Rich alluvial gold was first discovered in BENDIGO in 1851, and, once the initial fields were exhausted, shafts were sunk into a gold-bearing quartz reef. Bendigo became the greatest goldfield of the time, and had the world’s deepest mine. Mining continued here until 1954, long after the rest of central Victoria’s goldfields were exhausted, so it’s a city that has developed over a prosperous century: the nationwide department store Myer began here, as did Australia’s first building society in 1858. Larger and more magnificent than Ballarat (this is one of Victoria’s largest regional cities with a population of just over 100,000, including a large number of university and other students), Bendigo offers a thriving arts, culture, and food and wine scene. Its most visited sights are legacies of the mining days – the Bendigo Joss House, Dai Gum San Chinese Precinct and the Central Deborah Gold Mine – as well as the acclaimed Bendigo Art Gallery.

At the heart of Bendigo is the vast, leafy Rosalind Park, and three important religious buildings constructed with money from gold-mining – All Saints Church (now View Hill Fellowship), St Paul’s Cathedral and Sacred Heart Cathedral. The lively View Street Arts Precinct, climbing the hill beside Rosalind Park, features elaborate goldrush buildings now housing charming antique and vintage stores, art galleries, an arts centre, The Capital theatre, and stylish wine bars, cafés and restaurants. Further up View Street is the Queen Elizabeth Oval, with its historic redbrick grandstand, where you can watch Aussie Rules football on winter weekends and cricket in summer.

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