The heart of Central Victoria and one-time richest city in the world, Bendigo has been attracting people from across the globe since the 1850s gold rush. These days, frenetic fortune hunters have been replaced by a new breed of creative "tree-changers", who have brought with them a passion for the arts, design, food and wine. The dynamic regional centre continues to celebrate its contrasts, setting vibrant arts hubs and buzzing bars and restaurants against grand architecture and a storied history.
Try a three-day break that captures the energy and flavour of this grand old city.
The best place to start in any new place is the Visitor Information Centre. It's a bonus that the Bendigo Visitor Centre is a former post office and grand historic attraction in its own right. It also houses the Post Office Gallery social history museum, and the Living Arts Space, which showcases emerging local artists. You might be longer than you think here.
Take a moment to get your Bendigo bearings from beautiful Rosalind Park. The reward for ascending the mine tower (Poppet Head) is stunning views of Bendigo and surrounds.
Lunch at the Gallery Cafe is the perfect segue into an arty afternoon. A delectable showcase of local food and wine, it also offers delicious views of the Bendigo Art Gallery's sculpture annex and Rosalind Park.
Fortified, you're ready to head inside to Australia's largest regional art gallery. See a touring international exhibition, or familiarise yourself with the contemporary names in the permanent collection.
Finish your fix of fine art with a wander through the View Street Art Precinct and its galleries, theatres, bars, eateries and boutiques.
Prepare for a night out Bendigo-style with dinner at the vast The Woodhouse restaurant. Then it's on to the new Ulumbarra Theatre to catch a performance in the 1860s Sandhurst Gaol building. Or you can devote your night to the blues, catching a gig at The Handle Bar, Rifle Brigade Hotel, Hotel Shamrock, Goldmines Hotel or the Old Church on the Hill.
After such an artistic day it's fitting that you should rest your head amid the original artworks, large-scale sculptures and mosaics at Quest Schaller Hotel, inspired by Mark Schaller's working studio.
Ph 1800 813 153 (freecall within Australia)
Set the tone for a bumper Bendigo day with breakfast from the kitchen garden at the Spring Gully General Store. Then join your local guide and take the Food Fossicking Tour of Bendigo's gourmet hotspots, discovering chocolate making, seasonal fruits and vegetables and sourdough bread.
All that talk of food is bound to lead to hunger pangs, so finish up the tour with a "paddock to plate" meal at Masons of Bendigo in the old WD Masons Glass shop.
It's time to talk gold. Don your miner's hat and lamp and descend 61 metres underground at Central Deborah Gold Mine, a real mine from the mid-1900s. Climb ladders, work a mine drill and search for gold – it's finder's keepers!
Discover more tales of the city founded on one of the world's richest goldfields by sitting back on a historic Bendigo Tramways tram and visiting key local landmarks.
You've well and truly earned a drink by now. Head to tiny Chancery Lane and grab a glass or two of a local drop at The Dispensary.
Finish a jam-packed day with dinner at Rocks on Rosalind. Housed within the historic National Bank building, you can dine in an old gold bank vault, go underground to eat, or simply enjoy a cocktail masterclass.
Grab a Lekker bike from Quest Schaller Hotel and cycle to beautiful Lake Weeroona for breakfast.
Head to the Golden Dragon Museum to discover the living history of the Chinese people of Bendigo from the gold rush to the present day. Then make your way to The Great Stupa, the largest Buddhist stupa (monument) outside of Asia and home to the largest gem quality Jade Buddha in the world.
Alternatively, visit Bendigo Pottery to watch potters at work, or throw a pot yourself.
Lunch at Balgownie Estate should be a relaxed affair so you can savour the rich, ripe reds and elegant whites from Bendigo's gold-bearing soils. With over 30 cellar doors to choose from, a visit to the Bendigo wine region is up there with striking gold.