The list of Australia’s best towns to visit in 2024 has brought a surprising twist: Bendigo, a bustling rural town nestled in Victoria, has emerged as the unexpected winner.
That’s according to an annual report by online booking site Wotif, which picks the winners based on the platform’s data index of accommodation affordability, quality and traveller feedback.
Bendigo is just a two-hour drive from Melbourne, making it easily accessible for anyone seeking a countryside getaway.
Bendigo has been named as Australia’s best town to visit by online booking site WotIf
An aerial view of Lake Weeroona in Bendigo
The town boasts diverse range of attractions, including vineyards, breweries, orchards, excellent cafes and restaurants and authentic Aboriginal experiences.
Next on the list is Broken Hill in New South Wales, followed by Stanthorpe in Queensland.
This year, the top 10 list includes more inland towns instead of beach spots, as more Aussies swap the coast for an inland getaway.
‘Aussie travellers are driven by a curiosity to experience the world around them and it’s fantastic to see that pursuit of discovery leading many to find culture close to home,’ explained Wotif Travel Expert, Sarah King.
There’s no better way to see the sights of Bendigo than aboard one of the iconic vintage trams
Bendigo boasts diverse range of attractions, including vineyards, breweries, orchards and cafes
‘As one in five Aussies are planning a trip during the upcoming Easter long weekend and 56 per cent plan on taking advantage of school holidays for local getaways, these awards provide the ultimate inspiration for those planning their travels for the year ahead.’
Squeaky Beach, surrounded by the rugged wilderness of Wilsons Promontory National Park, was named as the best in the country.
Located just three hours drive from Melbourne, ‘Squeaky’ is known for the ‘acoustic delight’ of compressed quartz and silica sand underfoot, crashing waves and clear waters, and for being enclosed by impressive granite boulders.
It is the first time a Victorian beach has been crowned as Australia’s best beach.
Here’s the full top 10 and what Wotif say about each town:
1. Bendigo, VIC
Nestled in central Victoria, Bendigo is renowned for its gold rush legacy, dating back to the 1850s where visitors can explore below ground at the Central Deborah Gold Mine. Bendigo also offers spectacular cultural experiences, including the Djaa Djuwima First Nations Art Gallery and the Bendigo Art Gallery, one of Australia’s largest and most innovative regional galleries. Lastly, Bendigo’s exciting cultural and food and beverage scene led to the city being recognised as Australia’s first UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy.
2. Broken Hill, NSW
Famously featured in the iconic 1994 Australian movie, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Priscilla’s spirit lives on with the Broken Heel Festival, a five-day event that celebrates the film. Visitors can also enjoy contemporary works by leading Aboriginal artists at the oldest regional gallery in NSW – the Broken Hill City Art Gallery. If you prefer to head outdoors visit the ruggedly beautiful landscapes, just outside of Broken Hill in Mutawintji National Park. While you’re here, you can visit one of Australia’s most sacred Aboriginal Historic Sites with superb ochre hand stencils and rock engravings.
3. Stanthorpe, QLD
Nestled in Queensland’s south-west corner is Stanthorpe, 2.5 hours west of Brisbane, home to one of the state’s two recognised wine-growing regions. Stanthorpe’s cooler climate and high altitude make it perfect for a winter escape and wine tasting with 50+ cellar doors to take your pick from. Beyond wine, food experiences range from apple and strawberry picking in warmer months to truffle hunts in winter. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike trails in Girraween National Park or take a self-guided walk to appreciate Stanthorpe’s vibrant street art.
4. Katherine, NT
Marking the point where the traditional lands of the Jawoyn, Dagoman, and Wardaman Aboriginal Peoples converge, Katherine is home to spectacular sandstone country, majestic gorges, misty waterfalls and authentic Aboriginal experiences. Katherine also boasts a thriving art scene: from vibrant street art to the Barunga Festival and galleries like Godinymayin Yijard Arts and Culture Centre.
5. Bathurst, NSW
As Australia’s oldest inland colonial settlement, there is a wealth of history and heritage to experience including visiting authentic gold rush villages and gold panning. Bathurst is also the home of Australian Motor Sport with the iconic Mount Panorama/Wahluu right on its doorstep. The Bathurst region has something for everyone, experience the thrill of v8 Supercars during major races, drive around the circuit for free, or visit one of four world-class museums right in the CBD.
6. Tanunda, SA
Known as the ‘red heart’ of the Barossa, Tanunda sits in a prime position. From iconic heritage buildings to the beauty of the Barossa ranges and surrounding vineyards, its name is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word for watering hole, the Peramangk being the original owners of the land. The town of Tanunda also boasts a strong European history thanks to the German immigrants who settled in the town in the 1800s.
7. Griffith, NSW
Griffith has the highest proportion of Italian ancestry of any Local Government Area in Australia, due to the high number of Italian immigrants that settled in the area in the 1930s and in the postwar period. This influence remains strong in Griffith today, and is seen in the city’s vibrant café, restaurant and wine making scene as showcased in the ‘A Taste of Italy Griffith’ program which is a seven-day celebration that occurs in August each year, honouring the Italian culture and heritage that is unique to Griffith.
8. Stanley, TAS
Take a stroll through time in this coastal town with its preserved cottages and historic landmarks. Explore the 1830s Highfield Historic Site, wander the Stanley Heritage Walk, and delve into the Stanley Discovery Museum to learn about the area’s history. All while the iconic Stanley Nut provides the perfect backdrop. Don’t forget your camera!
9. Exmouth, WA
Exmouth is home to the culture and country of the Nyinggulu’s First Nations people. When you visit, you can take in the ancient wilderness landscapes of the region. It’s a mecca for divers and snorkelers, and offers the world’s largest fringing reef with an incredible coastline and some of the most unforgettable marine life encounters.
10. Coober Pedy, SA
Australia’s opal capital, Coober Pedy is an underground town in the heart of the desert, boasting a sun-baked lunar landscape, fascinating history and a unique way of life. Beneath the ground, visitors can explore underground houses, churches, museums and even shops. You can even choose a hotel underground for the full experience! Above ground, travellers can try their luck fossicking for opals, watch a movie at SA’s last drive-in or take an outback tour in a 4WD to one of the many surrounding natural wonders.