All that glistens isn’t gold – Ballarat is finding a new identity as a food and art destination
Fuelled by a series of new hotel, restaurant and bar openings, Ballarat has bloomed into one of Victoria’s most indulgent and compelling luxury destinations. With the convenience of the big city mixed with the charismatic charm of a country town, Ballarat’s epicurean delights and burgeoning craft scene are increasingly matching its historic legacy as a reason to visit. Brushing off old perceptions, the city has flourished as a series of artisan producers, tree-changers, creators and top-tier chefs have made Ballarat their own, curating a series of experiences that are putting the city back on the radar. Here’s your ultimate Ballarat guide.
Come for the heritage, stay for the artistic flair.
Ballarat has a diverse selection of accommodation options. Located in the centre of town and still generating buzz after its 2022 opening, the new Hotel Vera offers seven contemporary luxury suites in a historic renovated mansion.
Stay in contemporary luxury at Hotel Vera.
After a reinvention in 2020, boutique beauty The Provincial Hotel is already winning awards (and hearts) with its individually curated, modern vintage rooms, historic Art Nouveau facade and in-house restaurant, Lola.
Feel like a breath of fresh air? Stay in a contemporary three-bedroom farmhouse on The Glut Farm, a 100-acre property set against the backdrop of Mount Cole State Forest. Just 40 minutes out of Ballarat (near the town of Smeaton), stay in a charming stone cottage or the heritage miner’s cottage at Tuki Retreat, on the grounds of Tuki Trout Farm.
Book a modern vintage room at The Provincial Hotel.
Ballarat restaurants and bars
The latest opening in the city is Itinerant Spirits, located in the heritage-listed, 160-year-old Goods Shed opposite Ballarat Railway Station. Sample whiskey, vodka and gin which have all been produced on-site using locally grown and malted grains. It’s also the first venue design in Victoria by Singapore-based interior designer Emma Maxwell, who grew up in Victoria and whose interior design skills have previously been recognised by the World’s Top 50 bars and restaurants.
Stop for a drink at the new Itinerant Spirits.
For a more intimate experience, sip a cocktail from Grainery Lane distillery and cocktail bar, a saloon-style bar complete with mahogany bar, chandeliers and Collins glasses filled with old-school favourites – and if you’re lucky, gain admittance to their secret speakeasy located somewhere onsite.
Feast on modern Asian cuisine at Mr Jones.
One of the most coveted fine dining experiences is at modern Asian restaurant Mr Jones, headed by acclaimed chef Damien Jones. The restaurant received its first chef’s hat in The Age’s Good Food Guide in 2023, and has a banquet menu featuring everything from savoury cupcakes to a salad of roast suckling pig with chilli jam.
Trust the locals and try the ‘dine without decision’ menu at The Shared Table in Buninyong, 15 minutes from Ballarat. A highlight of any visit to the Ballarat region, the menu here is created using what is fresh, local and seasonal, showcasing the best of the Central Highlands region.
Dine on a modern pond-to-plate menu at Tuki Trout Farm.
Black Cat Truffles isn’t just a place to sample the famous fungi, it’s a gourmet experience. Shaped by the seasons, a trip to the 20-acre truffière can include a morning truffle hunt through the trees, a six-course degustation by chef Liam Downes, Sunday brunch or a grazing menu with live music. Of course, if you consider yourself more a hunter than a gatherer, head to Tuki Trout Farm, where you can fish for your own rainbow trout in the ponds, then try their modern pond-to-plate menu.
Pick up Australian treats at Saltbush Kitchen.
If you’re in Ballarat for a special occasion, order a cake from Beaufort-based home baker Kittelty’s to pick up at Campana’s Fine Wine and Deli, in the heart of Ballarat. Local Ballarat providore Saltbush Kitchen specialise in a gourmet selection of Australian salts, rubs and spices. If the timing is right, don’t miss a stop at the farmer’s market, held by the lake on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.
Head for a scenic drive west to find an excellent selection of wineries: try the pinot at Eastern Peake, around 25 kilometres northwest of Ballarat, or a glass of chardonnay at Wayward Winery in Waubra, the closest winery to Ballarat in the Pyrenees Ranges wine region.
Drink a glass of chardonnay at Wayward Winery.
Wellness, events and experiences in Ballarat
For pure indulgence, slip into the hydrotherapy pool at Ballarat’s Sanctuary Day Spa. Take a dry heat sauna, book a massage or treatment, or even a private bath to unwind. If you prefer to be more hands-on, book in for a weekend masterclass at the newly-opened Australian Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades: the diverse and quirky workshops focus on the almost-lost arts including silversmithing, drop spindle spinning, Armour smithing and dry stone walling. Boutique floristry Windflower also offers creative workshops, as well as a curated selection of artistic handmade goods for purchase.
Practice your creative flair with a workshop at Windflower.
Take a stroll down Lydiard Street to see some of the best examples of a 19th-century streetscape; admire the sandstone facade of the Art Gallery of Ballarat before heading inside to catch the latest exhibition. Nearby Clunes is well known for its annual Clunes Booktown Festival in March, and incredible antiquing. Or pop over to neighbouring Creswick for incredible woollen products, which the local mill has been spinning out for over 75 years.
Admire the collections at Art Gallery of Ballarat.
Getting into Nature
Take the leisurely 10-kilometre loop bike ride around Lake Wendouree, explore cool climate gardens at the adjoining Ballarat Botanical Gardens, and visit the iconic Robert Clark Conservatory to view the year-round, seasonal floral displays, including the famous Begonias in March.
Head to the Pyrenees Ranges to chase waterfalls, including the easy Waterfalls Nature Walk. Once you’ve had your fill of nature and beauty, fill your glass at one of the region’s 25 wineries. If you’re keen to explore further afield, head to Lal Lal Falls and take in the sweeping views at Mount Buninyong or head out on the walking trails around Creswick.
Wander the floral displays then stop for a picnic at Ballarat Botanical Garden.
Start planning your getaway with Visit Ballarat.