Bendigo

View of central Bendigo from the botanical gardens

Bendigo is a regional city in Victoria, Australia. With a population of about 92,000 it is the 4th largest city in the State. Bendigo is located some 140 km (105 miles, 1.5 hrs drive) north-north-west of Melbourne.

It is known for its grand Victorian architecture, built during the gold rush of the mid-nineteenth century.

Understand

Bendigo grew to a bustling town after gold was discovered in the area in 1851. The wealth of this period resulted in the construction of many fine public and commercial buildings in the city centre, as well as private homes in the surrounding residential areas.

Recent growth has seen the population of the Greater Bendigo municipality (which includes much rural area and the nearby towns of Heathcote and Elmore) reach just above 100,000. Despite this it still retains a friendly country atmosphere.

The town has far less rain than Melbourne due to its position to the north of the Great Dividing Range. Summers are hot and dry, up to 40 degrees Celsius or more on some days. Winters tend to be mild; with lowest temperatures around -5 degrees Celsius overnight and around 15 during the day.

Sheep, cattle, fruit, wine and cereal crops are the most common products of the area. Gold is being discovered again in large quantities at deeper levels in the old mines with new technology.

History

Before European settlement the area was occupied by the clans of the Dja Dja Wurrung people. They were regarded by other tribes as being a superior people, not only because of their rich hunting grounds but because from their area came a greenstone rock for their stone axes. Early Europeans described the Dja Dja Wrung as a strong, physically well-developed people and not belligerent. Nevertheless the early years of European settlement in the Mount Alexander area were bloodied by many clashes between intruder and dispossessed.

Major Mitchell passed through the area in 1836. Following his discovery, the first squatters arrived in 1840 to establish vast sheep runs. Bendigo Creek was part of the Mount Alexander or Ravenswood sheep run.

It is generally acknowledged that Mrs John Kennedy and Mrs Patrick Farrell, wives of workmen on the Ravenswood run, found gold at ‘The Rocks’ - now an identified location that can be visited at the junction of Bendigo Creek and Maple Street.

The first ‘rush’ took place in November 1851 when miners at Castlemaine (Forest Creek) heard of the new discovery. Alluvial gold was found in the area of its first discovery (present day Golden Square) and then the miners followed the gold down the creek to what is now Epsom and up the creek to the present suburb of Kangaroo Flat. Further discoveries were soon made in the tributary creeks at Eaglehawk and Diamond Hill.

As a result of the rush of people to the area, the Gold Commissioner’s Office, the Police Barracks and the courts were erected on Camp Hill, now the present Rosalind Park in central Bendigo. The “diggers”, as the miners were called, numbered as high as thirty thousand and came from all over the world; from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland – along with Germans, Italians, Swiss, French and Americans. The Chinese population reached many thousands in the early gold rush period but their numbers dropped rapidly as the nineteenth century progressed.

Bendigo quickly grew from a “city of tents” to become a substantial city with great public buildings. The first hospital was built in 1853 and the first town plan was developed by 1854. A municipality emerged and the first Town Hall was commissioned in 1859.

Bendigo was connected to Melbourne by telegraph in 1857 and it was from here that the first message reporting the deaths of Burke and Wills was sent in 1861. Frequent Cobb & Co coaches ran to Melbourne until the railway reached Bendigo in 1862.

In the following decade it made the transition from small mining town to large and wealthy city, and becoming established as a key centre for surrounding settlements.

Water supply was always a problem in Bendigo. This was partly solved with a system harnessing the waters of the Coliban River, designed by engineer Joseph Brady. Water first flowed through the viaduct in 1877.

Architect William Charles Vahland left a major mark on Bendigo during this period. He is credited as innovating what was the most popular residential design of the period, low cost cottages with verandahs decorated in iron lace which became a popular style right across Victoria. He transformed the Bendigo Town Hall between 1878 to 1886 into a grand building and designed more than eighty more public and private buildings, including the Alexandra Fountain, the Masonic Temple (now the Capital Theatre) and the Mechanics Institute and School of Mines (now the Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE), 'Fortuna Villa' in Golden Square, (which was the home of 'Quartz King' George Lansell), the Law Courts, former Post Office and the expanded Shamrock Hotel in Pall Mall.

A tram network began in 1890 and was used for public transport.

Get in

By car

Bendigo is just over one and a half hours drive north of Melbourne on the Calder Freeway (Highway). The freeway is now all dual carriageway. The final stretch of the Calder duplication project opened to traffic on 20 April 2009.

If you are coming from Sydney, take the Shepparton exit from the Hume Freeway, and then follow the signs from Shepparton to Bendigo.

By plane

While Bendigo does have a small airport, it will likely be much more convenient to fly into Melbourne. From there, hire a car and take the M79 (Calder Freeway) which starts just by the airport. If you do not wish to drive, take the Skybus into Southern Cross Station and get the train to Bendigo. Alternatively take the shuttle direct to Bendigo from the airport. For a cheaper option, catch a 479 to Sunbury Station and get the train to Bendigo.

By train

Bendigo is served by trains which run from Melbourne's Southern Cross Station into the south of Bendigo. These usually run about once an hour. The journey takes approximately two hours from Melbourne. As the route is used by many commuters, trains may be more crowded in the early morning and late afternoon/early evening on weekdays. From the station, most of the CBD is within walking distance. Alternatively buses run into the centre of the city and other parts of Bendigo from the station.

Vline also operates a coach twice daily from Adelaide direct to Bendigo.

Get around

Bendigo has a local urban bus service. The network covers all parts of Bendigo with a standard frequency of one every half hour on a few routes, and one an hour on others. Services on most routes are infrequent in the evenings and on weekends. There is also a tourist hop-on/hop-off tram running up and down the main street.

Parking is metered in most parts of the city centre. Expect to pay about $1 per hour for parking, and to have parking limits of 1–2 hours in the city centre. Because of these restrictions parking is generally easy in the city centre. Parking is free on Saturdays however time limits do still apply. You can also find free parking at some shopping centres.

See

Bendigo Art Gallery

Do

Buy

View of Hargreaves Mall from the central multi-storey parking lot.

Eat

Drink

Sleep

The Shamrock Hotel provides luxury accommodation.

Stay safe

Bendigo is generally a safe city, although like anywhere it is important to take common sense safety precautions.

Go next

Bendigo is an ideal place from which to explore the Goldfields region of Victoria. From Bendigo you can visit neighboring Castlemaine and Heathcote. The train from Bendigo to Melbourne stops in Castlemaine. It takes approximately 25 minutes to reach Castlemaine by train

Routes through Bendigo

End  N  S  Castlemaine Melbourne


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, November 02, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.