Bendigo, in central Victoria, has been named Australia’s top town for 2024

Surrounded by forest and packed with history, Bendigo has been named Wotif’s 2024 Town of the Year.

The central Victorian town, which became one of Colonial Australia’s biggest boomtowns during the 1850s gold rush, is home to 167,000 people.

Terry Karamaloudis, the manager of tourism and major events at the City of Bendigo, told The New Daily the town was “absolutely thrilled” to have been given the title.

The award is determined by search trends, affordability, accommodation quality and reviews.

“It just gives us great pride to know that we’ve been recognised by the platform and it really gives us the desire to keep going, to keep doing what we’re doing and making so we can continue to be a destination of choice,” he said.

Bendigo’s Golden Dragon Museum is one of the city’s major tourist drawcards, particularly as the Lunar New Year ushered in the Year of the Dragon.

The museum houses the spectacular feathered and beaded dragon Loong, which was brought to Victoria by Chinese miners and merchants during the gold rush of the late 1800s.

“If people are born in the Year of the Dragon, now is a good time to come to Bendigo and see our imperial dragon,” mayor Andrea Metcalf told AAP.

“He won’t come out to parade any more, but he was was there at Federation in 1901.”

The largest Buddhist stupa in the western world can be found at nearby Myers Flat, and Karamaloudis thinks the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion is something everyone should see.

Karamaloudis said tourists can also lap up all the culture Bendigo has to offer, saying there is plenty to see that would rival anything in capital cities.

He believes Bendigo is the epicentre of regional arts, with its exhibitions that in the past have showcased pieces from Grace Kelly’s wardrobe and pictures of Marilyn Monroe.

Additionally, Bendigo has been recognised as Australia’s first UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy.

With direct flights from Sydney and the Vintage Talking Tram, Karamaloudis said it is easy to get to Bendigo and get around the town.

NSW’s best-kept secret

Broken Hill has long been on many Australians’ bucket lists for its iconic outback setting and Indigenous history, but it still manages to surprise, the council’s visitor services co-ordinator Patrick Kreitner says.

“It’s still a bit of a secret,” Kreitner told AAP.

“We’re such a large centre … and that tends to be the first thing people notice.

“Once they delve into all the things they can experience here, they realise they don’t have enough time to see everything, so often come back.”

Drone shot of Broken Hill Old Mine Site New South Wales Australia

Broken Hill in NSW finished behind Bendigo.

The town is constantly reinventing itself and broadening its horizons, particularly in the arts.

It has more art galleries than pubs, attracts film projects off the back of Mad Max and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and is home to the Broken Heel festival and the Mundi Mundi Bash.

Wotif’s Top Towns of 2024

The top five destinations reflect interest in Australian history, with a Wotif survey of more than 1000 travellers showing half were seeking local cultural experiences.

  1. Bendigo, Victoria
  2. Broken Hill, NSW
  3. Stanthorpe, Queensland
  4. Katherine, Northern Territory
  5. Bathurst, NSW
  6. Tanunda, South Australia
  7. Griffith, NSW
  8. Stanley, Tasmania
  9. Exmouth, Western Australia
  10. Coober Pedy, South Australia.

Have your say

Coastal towns are often favourites for long weekends and family holidays, but Wotif says more people are swapping the beach for inland destinations.

You might have your own favourite destination. Tell us below:

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