Ballarat sits at the heart of Victoria’s goldfields, with a rich history underpinning its reputation as the gold epicentre of the country.
While its history remains among Ballarat’s strongest drawcards, the regional city offers a diverse range of experiences including a burgeoning culinary scene, craft beer, award-winning wineries, historic and contemporary art, heritage architecture and beautiful parklands.
A historic setting
Ballarat is known for providing its visitors with contemporary offerings against a historic backdrop. The city’s main thoroughfares Sturt Street and Lydiard Street offer impressive heritage streetscapes and majestic buildings interspersed with hidden laneways. A selection of heritage walking tours take in the iconic architecture and monuments from the 19th century. Alternatively, visitors can take a self-guided tour using their smart phones, tablets and computers with Ballarat Revealed which reveals the people, places and industries that have made Ballarat what it is today.
A welcoming café culture
Ballarat’s café scene is ever-evolving and offers plenty of choice. Some of the best local haunts include: Webster’s Market and Café; The Local surrounded by art on the walls; Little Bird for a vintage diner experience; Fika for St Ali coffee and fresh brunch options; Yellow Espresso with its locally-renowned souvlakis; and Eclectic Tastes for local produce, wines, boutique beers and great coffee.
A diverse culinary experience
There is also plenty of choice when it comes to places to indulge in local food and award-winning wine straight from the region’s paddocks, patches and vines. Visitors can feast on modern Asian flavours with an Australian twist at Moon and Mountain, or be tempted by the classic and uncomplicated flavours of the charcoal grill at The Pub With Two Names. Other top spots include the James Halliday five red-star rated Mitchell Harris winery and The Forge for wood-fired gourmet pizzas.
Craft beers on tap
Ballarat has a thriving craft beer scene with a host of craft breweries including Red Duck, Cubby Haus and Dollar Bill Brewing where visitors can sample the local brews as well as learn about brewing techniques. Ballarat’s newest beer hall come bar Hop Temple and gastro pub The Mallow also allow beer lovers to indulge in some liquid gold on-tap alongside appetising eats.
Award-winning wineries on the doorstep
The nearby Pyrenees Wine Region offers the chance to sample stunning wines at a host of award-winning wineries and some of the state’s oldest vineyards. The region is home to seven James Halliday five red-star rated wineries, making it well worth the 40-minute drive.
Fun for all the family
Ballarat has family-friendly tourist attractions aplenty including Australia’s number one outdoor museum Sovereign Hill. The award-winning tourist attraction provides a detailed glimpse into 19th century life during the gold rush days – with gold-panning, tours of the mines, live performances and more. Ballarat Wildlife Park offers the chance to get up close with koalas, kangaroos and reptiles while nearby Kryal Castle is one of Australia’s only medieval theme parks. For a dose of Australian history, the Eureka Centre features inspiring installations and interactive content. Out of town, the award-winning Creswick Woollen Mills has something for all the family – little ones can pet the alpacas while adults enjoy a coffee and shop the luxurious clothing at the Mill store.
As well as the majestic colonial architecture and heritage tours, Ballarat is home to some of the most stunning parklands, lakes and gardens in Victoria. The iconic Lake Wendouree in the heart of Ballarat and the Ballarat Botanical Gardens are ideal spots for a walk and a picnic in the park. Kirks Reservoir offers a secret garden adventure while Gong Gong is home to a multitude of native flora and fauna.
Art and culture abound
A melting pot of arts and culture, Ballarat is now as rich in art as it once was in gold – from historic to contemporary art, there is something for all culture vultures. The Art Gallery of Ballarat is Australia’s oldest and largest regional art gallery and includes a permanent collection of historic and colonial fine art as well as indigenous and contemporary collections. The Lost Ones Gallery showcases contemporary art in a 19th century Masonic lodge, and the Post Office Gallery displays the work of emerging artists.
A year-round calendar of festivals and events
The city is host to an exciting calendar of festivals and events covering all interests, from arts and culture, to cycling, craft beers and begonias. Its annual calendar of events includes the Cycling Australia Road National Championships, Winter Wonderlights, Plate Up Ballarat and the Ballarat Begonia Festival to name a few. For a full list of events, see Visit Ballarat.
Adding appeal to any stay, Ballarat offers a choice of boutique accommodation in some of the city’s most historic locales. The newly-renovated Lascelles Terraces offers a dose of nouveau with a Victorian-era twist, while The Provincial Hotel was crowned Victoria's best boutique style accommodation at the 2019 Tourism Accommodation Australia (Victoria) Awards. Sleep like a king or queen in the heritage-listed Bishops Palace or soak up the history at Craig's Royal Hotel, an icon of Ballarat's gold rush era.