fernerys, cascades, Chinese Gardens, towering trees and a playground.
It contains a beautiful conservatory, built in 1897, which exhibits different floral and foliage displays throughout the year. It’s the last building of its kind to be found in a Victorian public park.
As I’ve already mentioned, the park is at peak prettiest during spring, awashed with colour as the tulips bloom.
4. Admire the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion
A stupa or pagoda is to Buddhism what churches are to Christianity. Sacred buildings, places of peace and worship.
The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion can be found just outside of Bendigo. At nearly 50 metres high, it’s the largest stupa in the west.
The stupa is open for self-guided and group tours and is another place where you can bring a furry friend.
5. Check out Chancery Lane
This colourful laneway is home to shops, boutiques, bars, restaurants and street art.
Grab a drink at The Dispensary, order plates of Spanish fare at El Gordo and shop up a storm at Robe.
6. Learn about the city’s history at the Golden Dragon Museum
Bendigo has long had a strong Chinese influence, after many travelled to the region during the gold rush, to try and make their fortune.
This history is preserved at the Golden Dragon Museum, which is also known as the Chinese Cultural Centre of Australia.
Admission at the time of writing is $12 for adults and $7 for kids.
7. Go for gold at Central Deborah Gold Mine
Central Deborah Gold Mine is one of the best known Bendigo attractions.
Here, you can don a miner’s hat and travel into hidden underground tunnels of what once was a real gold mine.
If you’re looking for things to do in Bendigo with kids, then you’ve certainly struck gold.
8. Get creative at Bendigo Pottery
Bendigo Pottery dates back to 1858 and is still going strong.
You can visit the site to check out its museum, buy some of their beautiful pieces or have your own play with clay at a workshop. I dunno, maybe you can recreate the scene from Ghost? It just might be one of the more romantic things to do in Bendigo…
9. Catch a flick at Star Cinema
This small cinema is located just outside of Bendigo, in the town of Eaglehawk.
The cinema is tucked into the town’s beautiful Town Hall and boasts a program of art-house, independent and classic flicks.
They also serve up local wine and beer.
10. Attend the Lost Trades Fair
The Lost Trades Fair has gone from strength to strength since its inception. It was once held in the town of Kyneton but its popularity has seen it moved to larger digs in Bendigo. There are still plenty of reasons to visit Kyneton, however.
Taking place annually in March, it celebrates, as you might suspect, so called ‘lost trades’. Think woodworking, blacksmithing, signwriting and leatherworking, among many other cool pursuits.
11. Shake your tailfeather at Bendigo’s Blues & Roots Music Festival
This music festival occurs annually in November, when it takes over the city for four days.
Have some contained historical fun on a journey through the city on the Blues Tram. Two different artists perform onboard a historic tram, as it travels through the city.
12. Get lit at the Bendigo Writers Festival
The Bendigo Writers Festival is an annual event celebrating all sorts of beautiful bookish things.
Held in May, it attracts many renowned literary figures and is great fun to attend if you’re a word nerd.
13. Eat your way through the UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy
Bendigo has a few international feathers in its hat.
It was named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2019, which has been extended to the entire region.
The food scene here is top notch. I’ve nominated some of my favourite places to gnash on nosh further down this page.
14. Explore the local wine scene
There are some fantastic vineyards within cooee of Bendigo that are well worth dropping into. Sniff, swirl and sip on just about every variety you can imagine at Balgownie Estate and drop into Sutton Grange Winery‘s cellar door to sample their award-winning grapes.
The nearby wine region of Heathcote is best known for its shiraz. There’s great grapes at family-run Vinea Marson, Sanguine Estate and Tellurian Wines. Along with wine and brews, The Shiraz Republic sell a refreshing shiraz spritz. You can also spend the night at their winery, waking up to views of the vines.
15. Hike or bike the Goldfields Track
The 210km Goldfields Track starts in Bendigo and travels south through towns such as Harcourt, Castlemaine and Daylesford.
Along the track there’s forests, country views and unique cycling accommodation.
16. Travel along the O’Keefe Rail Trail
Victoria is full of rail trails – that is, former railway corridors that have been converted into pathways that can be used by walkers and cyclists alike.
These link small towns and larger cities and pass through some truly scenic countryside.
The O’Keefe Rail Trail is 50 kilometres long and stretches between Bendigo, Axedale and Heathcote.
For a completely sustainable day trip to Bendigo, jump on the train from Melbourne with your bike, grab lunch at the Axedale Tavern then head back home.
Or you can stay overnight in Bendigo to experience some of the sights on this list.
17. Visit nearby Castlemaine or Maldon
There’s some lovely towns within easy reach of Bendigo. These are two of my favourites.
Maldon is Australia’s ‘first notable town’, almost entirely preserved since its gold rush days. Not only is it aesthetically gorgeous, there’s some lovely cafes and antique stores worth poking around in.
Castlemaine has a similarly rich gold rush history. I recommend dropping into The Mill, an artisan precinct containing everything from antique and smallgoods stores, to a brewery and traditional Austrian coffee shop.
The food scene here is off the hook. Drop into Johnny Baker for a perfect pastry, share plates at Wild or settle in for some fine dining at Bar Midland, whose menu showcases indigenous food alongside introduced wild animals and weeds.
18. Have some summer fun at Lake Eppalock and Lake Weeroona
Bendigo is hours from the beach, but this big lake serves up summer fun.
People flock here for all sorts of water-related activities, such as waterksiing, fishing, boating, swimming, or simply for a good old Aussie BBQ or picnic.
One word of warning – the lake is prone to blue-green algae, so make sure you check conditions before you go.
Bendigo also has its own local lake. The man-made Lake Weeroona is the perfect place for some family-fun or a picnic. You can even catch the vintage tram here, if you so desire.
Where to eat & drink in Bendigo
All this exploring is hungry work. So, where can you fuel up in Bendigo?
Breakfast in Bendigo
Harvest is a cafe and deli serving up delicious croissants, with a range of different fillings. They are yum-yum. It’s located across the road from the art gallery, making it the perfect pit stop before an arty day out. If toasties are more your thing, you can grab brekky from Ghosty Toasty, just a few doors down.
For a more traditional breakfast, head to Percy & Percy . Grab your daily coffee fix at Get Naked Espresso Bar.
Lunch in Bendigo
Find wholesome fare at Hoo-gah, sup on seasonal produce at Old Green Bean or take your meat-free mates to Adam & Eve, the city’s only vegan cafe.
Dinner in Bendigo
For dinner, you can’t go past Masons of Bendigo, one of the top restaurants in the region. Dine on delicious smoked meats at The Woodhouse, or sample from a southern European-inspired menu at Ms Batterhams.
Wrap up the evening with a drink at Wine Bank on View or take in the city sights at Nimbus Rooftop.
How to spend a day in Bendigo
Here are my recommendations for what to prioritise during a day trip to Bendigo:
- grab a croissant at Harvest
- check out the latest exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery
- explore Chancery Lane and grab lunch at El Gordo
- ride the Vintage Talking Tram
- if the weather is fine, walk through Rosalind Park or check out the Golden Dragon Museum
- dine in at The Woodhouse or Masons before you head home.
How to spend a weekend in Bendigo
Looking for things to do in Bendigo during a weekend trip? Follow the above itinerary for day one. After dinner, go for a tipple at Nimbus Rooftop. Then rest up in your hotel room at Mercure Bendigo Schaller .
The next day, either head to Central Deborah Gold Mine with the kids, or hop in your car and drive out to Heathcote’s wine region to drop into Vinea Marson, Sanguine Estate, Tellurian Wines and The Shiraz Republic. Stop in at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion on your way home.
Is Bendigo worth visiting?
Bendigo is well-worth a visit. There’s plenty to see and do, no matter what your interests and if you simply wish to feast, you’ll be more than happy with what’s on offer. And if you run out of things to do in Bendigo, you can explore the surrounding region. There’s also plenty of things to do in Ballarat, Victoria’s other gold rush-era city.
Have you been to Bendigo? What do you recommend seeing/doing? Let me know in the comments. For more on Australia, see my Australia Travel Guide.
Please note, these experiences take place on the country of the Dja Dja Wurrung People. We acknowledge them as the Traditional Owners of these lands and pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.