the ultimate travel guide toBallarat

Walk the streets of Ballarat at golden hour and the Victorian city practically oozes old world charm. Its vibrant gold rush heritage, eclectic art offering and burgeoning dining scene – on par with those more commonly found in capital cities – deliver a rich tapestry of modern and historical experiences in the provincial city built off the wealth of the gold hidden beneath it.

Getting to Ballarat

Ballarat is situated just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne via the Western Freeway (M8).

 

Visitors arriving by air into Melbourne (Tullamarine) can continue on to Ballarat by taking the Ballarat Airport Shuttle Bus, which runs a number of daily services. Bookings are recommended.

 

V/Line runs a number of trains daily to Ballarat from Melbourne’s Southern Cross (formerly Spencer Street) Station. All trains stop at Ballarat’s main station in the heart of town, with selected services continuing on to Wendouree station, offering convenient access to Ballarat Botanical Gardens and Lake Wendouree.

 

Once in the city, bus services run from Sturt Street, Ballarat’s main thoroughfare, to most local attractions. Taxi services are also available.

Top Things to Do in Ballarat

Gold Heritage

Ballarat lays claim to the greatest alluvial gold rush in history and visitors to the region can choose from a number of immersive experiences to transport them back to the historical period that saw Ballarat transform from a sleepy settlement to a thriving provincial city.

 

Sovereign Hill is a living outdoor museum built on Ballarat’s former gold mining site. Costumed staff and volunteers work to bring the gold rush story to life through entertaining street performances, a variety of tours, including a walk through the mines and goldfields and even an evening lamplight tour. Guests are invited to participate in gold panning, candle making, sweet making, musket firing and more.

 

Make your way to The Eureka Centre to visit the site of the 1854 Eureka Stockade Rebellion. Not only will you learn about the cultural impact of the gold rush, you’ll also hear the stories of the men and women who fought for miners’ rights and view the Eureka Flag – one of the nation’s most important cultural artefacts.

Attractions

Ballarat Wildlife Park is home to a large variety of native Australian animals and reptiles. Meet Maneki and Satu – the park’s Sumatran tigers and choose from a number of one-on-one animal encounters with a meerkat, koala, wombat, snake, giant tortoise and more.

 

Ballarat itself is a delightful maze of street murals and art installations, but it’s also home to Australia’s oldest regional gallery, the Art Gallery of Ballarat. The gallery boasts an extensive permanent collection of Australian art, ranging from colonial to contemporary periods, and is complemented by an ever-changing mix of touring and temporary exhibits.

 

On the western shore of Lake Wendouree you’ll discover the Ballarat Botanical Gardens spread across 40 hectares and divided into the lake foreshore precinct (pause here for a cute photo-op by the boat sheds on the lake), north and south parklands and the prettiest of the lot can be found in the gardens at its centre. Spend time lolling about on the grass or make your way to the Robert Clark Conservatory to explore the oasis within.

 

Discover a world of dragons, knights, wizards, fairies, kings and queens inside the walls of Kryal Castle Ballarat. The medieval wonderland delivers a whole host of adventure-filled experiences: lose yourself in the castle maze, watch knights and their horses battle it out in a jousting tournament, journey through the Dragons Labyrinth and you can even spend the night in a castle suite.

Markets & Festivals

Stock up on farm fresh produce, indulge in sweet treats and hunt for pre-loved trinkets at the range of markets in Ballarat.

 

The Ballarat Farmers Market is held on the second Sunday of each month at Lake Wendouree. Stallholders stock homemade versions of just about everything you’d seek at the grocery store, in addition to gifts, plants, jewellery and clothing.

 

The Ballarat Market is held every Sunday morning at the Ballarat Showgrounds, selling a collection of second-hand wares, produce, plants and craft.

 

It’s a family affair at Bridge Mall Farmers Market, held the first Saturday morning of every month, with face painting, jumping castle and animal farm for the kids and live music, talks and activities for the adults – they also run the Ballarat Design Market alongside it.

 

Plan your trip around Ballarat’s yearly festivals: check out the vibrant colours of the blooming flora at the Begonia Festival throughout March, visit in September to attend White Night – the art and cultural event of the year, or stop by in November for the Ballarat Show (the city’s equivalent to the Sydney Royal Easter Show).

Best Places to Stay in Ballarat

Hotels & Motels

Stay in Ballarat’s legendary gold-rush era boutique heritage hotel, Craig’s Royal Hotel, on the historic Lydiard Street. There are 41 boutique rooms available with grand high ceilings featuring elegant chandeliers, four-poster beds, ornately detailed wallpaper, luxe bedding –no two rooms are the same.

 

The Provincial Hotel manages to effortlessly blend Victorian-era charm with a tasteful modern twist in the luxurious suites and balcony suites, and the one and two bedroom apartments that feature a kitchen, separate living and dining areas.

Holiday Parks

Big4 Holiday Parks have two Ballarat locations: the Goldfields Holiday Park, a boutique family holiday park offering cabins, ensuite and powered sites for camping, campervans and caravans; and Windmill Holiday Park, which is located in prime position for exploring the city on the historic Avenue of Honour. Alternatively, stay on the historic site of the Eureka Stockade at Eureka Holiday Park.

Camping

Slaty Creek Campground is a little further afield, closer to the town of Creswick but within easy driving distance to Ballarat. The three campsites each provide an authentic bush camp experience with very basic facilities – only one of the three has non-flush toilets but all have a fireplace and picnic table. In addition to the idyllic location you can pan for gold in the creek, embark on one of the many bush walks, and spot koalas high in the trees.

Best Places to Eat & Drink in Ballarat

Divine brunch spreads, upmarket restaurants, eclectic bars and an extensive offering of multicultural cuisines – Ballarat’s food and drink scene is as varied as it is overwhelmingly good.

 

Indulge your love of all things doughy and sweet at 1816 Bakehouse with Nutella and pistachio cruffins, semi-sourdough focaccia, apple and elderflower pie and rows upon rows of freshly-baked bread.

 

Hydrant Food Hall has the brunch market cornered in Ballarat, with a range of drool-worthy breakfast creations – think chocolate pancakes with salted caramel, banana, peanut butter, caramel popcorn, vanilla mascarpone and crushed peanuts – served alongside Melbourne-based Seven Seeds coffee and set inside a plant-filled heritage warehouse.

 

Prepare to wait for a table at the popular Moon and Mountain restaurant and bar.  The fine-dining restaurant serves up modern Asian cuisine with an Australian twist in a relaxed setting.

 

Winner Winner is the chicken joint of your dreams. Chow down on everything chicken – from wings (turn up the spice heat to your liking), popcorn, mixed buckets of fried chicken and ribs complemented by a selection of carb-loaded sides. While local favourite, The Forge Pizzeria, spins out wood-fired pizzas, salads and a dessert pizza you don’t want to miss.

 

Make your way down the hidden laneway under a canopy of umbrellas to arrive at Hop Temple. The converted stables are now artfully decorated with recycled furnishings and stocked with over 220 craft beers and ciders, plus an extensive selection of wines and spirits.

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Tours and Packages Ballarat

The richness of Australian history to be explored in Ballarat calls for a whole host of tours to really do it justice.

 

Allow Gold and Relics to take you on a gold prospecting tour, or discover the legends and stories of the Goldfields on a lamplight tour through the dimly-lit streets, cottages and laneways of Sovereign Hill.

 

Embark on a walking tour through historic downtown Ballarat with Ballarat Heritage Tours, and for the brave, Eerie Ghost Tours will introduce you to the dark and paranormal side of Ballarat – dubbed Australia’s most haunted city.