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Bendigo is an easy family destination, being only 1.5 hours by car from Melbourne. We tend to visit about once or twice year, mainly for the Bendigo Art Gallery’s series of international exhibitions. Even if you or your little ones are not into art there are still places to eat and fun places to visit for families.

TO SEE AND DO:

Modern Love Bendigo

Modern Love at Bendigo Art Gallery (until 2 February 42 View St Bendigo) – In this exhibition Bendigo Art Gallery has curated approximately 60 items of fashion from the collection of the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles. The items come from the world’s most influential designers from the past 40 years.

This exhibition is probably more suitable for older kids and I’m glad I didn’t have to take Lady AB. Other than two videos and one audio presentation it’s a pretty static setting and you’ll want to take time to read the information plaques and notice the small details in the clothing.

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Bendigo Farmers Market – Every second Saturday of the month Bendigo holds a Farmers Market from 9.00am – 1.00pm, right in the middle of the CBD at the Rosalind Park end of Williamson St. The market sells fresh, regional and seasonal produce and we bought some local organic apricots and a loaf of excellent polenta bread from Bendigo’s first and only sourdough bakery, The Good Loaf.

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Golden Dragon Museum (1 – 11 Bridge St, Bendigo +61 3 5441 5044). The Golden Dragon Museum bills itself as the ‘Chinese Cultural Centre of Australia’ and your $11 entry (Children (5-14 $6) includes entry into the museum displays, the Chinese gardens and the Kuan Yin Temple.

As a first-generation Chinese immigrant I found it fascinating to learn about the historical significance of Chinese people in Australia. It charts the origins of the majority of the Chinese miners who came for the gold rush in the 1850s with artefacts, furniture and everyday goods and follows their assimilation into Anglo Australian society and their contributions to the communities of Bendigo and Victoria.

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On a balcony surrounding the circular central gallery is a collection of the Chinese Dragons and their associated regalia used in the Bendigo’s annual Easter procession. Bendigo owns the oldest, as well as the longest, Chinese imperial dragons in the world!

TO PLAY:

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Rosalind Park playground – Rosalind Park is a beautiful English-style garden in the centre of town. The wide paths shaded with plane trees are beautiful for strolling, playing and for kids riding scooters/bikes but there’s also a playground inside the park. It’s a pretty basic set up and it didn’t keep Lady AB amused for very long – a couple of goes on the swirly slide and she’d had enough. Maybe the heat got to her.

Hargreaves St playground Bendigo

Hargreaves Street mall playground – The free playground in the centre of Bendigo’s pedestrian mall is a really colourful, well-designed and semi-shaded space. Lady AB actually preferred this playground to Rosalind Park. A handy stop if you are in the centre of town or doing some shopping.

Discovery Science and Technology Centre – Bendigo’s version to Questacon. Read separate review

Book Now Bendigo

Book Now (1 Farmers Lane, Bendigo +61 (0)3 5443 8587)  Book Now holds the mystique of old dusty tomes waiting to be discovered with the grandeur of a two-levelled Bodleian-esque library. Books are sorted by category (with seating in nooks and crannies between shelves) with highlights including the non-fiction literature and antiquarian collections. It’s got a small collection of children’s books in the back corner but predominantly it’s a shop better for adult readers.

EAT AT:

Brewhouse Bendigo

Brewhouse (402 Hargreaves St, Bendigo (03) 5442 8224 – This specialist coffee roastery and cafe has a fit out lifted right out of the laneways of Melbourne and is a buzzing place on weekends with families and hipsters alike. I particularly loved the submarine-like industrial lampshades hanging over the coffee station and the twig-twisted lampshade over the high communal table.

Obviously coffee is their calling but we’re not a family of coffee drinkers so stuck with a mug of iced chocolate using their own cocoa blend ($6). The kids shared a cheese toastie from the kids menu (very reasonable $4.50) while T had the pulled pork baguette and I ordered a crispy-fried duck with enoki ($24). Both dishes suffered a little from the dryness of the meat but it wasn’t enough to detract from the general quality of the food, service and atmosphere.

For families there’s plenty of pram space, a stack of high chairs and even an old-fashioned school desk hiding colouring books and pencils!

The cafe of The Good Loaf is across the road and is housed in an old service station. It is a small space (they can provide a high chair) and as you can imagine the menu is very bread heavy.

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Chancery Lane off Pall Mall is Bendigo’s laneway of food and art in the CBD, with the bustling wine bar The Dispensary and the Spanish-inspired El Gordo cafe. Being small, narrow restaurants they are not particularly child/pram friendly in terms of facilities but kids are welcome.

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The Epicurean, (79 Mitchell St. Bendigo +61 3 5443 2699) – Restaurants don’t necessarily open on Sundays or Mondays in Bendigo and plus we tend not to eat out for dinner on holiday. If you’re in the same boat then stock up with provisions from The Epicurean.

The Epicurean is an Italian gourmet deli and providores which has a substantial range of take-home meals along with bread, smallgoods, cheeses and cakes and sweets (you can also dine in). You can fill a large tub for $15.50 and a small tub for $9 and given a large tub easily feeds two to three people it’s a complete bargain.

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I chose a wide range of different pastas that I thought would fare well in our accommodation’s microwave. Of them, I most enjoyed the gnocchi with a very flavoursome Napolitana sauce, while their home-made chicken liver pate (a very generous tub for around $6.50) was delicious on lavosh and with some equally reasonably priced Dutch smoked cheddar.

STAY AT:

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Jubilee Villa (Donna and Darryl Henderson) 170 McCrae St, Bendigo +61 3 5442 2920) I booked  our accommodation through the excellent online booking service via Bendigo Tourism. This seems to be the main hub of accommodation listings as many of the places listed with Bendigo Tourism don’t have their own websites. The site is easily searchable for your specific needs.

The main advantage of Jubilee Villa is that it’s a 5 minute stroll to Bendigo CBD and across the road from the Chinese Golden Dragon Museum and a stop of the Bendigo Talking Tram. In addition it’s a charming Victorian block that’s been restored to provide B&B accommodation in restored servant’s quarters or a studio apartment /loft.

We rented a 2 bedroom self-contained unit ie the servant’s quarters. While the building had one side facing the main highway we did not find it noisy through the night, with only the occasional truck rumble penetrating through the thick brick walls.

The accommodation was really charming. The main bedroom had split system heating with a firm double bed (plus electric blankets) and a bathroom with two person spa. From the bedroom you entered a dining room with a bar fridge, microwave, tea/coffee, toaster which used to be old medical consulting rooms and there’s a cabinet full of antique medical jars and instruments. The second bedroom has twin single beds and a second TV.

Other than checking in with the friendly owners we were left alone for during our stay. A low-key continental breakfast of crumpets, wholemeal bread, raising toast, cornflakes, Weetbix and orange juice was provided for the two mornings.

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