Bendigo is a tourist town. We pride ourselves on our festivals (of which there are a regular stream throughout the year), the colour of Easter, the music of the Blues and Roots festival.
The city has been positioned as a great hub to base yourself - for a day or a week.
There are plenty of places to visit (Bendigo Art Gallery is renowned for its exhibitions and the current Frida Kahlo photography display is no exception), great places to eat, parks to walk in and waterways, like Lake Eppalock and the Murray River, on our doorstep.
Down the road are the artistic delights of Castlemaine, with its botanical gardens, swimming reservoirs and boutique shopping, the olde-world charm of Maldon’s historical centre, the wineries of Heathcote and Colbinabbin and the spas of Daylesford.
It’s a great region for a holiday. A foodie destination. A city bidding to become a UNESCO City of Gastronomy
Find out What’s On this weekend
In the break between Christmas and New Year we were a drawcard, with people travelling in to enjoy what we have on offer.
But as a foodie destination it was, sadly, lacking. Many eateries shut down over that period as it’s one of the few times that small business staff can get a break, away from the pressure of seven-day-a week operations.
The rising cost of paying staff to work public holidays also impacted on opening hours.
So businesses stayed shut.
Yet this was a busy time of year for visitors, who needed to be fed and watered.
In both Bendigo and Castlemaine on Sunday and Monday it was a struggle to find places open. The cafes and restaurants that did trade were packed to the rafters, with people queuing for up to half an hour for a coffee.
Many places, though, had doors locked, gates slammed. Some were near key tourist destinations on hot days, such as parks.
Australia Day is coming up. Will visitors be faced with the same cafe drought?
While businesses can’t be forced to open, a strategy is needed to make sure people who visit our grand city and towns can taste their best – regardless of the time of year.
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