A must see attraction for anyone visiting Bendigo has to be the Central Deborah Gold Mine:
A little known fact about Bendigo is that there are many gold mines still operating within and around the city. The land below the city is literally honeycombed with mine shafts that keep penetrating deeper and deeper within the earth to continue to mine the famous gold reef running beneath Bendigo. One of these mines the Central Deborah gold mine is no longer mining for gold, but for tourists instead. The mine is located just south of downtown Bendigo surrounded by commercial and residential buildings. Yet in the midst of all these buildings is a fully functional gold mine.
The gold mine offers a couple of tour options. The offer one hour guided tour through a mine shaft 60 meters down or a two and half hour tour where they take you 85 meters down to go and mine gold yourself using real mining equipment. You can read details and prices here.
My wife and I decided to take the one hour tour and it ended up being well worth it. Before we took the elevator down the shaft our guide made sure everyone in our group had a hard hat and battery pack to power our head lamps. Once this was complete we headed down the elevator. As you can imagine the mine shaft was quite dark and damp:
To make a point of how dark these mines were back in the early days here our guide had us turn off our lights and then he lit a candle. It is amazing how little light the candle created in the blackness down there and that was all the early miners had to use to mine the shafts with. The took us around and showed us some of the rooms down there. They actually have a common area down there that was used for miners to rest in that is now being used to rent out for functions including even holding weddings.
From there the guide took us to see and operate some of the equipment used in the mine:
The equipment is really loud and early miners had little appreciation for hearing protection. What we found to be really cool was when we got to see what the actual gold reef looks like. You could actually see the quartz rock in the wall of the shaft. The mine left an actual nugget of gold in the reef for everyone to see. This reef has different spurs that extend in different directions and it is these spurs that the different shafts try to find to mine.
Overall, the tour was quite good and the guide very knowledgeable. If you have the time definitely take the tour, it is only an hour long and provides some good memories. There is more to the mine above ground as well. They have a mining museum that has interesting displays about the history and process of gold mining. If you like you can even take a pan and go panning for gold yourself in the creek running through the mine:
I was told the mine actually will sprinkle some gold flakes into the creek for people to find. We didn’t try it, because the creek was filled with Scouts the day we went who were having a blast it looked like panning for gold.
A nice thing about the mine tour is that you can buy a ticket that combines it with the Talking Tram Tour around the city of Bendigo. Spending a day exploring the Central Deborah Gold Mine and taking the Talking Tram tour is a great way to experience the wonderful city of Bendigo.