In Travel

From Breweries To Galleries: How To Do A Weekend In Ballarat

About an hour and a half drive north west of Melbourne is the small, charming town of Ballarat, Victoria. In the history books, this town is known for the Eureka Rebellion (the only armed rebellion in Australian history) and the 1850s gold rush. Now, it embraces its past while becoming a quaint destination for city slickers.

Behind the Victoria era heritage is a town filled with charisma. It’s home to a massive winter festival, the world-famous White Night and, for a little fun fact, Ballarat is the craft brew capital of Victoria. We want to help you enjoy this escape from the big city — here’s where to eat, stay and play in Ballarat.

How to get there

Grab brekky to-go and hop in the car for an hour and a half drive from Melbourne CBD. There’s also the Ballarat V Line train that will take you from Southern Cross Station to Ballarat within two hours.

Where to stay

There’s no shortage of cosy, Victorian-style buildings offering a range of accommodation in Ballarat. Depending on your style, you can stay in an original 1860s miners cottage or a boutique hotel. There’s also a lakeside, romantic retreat where visitors can go trout fishing and unwind in stone built cottages.

Peel Cottage is a historical holiday house that provides a home-away-from-home feeling for guests. This is an ideal option if you value having your own amenities and total privacy when you travel. Sure, it’s a little different than the Ramada Resort, but it will definitely put you in that old-town, Ballarat state-of-mind. How often can you say that you’ve stayed in something so historic?

For something a little more modern, but still holding onto a historical charm, check out the Provincial Hotel. It’s a small, boutique hotel that’s been standing since the early 1900s. This is perfect for those who prefer to be walking distance from the town centre while staying in a spacious suite. If that doesn’t entice you, what about being greeted with a free bottle of wine upon arrival? Now we’re talking.

Where to eat

Ballarat is booming with food options. Take a morning walk around Lake Wendouree and mosey into breakfast at Boatshed Restaurant. It sits on the water and offers fine dining options with a view of the lake and its wildlife. Order the potted eggs with chorizo before 11:30am for a filling and savoury meal.

If you chose to stay at the Provincial Hotel, it’s attached to a lovely restaurant called Lola whose experienced head chef whips up a top-notch menu. We’re talking crumpets topped with pulled pork, poached egg and wilted spinach drizzled with mustard hollandaise, or French Toast topped with caramelised banana and salted caramel and white chocolate ice cream. The menu is so tempting.

Ballarat has plenty of options when it comes time for an afternoon bevvy and snack. Hop on over to Hop Temple tucked into a laneway off Mair Street, the main road in Ballarat. Don’t stand with the drinks menu for too long or you’ll be there all day. Hop Temple offers about 200 different kinds of beer! Seriously, check out their extensive beer menu. Pair your drink with an out-of-this-world charcuterie board that samples locally sourced meats and cheeses.

Don’t skip dinner in Ballarat as there are plenty of places to wine and dine. Make a reservation at Mr Jones where chefs Damian and Danielle Jones whip up a contemporary Asian-inspired menu. Dig into the Chiang Mai curry to be transported to Thailand.

Things to do

While you’re in Ballarat, plan to visit Sovereign Hill. This outdoor museum takes you back to the 1850s gold rush. It brings to life costume-fitted characters, horse-drawn carriages and Wild West-style buildings. You can even pan for gold and keep what you find! This place comes to life during the winter as it celebrates Christmas in July. If you have time, make your way inside the Gold Museum at Sovereign Hill, which displays an exhibition of gold and Ballarat’s history.

The Art Gallery of Ballarat is another spectacular place to explore Australian art. You’ll find quirky exhibitions and events that will provide new insight into all the possibilities of art.

If you fancy wine, make a day of touring the cellar doors of Ballarat and Pyrenees. It’s more of a boutique experience in this region, so you might be able to meet local winemakers. The slightly colder climate of Ballarat is perfect for producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Pick up a few cheeky wines from the vineyards of Quoin Hill or Michael Unwin to share with your friends back home and sound like a wine expert.

(Lead image: The Provincial Hotel / Facebook) 

Published 12 June, 2019