Victoria’s third-largest city offers up an array of heritage accommodation alongside contemporary apartments, city boltholes and country retreats.
As an old gold-rush town full of grand Victorian-era architecture, Ballarat has no shortage of beautifully restored heritage hotels to bed down in: from elegant old dames to new boutique offerings. What you’ll also find in and around the city are contemporary lakeside apartments, traditional B&Bs and cosy country retreats. Here’s our pick of the bunch.
Opened in late 2018, The Provincial Hotel is a boutique offering in a 1909 heritage building that’s listed by the National Trust for its striking Art Nouveau facade. With 23 rooms across the hotel and its corporate wing, it occupies a plum Ballarat spot opposite the railway station that’s within easy walking distance to everything in the CBD. Inside, the heritage bones are treated sensitively and given a contemporary makeover in an elegant blue-and-ivory palette, contrasted with eclectic fabrics and patterns and bold artworks by local artists.
Breakfast is served in The Provincial’s light-filled dining room, Lola (named after the exotic dancer and actress Lola Montez, who caused a sensation when she visited the Goldfields in the 1850s). Come nighttime, it transforms into one of the city’s best restaurants, serving up European-style fare with style.
Ballarat’s legendary gold-rush era digs, Craig’s Royal Hotel, is the oldest of its kind in Ballarat. Located on historic Lydiard Street in the CBD, it’s been in business since 1865 and today blends historic charm with modern elegance. There are 41 distinctly decorated suites and boutique rooms available, with high ceilings, chandeliers and luxe bedding. The cream of the crop, The Royal Balcony Suites, have four-poster beds, ornate wallpaper and antique furnishings, and overlook the historic Her Majesty’s Theatre; perhaps you’ll share the same view Dame Nellie Melba had when she famously sang from a balcony here in 1908.
Paddock-to-plate breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in the glass-roofed Gallery restaurant, with its air of a Victorian conservatory, while high tea can be taken every Sunday at 3pm in the hotel’s Grand Dining Room.
Alternatively, just down the road, Ansonia on Lydiard will similarly charm you with its heritage.
Made up of two adjoining terraces, this boutique accommodation will make you feel like you live in a grand Victorian heritage home – if only for a weekend. Choose to stay in the ground or top floor two-bedroom apartment or, if you’re travelling in a large group, in the six-bedroom townhouse next door.
Set on a quiet tree-lined street, Lascelles is within walking distance of the CBD. Inside, its heritage character has been beautifully retained and restored: original cornices, fireplaces and skirting are complemented by stylish, high-end furnishings and fittings. There’s a beautiful shared garden out back, too, and pets are allowed in the house and ground-floor apartment.
For one of Ballarat’s most unique stays, you can’t go past the Bishops Palace in the north-western suburb of Lake Wendouree. Built in 1877 as the home of the first Bishop of Ballarat, today it serves as accommodation as well as an events and wedding venue. The two-storey Gothic bluestone mansion is set on 1.5-hectares of heritage-listed gardens and offers six luxurious suites, plus common areas including a library (complete with fireplace and antique billiards table), expansive verandahs and a spa pavilion. You’ll marvel at every last detail as you explore: from the grand staircase to the five-metre-high ceilings, gold stencilled paintwork and ornate original ceiling roses and cornices.
The five stylish and self-contained apartments that make up Lakes Edge Apartments are situated next to Ballarat’s scenic Lake Wendouree: ideally placed for a morning stroll along the foreshore.
Light-filled, comfortable and a great home-from-home option for families, each apartment has two bedrooms (with queen- and king-sized beds) and an open-plan living, dining and kitchen space (fully equipped for self-catering) that flows through to a private terrace with an outdoor setting. Understated and neutral in their colour palette, the apartments boast sophisticated finishings like oak wood flooring, plush wool carpet and luxurious bed linen.
For budget accommodation in Ballarat’s CBD, Mid City Hotel is a great option. Its 71 motel-style rooms are modern and functional and put you in prime position for exploring the city. A buffet breakfast is included each morning plus there’s an on-site restaurant and outdoor pool. You’re also located just across the road from the best wine bar in town, Mitchell Harris Wines, and a quick walk to other excellent eating and drinking spots.
Contained within a handsome heritage building in the heart of Ballarat, Quest Ballarat has a range of 53 clean and modern self-catered studios including one-, two- and three-bedroom serviced apartments. Offering a relaxed and comfortable stay, it’s also close to all the action: just a few minutes’ walk from all the cafes, restaurants, galleries and sights the CBD has to offer.
Ballarat Central Bed and Breakfast is a cosy and affordable option that also puts you within walking distance of all the city centre has to offer, with friendly hosts who are happy to dispatch local information. Rooms are fully furnished with TVs and free wi-fi, and a full continental breakfast is available for an extra $10 per person.
If you have an evening experience at Sovereign Hill in your sights – an eerie Lamplight Tour or the cutting-edge light and sound show Aura – then opt to sleep over for total immersion. On the doorstep of Ballarat’s iconic open-air gold-rush museum, Sovereign Hill Hotel is set across a collection of colonial-style buildings in lush gardens and has a range of good-value accommodation to suit couples and families – from the two-person Sovereign Queen Room to the six-sleeper Colonial Family Room.
Dining options inside the Sovereign Hill site range from à la carte, quaint bars and take-away joints to Hope Bakery, with its famous sausage rolls (once voted Australia’s best).
Located 300 metres from Sovereign Hill, BIG4 Ballarat Goldfields Holiday Park is an award-winning family holiday park offering a wide range of accommodation: from caravan and camping sites to studio cabins, two-bedroom spa cottages and three-bedroom villas with a rustic-chic look on the outside and modern facilities inside.
The park boasts everything to entertain young children and their parents too, including swimming pools, a tennis court and basketball hoop, an adventure playground and an indoor heated spa.
For a true country retreat or romantic getaway, set your sights on Tuki Trout Farm, 40 minutes’ drive out of Ballarat and located at the top of a hill with verdant valley views. As well as being a top fishing spot and restaurant (have the staff cook your catch fresh), the property offers accommodation by way of Tuki Retreat: a collection of stone and weatherboard miners’ cottages complete with open fires and set on a traditional sheep grazing property called Stoney Rises. Some come with corner spas in the bathroom and private lakeside balconies; pets are welcome on request.
Half an hour out of town on the Ballarat Skipton Rail Trail (a popular cycle trail), Linton Retreat is an architecturally designed cottage in a picturesque bush setting in Linton, one of country Victoria’s best-kept secrets. Accommodating up to six guests, this private and peaceful cottage features all mod cons including two smart TVs and NBN wi-fi and thoughtful touches throughout.