The Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo.Accommodation rarely inspires me to sing, let alone launch into an aria, but the Hotel Shamrock is unusual in that respect. Fortunately for my weekend companions, and greater Bendigo, I resist the temptation to channel Mimi in La Boheme as we sweep into the Amy Castles Suite, for while some people declared Miss Castles “The New Melba”, my voice is on another scale altogether.
This is my second girls-only Bendigo visit in a year – to see the White Wedding Dress exhibition and Grace Kelly: Style Icon collection (now closed) at Bendigo Art Gallery – and our second stay in the queen of Bendigo accommodation.
The Shamrock – the third hotel on this site – was designed to outshine all other Bendigo establishments and rival Melbourne’s Grand (now Windsor), and the opulent, five-storey Italianate landmark opened in 1897.
Three-metre ceilings give even the standard rooms spaciousness, and the suites are named after personalities and places associated with the hotel and city.
These include Ravenswood, the sheep station where Bendigo gold was first found; and Dame Nellie Melba, who demanded that the quarter-hourly chimes of the post office clock be stopped after a sleepless night at the hotel.
Born in Melbourne in 1880 and raised in Bendigo, Amy Castles was sometimes compared with the world-famous Melba.
However, historian Jeff Brownrigg suggests Castles was a pawn in the Catholic Church’s campaign to dethrone the diva dubbed the “Protestant tart”.
The Amy Castles Suite won our hearts a year ago with its corner position: front-on to Pall Mall’s august buildings with views of Rosalind Park, Alexandra Fountain and Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The drawback is that sound spills from Pall Mall on Saturday nights, but it’s not enough to keep us awake after a day on foot (and the post office clock chimes fall silent at 11pm).
We have one large room with en suite spa bathroom and a tiny balcony accessible through a sash window. A chandelier hanging from a ceiling rose illuminates twin armchairs and a two-person couch, high-gloss wood table and chairs, gas heater set in marble surrounds, flat screen television, and mini bar cabinet. There is a king bed and single.
Also sharing the room, my friend Di insists when her hair frizzes in the bathroom before dinner, is Amy Castles’s ghost.
And then we ate GPO on Pall Mall, where we dined on delicious Mediterranean fare previously, and the Dispensary Enoteca, which caught our attention earlier in the day, are both full so we end up somewhere forgettable around the corner.
The standout for a modern Oz splurge is the one-hat Whirrakee Restaurant in the ornate 1908 Royal Bank building on the fountain roundabout.
The Shamrock’s basement Gold Dust Lounge is a fun place to sip cocktails and listen to live jazz and blues on Friday and Saturday nights.
The deal maker Bendigo’s top-end accommodation is found elsewhere these days and it is not five-star luxury that brings me back to the Shamrock. I just can’t resist her – and she is definitely flamboyantly female – four floors of Victorian gorgeousness: 70 metres of lace-trimmed, promenade-wide balcony; terrazzo-tiled foyer; and colonnaded staircase climbing past stained glass windows. (We use the lift only to transfer luggage from the undercover car park.)
Stepping out Collect some maps from the Visitor Information Centre and explore Bendigo on foot. Visit the Golden Dragon Museum and Bendigo Joss House, then stroll back through Rosalind Park and past lovely old houses to the cathedral. I particularly love airy St Kilian’s Church (1887), one of the largest weatherboard churches in the world, and the vintage shops along View Street, opposite Bendigo’s always-excellent art gallery.VISITORS’ BOOKThe Hotel Shamrock
Address Corner Pall Mall and Williamson Street, Bendigo.
The verdict A slice of history within walking distance of cafes, restaurants and tourist spots.
Price From $140 a couple a night, Amy Castles Suite from $245; includes a continental buffet in the ground-floor cafe bar.
Bookings Phone 5443 0333; see hotelshamrock南京夜网.au.
Getting there A 1½-hour drive up the Calder Freeway, into central Bendigo.
Perfect for Couples looking for mid-priced break; families and small groups of friends.
Wheelchair access No.
While you’re there Pedal a city-fringe bike trail. Delve into Bendigo’s enthralling mining history on a Nine Levels of Darkness adventure tour at Central Deborah Gold Mine. Join the Bendigo Historical Society’s Sunday afternoon tour of Hotel Shamrock.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.