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 These days, frenetic fortune hunters have been replaced by a new breed of creative "tree-changers", who have brought with them a passion for the arts, design, food and wine.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.

    For lunch, stop by corner-store-turned-cafe, Percy & Percy, or grab the best chicken burger of your life at Flight Bar & Bottleshop. These guys make some cracking hot sauce, too. 

    Fortified, you're ready to explore Bendigo Gallery, 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 Precinc, with 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, Gold Mines 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 Mercure Schaller Hotel, inspired by Mark Schaller's working studio.

  • 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 Chancery Lane, arguably Bendigo's trendiest laneway, and have a pre-dinner tipple at The Dispensary. 

    Finish a jam-packed day with dinner at Ms Batterhams. Housed within the old school hall at Mackenzie Quarters, this relaxed lounge bar offers a southern European menu, paired with a locally-sourced wine list, delicious cocktails and a wide range of craft beers.

  • Grab a Lekker bike from Mercure Schaller Hotel and cycle to beautiful Lake Weeroona for breakfast at The Boardwalk (they also run waterside yoga sessions here on weekends).

    Next, 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. They run wheel-throwing lessons through the day during the week, plus kids classes in the school holidays.

    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.