The fantastically rich Bendigo Diggings covered more than 360 sq km after gold was discovered in nearby Ravenswood in 1851, and later at Bendigo Creek. It's said that the maids at the Shamrock Hotel mopped the floor every night to collect the gold dust brought in on the drinkers’ boots. The arrival of thousands of Chinese miners in 1854 had a lasting effect on the town's culture, despite the racial tensions that surfaced.

In the 1860s the scene changed again as independent miners were outclassed by powerful mining companies with heavy machinery. The companies poured money into the town and some 35 quartz reefs were found. The ground below Bendigo is honeycombed with mine shafts and the gold's still around – Bendigo Mining successfully resumed operations at the Kangaroo Flat mine in 2008.