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. Stay until the sun goes down to enjoy Aura, an immersive multi-sensory, sound and light show. It tells the story of the Wadawurrung people and the impact of the gold rush on Ballarat through hundreds of projections spread out over 26 hectares of the Sovereign Hill site.
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.
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 Mill Markets sell a collection of second-hand wares, vintage clothes, collectables, antiques, memorabilia, home decor, art, jewellery, books and more – and they are open 7 days a week.
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 the June/July Victorian school holidays for Winter Wonderlights at Sovereign Hill and Ballarat Winter Festival, or stop by in November for the Ballarat Show (the city’s equivalent to the Sydney Royal Easter Show).
We’ve also collated the top things to do in Ballarat here to help you narrow it down.