Ballarat is the largest city in country Victoria and located approximately 1.5 hours drive from Melbourne. The name originates from the Indigenous Wathawurung people who called the area ‘Balla-arat’, meaning ‘Good Resting Place’. Settled in 1837 this township has a strong connection to its historical past from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Ballarat marks the epicentre of Victorias’ Goldrush history as the most unprecedented gold rush in the world began here in 1851. The sheer volume of monetary wealth that was being dug out of the ground was so great, it turned small settlements such as Ballarat and Melbourne into spectacular world-renowned cities in a relatively short amount of time.

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What To Do

Ballarat is a relaxing weekend getaway from Melbourne with plenty to see and do. You don’t have to look far before you see the strong historical connection to its pioneering past. The township boasts grand boulevards, heritage buildings and cultural experiences.

1. Sovereign Hill is one of Victorias’ most popular attractions and is a must do while in Ballarat. It is an authentic outdoor recreation of a town during the 1850s Gold Rush. Visitors are able to step back in time and immerse themselves in the experience as every inch of the town is historically accurate. Explore the buildings, see the costumes, experience the crafts and pine for your own gold. This living museum is suitable for all ages and be sure to make a plan so you don’t miss out on the key activities.

2. Lake Wendouree is located in central Ballarat and is the home of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Rowing event. Surrounding the lake is a 6km walking track that allows you to take in the tranquil sights and explore the surrounding activities such as the Botanical Gardens, restaurants, playgrounds, fishing, sailing, cycling and more.

3. To explore the township itself, you can’t go past Lydiard Street. Stroll up and down this iconic Victorian Era Boulevard and you’ll come across landmarks such as the famous Art Gallery, Mining Exchange, Town Hall, hotels and pubs.

Food & Drink

Do not be fooled into thinking the food and drink scene in Ballarat is no match to the big city. Many acclaimed Melbourne Chefs have re-established themselves here and the venues showcase the finest local produce from Victoria’s’ Central Highland region.

1. To continue the historical theme, you can’t go past Craig’s Royal Hotel on Lydiard Street. This iconic Victorian period hotel was opened in 1853 and now features a classic European–style menu and fine-aged wines to accompany. The building has undergone extensive restorations to bring it back to its former grandeur for your dining experience.

2. Mitchell Harris Wine Bar has the feel of a stylish inner-city bar bought out to the country. Settle into its cosy interior and enjoy the range of local wines paired with a gourmet food menu.

3. If you arrive late morning and are on the hunt for a great brunch, be sure to check out Café Lekker or L’Espresso. You’ll find great tasting coffee, a great café atmosphere and brunch favourites such as smashed avocado and eggs benedict.

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Where to Stay?

Ballarat has a range of accommodation options to suit each season and visitor. If you’re wanting to stay in a historic part of the city then head to one of the many iconic Victorian hotels such as Craig’s Royal Hotel, Victoriana Motor Inn or Krystal Castle Suites.

If you’d like to enjoy the scenery of Lake Wendouree some more then check out Lake Wendouree Luxury Apartments, Lake Inn Ballarat or Airbnb options.

For visitors wanting to stay somewhere with a country view you have plenty of options just outside of the city such as Cave Hill Creek, Tuki Retreat and Ballarat primavera.

Getting Around

Hiring a bike is a great way to see the city as the main sites are all relatively central. Be sure to take a ride around Lake Wendouree if you do this.

For a more relaxing way to explore the lake you can hop on the Ballarat Tramway Museum that starts at the Botanical Gardens and does a loop around. The historic tram is operated by volunteers and only costs around $5. Public transport is also easy to use in the city, or if you’ve planned an action packed weekend full of activities then a car will allow you to see the surrounding areas too.

Overall Ballarat is a perfect weekend destination to escape the fast pace of Melbourne but still with plenty to do. No matter the time of year or whether you’re a family, a couple or a group of friends, there is something here for everyone.