Keen to visit Bendigo but unsure of what to get up to? Don't worry – we've got you covered. We've pulled together the best experiences in Victoria's golden heartland. You'll fill your belly with delicious food, get an eye-full of truly exceptional art and journey out to the surrounding region for some pretty neat nature adventures. What's not to love?

1. Perfect plates

Bendigo and surrounds were awarded the title of UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy in 2019 – an Australian first. So, it is very much possible to dine fine in this region. We recommend the set menu at Masons of Bendigo or Alium Dining for a fancy treat. Dedicated meatlovers should book a table at The Woodhouse Restaurant, one of the top steakhouses in the country. Stroll down lively Chancery Lane to duck into The Dispensary for modern Australian dishes and El Gordo for French-meets-Spanish tapas. For a late-night vino head to Wine Bank on View or ascend to Nimbus Rooftop, for a view of Bendigo's pretty cityscape.

2. Art attack

Bendigo Art Gallery is one of the oldest and largest art galleries in regional Australia. Alongside holding an impressive collection of Australian art, it regularly hosts world-class exhibitions. Drink your fill of paintings, photography, sculpture and more, then head on to Bendigo Pottery. Browse their extensive wares, or try your hand at a wheel throwing session. See local Dja Dja Wurrung culture highlighted across the city as part of Djaara Lights, with artwork telling stories of the six seasons on Djandak (Country). For the ultimate arty escape, book a night at the Mercure Bendigo Schaller, a boutique hotel that pays tribute to Australian contemporary artist Mark Schaller.

3. Fascinating recent history

Don a hard hat and head deep into the Central Deborah Gold Mine, an authentic gold mine that successfully operated during the gold rush. Jump aboard the Vintage Talking Tram, to let it tell you all about Bendigo's history, while you mentally map the layout of the city. Discover Victoria's living Chinese history at the Golden Dragon Museum. Or head just out of town to the The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, a sacred Buddhist temple designed to last a millennia.

4. Great grapes

If you like your wine, we suggest making a beeline for Bendigo. The region is celebrated for its red shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, with plenty of other varieties coming into play. Just outside of the city, pop into Sandhurst Ridge and Balgownie Estate, where you can also glamp in luxury bell tents for the evening, waking up to views of the vineyards. You could easily spend a day dipping in and out of the cellar doors of vineyards within the nearby Heathcote wine region. Sniff, swirl and sip top tipples at Sanguine Estate, Heathcote Winery, Silver Spoon Estate or Peregrine Ridge. Please any accompanying beer enthusiasts with a trip to Shiraz Republic, which boasts both a brewery and cellar door, along with live music on weekends.

5. Festival fun

It seems like there's always something happening in Bendigo. Visit over the Easter long weekend for the city's own Easter Festival. Sate hungry appetites at any one of many food festivals held across the year – choose from the Strategem Bendigo Winemakers Festival, the Bendigo Craft Beer and Cider Festival, Heathcote Wine and Food Festival and Bendigo Heritage Uncorked, among others. Voracious readers can make a dedicated visit to the Bendigo Writers Festival. Or pop into nearby Castlemaine in autumn for regional arts festival, the Castlemaine State Fair.

6. Them apples

Tuck into fresh flavours across the region. The Bendigo Community Farmers Market provides the opportunity to shop straight from producers and there are gourmet goodies galore available at grocery shop/cafe Bendigo Wholefoods. Nearby Harcourt is famous for its apples – grab a bag of them at The Little Red Apple shop. Source pickled green tomatoes from Boort's Simply Tomatoes, handcrafted chocolate at Bendigo's Indulge and specialty bullboar sausages at local butchers throughout the region.

7. Epic nature

Journey through the region to immerse yourself in nature. Hit the trails of Pyramid Hills or take a hike in Mount Alexander Regional Park, to major lookouts offering sweeping views across Dog Rocks and Shepherd's Flat. Spend time in Kooyoora State Park, popular for bird watching, hiking, rock climbing and picnics. The Loddon River is perfect for water sports and if the weather is fine, take a dip at Little Lake Boort. Or head to the Pink Cliffs Reserve at Heathcote, which contains very photographic mini gorges and cliffs of fine pink clay.

8. Wheelie good adventures

Bring your bike to Bendigo, to hit the tracks of nearby La Larr Ba Gauwa in Harcourt. The park contains 34 kilometres of mountain bike trails, which travel along unique rock formations. Take your pick from the beginners' loop to challenging cross-country rides.

For the ultimate adventure, walk or bike the Goldfields Track, a 210-kilometre trail that connects Ballarat to Bendigo. The trail has on-site camping, or you can seek accommodation in historic towns along the way. If you don't fancy carrying your own meals, there are also plenty of excellent dining experiences dotted along the trail.

9. Shop for gold

Bendigo is a hub for upcoming designers and makers, alongside being the perfect destination for treasure hunters seeking quirky retro pieces. Pop into boutique stores in Chancery Lane and shop designer clothing, antiques and jewellery along Bath Lane and View Street. Further afield, hunt for gold at Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar, where you can seek a unique bargain or simply browse the shelves for eclectic oddities.

10. Blues and blooms

Time your visit to Bendigo with spring, when Rosalind Park in the city centre is blanketed with beautiful tulips. Or pop into town the second Saturday of the month to board the Blues Tram for drinks and smooth tunes, as you travel through the heart of the city.

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