This is Ballarat the 5 minute guide.
n. A charming hideaway filled with gold-rush history, eclectic cafés and blossoming gardens.
adj. Defined by a mix of countless antiques, arty venues and Melbournesque cool.
v. To bring new-age funk to old-world charm.
When to go
With sunny summers and chilly winters, Ballarat is best during the happy medium of autumn or spring. The latter is also when the annual festival, Ballarat in Bloom, is held – with impressive gardens, markets and gourmet delights.
Who you’ll find here
The curious, the creative and collectors – Ballarat is full of funky shops, craft stores and little treasures. Families and history buffs can also be found lapping up the town’s rich past at nearby Sovereign Hill.
…and who you won’t
Adrenalin junkies. Ballarat isn’t the place for an action-packed getaway.
The dress code
Retro-inspired fashion is big amongst local stores – expect to pick up pretty pieces like ‘50s-style swimmers and pearl earrings. Miss Lulu’s PinCurl Pin-Ups workshops will teach you the secrets of old-school hair-styling techniques.
A burgeoning café culture has all kinds of eclectic eateries popping up such as Eclectic Tastes, filled with junkshop treasures and an Asian-inspired menu. Or Café Bibo, plastered in vintage Women’s Weekly mags. Café Muzyka does great coffee and regular live music sessions. There are plenty of traditional country town options as well (such as Ballarat Steakhouse).
Whet your appetite
Save your clubbing shoes for elsewhere – there’s not a lot of raging going on. Microbreweries, cider farms and wine bars, however – you’re onto something. Or there’s definitely a good old country pub or two…
Shop til’ you drop
Bargain hunters will love the Mill Markets, held daily in a revamped woolshed with all kinds of treasures to be found, from furniture to jewellery.
Arty types will also get their fill with cute stores like Red Brick Gallery and Emporium, and Crafty Squirrel.
The best stays here make the most of the stunning Victorian architecture, courtesy of Gold Rush wealth.
Our pick is Craig’s Royal Hotel, built in 1853, which now has 41 boutique rooms, which have been individually re-built and furnished.
Don’t forget to pack
Anti-histamines – Ballarat boasts some impressive public gardens. Make sure you visit the vast Botanical Gardens overlooking Lake Wendouree.