Less than two hours from Melbourne, Bendigo is often overlooked by visitors who stay close to the Victorian capital for their cultural fix. Take a closer look though, and you’ll be richly rewarded; this compact city is home to a diverse and exciting range of world-class cultural attractions that rival those of Australia’s biggest cities.
From historical heritage to art and architecture, with the scenery of the Murray River within easy reach, there’s a reason why the locals love Bendigo.
Check out our guide to the city’s must-see attractions and discover it all when you hire a car in Melbourne.
Bendigo Art Gallery is one of the oldest and largest regional art galleries in the country. The success of its exhibitions and programs have led to further growth of the gallery and, in 2014 a brand new contemporary wing opened, designed to host new international exhibitions that even the galleries of Melbourne and Sydney can’t match. With both permanent and temporary displays keeping things interesting, this is the perfect place to embark on an artistic voyage of Victoria.
Bendigo has a proud Chinese history stretching back to the gold rush of the 1850s. Known as the ‘Chinese Cultural Centre’ of Australia, Dai Gum San is a fascinating neighbourhood. Named "Big Gold Mountain" for the riches it promised, today the area is home to the stunning Yi Yuan Gardens and Kuan Yin Temple, as well as the Golden Dragon Museum, which traces the roots of Australia’s Chinese immigrants.
Visitors can thank Bendigo’s prosperous gold rush in the late 1800s for the magnificent old architecture found around much of the city. Designed by acclaimed local architect W C Vahland, the Town Hall and Capital Arts Centre are two of the most impressive buildings in the area – don’t forget to stop by and snap a couple of pictures for your travel album.
Bendigo’s Discovery Science & Technology Centre is filled with fun for all ages – the biggest attraction being the Vertical Slide. Dropping riders seven metres at speeds of up to 40km per hour, the Vertical Slide is the tallest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. If you’re brave enough, there’s few other thrills that rival it.
A short distance from Bendigo lies Echuca, Australia’s largest inland port. Situated on the banks of the Murray River, this historic town offers a snapshot of the past. It’s one of the finest heritage icons in the country and also home to an impressive fleet of Paddle Steamers – the largest of its kind in the world. It’s easy to reach with your car rental from Melbourne, and when you get there you can even take a ride on the P.S Adelaide up and down the Murray River.
Explore the hidden underground tunnels of a real goldmine that was in operation during the famous gold boom of the early 1900s. Daily tours offer a chance for an overview exploration of the mines, where you can learn about the people who worked there. The Nine Levels of Darkness Tour, on the other hand, is for the truly daring – visitors are guided 228 metres underground and taught all the tricks of the trade while kitted out in full mining gear. You wanted an authentic experience, right?
Book a car hire from Melbourne Airport and escape to Bendigo to see it all at your own speed.