Bendigo is a city just under two hours from our home base of Melbourne, Australia. It is an easy place to get to and for this reason, it had stayed off my radar – I tend to take places close to home for granted, thinking I can always do them later. I definitely rip myself off with this attitude. Bendigo is not only very pretty, but full of fun things to do with kids. Here is our list as well as some of the practical information from our stay.
Bendigo is a major regional city and the fourth largest city in the state of Victoria. The greater city has a population of over 100,000 people. It is located close to the geographical centre of Victoria, so it is relatively easy to visit from anywhere in the state or to incorporate into a larger road trip of this part of Australia.
Bendigo’s past centres around gold. It was discovered here in the 1850s and was closely followed by a large influx of migrants for around the world. Within a year, it had transformed from a sheep station to a major settlement. Since 1851, a whopping 777 tonnes of gold has been removed from this area. In the 19th century, it was Australia’s highest producing gold town.
Bendigo is known for its architectural heritage – the city centre is very pretty with beautiful late Victorian colonial style buildings plentiful. A stroll through the city centre is not mentioned below, but it is also a must. There are not just buildings, shops and restaurants, but lovely big parks and walking trails.
Joshua wrote this review as I had to wait outside with Z.
The Central Deborah Gold Mine was a working mine operating between the years 1939 to 1954. Today, the mine is a tourist attraction open for people from the age of three upwards. A lot of the original equipment is still in place and you can give yourself a self-guided tour of the site above ground, but the real highlight is a tour of the mine itself.
S and I took a 75 minute tour on one of the top levels of the mine 61 metres below the surface. Complete with hard hats with miners lamps we got to tour the mine and shafts with our guide, Georg. Full of interesting historical and geological facts, like there was 5400 mines at Bendigo’s mining height, the tour went over how the mine worked, and what conditions the miners worked in (not good). With explanations of rock structures and mining equipment, Georg did a great job of making the mine come alive.
I loved this tour. It was very interesting. However, S was too young to get much out of the mine and was bored and a little scared at times. She did love panning for gold at the end though. Kids closer to 10 will get a lot more out of it and no doubt enjoy it more. Otherwise, wear shoes or boots capable of getting wet (there’s some small puddles) and warm clothes.
For more information about visiting the Central Deborah Mine, visit their website.
The Talking Tram is probably the most famous attraction in Bendigo. It was actually the only attraction I had heard of before coming here. You can take an old refurbished tram through part of Bendigo while listening to an audio tour over the loudspeakers.
It is a nice thing to do, but coming from Melbourne I found it a bit disappointing. Melbourne has the world’s largest street car network and I am used to catching trams. In Melbourne, there is a free “city circle” tram in a similar style tram car, so while I enjoyed the Bendigo version, I did not think it was worth paying $16 for just my concession ticket. It is hop on hop off, but with them running on a one hour timetable, this is not very convenient. The kids were bored quickly.
More information here.
This pretty lake is centrally located in Bendigo. It consists of a lake, restaurant, walking trails and a massive playground. There were also food and coffee vans when we visited. It is a lovely place to visit for a picnic, lunch or to run around and play with kids. Lake Weeroona is a stopping point for the Talking Tram.
Bendigo Pottery is Australia’s oldest pottery and full of pottery, arts and crafts. There is also a museum. What attracted us was the pottery activities for kids. There is painting, potting wheel classes and clay play kits. Because of my kids’ ages, we stuck with the clay play kit. This was a huge hit and one of their highlights. They loved building things with the clay. Z came away with mummy and baby dinosaurs. S was inspired by the surrounding pottery shop and made a cup, spoon and fork. This is a fabulous thing to do in Bendigo with kids.
The pottery to buy was just gorgeous. It is not usually my thing at all, but I would have been tempted to buy something if we weren’t moving away soon. There is also a cafe onsite as well as 6 artist studios. I would love to come back when the kids are a bit older so we can all try to make something on the wheels.
The Golden Dragon Museum details the history of the Chinese in the area. Many Chinese people came to Bendigo during the Gold Rush. This museum describes why, how, how they lived in Bendigo, where they went after the Gold Rush and what influence this has on the city today.
It is very informative, although the best part has to be the massive long dragons they have on display which they use in their Easter Festivals. I would love to see that in action. The museum was colourful enough that it had the kids engaged enough that I was able to learn a thing or two.
As part of the entry ticket, we also had entry to a beautiful garden and temple. The garden was especially a hit with the kids. It is very easy to walk to this museum, temple, garden and public square from the centre of Bendigo.
One of our favourite things to do in Bendigo with kids? The Discovery Science and Technology Centre. It is just fabulous. I was a bit surprised on entry as it is basically a massive hall full of small displays, and I am used to science museums looking different to that. However, it was just perfect for my kids. They could play with everything and they ran around in heaven. There were only a few other people there which made it even more perfect.
The centre also has a play area at the back for under 6s which they loved, but they loved everything else as well. There is also a vertical slide for 5s and over. I didn’t even want to go on it though – that looked scary! We had an absolutely awesome time together, and I would go so far as to say this is a must do in Bendigo with young kids.
I was wondering what the hell this place was when I read about it in brochures. It was described as a combination of being about the wheel, confectionery and the English language and from people’s reviews, I gathered it was not about eating confectionery. I was intrigued and decided to check it out. I’m glad I did.
It is basically a shed full of toys, confectionery and other things spinning and moving around. Some are going all the time, others require you to press a button, turn a level, pull a string etc. There are well over 100 things for you to push, tug or pull. There are also hundreds of different little displays with word plays for adults and older kids to figure out. I have never been anywhere quite like it. As you would expect, anywhere with lots of movement and buttons to press works well for young kids, so this place was a hit.
The Zone is chocked full of family friendly activities with go karts, skating, laser tag, mini golf and lots of other things. We stuck to the Kids Zone which is the best bet if you have young kids. The Kids Zone consists of a play centre, maze and kiddie go karts. Z was too young for the Kiddie Karts, but otherwise they did all of these.
S just loved her first experience driving a “car”. The maze was lots of fun and we enjoyed playing some hide and seek as well as making it to the top of each of the 4 sections. This is a great place to stop regardless of your kids ages.
Visiting a winery may not be the first thing you think of when you think about a kid friendly attraction, but we find them very easy thing to do with kids. Many serve food and have outdoor areas, so it is easy to bribe the kids with something to eat and to find a space where they can run around without disturbing anyone.
Bendigo is surrounded by many wineries and we visited Balgownie Winery. It is a lovely setting with plenty of space for the kids to run around. They had colourful cookies so the kids settled down to one of those while we did some yummy tastings. Afterwards, we all settled down on a nice outside table. Heavenly!
The Victorian Goldfields Railway is located on a disused line between Castlemaine and Maldon, not far from Bendigo. It was used for rural services from 1880 to the 1970’s. Today, thanks to volunteers, the line is home to an active steam railway, and you can take a steam train most weekends and Wednesdays.
Z is fascinated by trains, cars and any transport at the moment, so we thought this would be a great activity. However, after the kids were bored of the tram after 5 minutes and a 20 minute journey on that was quite painful, the idea of spending a couple of hours going back and forth on a train lost its shine. We did, however, go and watch the steam train coming into Castlemaine station and we hopped aboard and took a look.
It looked fabulous both inside and outside. There are lots of private booths on the train and I think the kids would have loved the ride – they certainly loved exploring it. In hindsight, we wish we had done it, and I think this activity would work well with preschoolers.
We could not have been happier with our choice of accommodation staying at a house through Airbnb. This enabled us to have a peaceful, relaxing and just easy time while we weren’t running around like crazy checking out all of Bendigo, and I highly recommend it.
Other accommodation options we were considering in Bendigo which get absolutely fantastic reviews and are family friendly:
There are plenty of eating options. After learning about Chinese culture, we had to eat some Chinese. Be warned if you take this option! Things were spicy that were not usually and I ended up with two red faced screaming kids in the restaurant alone. Not good!
There are also plenty of supermarkets around and we found self catering easy in our Bendigo home.
It would be hard, but not impossible, to explore Bendigo without a car. The Central Deborah Mine, Talking Tram, Lake Weeroona, Golden Dragon Museum and Discovery Science and Technology Centre are all central enough that I could walk between them (although not with the kids). It is very easy to catch a train here from Melbourne. J did this and it cost $28 and took about an hour and a half.
With a car, none of these places are more than half an hour away and most within 15 minutes. The drive from Melbourne is also very easy.
If you have kids under 5, like us, then these attractions are a bargain as they were free at all of them except The Zone and S would need a ticket for the railway. In the first couple of days before we went to the Central Deborah Mine and Talking Tram, I only spent about $70 for the three of us to visit all the other attractions – nearly half of that was just at The Zone.
They loved Bendigo. They especially love the Discovery Science and Technology Centre and Bendigo Pottery. Although S was not that crazy about the mine at the time, she has been talking a lot about it since, so she definitely learned something. They loved our home.
I also coped well being away with the kids by myself for two days – I am glad they are finally at the age where that is very doable! We did the majority of the activities in those days as well. The only problem I had was the spicy food at the restaurant that the kids ate. I eat out with them alone regularly and this is the first time I have had a major problem, so I have probably been very lucky. It was a horrible experience though. They were absolutely screaming the place down. I could not get Z off the floor. They wouldn’t eat anything. The waiter bought out some ice cream for them but even that did not do the trick. Not fun!
Our Bendigo trip was a big hit. It was great to get out of the big city for a few days and enjoy some quality family time together. Bendigo has a great mix of attractions for families.
We did all of the above over the equivalent of three full days. We also managed down time at our house to recharge our batteries, and I did not find this trip ridiculously tiring like I have on some of our more recent ones. I think this is a great length of time to spend in Bendigo, although if you like to take things a bit slower, you could easily stretch this out into a week.
What is your favourite thing to do in Bendigo with kids?