Regional staycations are hottest new vacations in Melbourne. Supercharged with activities, crammed with foodie-approved gems and a wee-bit hyperactive (think: your best friend after a double shot coffee at 2am), we’ll be piling in a car to Bendigo when we need a well-deserved break from Melbourne (we still love you).
Just a Beyoncé CD away from the CBD (that’s under two hours), Bendigo will play home to some of the best events in Victoria through autumn. Pack your (day) bag, chauffer your favourite friends and get ready to discover the most mind-blowing events of the year.
#1 The Art Gallery You’ll Love If You Hate Art Galleries
When the largest regional gallery in Australia celebrates 130 years of art with a jaw-dropping exhibition, you’d better get your hustle on to visit (yes, even if you hate art). A boutique team of creative curators breathes fresh life into this eclectic range of art at the Bendigo Art Gallery, so you can expect traditional portraiture to sit next to abstract contemporary work. Runs 4 March to 28 May.
Head to: Keep the #class going, walk a few minutes up View Street and order the Vintage Croissant from Patisserie Harvest Rotisserie. Served stuffed with San Daniele prosciutto and comte cheese, these two-day processed croissants may take the crown for Melbourne’s best ham & cheese…
#2 Get Ready To Get Really, Really Lost In The House Of Mirrors
Touring around Australia including Dark MOFO at Mona, the feet-tripping, head-spinning House Of Mirrors is hitting Rosalind Park. Presented by the Bendigo Art Gallery and La Trobe Arts Institute, the forty tonnes of steel (yes, it is a giant pain to move) and fifteen tonnes of mirrors rely on impeccable, clever spatial design that’s almost a mirror-cle. Wear your Sunday best, you’ll be seeing a lot of yourself. Runs 7 April to 30 April.
Head to: After you’ve stumbled your way to freedom, it’s time for a well-deserved coffee break. Get Naked Espresso Bar will get your caffeine to you in style and speed.
#3 Hunt For 85,000 Easter Eggs At The Bendigo Easter Festival
Even if the Easter bunny hasn’t visited your house in years (thanks, mum), Australia’s oldest running cultural festival deserves at least a peek. A four-day long festival, highlights include the annual Easter egg hunt on Easter Friday. Get ready to elbow your way to over 85,000 chocolate Easter treats. Sorry grown ups—kids only! The gala parade will showcase the world's longest imperial dragon on Easter Sunday. The Bendigo Easter Festival runs 14 April to 17 April.
Head to: You should celebrate your chocolate haul with more treats. Hit Boris Murgers Café Bar for golden gaytime shakes and mac ‘n cheese burgers.
#4 …Then Run Off That Food At The O’Keefe
The O'Keefe isn’t your average marathon event, if the all-inclusive “run, cycle, walk and roll” motto is any indication. A range of competitive and family-friendly events run from the 22 – 23 of April, including the O’Keefe Marathon which clocks in at just over 42kms. The trail itself runs from Bendigo through to the town of Heathcote (pass the shiraz please), past lush forest, farmlands and Lake Eppalock. If you’ve had a few too many Easter eggs for that kind of activity, 5km fun runs/walks, relays and shorter cycling events will also run.
Head to: The Woodhouse, because you’ve worked up an appetite and these guys do some of the best woodfired pizza and steak around.
#5 Wine, Dine And More Wine At The Winemakers Festival
The Strategem Bendigo Winemakers Festival will see some of the regions’ finest winemakers and producers gathered in Rosalind Park for one day. If you’ve heard of a better excuse to feast on local food and drink up regional wine, we’d like to hear it. Runs 29 April.
Head to: Continue on this journey and head down to True Brew, where you can DIY beer.
#6 See Epic Music Acts
At the forefront of Victorian festivals, Groovin the Moo is already sold out for 2017, but head to the Facebook page where fellow music-lovers may be reselling unwanted tickets. Headline acts include Milky Chance, Tash Sultana and The Wombats.
#7 The All-Day Paddock To Plate Tour You Can’t Find In Melbourne
Journey and meet some of the finest makers in central Victoria before a private evening demonstration featuring the food produce you’ve collected throughout the day. The package includes a night at The Schaller Studio, a private wine tasting with some of Heathcote's leading winemakers, lunch and home baked cakes, farm tours, plus a Masons of Bendigo-style three-course dinner at one-hatted chef Sonia’s private home. Yes, you're going to be pretty full. Runs 13 May, 8 July, 9 September.
#8 Be Inspired By The Vesak Festival Of Light
To celebrate the Buddha’s birthday, the Vesak Festival Of Light will run on 20 May. A multicultural celebration of peace and harmony, don’t miss the evening light and firework show at the Buddhist Temple The Great Stupa, also the largest Buddist temple in the western world.
Head to: Masons of Bendigo, because you’ve worked up an appetite and these guys do some of the best food around (and have the hat to prove it).
#9 Cruise Around Bendigo On The Blues Tram
Enjoy some of the best local music talent in a converted historic tram, because Bendigo is the new Melbourne. Guests can enjoy an afternoon tipple while the tram rolls through the city with the Bendigo Blues & Roots Music Festival’s finest talent on-board. Upcoming events will run 27 May, 8 July.
Head to: A hidden bar – Handle Bar has excellent music and craft beer to continue the celebrations.
#10 Visit Heathcote…While In Bendigo?!
Heathcote On Show hits from 10 – 12 June. Gather to meet and greet Heathcote’s artisan winemakers, chefs, brewers and musicians. Over 30 locations across the Heathcote Region will be participating with gourmet food, exclusive tastings and activities running throughout…you’re already out of town, why not roll two visits into one?!
Head to: Bendigo Pottery the next day, for some chill-laxing pottery making.
Planning the ultimate weekend in Bendigo? For more tips and tricks on what to do, check out this article.
Image credit: Provided, Michelle Jarni for The Urban List.
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