A little bit of history...
It is hard not to be drawn in by the beauty of Bendigo in regional Victoria, a fact not lost on the 100,000-odd people who call the city home. Bendigo owes much of its heritage to the discovery of gold, with the height of the boom stretching from 1850 to 1900. Many grand historic buildings are a testament to the beauty of the inner city, flanked by picturesque gardens and other delights such as the old trams.
The first port of call should be to the visitors’ centre on Pall Mall, the main street running through the city. It is located in the historic post office building that dates back to 1887, typifying the architecture of that era.
- Vintage tram
- Central Deborah Gold Mine
- The Chinese Golden Dragon Museum
- Bendigo Pottery
- The town centre gardens
- bike trails
We enjoyed exploring the Botanic Gardens and Rosalind Park. The Botanic Gardens are filled with manicured gardens and a help-yourself veggie patch.
The Gold Tour
The Deborah Gold Mine boasts Australia’s deepest underground mine at 228m or nine levels. For those seeking a less claustrophobic option, you can select one of the shorter 61-85m underground tours. If the thought of striking it rich appeals, you can head out to any of the neighbouring forests around town, using your own fossicking equipment or by hiring equipment in town. Make sure you have the required permits. There are many mining relics throughout the area, hinting of the gold boom era of the past.
The National Park
The Greater Bendigo National Park is easily accessible to the north of the town, offering plenty of walking tracks, picnic spots, fossicking, camping or just a relaxing drive. There are other state forests and regional reserves to the south and east of Bendigo with opportunities to get out in the fresh air. We explored some of the old mining relics pottering through the forest tracks. You can do this by car, bike or on foot.
The beauty, charm and warmth of Bendigo is such that a couple of days is simply too short to appreciate everything on offer. We initially only planned for an overnight stop passing through, but ended up extending our stay, such was the ambience of the city and surrounds.
Gold Nugget Tourist Park
The Gold Nugget Tourist Park in Epsom, a few minutes north of the city centre. The park was established in the 1970s and purchased by current owners Linda and Colin Johnston in 2003. It is a pretty park with established gardens, sealed access and loads of no-cost activities.
- Tennis/basketball court
- Mini-golf course
- Giant chess set
- Playground, jumping castle
- Games room - billiards, table tennis, board games
- Heated pool
- Free wi-fi (*the first park to offer it in Australia)
A nook in the games room hosts three computers where you can catch up with Facebook, or simply login from your camp site using a laptop or smartphone.
“Parents really appreciate coming here, knowing all but the pedal karts are no-cost activities,” Linda said. “We only charge for the karts to motivate the kids to return them promptly so that everyone can have a go.”
Parents and other travellers without children haven’t been forgotten. A parents’ retreat is located at the front of the property sporting a huge 80in TV, billiard table, massage chairs, kitchenette, toilets and more. After quiet time (10pm), travellers can move from the camp kitchen to the parents’ retreat to socialise and enjoy a few bevvies without disturbing the other park customers.
The layout of the park is a credit to the owners, with the sometimes noisy activities such as basketball, tennis, jumping castle and the games room located away from the main camping sites. The jumping castle is positioned within the watchful eye of the office and it is deflated each night to minimise noise and after-dark injuries.
All in all, it’s hard to fault the Golden Nugget Tourist Park as a basecamp to explore Bendigo. The owners have worked hard to tick every box, and it has plenty of activities and creature comforts to make your stay enjoyable and relaxing. It’s a good find!
- Bendigo is 153km, or just under two hours’ drive, north-west of Melbourne.
- The Golden Nugget Tourist Park in Epsom is 8km, or a 10-minute drive, north of Bendigo.
- Exploring the Botanic Gardens and Rosalind Park.
- Underground mine tour.
- Gold prospecting.
- Bushwalks and fossicking in Greater Bendigo National Park.
- Pottery lessons at Bendigo Pottery.
- Bendigo Visitor Centre, 51-67 Pall Mall, 1800 813 153, (03) 5434 6060, www.bendigotourism.com
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #532, December 2014. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!