The regional city of Bendigo in Victoria is a terrific destination to visit with your dog. Just two hours north of Melbourne, there’s plenty of dog-friendly attractions, not to mention dog-friendly cafes. Find out more about visiting Bendigo with your dog…
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Bendigo
Bendigo has a rich heritage dating back to its foundation as a gold rush town, and many of its top attractions harken back to this era. Among them are a surprising number of dog-friendly attractions, meaning there’s plenty of things to do in Bendigo with your dog.
1. Ride the Vintage Talking Tram
One of the best ways to get around Bendigo’s top sights, not to mention learn plenty of history along the way, is to hop onboard a Vintage Talking Tram.
With tickets valid for the whole day, you can hop-on and hop-off as many times as you like as the six stops. Alternatively, if you stay on board for the entire round-trip, your tour will last about 45 minutes. There’s free all-day parking available at all tram stops, except for stop #2 in the city centre. For caravans and RVs, it’s best to park at the Central Deborah Gold Mine.
Best of all, dog’s are allowed to join you for free. They need to stay on a leash, plus be friendly towards other passengers, with some discretion resting with the tram driver. And along the route you can visit most of these other dog-friendly attractions…
2. Visit the Central Deborah Gold Mine
Stop #1 on the Vintage Talking Tram route is the Central Deborah Gold Mine, just south of the Bendigo city centre. But surely you’re thinking, the gold mine isn’t dog-friendly? Now while dogs aren’t allowed on the underground mine tours, they are permitted to join you on the free surface tours.
The surface tour is a self-guided option. At your leisure, explore the original change rooms, blacksmith’s shop and engine room of the mine, and, if you dare, ascend to halfway up the poppet head along the trestle way. Dogs are allowed in all areas, although the staff request that you minimise time in the reception area and museum. (As there was two of us, we took turns to visit the museum. Also note that the stairs are quite steep up to the trestle way, so we carried our small dog.)
The surface tour is free, but a ticket is still required, which can be pre-booked online or picked up on the day. Allow about 30-45 minutes to explore the surface, and make sure you keep your dog on a leash.
3. Explore the Victoria Hill Diggings
For another taste of the gold mining heritage of Bendigo, head to the western side of town and the Victoria Hill Historic Mining Reserve. This reserve contains a number of old mining relics, including some open cut mines. While one of the mines onsite operated until 1954, there’s a lot less to see than at Central Deborah Gold Mine, although there’s still a poppet head rising high.
It’s a popular spot for dog walking, although make sure you keep your dog on a leash and stay on the path, due to the presence of old mine shafts. Allow an hour to walk around the entire reserve, or just explore part of it and read the informative history panels along the way. There’s an entrance and carpark on Calder Highway, with the entrance open from 9am to sunset (during daylight savings time) or 5pm (the rest of the year).
4. View the Heritage Buildings
Part of the rich history that Bendigo has been endowed with are its many impressive old buildings. Some of the highlights include the French Renaissance-style Post Office (now the Bendigo Visitors Centre) and Law Courts, the Soldiers Memorial Hall with its roof-top band rotunda and the opulent Hotel Shamrock, which has hosted many famous visitors.
One of the best ways to discover and learn more about Bendigo’s fine buildings is by picking up a copy of the “Discover Heritage Buildings of Bendigo” brochure at the Bendigo Visitor Centre, or downloading the brochure online. Then spend an hour or two following the self-guided tour around the city centre streets. It’s a dog-friendly walking tour. Although if there’s two of you, it’s worthwhile taking turns to view some of the interiors, when open.
5. Stroll Through Rosalind Park
Many of the most impressive historic buildings of Bendigo are built around the edge of Rosalind Park, the grand gardens located in the city’s centre and named after one of Shakespeare’s characters.
The above walking tour follows the edge of the park, but it’s worthwhile going for a stroll through the centre of the park, even if you skip viewing the historic buildings.
The park is particularly beautiful during Spring and Autumn, but year-round you can still view its cascades, statues and the Conservatory Gardens. On the upper slopes is yet another poppet head, with no prohibition on dogs joining you in ascending the lookout. Dogs need to be kept on a leash in the park.
6. Or Around Lake Weeroona
Another scenic spot to go for a stroll with your dog is Lake Weeroona, just to the north of Bendigo’s city centre and stop #4 on the Vintage Talking Tram. The man-made lake and surrounding reserve was created in the 1870s, to conceal an old mining site.
The lake is surrounded by a largely flat walking path, about 1.5km in length and an easy stroll with your dog on leash. Along the way, perhaps stop off at the dog-friendly Boardwalk Bendigo Cafe (see below).
If you’re prefer a longer walk, perhaps continue along the Bendigo Creek Trail, which runs along the western shore of the lake. This 17km combined cycling and walking path runs from Epsom in the north to Crusoe Reservoir in the south.
7. Head to the Bendigo Botanic Gardens
Even older than Lake Weerona are the Bendigo Botanic Gardens, the first public gardens in Bendigo and one of the oldest botanic gardens in regional Victoria, established back in 1857.
Located on the northern outskirts of present day Bendigo, the Heritage Garden still remains intact, with beautifully shady trees and lawns surrounding a central billabong. The Heritage Garden also includes some delightful cottage gardens and a bird aviary.
However, the gardens have recently taken a more modern twist, with the new Garden of the Future opening on the southern side of the original gardens in 2018. Containing a mix of Australia and exotic species, the emphasis is on more water-resistant and dramatic plantings, rather than traditional flowers.
Dogs are welcome to join you in the botanic gardens, whether for a stroll or a picnic, except for in the bird aviary.
8. Visit the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion
One of the most surprising sights around Bendigo is the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, currently being constructed on the western edge of Bendigo, a 15 minute drive away.
The stupa, also known as a pagoda, is based on the Gyantse Stupa in Tibet, and is also the same size, making it the largest stupa in the Western World. The stupa is surrounded by the Peace Park Gardens, containing many monuments from different faiths.
Even more surprising, pets are welcome to join you in visiting the stupa, both outside and even inside. (This will potentially change once the interior of the stupa is complete.)
Open daily and with entry by donation, allow up to an hour to follow the walking trail through the gardens and visit the stupa. There is also a cafe onsite, with plenty of outdoor dog-friendly tables.
Dog-Friendly Parks in Bendigo
There’s 17 off-leash dog exercise areas scattered throughout Bendigo and the surrounding region. Among them are four fenced off-leash dog parks.
We visited Harcourt Dog Park, located alongside Crook Street in Strathdale, on the eastern side of Bendigo. This huge expanse of grass has plenty of room for dogs to run and play, with a paved footpath running through it and plenty of shady mature trees. It even has its own toy box, although we didn’t notice a separate section for small dogs, as expected.
The other fenced off-leash dog parks in Bendigo are Allingham Reserve Dog Park on Allingham Street in Kangaroo Flat and Truscott Reserve Dog Park on Turner Street in California Gully. There’s also the Heathcote Dog Park on Herriot Street in the nearby town of Heathcote.
For a full listing of off-leash dog parks in Bendigo and maps, see the council website.
Dog-Friendly Dining in Bendigo
One of the most popular dog-friendly cafes in Bendigo is The Boardwalk Bendigo on the edge of Lake Weeroona. With Chino, the resident Labrador, ready to welcome four-legged guests, it even has a dog menu available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 9am to 2pm.
Unfortunately, due to short staffing when we visited mid-week, we weren’t able to grab just a coffee at the cafe. Instead we headed to Percy and Percy. This cute former corner shop has plenty of dog-friendly seating both out the front and in the back courtyard. Our dog was offered a treat, and I was delighted with choice of three different hot chocolates. Open daily for breakfast and lunch except on Sundays, they also have plenty of bagels, toasties and sweet treats in the display cabinet.
For more dog-friendly cafes around Bendigo, head to the Gallery Cafe (at the rear of Bendigo Art Gallery), Adam & Eve Cafe (specialising in vegan dishes and good coffee) or Old Green Bean (also a vintage apparel shop).
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Bendigo
There’s a wide variety of dog-friendly accommodation in and around Bendigo.
For a cute cottage that’s walking distance to the city centre and many attractions, check out Hargreaves Cottage. Fully renovated, the two-bedroom cottage features off-street parking, an enclosed yard, and allows up to two pets. Previous guests have highly rated the property.
Another pet-friendly option close to the city is Benstay. This modern two-bedroom unit has a lock-up garage and secure backyard, with the owners priding themselves on the property’s cleanliness and affordability. It’s close to Lake Weerona and the Bendigo Creek Trail.
Out in the countryside and overlooking forest, Mandurang Holliday Cottage is a 15 minute drive south of Bendigo. The original mud-brick cottage has been recently renovated and luxuriously appointed, with a full English breakfast included in the tariff. Well-behaved dogs are allowed to join you inside and there’s plenty of open space for pets to explore.
Alternatively, there are multiple caravan parks situated around Bendigo. We stayed on the western side of Bendigo at the Avondel Caravan Park, a small and peaceful caravan park. Pets are permitted on sites, plus in selected pet-friendly cabins by arrangement.