Fact: it’s always a good time for a holiday (read: right now). We don’t mean a three week stint in Italy (we wish) but we do mean a cheeky weekend escape, away from the city, where you can eat and drink allllll of the things, and suss out your own backyard without using any of your precious annual leave.
TBH it's no secret that we love us some Bendigo and considering it's just two hours from Melbourne, not to mention the fact White Night is taking the city over on September 1, we thought it only proper to round up all the best restaurants, bars, art galleries and music scenes for you to plan the perfect weekend getaway. There’s something to do rain, hail or shine, even if all you care about is relaxing.
Prep the playlist and pack your bags, we've teamed up with Bendigo Tourism to bring you the ultimate guide to this suprisingly hip and happening city.
White Night Bendigo
For the first time ever, the world famous White Night is heading to Bendigo, and if you know anything about anything, you’ll know it’s an event not to be missed. We’re talking insane art installations, performances and exhibitions all over the streets of Bendigo for one night only (Saturday 1 September), and the chance to explore the city in a way you’ve never been able to before. The totally ‘grammable event starts at 7pm and the lights stay on until 2am so you can check out absolutely everything. Hot tip: take a day or two off work and treat yourself to a four day weekend so you can hit up the Enlighten Festival (a complimentary projection festival which celebrates Bendigo's diversity and culture) before the crowds do.
Myuran Sukumaran: Another Day in Paradise
Curated by Ben Quilty and Michael Dagostino, Myrun Sukumaran’s Another Day in Paradise has everyone talking. Launched in Sydney last year, the exhibition is now showing at Bendigo Art Gallery, and presents a vast and sobering series of portraits painted during Sukumaran’s incarceration at Bali’s Kerobokan jail, right up until his final incarceration on Nusa Kambangan Island. Hung alongside five newly commissioned artworks exploring Sukumaran’s life in prison (by leading artists Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Megan Cope, Jagath Dheerasekara, Taloi Havini, Khaled Sabsabi and Matthew Sleeth), it’s sure to get you thinking.
A trip to Bendigo isn’t complete without visiting their newest experience, Peppergreen Farm. Run by Access Australia, the not-for-profit wonderland (complete with a plant nursery, farm kitchen, herb garden and three artisan studios and galleries) provides training and employment for people with a disability and those experiencing disadvantage. Every Saturday from 10am to 2pm, the Peppergreen Farm Community Market is the place to be, with locals flocking there to buy fresh to death fruit and veggies. Spend the morning stocking up on green goodness then take a seat on the historic and oh-so charming on-site tram for a healthy dose of scones and tea. (FYI - Peppergreen is also across the road from the Bendigo Joss House and was formerly the site of the Chinese market gardens during the Gold Rush. #FunFact.)
Yarn Bomb Tram
Speaking of trams, Bendigo’s Yarn Bomb Tram is exactly what your Instagram feed needs. Completely covered in vibrant, kitschy, handmade crochet (yes, inside and out), the 302 tram takes public transport to a whole new (enjoyable) level, and is the perfect way to see the sights while keeping warm. You can even stretch those knitting muscles and add to the communal scarf on board. Jump on board, grab a blanket and travel the city in serious style - but don't forget to say hi to Birney (named after the Bendigo Birney Trams), the cute af stray cat that is always wandering the tracks.
Bendigo Creek Trail
ICYMI, Bendigo isn't just for culture lovers. Completely surrounded by forest and bush, it’s also the ideal base for the adventurers. Whether you prefer to walk, run or cycle, there’s something for everyone (even your mate who doesn’t believe in exercise) but our top pick is Bendigo Creek Trail. Make your way north-east from Crusoe Reservoir, and take in all of the grand local buildings, nineteenth century miners' cottages, and of course the stunning views across Lake Weeroona and the Bendigo Botanic Gardens.
Masons Of Bendigo
Masons of Bendigo deserves a spot at the top of every foodie’s bucket list. With a paddock to plate approach, the menu is designed for sharing and changes regularly based on what’s in season. Expect dishes like jicama and shiitake mushroom spring rolls, wild rabbit fillets with pancetta, chickpea panisse, rabbit leg fritters, gribiche dressing and potato wafers, as well as saltbush roasted lamb shoulder with date molasses, charred eggplant, cracked wheat and spiced pistachios. Our advice: go for the chef’s roaming menu so you can try one of everything.
Spring Gully General Store
While it may look like your local grocer at first glance, Spring Gully General Store, which lies just outside the centre of town, is actually one of the most hip eateries in town. Boasting a barista bar and carefully crafted farm-to-table menu, sit in the sun-drenched courtyard for a delish brekkie or stay on and peruse their seasonal selection of craft beers. From their bacon and egg brioche and spiced avocado sourdough to their matcha ice cream sandwich and their baked buttermilk hotcakes, you can't go wrong.
If you like your food smoked, you’re going to love The Woodhouse. Using a red gum grill, the team here source local produce to cook up a storm of mouth-watering smoky steaks and seriously tasty wood-fired pizza. Opt for the complete Woodhouse experience, with charcuterie to start, Sher Wagyu Rump for main and a dessert tasting plate to finish. FYI their chocolate molten cake is everything and it was recently voted 'Best Steak Restaurant' in Victoria AND Tasmania at the Savour Awards. #NotBraggingOrAnything
Borchelli Ristorante dishes up some of the best Italian food in town. Serving every type of pasta you could ever dream of, it’s laid-back, casual vibe means you can stuff yourself silly minus the judgy eyes. Order the comforting spaghetti bolognese if it’s cold outside or the simple but oh-so delicious penne puttanesca if you’re after something lighter.
If you're after fresh to death produce (of course you are), then you need to add Bendigo Wholefoods to your list. This place has been running for nearly thirty years, and it doesn't get much more local than this. Tuck into their nourishing Syrian Lamb wholebowl to keep you going all day long, or pick up their Strawberries & Cream smoothie if you're on the go.
Craft beer is the name of the game at Handle Bar, the not-so-secret outdoor beer garden tucked away in the CBD (hint: find it behind Get Naked Espresso). Boasting four beer taps that change on the reg, plus a bucket load of specialty craft bottles, you’ll always find something new and delicious to drink. Best for sundowners with your boo or your whole crew, there’s always live music to set the mood.
Wine Bank on View
Located in a stunning heritage building, Wine Bank On View was made for pre-dinner drinks. Offering up an extensive selection of regional wines, this slick wine bar screams sophistication and you can’t go wrong no matter what drop your order. If you’re around on a Wednesday, don’t miss the wine tasting at 5:30pm.
Rocks On Rosalind
Cocktail fanatics will love Rocks On Rosalind. With dark corners, candles and just the right amount of romance, these guys sure do know what they're doing. Act all fancy with an aperitif or go wild with an espresso martini—we’re telling you now, you’ll never want to leave.
Hidden away on Chancery Lane, you’ll find The Dispensary. Part bar, part diner, the drinks menu here includes over 100 craft beers, 60 gins, 50 different cocktails and a whole heap of wines. Visit post-dinner so you can attempt to make your way through the entire list (wellll, maybe just first page). Or try and fit one of their monthly gin classes into your next trip—you won't regret it.
Balgownie Estate Bendigo Winery Retreat
Only 10 minutes from the centre of the city, Balgownie Estate takes glamping to a whole new level of luxury. We’re talking 15 huge (and Insta-worthy) bell tents on a stunning family-run winery, complete with queen size beds, WIFI, air con, robes and a well-stocked bar fridge. Oh, and did we mention there’s also a restaurant and cellar door on site? Because there is. What more could you need?
Quest Schaller Hotel
Located on the corner of Lucan and Bayne Street, the Quest Schaller Hotel is full to the brim with colourful artwork and impressive mod cons. The perfect base (you can legit walk everywhere), the rooms are cosy and the robes are fluffy. Book the superior room if you need a little extra space.
Title Image: Balgownie Estate