Bendigo

The Culture, The Sights

Bendigo is the fourth largest city in Victoria and the second largest inland one.  It is located in the Goldfields region just about smack dab in the middle of the state, a bit northwest of Melbourne.

To get there, there is about an hour and a half drive through regional Victoria.  One of the places we went through just before reaching Bendigo was Maryborough.  Their train station was the focal point of the town.  Built in 1890, the station was magnificent before the town had anywhere near its current population of 7,630.  Mark Twain once remarked that Maryborough is “a train station with a town attached.”

The hotel we stayed at was the historic Shamrock Hotel.  This hotel dates from the 19th century (1897) and began as a place where miners could rest their heads for the night.  As more and more gold was found and funneled through Bendigo, the hotel became more and more prosperous.  All of the rooms are named after people who have a Bendigo connection; we stayed in the Lola Montez Suite.  The building, outside and inside, is still opulent with stained glasses, a sweeping marble staircase, and fireplaces in every room.  It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and under the National Trust of Victoria.

Bendigo is full of historic buildings.  Many are now just remaining facades with the interiors completely renovated for modern use, but some still hold onto their historic uses.

The historic General Post Office is now the visitor’s centre, but is still a magnificent building from the outside.

After climbing almost 300 stairs, Poppet Head Lookout had great views of Bendigo from all angles.  The lookout, which is an original poppet head from the Garden Gully United mine, is built directly over the top of the opening to the deepest mine in Victoria.

Camp Hill Primary School, which dates from 1877, is still going strong as a primary school.  The red brick with white accents reminds me a lot of the Rippon Lea facade.

The school and poppet are located in Rosalind Park where there were hundreds, if not thousands, of bats.  In the afternoon they were simply hanging upside down in their trees, but when darkness fell they were flying overhead in droves, especially towards the top of the GPO–bats in the belfry, indeed.

The original Myer department store was founded in Bendigo, even though today the headquarters and flagship store is in Melbourne.

What is the Ulumbarra Theatre today was the old Sandhurst Gaol (Bendigo used to be known as Sandhurst).  The architecture still speaks strongly of its original intent with heavy gates, small courtyards, and high walls.

The Town Hall (1859) is another grand building; columns, arches, stonework, towers…this has it all!

The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Bendigo is the second tallest church in Australia, after St. Patrick’s in Melbourne.  Its building was started in 1895 and was not completed fully (mainly the spire) until 1977 due to various long intervals.  The sandstone it’s constructed from was quarried in the Geelong area.  The huge pipe organ was installed early in the building, in 1905.  While we were inside, the organ player was practicing.  It was really fantastic to hear the music fill up the large, resplendent space.  The church is really a focal point of Bendigo; it sits off of the main road up on a hill and its spire is visible from nearly everywhere in town.

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