Descend into the depths of the Central Deborah Gold Mine in Bendigo which operated during the gold rush boom in the 1900s.
The mine operated from 1939 until 1954, extracting almost a tonne of gold from 15 kilometres of drives and cross cuts down to a depth of 412 metres.
It has not operated as a mine for many decades, now a tourist attraction operated by The Bendigo Trust since 1971, then initially open only for surface viewing.
The Explorer The Surface experience lets you explore Central Deborah Gold Mine and learn about the mining days in Bendigo. There are a few buildings to explorer and large plant equipment.
There is lots to learn about gold mining in general as well as the specific details of the mine, such as the saddle reef quartz formations. The gold-rich quartz are in arch-like shapes, folded with sandstone underground in Bendigo.
There are displays depicting what life was like at the time and samples of rocks and gold that are found in the mine, as well as models of the mine and equipment.
If you haven’t tried panning for gold, this is your chance to have a go at it. The pans are available for use at panning stations where you can try your luck at discovering some shiny metal glinting back at you.
The underground tours is where it is most interesting with a choice of tours which all include the exploring at the surface.
The Mine Experience Tour takes you 61 metres underground to level 2. This one is wheelchair accessible with a lift taking you down. Children must be 3 or older and under 16 requires an adult to accompany them.
The 75 minute tour lets you experience the underground tunnels with the light from your hardhat cap, guided through by one of the guides.
The Underground Adventure Tour heads down a little further, 85 metres underground to level 3. The extra level is by climbing down six sets of 4-metre ladders. Children must be 8 or over for this one.
The tour covers more structures in the drives and crosscuts, and stope workings that still contain gold veins.
The tour includes a traditional miner’s lunch served in the underground function room. The traditional lunch? A Tiddy Oggy, basically a Cornish Pasty. Tiddy is supposedly a vernacular for potato but the Oggy part is less clear.
One possibility is that tin miner’s wives would shout “Oggy Oggy Oggy” and a hungry miner would respond “Oi, Oi, Oi”. You can learn something new every day. I though “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” originated at the Sydney Olympics!
The Underground Adventure Tour is less frequent with only 2 tours each day. The tour takes twice as long as the Mine Experience Tour, around 2.5 hours.
For the ultimate experience you can’t go passed the Nine Levels of Darkness Tour. As the name suggests, you go well beyond Level 3, reaching 228 metres underground to Level 9.
Nine Levels of Darkness is only at 10.30am on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, and is strictly 14 years and over. There are no child or concession prices either, everyone is the same on this tour.
You are issued with a complete outfit for a miner – overalls, boots, helmet, cap lamp. It wouldn’t be complete without a flanny shirt. You have to supply your own thick socks and sturdy underwear (light comfortable clothing is what they say).
It is worth noting you can get dirty and wet on this 3.5-hour tour but you will also hear the call “Oggy Oggy Oggy” as you do on the Underground Adventure Tour – “Oi Oi Oi”.
The Nine Levels of Darkness isn’t just a tour of dark tunnels and a Cornish pasty. You learn the tricks of a gold miner’s trade, set a charge, and operate a mine drill. You will experience the miner’s hunger – the pasty goes down a treat after all that work.
Outside the front door is a tram stop. The vintage Talking Tram Tour , also run by The Bendigo Trust, links the Central Deborah Gold Mine with the Bendigo Joss House Temple. The Tram Depot is in between with packages available to include the tram or the tram and Joss House with the mine.
To get there:
From the Bendigo Visitor Information Centre, head south-west along Pall Mall (along other side from the centre) and follow for 1.2km. Turn left into the small one-way Violet St with a brown sign for Central Deborah Gold Mine. Follow to the end passing the entrance and turn left for parking.