Bendigo named top town on the back of Loong the dragon

It's a very good year of the dragon in Bendigo.

The Victorian regional city, which is home to the world's oldest complete Chinese processional dragon, has been named Australia's Town of the Year.

Bendigo's Golden Dragon Museum is one if the city's major tourist drawcards, particularly as the Lunar New Year ushered in the year of the dragon. 

The museum houses the spectacular feathered and beaded dragon Loong, which was brought to Victoria by Chinese miners and merchants during the gold rush in the late 1800s.

"If people are born in the year of the dragon, now is a good time to come to Bendigo and see our imperial dragon," mayor Andrea Metcalf told AAP.

"He won't come out to parade anymore, but he was was there at federation in 1901." 

The city of 167,000 people took out travel site Wotif's town of the year award, which is determined by search trends, affordability, accommodation quality and reviews.

Broken Hill, in far western NSW, ranked second, followed by Stanthorpe, Queensland, Katherine in the Northern Territory and Bathurst, in central western NSW.

The top five destinations reflect interest in Australian history, with a Wotif survey of more than 1000 travellers showing half were seeking local cultural experiences.

Bendigo's preserved heritage buildings, refurbished art gallery and food scene are central to tourism, which has been bolstered by direct flights from Sydney and affordable train fares from Melbourne, Ms Metcalf says.

"People can come up and make a day of it, go to an exhibition, wander around town, go to one of our great restaurants and then head home again," she said.

Sunrise over Broken Hill
Broken Hill, in far western NSW, is a popular spot for travellers.

Broken Hill has long been on many Australians' bucket lists for its iconic outback setting and Indigenous history, but it still manages to surprise, the council's visitor services co-ordinator Patrick Kreitner says.

"It's still a bit of a secret," Mr Kreitner told AAP.

"We're such a large centre ... and that tends to be the first thing people notice.

"Once they delve into all the things they can experience here, they realise they don't have enough time to see everything, so often come back."

The town is constantly reinventing itself and broadening its horizons, particularly in the arts.

It has more art galleries than pubs, attracts film projects off the back of Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and is home to the Broken Heel drag festival and the Mundi Mundi Bash.

 "This is a place you need to bring some time with you," Mr Kreitner said.

"It's the best thing that remote Australia has to offer."'


1. Bendigo, Victoria

2. Broken Hill, NSW

3. Stanthorpe, Queensland

4. Katherine, Northern Territory

5. Bathurst, NSW

6. Tanunda, South Australia

7. Griffith, NSW

8. Stanley, Tasmania

9. Exmouth, Western Australia

10. Coober Pedy, South Australia 

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