The Bendigo Easter Festival is Australia’s longest running community festival and it has been a drawcard for locals and visitors since 1871.
The festival runs for four days from Good Friday to Easter Monday (though most activities finish Easter Sunday) and features a packed program with something for everyone. It’s one of the busiest and most vibrant times to visit Bendigo.
Here are my tips for the best family-friendly attractions and how to tackle the Bendigo Easter Festival with kids.
Vision Australia Easter Egg Hunt – Friday & Saturday
More than 85,000 Cadbury eggs are hidden away in straw for over 3000 egg hunters at Rosalind Park on Good Friday. For the first time in 2018 the hunt will also be held on Easter Saturday. Easter egg hunts are organised by age group.
Tickets are required ($11 each) and all proceeds go towards charity Vision Australia Bendigo to support people who are blind or have low vision in the community.
The first hunt of the day commences at 9.00 a.m. and the final hunt is at 3.20 p.m. All age groups are catered for, and parents can support their children 3 years and under in the actual hunt. All older children enter their hunts without their parents and under the supervision and support of a team of SES volunteers.
Make sure you buy tickets in advance because they do sell out, though you can take your chances with buying tickets on the day at 8am from Rosalind Park. If you miss your allotted time you can’t switch to another time.
Line up around 10 minutes before your allotted time at the marker flags and then everyone is let into the fenced hunting area.
Buy tickets at www.bendigotourism.com or by calling 1800 813 153 from Monday 6 March 2017.
Camp Hill Playground, Rosalind Park
Most of the action centres around Rosalind Park 10am-5pm and there are lots of things to do. I am surprised that we areable to amuse the kids for three half-days.
I recommend arriving at Rosalind Park a bit earlier than 10am and hanging out at the awesome, fenced, Camp Hill Playground. Some activities eg the CFA Fire Truck Rides start earlier than 10am so we areable to avoid the queues.
Darryl’s Animal Farm – Friday, Saturday, Sunday
An animal farm where you can pat animals, brush their fur or feed them straw. A pleasant experience due to the number of animals and the spacious area for them to roam. $5 per child, adults free.
The Paint Pot People – Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Lady AB loves painting the Easter themed posters and she has two goes before the queues get too long. Smocks, paints and posters are provided and the activity is free. You can pick up your artwork after it’s dried.
CFA Fire Truck Rides – Saturday, Sunday
We have several goes at the CFA Fire Truck Rides, which circles around the park twice for $2.50 per child (one accompanying adult free). The trucks seem to start taking passengers from 9:30am if you want to avoid queueing.
Fusion Family Activities – Saturday and Sunday
An area with lots of free fun interactive games. Crawling through the blow up tunnel is a highlight, as well as watching Baby 2.0 in the sack race!
Goldfields Library Storytelling Tree – Friday, Saturday, Sunday
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Suzanne Sandow (as The Moth Fairy) tells traditional tales under the tree and other Goldfields Library activities includes badge making, decorating a dragon scale to attach to a large scale mural, making a library bag and designing your own book.
Extended Awakening of the Dragon – Saturday
The Bendigo Chinese Association presents the extended Awakening of the Dragon program with lots of Chinese performances and finishing with 100,000 firecrackers to wake up Sun Loong inside the Golden Dragon Museum.
Best place to watch the celebrations is to the sides of the stage. Seats are set out in front and house left but they are all one level. At house right you’re not blocked by mobile fencing. A big screen is hoisted high for those at the back.
Torchlight Lantern Procession and Fireworks – Saturday
From 8pm the main streets of Bendigo CBD shut down for the Torchlight Lantern Procession. The parade starts with fire brigade and emergency service tributes then shows off illuminated floats from various community organisations. It concludes with a display of spectacular fireworks over Rosalind Park.
I notice people start camping out at Pall Mall from 5pm for a spot in the front but in fact there’s not too much of a rush to get a good spot.
My tip is to be at the top of View Street, where the parade starts. All the people marshall at Queen Elizabeth Oval/Carpark and then exit down View Street, so you’ll get to admire the floats as they wait their turn. I am in position at 7:45pm right on the curbside without any problems.
Sunday Gala Parade – Sunday
The highlight of the Bendigo Easter Festival is the big Gala Parade which runs through View Street in Bendigo CBD from 1-3pm. It features the world’s longest imperial Chinese dragon – the 100-metre Sun Loong – which only comes out of the Golden Dragon Museum once a year.
Once again I position myself at the top of View Street at 12:45pm and get a curbside seat without problems. Being at the start of the parade also means that you get to see the main attraction (Sun Loong) at 2:30pm instead of waiting for it to snake its way to the end of the parade route at 3pm.
There are other family-friendly attractions which we didn’t get time to visit.
- Rotary Art and Craft Market – Craft stalls selling anything from homemade soaps to jewellery along Bridge Street and Park Road.
- Fun Zone – amusement rides area though most of the amusements are more suitable for older kids with rides like Bucking Broncos and Laser Tag.
- Golden Dragon Museum Workshops – workshops for children 7-12 years to create a Chinese dragon puppet.
- Bendigo Rock & Red Festival Free massive music festival on Bull Street with some of the best regional and national talent performing.
- Carnival Central – On Mundy Street is all the excitement of the carnival rides.
- Bendigo Easter Book Fair – books, CDs, DVDs & magazines at very low prices fundraising for Y Service Club of Bendigo.
- Book your accommodation as early as possible. Bendigo Easter Festival is one of the busiest times of the year for visitors. We booked our accommodation on 2 January ie almost 3 months in advance and it was the only place we could find within our budget and in the right location by that time.
- If possible book accommodation within walking distance to Rosalind Park. Parking can be hard to find close to the area.
- The festival can be very stimulating for little kids so prepare to only spend half a day there.
- Go early ie before 10am while it’s calm and queues are short then leave by lunch time ie peak hour. If you’re at a loose end hang out at the Camp Hill playground before activities start.
- Book tickets to Vision Australia Easter Egg Hunt as early as possible. We booked tickets 2 weeks in advance.
- Check the program for other events that require booking. Most events are drop-in and free/low-cost.
- All locations are pram accessible. Portaloos are dotted around Rosalind Park and there’s a small parent’s room/area.
- Bring a water bottle, water taps are provided.
- Food is available in a designated area, mostly standard pie/chips/baked potato sort of fare. I recommend taking snacks for the morning and then leaving the park for lunch.
- With kids the best place to view the Extended Awakening of the Dragon celebrations is to the sides of the stage area. Banks of seats are set up at the front and house left but they are all one level so unless you’re in the very front row you won’t see much. At house right you’re not blocked by mobile fencing. A big screen is hoisted up high for those at the back.
- With kids the best place to view the parades is the beginning of the route eg at the top of View Street. Get there 15 minutes before and you should still be able to get a good spot. Bring a hat and sunscreen for the Gala Parade!