Ballarat is the third-largest city of Victoria with a population of over 100,000 people. It is located on the Yarrowee River in the Central Highlands of Victoria in Australia. Ballarat is a very popular tourist destination. This former gold mining town has some amazing Australian colonial architecture for you to gaze at. This city is only a 90 minutes drive away from Melbourne and is great for you to just relax and rejuvenate. This busy provincial city is rich in art and culture and is known for its history and well-preserved Victorian-era heritage that you can witness in every corner of this town. Along with heritage, the town is also flourishing with contemporary art, food, drinks, and artists. Ballarat is a perfect mix of contemporary and old-fashioned. This city was even named one of the most liveable cities in Australia in 2020. Here are the best things for you to do in Ballarat.
Take a stroll to appreciate Ballarat
Walking is one of the best ways to explore any city. Especially Ballarat, it has some of Australia's finest architecture and streetscapes. You can only appreciate Ballarat's culture properly while walking on its well-maintained footpaths. You should definitely walk Lydiard Street, it is one of the best preserved Victorian streetscapes outside of England. Lydiard Street also features in ABC television series, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, which is set in Ballarat. After Lydiard Street, go to nearby Camp Street, it is Ballarat's next most architecturally impressive street. Next, you should walk Sturt Street, it is one of the widest streets, lavishly spreading across six lanes and replete with statue-studded gardens.
Watch everything gold at Sovereign Hill
Sovereign Hill is an open-air museum in Golden Point, Ballarat. It portrays the first 10 years of Ballarat after gold was discovered there in 1851. Sovereign Hill is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Ballarat, people come from all over the world to visit it. This nationally acclaimed tourist attraction was established in 1970. The museum provides a fun learning experience with characters in costumes, horses, cats that displays what life was back then in the Victorian Goldfields. There are a lot of fun activities to do, such as witnessing the amazing gold pour where $160,000 worth of gold is melted and turned into a three-kilogram bullion or see the outdoor show Aura, an immersive after-dark theatrical experience. You can also dress-up and take photographs with your friends in the old-timey photography studio. The museum also has a tram that takes you on the tour of the mines. To make things even more convenient, the museum offers accommodations for visitors.
Visit the stunning Art Gallery of Ballarat
The Art Gallery of Ballarat is the oldest and largest regional Australian gallery. It was established in 1884. The gallery houses Australian art, with works of artists from colonial to the contemporary periods. The gallery has one of the best regional collections in the country. The gallery features the works of Fred Williams, Sidney Nolan, Clarice Beckett, Arthur Boyd, and many many other artists. The heritage-listed Gallery building also hosts a diverse range of temporary exhibitions and puts together shows inspired by the works in the gallery. You can enjoy the Australian art and culture at the gallery in a very relaxed and peaceful environment.
Get to know Australia’s Democracy at Eureka Centre
Formerly known as the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka, the Eureka Centre is a museum dedicated to democracy. It is located at the historic site of the Eureka Stockade Rebellion, on the grounds of the Eureka Stockade Memorial Gardens in Ballarat. The Eureka Centre portrays the stories of the people who risked their lives for miner’s rights and shows the cultural impact of the gold rush. It also houses one of the most revered cultural artifacts of Australia for you to see, the Eureka flag. The centre is surrounded by the lovely Eureka Stockade Memorial Gardens. There is also a gift shop and a cafe for you to buy souvenirs and enjoy treats while visiting.
Gaze at Ballarat Botanical Gardens
The Ballarat Botanical Gardens Reserve is a fantastic place for the whole family The Garden is 40 hectares and is divided into multiple zones - the central part with 'gardenesque' style, the area alongside Lake Wendouree as the Lake foreshore precinct, open parklands on either side of the garden called North and South Gardens. The garden also has an Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial which honors the many thousands of prisoners held during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, The Garden features a marvelous assortment of mature trees and marble statues that are set in vivid bedding displays. You can come here to walk around and relax in the garden’s tranquil environment while enjoying delicious food from the eateries from here.
Make a splash at Lake Wendouree
Lake Wendouree is a man-made and maintained shallow urban lake that has been a community destination for over 150 years. Located in central Ballarat next to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, the lake offers many recreational activities. You can eat at the cafes while enjoying the beautiful view of the lake or you can have fun canoeing, kayaking and sailing the lake. You can also enjoy fishing, local catches include rainbow trout and redfin. Make sure to bring binoculars and watch swans, ducks, gulls, and cormorants at the lake.
Meet animals at Ballarat Wildlife Park
The Ballarat Wildlife Park is a privately owned business run by The Parker family. It is an award-winning interactive wildlife park situated on 37 acres of natural bushland. The park houses about 400 species of animals. It has kangaroos and emus that roam freely around the park and can be hand fed. The park provides shelter to mostly native Australian animals and includes the world’s smallest penguin species, wombats, quokkas, echidnas, koalas, and crocodiles. This is an interactive wildlife park and that means that you can pat a koala, cuddle a wombat or even have a snake wrapped over your shoulders. You can enjoy this park by bringing along a picnic or by enjoying tasty food from the cafe while taking in the scenic beauty of plants and animals.
Ballarat Tramway Museum
Ballarat Tramway Museum was founded to preserve the traditional tramway experience. It is run by passionate and dedicated volunteers and trams operate every weekend. The museum has a large research collection, an archive of information, and more than 3,500 items about the Ballarat tramways. Come here to experience the traditional tramway experience that once existed on the streets of Ballarat.
Mythical land at the Kryal Castle
Kryal Castle is an Adventure Park & Resort in Ballarat, Victoria. The castle has a lot of activities for you to do. It features a moat and drawbridge, a maze, castle towers, stocks, and an armory. The park is themed around the fantasy of medieval time with knights, kings, and everything else medieval. You can stay at the castle and enjoy your childhood dream as the castle offers 4-star accommodation. Tickets are priced at $35 and $22 for adults and kids respectively. Enjoy your day filled with fun activities at Kryal Castle.
Experience the Ballarat Begonia Festival
Themed around the begonia flower, Ballarat Begonia Festival is an annual carnival and community cultural festival held at Ballarat. It is a very popular tourist attraction in the city. It is held over the Labour Day long weekend in March. The festival has a lot of fun activities planned for the visitors to do. You can attend talks, or enjoy the line-up of entertainment with delicious food and celebrity guests.
Ballarat Railway Station
Located on the Serviceton line in Victoria, Ballarat Railway Station is one of Australia’s most awe-inspiring heritage railway stations. The railway station showcases the architectural and historical magnificence of Ballarat. This 19th century railway station has most of its features intact and is registered in the Victorian Heritage Register. You should definitely visit this lovely building from a grander time, you will surely be amazed by this historical gem.
Enjoy the Ballarat Heritage Weekend
Ballarat Heritage Weekend is an annual community cultural festival that is celebrated in Ballarat to showcase the wonderful history and culture of the city. This tourist attraction has a heritage and celebrates the essence of Ballarat. It is organized by the city of Ballarat over the mother’s day weekend (7-8 May). Each year, the program portrays different parts of Ballarat’s history. The event includes free access to many selected buildings of the city. You can enjoy architectural and history walking tours or theatrical performances, along with a great range of local food and wine. If you want to enjoy Ballarat’s history and culture, this event is a must for you.
Shop until you drop
If you are looking to spend your money, Ballarat is not going to let you down. You can buy clothes, antiques, souvenirs all over the city. You can find some amazing vintage pieces in the independent boutiques down any lane. However, if you are swaying towards retail then you can check out Bridge Mall, Central Square Ballarat, Mill Market, or Stockland Wendouree.
Quench your thirst with wine
After a long day of roaming, you can quench your thirst by local wines. The weather of Ballarat is really good for grapes and that is why the city offers some of the best locally produced wine straight from the vineyards. Ballarat’s vineyards are famous for its subtly fragrant pinot noir, chardonnay, and elegant sparkling wines. You can visit RJM’s Wine bar or Mitchell Harris Wine Bar to dive in some amazing wine. You can also visit wineries like Captains Creek Organic Wines, Mount Buninyong Winery, or Eastern Peake Winery to appreciate the art of wine making.
Eat! Eat! Eat!
Ballarat is an amazing destination for all the foodies out there. After exploring the town, you can satisfy your hunger with traditional and delicious Aussie cuisine, Ballarat has some great cafes and restaurants that use local produce to make wholesome food. You can eat gourmet pizzas straight out of the wood-fired oven at Forge Pizzeria. You can eat breakfast all day at Yellow Espresso. You can eat at Underbar where Derek Boath, formerly of New York's three-Michelin, offers a menu that changes every week. When it comes to food, this place has endless options for you to choose from and it is not going to disappoint you.
Stay at Craig’s Royal Hotel
Located on the historic Lydiard Street, Craig’s Royal Hotel was built during the Victorian gold rush. It is Ballarat’s oldest and most luxurious hotel. The hotel has served many famous people including Mark Twain and Prince Alfred (Queen Victoria's second son), and Dame Nellie Melba. This elegant hotel offers comfort of luxury with the charm of history.
Feast your eyes at Ballarat Bird World
Just a 7 minutes drive away from Sovereign Hill, Ballarat Bird World showcases the colorful Australian birdlife. Birds here include the Gang-gang, Major Mitchell and red, white and yellow-tailed black cockatoos. You can interact with many beautiful birds closely at this place. You can even click a picture with a red-tailed black cockatoo at 11:00 am, 2.00 pm and 4:00 pm at no extra charge, just use your own camera. The entry fee is only $12. After watching the birds, you can head to the cafe to relish delicious food or go to the gift shop to buy yourself a souvenir. Ballarat Bird World is an enjoyable and economical way for bird lovers to spend their day.
Ballarat is a perfect destination to get away with loads of activities and things for you to explore. From wildlife parks to museums, this city has it all. Ballarat is surely going to win over your hearts with its colonial architecture and historic charm. Do not forget to tell us your favorite thing from the list and make sure to do all these things when you visit this beautiful town.