This Victorian Spot With a Rich Gold History Was Crowned Aussie Town of the Year

Bendigo top town

It seems the aftereffects from Tourism Australia’s ‘holiday here this year’ campaign, which encouraged Australians to discover more of their backyard, are still lingering.

New research from travel booking platform Wotif found that half (51%) of Australians said they planned to travel domestically this year. More than a quarter (27%) said the reason they wanted to travel locally rather than overseas was to help keep costs down.

The research also found that among those local domestic travellers, 89% were keen to explore historic sites, 84% wanted to visit places that showcased Australia’s unique outback and 76% were keen to see spots that highlighted Australia’s arts.

The numbers explain the results of the platform’s seventh annual Aussie Town of the Year Awards, recognising trending Australian destinations for the year ahead. The data is based on a Wotif data index, taking into account accommodation affordability, quality and traveller satisfaction. This year, the town of Bendigo claimed the top spot.

Bendigo top town
Image: Getty Images

Located in central Victoria, the town has a rich gold rush history, dating back to the 1850s. Today, visitors can learn about it below ground at the Central Deborah Gold Mine. They can delve into its history at the Djaa Djuwima First Nations Art Gallery and the Bendigo Art Gallery, one of Australia’s largest and most innovative regional galleries.

After working up an appetite with all the exploring, tourists won’t be disappointed by Bendigo’s food and drinks scene. The town was recognised as Australia’s first UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy.

“The gastronomic story of Bendigo and the region is one of creativity, challenge, change and resilience,” reads Bendigo’s blurb on UNESCO’s page.

“As well as being home to a 30,000-year-old sustainable food system developed by Traditional Owners, the gold mining in 1851 brought waves of migrants from all over the world, including England, Ireland, Germany and China, to the city, creating a diverse cultural and heritage layer.”

This isn’t the first time the town’s been recognised as a tourist destination. Last year, the city of Greater Bendigo scored three golds at the Victorian Tourism Awards. It won for Festivals and Events, Visitor Information Services and Local Government Award for Tourism categories.

Next on the list was Broken Hill, a NSW town featured in the 1994 flick Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The town holds an annual five-day event that celebrates the film. Visitors can also take in works by Aboriginal artists at the oldest regional gallery in the state, the Broken Hill City Art Gallery. Right outside the town is Mutawintji National Park, one of Australia’s most sacred Aboriginal Historic Sites, home to ochre hand stencils and rock engravings.

Broken Hill NSW
Image: Getty Images

Third up on the list was Stanthorpe, a town in Queensland’s south-west corner, a 2.5-hour drive west of Brisbane. It’s home to one of the state’s two recognised wine-growing regions. Visitors can experience it with wine tastings at its over 50 cellar doors. Truffle hunting is popular in winter, while apple and strawberry picking are offered in the warmer months.

Also on the list were NSW towns Bathurst and Griffith and South Australian spots Stanley and Coober Pedy. Western Australia only made the list once, with Exmouth, known as one of the only places in the country where you can swim with whale sharks. Northern Territory was also only represented once, by the town of Katherine, famous for its national parks and hot springs.

The full list of 2024 Aussie Town of the Year Awards winners is as follows:

  1. Bendigo, VIC
  2. Broken Hill, NSW
  3. Stanthorpe, QLD
  4. Katherine, NT
  5. Bathurst, NSW
  6. Tanunda, SA
  7. Griffith, NSW
  8. Stanley, TAS
  9. Exmouth, WA
  10. Coober Pedy, SA

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