is a small regional city in Victoria, Australia, located very close to the geographical centre of the state and approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) north west of the state capital, Melbourne. Bendigo has an urban population of 82,794 making it the fourth largest inland city in Australia and fourth most populous city in the state. It is the administrative centre for the City of Greater Bendigo which encompasses both the urban area and outlying towns spanning an area of approximately 3,000 square kilometres (1,158 sq mi) and over 111,000 people.
The discovery of gold in the soils of Bendigo during the 1850s made it one of the most significant Victorian era boomtowns in Australia. News of the finds intensified the Victorian gold rush bringing an influx of migrants to the city from around the world within a year and transforming it from a sheep station to a major settlement in the newly proclaimed Colony of Victoria. Once the alluvial gold had been mined out, mining companies were formed to exploit the rich underground quartz reef gold. Since 1851 about 25 million ounces of gold (777 tonnes) have been extracted from Bendigo's goldmines, making it the highest producing goldfield in Australia in the 19th century and the largest gold mining economy in eastern Australia. It is also notable for its Victorian architectural and heritage. The city took its name from the Bendigo Creek and its residents from the earliest days of the goldrush have been called "Bendigonians".
Although the town flourished in its beginnings as a result of the discovery of gold, it experienced a reversal of fortune in the early 20th century. However, its growth accelerated in the post-war years and has continued to increase steadily since. Bendigo is the largest finance centre in Victoria outside of Melbourne as home to Australia's only provincially headquartered retail bank, the Bendigo Bank, and the Bendigo Stock Exchange (BSX).
View of central Bendigo and eastern suburbs from Camp Hill
From the start of the 1900s the population began to decline, especially in the rural areas. Significant population growth occurred in the post-war years. As gold mining operations were reduced, Bendigo from the 1930s consolidated as a manufacturing and regional service centre and continued to grow steadily. Gold mining continuing in some capacity until the last mine was closed in 1954. Growth has continued since the 1980s, aided by local economic and employment growth. Recent growth has been most heavily concentrated in areas such as Epsom, Kangaroo Flat, Strathdale and Strathfieldsaye. On 7 April 1994 the City of Bendigo was abolished and mergered with the Borough of Eaglehawk, the Huntly and Strathfieldsaye shires and the Rural City of Marong to form the larger City of Greater Bendigo.
The City of Greater Bendigo includes Victoria's fourth largest city in Bendigo, as well as a significant rural hinterland. Smaller townships are located at Axedale, Elmore, Goornong, Heathcote, Marong and Redesdale. The city encompasses a total land area of 3,000 square kilometres, of which a significant proportion is national park, regional park, reserve or bushland. Much of the rural land is used for agricultural purposes, including poultry and pig farming, sheep and cattle grazing and vineyards. Most of the city's retail space is in the Bendigo CBD or along the main roads. There is some industrial land use in the suburbs around the CBD.
As a legacy of the gold boom Bendigo has many ornate buildings built in a late Victorian colonial style. Many buildings are on the Victorian Heritage Register and registered by the National Trust of Australia. Prominent buildings include the Bendigo Town Hall (1859, 1883–85), the Old Post Office, the Law Courts (1892–96), the Shamrock Hotel (1897), the Institute of Technology and the Memorial Military Museum (1921) all in the Second Empire-style.
The architect Vahland encouraged European artisans to emigrate to the Sandhurst goldfields and so create a "Vienna of the south". Bendigo's Sacred Heart Cathedral, a large sandstone church, is the third largest cathedral in Australia and one of the largest cathedrals in the Southern Hemisphere. The main building was completed between 1896 and 1908 and the spire between 1954 and 1977.
The central city is skirted by Rosalind Park, a Victorian-style garden featuring statuary and a large blue stone viaduct. The main entrance corner of the park is on the intersection known as Charing Cross, formerly the intersection of two main tram lines (now only one). It features a large statue of Queen Victoria.
The Charing Cross road junction features the large ornate Alexandra Fountain (1881) and is built on top of a wide bridge which spans the viaduct. The park elevates toward Camp Hill, which features a historic school and former mine poppet head. Further from the city is Lake Weeroona, a large ornamental lake adjacent to the Bendigo Botanical Gardens, which opened in 1869.
The gardens are home to many native species of animal including brushtailed and ring-tailed possums, ducks, coots, purple swamphens, microbats (small insect eating bats) the grey-headed flying fox, several species of lizard, owls and the tawny frogmouth.
The main retail centre of Bendigo is the central business district, with the suburbs of Eaglehawk, Kangaroo Flat, Golden Square, Strathdale and Epsom also having shopping districts. The city is home to Australia's only provincial stock exchange, the Bendigo Stock Exchange (BSX), founded in the 1860s. The city is the home of the headquarters of the Bendigo Bank; established in 1858 as a building society. It is now a large retail bank with community bank branches throughout Australia. The bank is headquartered in Bendigo and is a major employer in the city (it also has a regional office at Melbourne Docklands).
One of the major revolutions in gold mining (during the Victorian gold rush) came when fields like Bendigo but also Ballarat, Ararat and the goldfields close toMount Alexander turned out to have large gold deposits below the superficial alluvial deposits that had been (partially) mined out. Gold at Bendigo was found in quartz reef systems, hosted within highly deformed mudstones and sandstones or were washed away into channels of ancient rivers. Tunnels as deep as 2000 or even 3000 feet (600 to 900 metres) (Stawell) were possible. Until overtaken in the 1890s by the Western Australia goldfields, Bendigo was the most productive Australian gold area, with a total production of over 20 million ounces (622 tonnes).
The Bendigo Art Gallery is one of Australia's oldest and largest regional art galleries. In March 2012, it hosted a royal visit from Princess Charlene of Monaco at the opening of an exhibition about Grace Kelly. The Capital Theatre, originally the Masonic temple, is located next to the art gallery in View Street and hosts performing arts and live music. It hosts the annual Bendigo Writers Festival, founded in 2012, which runs across the second weekend in August each year.