Elvis exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery: The king is coming to town

If there's a masterclass in destination reinvention in Australia, then Bendigo, in Central Victoria, must surely be it.

Once a kind of relic of the gold rush (for visitors anyway – generational locals always knew they were on a good thing), over the past two decades Bendigo has become a leading cultural destination that celebrates its arts, heritage, food and wine, attracting both a new generation of tourists and residents who've relocated from the big smoke. These, in turn, have only contributed to the life of the place.

This weekend marks the opening of Elvis: Direct from Graceland at the world class Bendigo Art Gallery. It's an Australian exclusive, direct from Memphis to the innovative art hub that's made itself famous for hosting the kind of exhibitions people travel for. It follows Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary and other marquee exclusives centred around fashion and cultural icons. That's not to mention a stunning permanent collection and less commercially appealing but nonetheless attractive exhibitions.

But the gallery isn't the only game in town.

Bendigo, just two hours from Melbourne by car or train and about the same via Qantaslink from Sydney, hosts more than 120 major events each year and recently joined the UNESCO Creative Cities network as Australia's first City of Gastronomy. No surprise, then, that Bendigo and surrounds has a fantastic and growing gourmet scene with wineries, breweries, distillers, growers and artisan producers within striking distance and excellent bars, restaurants and cafes in town and surrounds.

"Bendigo's beautiful heritage buildings and parklands that were created during the height of the gold rush provide the perfect backdrop to contemporary experiences incorporating the city's arts, food and wine and events," says Glenn Harvey of the City of Greater Bendigo.

And while he says the city is still in "a rebuild phase post-COVID", with cooler months events such as the Elvis exhibition, the return of the Lost Trades Fair, Bendigo Writers Festival, Groovin' the Moo and Bendigo Easter Fair, the latter for its 150th anniversary, things are looking up.

Add in new infrastructure and new accommodation, such as the recently christened boutique lodgings, the Ernest Hotel, and a city-wide celebration of Elvis with themed satellite events, attractions and installations, and there's more than a modicum of truth in the activation's title – "Viva Bendigo".

Elvis; Direct from Graceland is on until July 17. For this, and other events, See bendigoregion.com.au ; for the Ernest Hotel, see hotelbendigo.com.au