The City Warehouse Apartment is a self-contained pad smack bang in the CBD. Arching windows overlook the park. There’s a king-sized bed, an elevated marble-lined kitchen with all the gadgets and a bathroom sporting a jacuzzi of party proportions. It’s tempting to just load up on hyper-local Holy Goat cheese and olives from Bendigo Wholefoods (a farmers’ market in shop form) and play with the entertainment system.
Then again, your digs put you just a block away from Bendigo Art Gallery. This is one of Victoria's best galleries hosting a number of excellent national and international exhibitions, many of which never make it to Melbourne. Prices vary for special exhibits, but entry to the permanent collection (which includes a number of Bill Henson’s provocative shots) is by donation. Debrief with pre-dinner drinks at Wine Bank, Mark Coffey’s boutique wine bar set in the stunning old bank. Coffey is a pillar of this community (literally – the guy is huge!). He lets winemakers and brewers use the bar as an unofficial cellar door for the region, so chances are there’ll be a tasting session in progress.
Bendigo is a great year-round food, drink and cultural hub, and a winner for a winter weekends when the coast sucks. Go during the Blues and Roots Festival (November) if you want even more action.
The Dispensary Enoteca keeps kicking goals with its craft beers and spirits (Moondog Love Tap! Lark pepperberry gin!), and pairings of, say, a crisped hunk of suckling pig with fresh local figs, but we say hit that at lunch when you can sit in the lane and try new kid Mason’s for dinner. Here, local produce gets an international spin. Start with bubbles from Bress winery, crisp zucchini fl owers enveloping molten Meredith feta cheese and crunchy little Middle Eastern cigars of braised lamb cocooned in pastry treads.
Time Out Tip
So, next to the Atisha Buddhist Centre near Eaglehawk, the biggest stupa (Buddhist holy site of relics) in the entire Western world is being constructed. Inside is a temple for 2,000. Outside, they’re building a monastery, convent, primary school, village and 200-seat restaurant with a helipad! Worth investigating.