HomeTravelAustralia's surprising best city and its ideal attractions for the over-50s

Australia’s surprising best city and its ideal attractions for the over-50s

When you think of Australia’s best city, what immediately comes to mind?

Sydney’s beautiful harbour and views? Fabulous beach towns such as Noosa or Palm Cove, maybe even cosmopolitan Melbourne?

Well, this is a bit embarrassing to those frankly stunning cities, because, according to booking platform Wotif, it’s the central Victorian city of Bendigo.

Wotif claims this regional town has a cultural and gastronomical hub and UNESCO agrees, listing it as a Creative City and Region of Gastronomy.

What to do?

As a regional centre, there’s a lot to do in a small space.

One of Bendigo’s jewels is the Bendigo Art Gallery. Due to some left-of-field thinking a few decades ago, the gallery began taking a different tack from the usual worthy paintings hanging on walls – although there are plenty of those – and embraced exhibitions not traditionally known as ‘art’ including fashion design and celebrities.

Some of its more well-known exhibitions include Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, collections of couture clothing even the Australian Women’s Weekly.

In fact the Elvis exhibition in 2022 was one of only two shown outside the US, the other being in London.

It’s next international exhibition is Paris: Impressions of Life 1880-1925, opening 24 March.

I’ll drink to that

Bendigo is surrounded by wine country. Yay.

If wine’s your thing, there are all levels of immersion, from staying at a vineyard to enjoying a wine at a local restaurant.

The rolling hills surrounding Bendigo are ideal for wine grapes and its Mediterranean climate of warm dry summers and mild winters give the local wines their unique terroir. Bendigo has a tradition of winemaking going back to 1855.

If you want to get in on it, one of the big dates on Bendigo’s wine calendar is the Bendigo Wine Festival coming up on 13 April. You don’t even have to move around too much, it’s held at the stunning Rosalind Park in central Bendigo.

Visit here to discover wine trails, festival dates and cellar door opening times.

Park yourself

Since we have mentioned Rosalind Park, you could do a lot worse than spending a whole day, yes, that’s right, a whole day, at the gardens.

The park was put on the Victorian Heritage Register in 2000 for its historic, archaeological, aesthetic, and architectural significance to the state of Victoria.

Stroll through the Conservatory Gardens, the ornate 19th century structure that looks something straight out of Downton Abbey with lush plantings inside to boost the scene. The spring tulip display is especially spectacular.

The garden also includes cascades, a former mine head that’s been transformed into a lookout tower for some of the best views of Bendigo and several showy statues.

But I can go on … There is also the Yi Yuan Chinese Gardens, an authentic recreation of a walled Chinese garden to honour the district’s Chinese heritage, leafy paths to stroll through, and a lush fernery with water features, a collection of palms and remnant vegetation.

It’s central location means you can break the day up with a meal from the city’ many dining locations.

 Afternoon tea at Fortuna Villa

Fortuna Villa was once owned by George Lansell, at the time one of Australia’s richest men.

He first began building the spectacular residence in 1871, and was still adding to it when he died 40 years later. So while it’s a bit all over the place architecturally, the money spent on it makes it visually spectacular.

It was previously occupied by an army mapping unit, but is now back in private hands.

One of the best ways to enjoy this handsome building is a formal afternoon tea. It’s not cheap at $95 a head, but there is a pensioner discount of $85 and they throw in a tour for free.

Check the website for available dates and booking is a must.

As it is a heritage building, the tours are not suitable for people with mobility issues.  

Bendigo tramways

If you want to see some of the best of Bendigo at a gentle pace, Bendigo tramways has got you covered.

Take a Vintage Talking Tram through Bendigo’s main thoroughfare for some ‘oohs and ahs’ at the amazing architecture and learn a little about the town’s history.

It’s called a talking tram because it comes with an expert commentary about what’s passing by.

The restored trams are an attraction in themselves, with all their shiny fittings and rich wood panelling.  

Your ticket is valid for the whole day so you can hop on and off as you wish to explore the city’s dining offerings, gardens and shopping, and dogs are welcome.

Concession tickets are $12.50.

And in case you are wondering, Wotif’s nine other best cities in descending order are Broken Hill, NSW, Stanthorpe, QLD, Katherine, NT, Bathurst, NSW, Tanunda, SA, Griffith, NSW, Exmouth, WA and Coober Pedy, SA.

Have you ever visited Bendigo? What was your favourite attraction? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: What to do in Mildura, Victoria’s very own oasis

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. Sorry Jan … but you didn”t mention some of the big attractions in the City of Bendigo or its history.
    What about the famous Bendigo Pottery and the Chinese dragon, the Joss House and the Chinese community history. What about the big Easter fair?
    People can now fly to Bendigo’s upgraded airport direct from Sydney with Qantas.
    I grew up in Bendigo and have brothers there. At one time in my life I was a PMG Telegram boy in Bendigo .. I actually put the flag up on the top of the old Post Office clock. It’s one of several magnificent old buildings in that great city…. other examples are the Law Courts, the Shamrock Hotel, the City Hall and the Sacred Heart Cathedral.
    Bendigo was once the richest Gold mining site in the world.
    But there is one thing that makes me go crazy … it is when people call Bendigo a “TOWN”. Bendigo (previously known as Sandhurst) has been a CITY since 21 July 1871. The City of Greater Bendigo now has a population of over 120,000 people.
    Thanks for your article Jan, but please don’t call Bendigo a “TOWN”.
    Hilton Conroy

  2. I agree Hilton! I love Bendigo, I lived there for four years. Unfortunately we only have so much space, so I couldn’t list all its wonderful attractions. I called it a town because that’s the category it was described as in the listing, but of course you are right, it’s a city.

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