Bendigo – A city built on gold

In the heart of Victoria, Bendigo is the place to immerse yourself in gold rush heritage, local pottery, arts and surrounding wine country.

It’s only a 90-minute drive from Melbourne so the area is easy to include on a self-drive itinerary, staying for a couple of days or more to see behind the scenes.

Gold made Bendigo seriously rich! It was the seventh richest gold field in the world, producing more than nine billion dollars worth of gold between1850 and 1900, with more gold found here than anywhere else.

If thoughts of gold rush days conjure images of tents and shanty towns, you’ll be more than surprised to arrive in this grand 19th century city with wide streets, stately sandstone buildings dating from the Victorian era, wide streets and beautiful gardens.

Drop into the Bendigo Visitor Centre on Pall Mall and you’ll be standing inside the old post office, a very grand building built in the ‘Second Empire’ architectural style and listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

The Hotel ShamrockThe Alexandra Fountain is also a significant landmark, made from 20 tonnes of granite and adorned with carved nymphs, dolphins and fanciful unicorns.

Bendigo’s imposing Hotel Shamrock has hosted the crème de la crème of the Bendigo social scene since 1845 and today you can stay in style, appreciating the Victorian setting with all the contemporary luxuries. 

Chinese heritage
There’s another surprising side to Bendigo, its Chinese legacy seen in examples such as the Joss House Temple, the Golden Dragon Museum and the Chinese Gardens.

The original homelands of the Jaara Aboriginal people, Bendigo was completely turned on its head when it became the epicentre of the gold rush of the 1850s attracting, among others, thousands of Chinese prospectors. The Chinese population alone in 1857 was said to be 26,000.

Chinese Gardens in BendigoThe Bendigo Chinese community is still thriving today and the Golden Dragon Museum is a cultural centre for Chinese arts and crafts. The permanent display features dramatic Sun Loong, the longest imperial dragon in the world, more than 100 metres long.

Bendigo’s colourful red timber Joss House, the Chinese house of Prayer, is the only surviving building of its kind in regional Victoria. 

The Yin Yuan Classical Chinese Gardens, based on the Imperial Palace in Beijing, were completed in 1996 in a joint venture between the local community, state and federal governments and the people of the City of Baoding, Hebei Province, China.

Golden days
Where did the wealth come from? At first from alluvial river banks but later from the quartz reefs on which Bendigo sits, reached by shafts up to 1,000 metres deep.

You can travel beneath the surface today at The Central Deborah Gold Mine on a Mine Experience tour, taking the 61-metre elevator trip down to follow a 400-metre circuit. For an even more hands-on experience, take the Underground Adventure tour to 85 metres, dressing in boots, overalls, miner’s hat and lamp to climb ladders, work a mine drill and search for gold yourself.

vintage tram in BendigoBack on the surface, take a scenic tour on Bendigo’s Vintage ‘Talking’ Trams with their one commentary which you can hop on and off to take a closer look at attractions or stop for a coffee break or lunch.

The tram system dates back to 1890 and the ‘Talking’ Tram Tour was developed In 1972 growing from just four to over 40 and you can see more being at the tram depot.

Trams are such a feature here that you can even dine on board one! Bendigo ninesevensix is a converted 1952 Melbourne tram combining tours with a four-course menu.

There are also self-drive and walking tours in the area with maps and guides as well as Podtours and films showcasing Bendigo, Castlemaine and the Maldon region with MP3 players for hire at Visitor Information Centres.

Arts and culture
The Bendigo region is particularly rich in art, attracting a wide range of artists working in mediums including pottery, paint, glass, metal and printmaking so there are many galleries and studios to visit all around Bendigo, Heathcote, Maldon and Castlemaine.

Bendigo Art Gallery’s collections span the 1850s to the present day and the collection of 20th century paintings, sculpture, prints and drawings showcases significant Australian artists and sculptors such as Walter Withers, Rupert Bunny, Grace Cossington-Smith, Arthur Boyd, Fred Williams, John Olsen and Margaret Preston.

The historic Bendigo Pottery is set vast old beehive kilns and today there’s a museum and domestic pottery for sale, fired in the old kilns. See a demonstration or try your hand at throwing a pot, guided by a potter.

Stay, wine, dine, shop
For accommodation in Bendigo there’s the Hotel Shamrock and a range of B&Bs, boutique suites and apartments. Fountain View suites are housed in a magnificent old building and the City Warehouse Apartment is pure New York style. Allawah Bendigo offer a range of apartments in historical locations and Spa Eleven has accommodation, day spa and a café.

Expect fine contemporary cuisine at Whirrakee Restaurant in the old Royal Bank building and head to Wine Bank on View, a bar and wine store for a range of dining options. Inspired by the gastrobars and pubs of Europe, Dispensary Enoteca has all-day dining in its hidden laneway location.

Like Melbourne, Bendigo has a network of laneways so go exploring to find boutiques selling things like lifestyle gifts, fashion, accessories, jewellery and glassware. Visit Myer in Bendigo for a taste of retail history as this Australian shopping chain began here in1899 when Sidney Myer and his brother arrived from Russia and set up shop.

The wine and food trail
Grapes came with the gold and the area’s first vineyards planted in 1856 and now the area produces Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay to name just a few. Heathcote may indeed be a new seam of liquid gold for its distinctive, award-winning Shiraz, being compared favourably with the best of Australia.

Balgownie Estate at Maiden Gully was the first vineyard planted in the Bendigo district for more than 80 years marking the beginning of a new era for the central goldfields vineyards;  Sandhurst Ridge has produced award-winning wines since their first vintage Shiraz in 1995; the Bress vineyard is managed biodynamically has a cider press and restaurant open October to May, utilising seasonal produce grown on the premises.

The Cellar & Store at Heathcote showcases current release wines of the regions and you can taste wine and shop for indulgent treats and Flynn’s Wines & Heathcotean Bistro opens at weekends with a seasonal dinner menu.

The Emeu Inn at Heathcote is 150 years old and offers B&B, a wine centre and restaurant with a regional focus with dishes such as a rustic hare terrine with peach paste and even emu on the menu. If you’d like to stay in the vineyards, Redesdale Estate Winery has two self-contained cottages and The Redesdale offers a slow food dining experience using produce from local suppliers.

At Tooberac Hotel & Brewery taste three beers made on the premises – a pale ale called Stonemasons, a stout, labelled Blacksmiths and an amber brew called Woodcutters. 

All good reasons why you’ll love this destination. You might even say it’s good as gold!

Cuts to Australian War Memorial: will it effect Heritage Tourism

The decision by the Gillard Labor Government to cut one in five jobs at the Australian War Memorial is just a saddening and offensive affront to the memory of our fallen.

“In a speech last year, the Memorial’s current Director, Major General Steve Gower AO (Mil) (Ret’d) said: “We will need extra staff to cope… I predict the (Australian War Memorial) will be very busy over the next eight years.

“It is unfortunate that the Gillard Labor Government has chosen to think that the Memorial has too many staff to deal with what is an ever increasing workload.

In 2008 Marylou Pooley was the winner of Outstanding Contribution by an Individual. During her ten years at the Memorial she has been instrumental in positioning the War Memorial as one of the world’s great museums and an Australian Tourism Awards Hall of Fame inductee.

There should be no question that our most significant and internationally recognised memorial to our fallen be funded fully and properly. The Australian War Memorial is also a major heritage tourism attraction not just for Australian but also overseas tourists.

Federal Member for Gilmore, Joanna Gash has urged all, to flag their direct support of the War Memorial by writing a letter of protest to the Prime Minister

 “How this government can commit to cutting one in five jobs at the Australian War Memorial, especially as we approach the Centenary of the ANZAC, is beyond me”. she said.

Do you think this decision by the Gillard Labor Government will effect Tourism.

Railway heritage of the Flinders Ranges

The history of the railways in the Flinders Ranges is an important part of Australia’s rich cultural heritage. Key railway communities include Quorn, Port Augusta and Peterborough, each with a unique culture of their own.

Peterborough Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre The community of Peterborough was among the hardest hit when the new standard gauge line linking Broken Hill and Port Pirie opened in early 1970. For the first time trains by-passed Peterborough and the population dwindled.

Peterborough Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre SASince its reopening in November 2009, the revamped Peterborough Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. 

Steamtown Peterborough have opened a sound and light show in its old locomotive workshops showcasing its historic collection and telling the story of Peterborough’s role in the railways networks linking the east and west and north and south of Australia.

The route through Peterborough from the east also includes a string of high-quality heritage sites including the town of Burra; while to the north, the Orroroo Carrieton district has recently produced ‘Stones and Rail’, an audio guide providing an entertaining and in-depth history of the area.

Further north, the town of Blinman is developing a sound and light experience in its old copper mine. From there visitors can take in the ruins of the once significant towns of Beltana and Farina, which has recently been restored by work by groups of volunteers and travellers.

There’s nothing like Australia’s natural wonders

Tourism Australia is calling upon Australia’s fans from far and wide to vote now for Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef to become official New7Wonders of Nature.

The New7Wonders of Nature campaign, established by the international New7Wonders Foundation, is a global search to recognise the seven most wondrous natural sites in the world as voted by the general public.

As two of Australia’s most famous natural wonders, Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef faced some tough competition from 440 sites across the globe but now sit in the list of 28 finalists alongside Angel Falls in Venezuela, Milford Sound in New Zealand, Bay of Fundy in Canada, the USA’s Grand Canyon, and the Amazon in South America.

Having demonstrated they have what it takes to be considered a New7Wonder of Nature, both sites are now vying for enough votes to make it into the official seven, to be announced on 11 November 2011.

Tourism Australia Managing Director, Andrew McEvoy urged people to support the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru in the final stage of the New Seven Wonders of Nature campaign.

“This is Australia’s opportunity to raise awareness globally of the variety and natural beauty of our unique environment,” Mr McEvoy said.

“The campaign creates a platform to help conserve Australia’s natural wonders for years to come as well as encourage tourists from around the world to experience these incredible sites for themselves.

“It has been estimated that both Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef need to secure 100 million votes each to put them in the running for the title so I urge anyone who is passionate about Australia to now,” he said.

The New7Wonders of Nature campaign is expected to generate one billion international votes by the time the final New7Wonders of Nature are announced next year.

Current ranking statistics reveal that the Great Barrier Reef is regularly in the top 14 picks of voters from around the world, whilst Uluru needs more support.

To vote, simply visit to show your support for the Great Barrier Reef and for Uluru.

So let us show why there’s nothing like Australia’s natural wonders.

The glory of steam, Pansy, the Camden tram

One of the most popular memories of the Camden area by locals and visitors alike is the Camden tram, affectionately known as ‘Pansy’.

It has always had an enthusiastic bunch of supporters. They positively drool about it and overlook its foibles. Old timers tell and retell Pansy stories to anyone who wants to listen.

Fans gloss over its short comings.  All the stories are laced with a pinch of nostalgia and a touch of the romantic. It was a vital part of local life. So why does this old locomotive conjure up such a strident bunch of supporters?

Pansy Train 1917 Camden NSWSteam engines and locomotives bring back memories  of the glory days of industrialization and the great days of Australian nationalism in the late Victorian and early 20th century. Great monstrous  engines that hissed, spat and groaned.

They were mighty machines that were living beings. They had a life and soul of their own. They were responsible for creating the wealth of the British Empire. And Pansy is part of that story.

Pansy 1915 crossing the Nepean River on its entry to Camden NSWThe Camden branch line was operated by the New South Wales Railways from 1882 to its closure in 1963.

The Camden tram was one of a number of standard gauge light rail lines in the Sydney area.  The tank locomotive worked a mixed service that took freight and passengers.

The branch line was thirteen kilometres and had eight stations after leaving Campbelltown station, where it joined the Main Southern Railway. The stations were Maryfields, Kenny Hill, Curran’s Hill, Narellan, Graham’s Hill, Kirkham, Elderslie and finally arriving at Camden.

Most of the stations were no more than a short rudimentary wooden platform with a shelter shed that were unmanned.  Others like Camden had a longer platform and an associated goods handling facility.

Pansy 1963 on its last run
Pansy 1963 on its last run

Pansy was a regular part of daily life for those who lived near the line. Locals in the Camden township would listen for the loco’s whistle and know that the morning papers had arrived from Sydney.

Legend has it that the engine driver would hold the train for regulars who were running  late for work on their way to the city, especially local lasses.

Some of Camden’s better off families sent their children to high school at Parramatta and Homebush each morning on the train. Pansy  would chug past the milk factory at  the entry to Camden township as local dairy farmers were unloading their cans of milk from their horse and dray.

Tourists from Sydney would be dropped off on Friday afternoon at Camden station to be bused to their holiday boarding houses in Burragorang Valley.
The first passenger service left Camden station left at 5.47am to connect with the Sydney service on the Main Southern Line.

On the return journey the last passenger service from Campbelltown left at 9.44pm.  During the Second World War the tram provided transport for many servicemen (Army, RAAF) who were based at local military establishments.

Airmen from Camden airfield would catch the train to Sydney for weekend leave, and would be joined by soldiers from Narellan military base and Studley Park Eastern Command Training School.

Camden station and good yards were located adjacent to Edward Street, with a siding to the Camden Vale milk factory. Coal from the Burragorang Valley mines was loaded at Camden yard from 1937, although this was transferred to Narellan in 1941 and eventually the Main Southern Line at Glenlee into the late 1950s. But even by the 1940s the limitations of the line for caring freight were showing cracks.

From its enthusiastic opening the tram never really lived up to its predictions. The mixed goods and passenger service was of limited value. Its light gauge restricted the loads and the grade of the line, particularly over Kenny Hill, severely limited its capabilities.  Even in 1939 there were already signs of the eventual demise of the branch line with more coal leaving the district by road than rail.

Its days were numbered and the writing was on the wall. Its death blow was delivered by the Heffron ALP Government in 1963 as a cost cutting exercise and a drive from modernization of the railway system across the state. Diesel was the new god.

For current enthusiasts with a keen eye there are remnants of the embankments and cuttings for the narrow gauge line still visible in the area. As visitors leave the Camden township travelling north along Camden Valley Way (old Hume Highway) embankments, culverts and earthworks are still visible in the farm paddocks on the Nepean River floodplain.

You can make out the right of way  as it crosses Kirkham Lane and heads  towards Narellan before disappearing into a housing estate. For those with a sharp eye a cutting is still  evident on the northern side of Narellan Road at Kenny Hill just as you take then entry ramp onto the freeway going to Sydney.

It appears as a bench  above the roadway and is evident for a short distance. (for details  see Peter Mylrea, ‘Camden-Campbelltown Railway’, Camden History March 2009, p. 254-263).

A number of streets in Curran’s Hill are connected to the history of Pansy. Tramway Drive is close to the route of the train and a number of other streets are named after past railway employees, for example, Paddy Miller. The Camden Community Band celebrates the legend of Pansy in their repertoire. They play a tune called The Camden Tram written by Buddy Williams a Camden resident of the 1960s.

Are you interested in seeing the real deal? Do you want to see what all the fuss is about for yourself? Go and inspect the real Pansy:  ‘the steam locomotive 2029 and a small composite multi-class carriage’. They are on display at the New South Wales Transport Museum
Barbour Rd Thirlmere NSW 2572 (02) 4681 8001

Images courtesy of the Camden Historical Society
Written by Ian Willis member of Professional Historians Association NSW.

The Camden Community Band has recently added the tune ‘The Camden Train’ to its repertoire. The lyrics tell an interesting story about Pansy, the locomotive. It was written by Camden local Buddy Williams about the time of the last run on of the train in 1963. More Details

Painting The Rocks: the loss of Old Sydney

Museum of Sydney
Saturday 7 August — Sunday 28 November, 2010

Against the backdrop of slum clearances, wharf rebuilding and debates about working-class living conditions, a group of artists set out to capture ‘Old Sydney’ before it disappeared in the city’s transition to a modern metropolis.

The first decades of the 20th century saw countless buildings from our colonial past torn down and whole streets disappear as Sydneysiders embraced the march of progress.

Rocks Sydney NSW PaintingRemarkably, in the midst of this change a conservation movement began to arise.

Giving voice to the people who worked and lived in The Rocks, this exhibition places the often romantic and sentimental 1902 artists’ paintings alongside the stark realities of government-commissioned photography, inspection reports and remodelling plans.

A joint initiative of the Historic Houses Trust and Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority

Location: Corner Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney NSW 2000
On the site of First Government House
Contact: 02 9251 5988
Admission:Adult $10, Child/Concession $5, Family $20
Members of the Historic Houses Trust free
Hours: Daily 9.30am — 5pm

At the Museum of Sydney you will meet our city’s first people, inspect models of the First Fleet ships and peer at the archaeological remains of first Government House and the intriguing objects uncovered by a number of digs on the site. Fast forward through 200 years and you will learn about the distinctiveness of this great city, its harbour, transport, people and particular personality via a changing exhibitions program.

Image credit: Clyde Street [detail], Sydney Long, c 1901. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. Call no: ML 319. © Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia

Historic lighthouse on Crookhaven Headland

Shoalhaven City Council has welcomed the announcement of $100,000 in funding from the NSW Minister for Lands Tony Kelly to help upgrade the historic lighthouse on Crookhaven Headland.

Acting Shoalhaven City Mayor Councillor Gareth Ward welcomed the funding for one of the city’s old lighthouses.

“I believe this funding will help to bring a new lease of life to a historic reminder that the Shoalhaven was a thriving city where ships would ply produce and timber up and down the coast,” Clr Ward said. “The city provided produce to Sydney and the Shoalhaven River was a significant access point for goods to be taken to Sydney.

“Council has been in discussions with the NSW government departments on the lighthouse and its future,” Clr Ward said. “This project has taken a lot of hard work by Council staff and also negotiations with the relevant NSW government departments.

“As far back as 2006 Council has offered the Department of Lands support for heritage funding to preserve the lighthouse and to consider interpretive and educational signage associated with the lighthouse and its proud history.”

Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse
Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse

The original lighthouse at Crookhaven Heads was constructed of timber in 1882 and located as part of the Shoalhaven Pilot Station with a Mr. Thomas Bishop being the first operator. 

A new lighthouse to the south of the mouth of the Shoalhaven River was built in 1904 and the old wooden lighthouse was demolished. 

The walk around the headland adjacent to the historical lighthouse follows a well-developed track and provides good views of the whole of the Crookhaven Bight and Shoalhaven River.

Old photo of Ulladulla Lighthouse
Ulladulla Lighthouse

In October 2007 Minister Kelly provided $60,000 to fund the restoration of the lighthouse at Warden Head in Ulladulla. This lighthouse is also on the Council’s Local Heritage Register.

In January 2007 Council voted $11,870 to improve view lines and walking track to the Crookhaven Headland lighthouse.

In April 2008 Council wrote to the then Minister for Lands seeking support for funding for the restoration of the lighthouse. Council again wrote in July 2008 requesting funding.

Council also applied for funding from the Federal Government’s Department of Environment, Heritage and Arts Jobs Fund in October 2009, but was unsuccessful.

The lighthouse sits on land owned and managed by the NSW Land & Property Management Authority. Council is the Trustee Manager of the land which forms the headland, but not the lighthouse. Council has a plan of management for Crookhaven Headland, with Council maintaining the path, track and vegetation.

restoration of Crookhaven lighthouseThe lighthouse was commissioned in 1904 and replaced a wooden structure about 200 metres away on the beach. The lighthouse incorporates the lantern from the former lighthouse on Cape St George which dates back to 1863.

June 2010 photo: NSW Minister for Lands Tony Kelly is joined with Councillor John Ferguson, General Manager Russ Pigg and South Coast Register Editor John Hanscombe to inspect the Crookhaven lighthouse.

Illawarra Museum

Long before the Illawarra Historical Society had anywhere to house its collection of moveable objects relating to Illawarra region and its pioneers, the society members had worked hard since the formation in 1944 to collect artifacts.

The hard work of the members came to fruition on 2 December, 1966 when the society opened the doors of Illawarra Museum at 11 Market Street, Wollongong.

Illawarra Museum At first the society had only access to the ground floor. By 1969 the society had the use of the whole building. Over the years the main building has remained unchanged.

The Museum committee has fitted out and maintained the exhibits on display. On the upper level is a parlor, bedroom and a schoolroom.

The ground floor has a craft room, and two rooms known as the East Room and the West Room. These are used for changing displays and traveling exhibitions.

Illawarra Museum The courtyard has a colonial kitchen, laundry, blacksmith’s shop, air raid shelter, stockman’s hut and a farm implement shed.

At the official opening of the building the then President Mr. Edgar Beale said “. The unsmooth course of true love is notorious and the same applies when the love is of a display of history.

”To really appreciate the collection one must visit the Museum.”

Illawarra Historical Society Inc. Illawarra Museum
11 Market St, Wollongong 2500 
Phone: (02) 4228 7770 or (02) 4228 0158