Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer. Check out her short stories and nano fiction at www.ficklefiction.com/
Published June 9th 2016
Stepping back in history can be a whole lot of fun
Top 5 Things to do on a Bendigo Weekend Getaway At only an hour and three quarter drive from Melbourne, tourist ready and steeped in history, Bendigo is an ideal weekend getaway. Don a hard hat and explore a gold mine. Ride a talking tram. Marvel at Chinese craftsmanship. Learn the history of pottery making and take in the heritage buildings about town. Add to that good local food and wine, arts, parks and gardens, cinemas and museums and you are spoilt for choice.
Models showing work at Bendigo Pottery (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Bendigo has a rich mining history, gold was discovered here in 1851. The Central Deborah Gold Mine was a commercial mine operating between 1939 and 1954, and one of the last two mines to cease operation in the city.
The 22m high poppet head towers over buildings at Central Deborah Mine (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
On the surface a poppet head towers over the other buildings. A map of the buildings is available upon entry. Wander about in your own time and view the Carbide Lamp Room, the Blacksmiths Shop, the Engine Room and more. Why not try your hand at panning for gold in the Gold Treatment Area.
The surface is only half the story, the rest lies below ground and the Central Deborah Mine offers a number of experiences. The Mine Experience takes you down 61 metres in an industrial lift and explores the mine tunnels. In a touch of authenticity the only lighting is that on your hard hats. This tour is suitable for everybody and lasts around an hour and a quarter. This is the tour we chose.
Battery Packs and Hard hat Lights Waiting for us to Kit Up. (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The Underground Adventure Tour caters for the bolder tourist, descends to 85 metres, involves a little bit of ladder climbing, hands on with a mine drill and lasts for two and a half hours. A miner's lunch is included in the Underground Function Room.
The most expensive and by far the most adventurous option on offer is the Nine Levels of Darkness Tour. You need to be fit for this one. At 228 metres this is Australia's deepest mine tour. Your will descend in a miners' cage to Level 9 of the mine where you will get an insight into the mining life. Learn how to operate a drill and set a charge. Climb ladders and follow the cap of the reef. Appropriate safety clothing and equipment is provided, lunch is underground and the tour lasts between three and four and a half hours.
Giving the Drill a Go (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Cost: (June 2016) Self-Guided Surface Tour: Adult $6.50, Concession $5.00, Children $4.00, Family $19.00. Mine Experience (which is inclusive of the surface tour): Adult $30.00, Concession $26.50, Children $16.00, Family $83.00. The mine also has Underground Adventure Tours and the 9 Levels of Darkens Tour and mine experiences can be packaged with other Bendigo Tourist Attractions. Click here for options, times and pricing.
Golden Dragon Museum
The Golden Dragon Museum, opened in 1991, is dedicated to Chinese History in Australia. Run by the Bendigo Chinese Association the museum displays artefacts dating back to the 1850's. The craftsmanship in the sculptures and in the carved and decorated screens will astonish.
In the Grounds of the Golden Dragon Museum (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Coming from Melbourne, a city renowned for its tramways history, I couldn't help but have a soft spot for Bendigo Tramways but wherever you are from this is an experience not to be missed. We started our visit with a wander around the depot where we were able to view many of the trams at close quarters. Some are in varying states of restoration highlighting just how much work goes into the preservation of these historic vehicles.
In the Workshop at Bendigo Tramways (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Hop aboard a Vintage Talking Tram Tour and admire a craftsmanship so often lost today as you trundle about Bendigo listening to tales of its history and admiring its heritage buildings. This is a hop on hop off tour that commences at the Central Deborah Mine but can be joined at any stop along the way.
A Work In Progress at Bendigo Tramways (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Cost: (June 2016) Depot and Workshop Tour Only (for groups of 10 or more): Adult $9.00, Concession $7.00, Children $4.50. Vintage Talking Tram Tour Only: Adult $17.50, Concession $16.00, Children $11.00, Family $51.00. The tram tours can be packaged with other Bendigo tourist attractions. Click here for packaging options and pricing.
Bendigo Pottery was established in 1858 and continues to operate today. It is to be commended for its success and is indeed worthy of a visit. The company has established an interpretive museum on site but lovers of all things pottery be warned, there is a shop on site and a tempting array of tableware and cookware.
Choosing from a Vast Array of Pottery (Photo Copyright Roger Marien)
The Museum has been constructed around the old wood fired kilns and houses equipment used throughout the pottery's history. These kilns are significant in size and one now houses a theatrette, so grab a seat and watch the short documentary, I found it interesting and it adds to the understanding of the museums displays.
Entrance to an Old Wood Fired Pottery Kiln (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The museum bridges past and present, housing a collection of old Bendigo Pottery as well as providing viewing areas to current production. It's not just about having a look as the museum offers Wheel Throwing Lessons and Decorating Workshops. Clay Play Kits are available for the children to try some sculpting.
Models Depict Work at the Kilns (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Bendigo Pottery also hosts an Antiques and Collectibles Centre where more than 40 dealers display pottery, paintings, glassware, jewellery, vintage clothing, silverware and other collectibles. Added to that are galleries showcasing works by local potters, sculptors and artists.
An on-site café offers coffee and cake, Devonshire teas, light lunches and snacks and also stocks a range of local products and giftware.
1940's Crushing Plant Used to Crush Rejected Pottery Pieces (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Cost: (June 2016) Interpretive Museum Entry: Adults $8.00, Concession $7.00, Children $4.00 Family $20.00 and for groups of 10 or more $6.00 each. Clay Play Kits are $4.00. Wheel Throwing Lessons are $15.00 per half hour or $30.00 per hour. Decorating Workshops are $18.00 per person.
If you are a history buff or you just like the splendour of the buildings of yesteryear Bendigo will not disappoint.
The Soldiers Memorial Institute Military Museum was opened in 1921 but did not become a museum until 1977. The collection covers artefacts from the Boer War to the present day with an emphasis on Bendigo. The museum is at 37-39 Pall Mall.
The Soldiers Memorial Institute Military Museum (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Mackenzie Street is a building of two time frames. The nave and side aisles were completed and put into use in 1901 but no further construction was undertaken until 1954. The second stage of the building was not completed until 1977. It may have taken a long time but there is no denying its intricate beauty.
The Conservatory in Bendigo's Conservatory Gardens adjacent to Rosalind Park was built in 1897 and is the only known 19th century conservatory surviving in a public park in Victoria. Also in the gardens is a statue presented in 1899 and a George V monument. The gardens are in Williamson Street.
The Conservatory built in 1897 (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The Bendigo Town Hall was constructed between 1878 and 1902. It was marked for demolition in the 1970's but although saved from that gruesome fate restoration did not commence until 2001. The Town Hall is at 189-193 Hargreaves Street. Tours of the building are available.
Bendigo Town Hall (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)