Mrs Kennedy and Mrs Farrell were chatting away, as friends do, while doing their washing in a Bendigo creek, blissfully unaware that their their lives were about to change forever. What began as a very ordinary washing day changed when they discovered alluvial gold nuggets in the creek bed and a gold rush began that saw 5,500 people descend upon Bendigo over the following three years.
From 1851 the landscape became dotted with poppet heads and mine workings as people from Australia, Cornwell, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, America and China rushed to make their fortune. More gold was found in the region from 1850 to 1900 than anywhere else in the world. By 1930, 100,000,000 pounds worth of gold had been found.
It’s an era that still lives on strongly in the fabric of current day Bendigo. Huge, elegant homes which once belonged to those who struck it rich, mine owners and managers, still look out over the city. And row upon row of the small cottages where miners lived, are a great reminder of those far off gold rush days. They made Bendigo what it is today.
If you want a taste of underground life as it was for the miners, you can still take a tour at the Central Deborah Gold Mine, even descending 288 metres down in an old miner's cage if you're game.
Its parks and gardens add to the graceful atmosphere of the city. The conservatory on the edge of Rosalind Park is the only surviving example of a nineteenth century conservatory in a public park in Victoria. In spring it's surrounded by a vast array of tulips and in summer the rose gardens are truly magnificent. Its hard to imagine that this was built on land once covered in puddling mills, shafts and mine waste.
Another mine was transformed into an ornamental lake (Weroona Lake) and reserve of 18 hectares. Walks and picnic areas surround the lake and its the perfect spot for coffee or a meal at the restaurant on the lake edge, enjoying the tranquil vista.
And if its culture you love, then Bendigo's art gallery is the oldest and largest regional gallery in Australia.
Bendigo is just two hours from Melbourne and beyond Bendigo are lots of historic and fascinating towns to explore - barely an hours drive to Echuca, on the Murray River and the wonderful paddle steamers, another great part of Australia's history.