Bendigo is a city that respects and celebrates its past, yet is quietly carving a future driven by a love of food, art and design.
A strong farm-to-table ethos, and a desire to preserve the surrounding landscape are ingrained in Bendigo’s abundant food scene. From wine and cheesemakers, to beef raisers and veggie growers, the farmers and producers of the region work closely with local cafes and restaurants to foster a food dialogue driven by flavour and sustainability. The gold rush of 1851 brought an influx of migrants from around the world, and this pocket of Central Victoria began to boom. Some of the grand Victorian architecture from this time remains, as does the cultural diversity of the community. While its heritage buildings fill with bakeries, wine bars and cafes, Bendigo residents welcome visitors to their town, proudly showing off its many assets. It’s not so far away, either – only 90 minutes up the Calder Freeway. Here’s our pick of where to eat, drink and stay, and what to do when you visit.
Welcome to Bendigo
From the moment you roll up in Bendigo there are plenty of opportunities to taste the local produce. Choose a cute cafe, a restaurant nestled in a historic building or take a freshly-baked loaf of pumpkin sourdough to a park for a picnic.
If you’re after a craft beer, a bottled iced latte or just a simple glass of red, you’ll find your match in Bendigo.
To fill in the time between eating and drinking in Bendigo, there are plenty of non-food related things to do. Shops, parks and galleries abound. There’s also an excellent food tour, for those who prefer to learn about food while taking a break to digest breakfast.
This sprawling parkland in the middle of the city was once a maze of goldfield activity. Now its 60 acres features a historic conservatory, artworks such as Michael Doolan’s Happy Ending?, and a 1931-built poppet head, functioning as a lookout tower. Seward Johnson’s eight-metre tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe entitled Forever Marilyn currently stands near the Soldiers Memorial Museum as a complement to Bendigo Art Gallery’s Marilyn Monroe exhibition.
Jimmy Possum started in Margot and Alan Spalding’s backyard shed in Harcourt in 1995. This family business soon established itself as a prominent local furniture manufacturer. It focuses on recycled timbers, mostly sourced from demolished Victorian housing. The range continues to be designed and made in Bendigo – the brand is passionate about training the next generation of cabinetmakers and upholsterers.
From Market to Paddock to Plate
In further championing local boutique food and wine, Sonia Anthony from Masons of Bendigo has partnered with The Schaller Studio to shape a food tour that truly celebrates the surrounding locations. From Market to Paddock to Plate is a roving tour of Central Victoria. It stops to meet some of the region’s passionate food producers, and to collect produce for that evening’s meal. The day concludes with a meal at Anthony’s home, and includes accommodation at The Schaller Studio. The tour runs monthly from March to July.
Relax in historic opulence or amongst modern art, the choice is yours.
The Schaller Studio
This Art Series Hotel is dedicated to Melbourne artist Mark Schaller. Its rooms are modern and vibrant – Schaller’s colourful paintings and sculptures inform the design. Take a Lekker bicycle for spin during the day, and recline in the communal lounges with a glass of wine from The Pantry bar in the evening. There are even art supplies on hand should you feel inspired.
For a little more space to relax and recline, Villa Belgravia houses two self-contained luxury suites. Inspired by the opulent gold era, this historic Italianate-style home has been restored with marble floors, chandeliers and modern comforts. The perfect environment to sip champagne after a big day of exploring.
ITINERARY: ART TOUR OF BENDIGO
From the stencils and paste-ups of local street artists, to the grand paintings of 19th-century salon artists at the Bendigo Art Gallery, the city is home to many historic and contemporary forms of art. Punctuate your art gazing with plenty of coffee stops and nourishing meals, and perhaps a small kip in the park or a cheeky glass of wine.
Old Green Bean
(03) 5444 3173
Old Green Bean
Next, stroll over to Old Green Bean on Lyttleton Terrace for your morning meal. Pair a smoothie with the sweet-corn-and-bacon hash or a breakfast bahn mi. See if you can pick up a vintage fashion treasure while you’re there.
Masons of Bendigo
(03) 5443 3877
Masons of Bendigo
Settle in for an evening of decadent flavours. Each dish at Masons of Bendigo is a celebration of the individual ingredients from which it’s made – sourced from small-scale farmers and primary producers in Central Victoria. Don’t skip dessert.