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By Chief Bargain Hunter Chelsea Thomas

At the beginning of this year I set out to visit some regions of Victoria that I hadn’t explored before. There is SO much talent beyond our major cities and I feel like part of my job is to unearth the incredible small businesses that are producing incredible product under $100.

I had no idea that my first stop, to Bendigo, would provide such a wholesome, breathtaking barrage of small businesses, retail labels, next-level restaurants and a community that loves hard and beats to it’s own rhythm. That rhythm was electric. And it beat pretty damn loud.

I contacted City of Greater Bendigo a little over a month ago and requested help with a very ‘small’ event that was going to be run alongside Girls From the Go (a group of very inspirational girls who gather regularly to talk ‘shop’ and assist each other). The group was founded by local photographer Leah Ladson, who I worked with across the whole weekend. What a joy Leah is. Get in touch with her, if you’re planning on marrying in the region!

Initially, I wanted to hold a free Instagram workshop and see what businesses would show up, to share their stories and queries around Instagram and the wider social media biz we take so seriously these days. A mini café event with a couple of businesses turned into 100-strong crowd at the Latrobe Arts Institute.

I kept it free for all and I think there were about 6 name tags left over. Only 6 attendees failed to show. Of course, most people in the room knew why that small group didn’t make it. Everyone’s highly connected.

I was overwhelmed. Not only did I meet an astonishing number of local businesses, I learnt very quickly these guys were switched on and very much ‘up with’ the daily goings on of Instagram, someone even offering me tips on how I should be hashtagging to avoid shadow banning. If this goes over your head, all good.

As the event closed, I looked forward to my weekend in Bendigo and documented all the places I visited along the way. Remember I was focused on the incredible fashion and homewares destinations but Bendigo does not end there.

The Bendigo Art Gallery, and much of the architecture is a destination unto itself. The sensational array of cafes (Percy and Percy does a great chai), laneways (Chancery and Bath Lane my personal faves) and dinner spots (massive high five to the degustation available at Masons run by Sonia and Nick) make a wonderful weekend for a group of girls or a couple. Mum and I made the trip which is just over 1.5 hours from Melbourne. We stayed at The Quest in central Bendigo which is a walk away from town.

Across the weekend I visited some memorable locations that you MUST visit if you’re ever in the region.

Organise My….for the stationary / note book obsessed.

This shop is bliss (located in Bath Lane) a stone’s throw from some beautiful little cafes and walk ways.

You can’t not purchase something. Gorgeous storage, posters, cards for every occasion.

A very happy place. Clearly.

Motivational books…

Then I arrived in homewares heaven. Across the street I opened the door to Oliver Birch and f-reaked out. So beautiful. Big piece furniture and little bargains from labels near and far.

Wearing local label, Soho Boutique tunic top. Soho is also located in Bath Lane, Bendigo.

Don’t mind if I do…

Next stop. Gathered. An eclectic mix of homewares, jewellery and beauty…of and sleepwear. Also run by a beautiful husband and wife, duo who also own the neighbouring store, The Meadow.

Outfit change too, of course. We were shooting outfits along the way. This knit ‘n’ denim ensemble is by Bendigo label, The Cloque Boutique. Under $100, of course!

The fit outs are so divine.

Cafe latte (soy chai for me) stop. Purchased some pretty Le Specs from The Meadow. Love ’em!

Wandered around the gardens in Frankie and Co.

Wandered around the Conservatory. Such a special place for a quick pic.

Chancery Lane was a must-see and the perfect shopping outfit, Frankie and Co cardi and silver kicks.

After my shopping trip through the city, I vetured back to bath Lane where Girls From the Go gathered for one of their special events. I was overwhelmed with the effort the girls and Leah had gone to.

This Caravan Bar (Bendigo) is available to hire for weddings or events. And Caitlin, the brains behind the business is such a gem. Wanted to be her friend as soon as I met her.


Florals by another local, young talent Vogue Nature.

I did the whole time I was in Bendigo and I’ll definitely be going back.

Both wearing Soho Boutique.

Photography: Leah Ladson


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