Ballarat is one of the most historically preserved towns in Victoria. The main street is adorned with goldrush-era heritage listed buildings, and any resident will probably try to impress you with their knowledge of the Eureka Stockade – which began in this town, just in case you didn’t know (you’ll know soon enough).
But besides the rich architecture from years gone by, there is more to this growing town, which is becoming quite the hub for all kinds of activities, so much so that Melbourne’s popular White Night is expanding into the city in 2017. So, before you make your next trip to this fine destination, we thought we’d give you a rundown of the essential places to in this beautiful Grampian town.
Art Gallery of Ballarat
The Art Gallery of Ballarat has become quite the trendsetter for Australian regional areas, in its ability to put on culturally relevant and forward-pushing exhibitions. Over the last two years, the space has been home to the touring Archibald Prize in Victoria which has seen a growing interest in hopefully attracting prominent artists.
The gallery itself is observant of the artistic creativity in its own area, and the current exhibition of local artist Simon M-Rock (to 5 March 2017) is evidence of that. Often exhibitions are free, and plenty of workshops are provided for those who get inspired as well.
40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat Central. Open Monday to Sunday (except Christmas Day & Good Friday), 10am to 2pm. Free daily guided tours at 2pm.
More info: http://artgalleryofballarat.com.au/
Ballarat Wildlife Park
Ballarat is home to a wonderfully underrated conservation and wildlife park that expands over 16 acres. The privately-owned park has a wide array of native animals to Australia including over 100 wild roaming kangaroos. There are also koalas, snakes and the park’s giant tortoise, who must be seen to be believed.
The park also has an important program to ensure the conservation of the Tasmanian Devil, with park owners determined for the animal’s survival. Of course, the cute animals are absolutely adorable and an absolute highlight.
Cnr of York & Fussell Streets, Ballarat East. Open Monday to Sunday (Except Christmas Day & Good Friday), 9am to 5pm.
More info: http://wildlifepark.com.au/
The Lost Ones Gallery
For those who like their art a little more experimental, The Lost Ones Gallery is an intriguing place to see exhibitions from contemporary artists who specialise in unique and specific crafts. A recent exhibition examined the art of the self-image, and another looked at the fine art of fibre works.
Housed in an 1870s-era Masonic temple, the Lost Ones is currently showing Whisper, an exhibition looking at the idea of solitude and isolation featuring works from established artists, Shaun Tan, Nick Dridan and Harley Manifold. The temple also houses a beautiful space downstairs which holds workshops for those who wish to be inspired.
14 Camp Street, Ballarat Central. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm.
More info: http://www.thelostones.com.au/
Need a meal while you’re in town? Look no further than Catfish Thai, a beautifully set out restaurant that has quite the authentic vibe to it. From the amazing food to the knowledge of hatted chef Damien Jones whose intricate knowledge of Thai food will blow you away, this is one of the best dining experiences in the region. Jones’ exceptional dishes are a delight to taste and enjoy.
The restaurant is one of the more unique experiences you’ll find, with love and dedication put into the serving of food. Ingredients are also sourced from the market and created using traditional Thai techniques. The best thing about all this is that you can go and learn these customary recipes in intimate 8-person classes that can be booked online.
44 Main Rd, Bakery Hill. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm. Open for Sunday lunch at midday.
More info: http://catfishthai.com.au/
Despite all this awesome variance of what Ballarat has to offer, an attraction dedicated to the origins of Ballarat remains one of the essential things to do in this town. A very short drive out of the town centre can get you to the famed Sovereign Hill, the epicentre of historic Ballarat. During the day, there are plenty of things to discover including the Outdoor Museum, the mine adventures and theatre events that outline many stories from the era.
Although, it’s far more than just a place for kids t gain an education about Australia’s goldrush era. It is also abuzz of activity at night with its sound-and-light show, ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’ which you can experience with your day entry to Sovereign Hill, and a two-course, pre-show dinner. This only touches the tip of what you can see and do at Sovereign Hill, so the best bet is to grab a 2-day ticket to ensure you get the most out of your experience there.
Open Monday to Sunday (except Christmas Day), 10am to 5pm (5:30 during daylight savings hours).
More info: http://www.sovereignhill.com.au/
Getting to Ballarat will take you about 90 minutes in the car or on the train from Melbourne’s CBD, and the closest airport is Avalon – to whom Jetstar offer regular flights – from where it’s about an hour drive. You can also fly directly into Melbourne’s International Airport, Tullamarine, from where it will take about 70 minutes to drive.
For more things to do in Ballarat, visit the town’s tourism website, Visit Ballarat.