Ballarat is a city in Victoria, located 120km north-west of Melbourne. Known for its rich history, natural beauty and art, it makes for the perfect weekend city break from Melbourne. Here are the best things to do in Ballarat:
Sovereign Hill is a living museum that recreates life in a 19th century gold rush town. The 25ha site comprises of 60 historically recreated buildings with costumed actors bringing this gold rush boomtown to life. Some highlights were panning for gold, walking up Main Street and Speedwell Street, the Gold Pour and watching traditional sweets being made in the Confectionery House.
Sovereign Hill Museum was my favourite thing to do in Ballarat and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about Australian History.
Tickets for Sovereign Hill cost AUD $49 adult, $40 concession, $29 child, $129 family and $93 single parent family. Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum itself. The facilities onsite were great, with plenty of toilets and food options. It was a little expensive though.
Lake Wendouree is a beautiful man-made lake that’s located a short walk from the city centre. There are numerous walking trails around the lake, and you can rent boats to explore the waters. There are plenty of benches lined up along the lake too, making it a perfect place to sit and watch the world go by. You’ll see a number of people having picnics going for a walk or cycle and even bird watching! I loved coming here in the evenings to watch the sunset. My favourite spot was by the Jetty.
Ballarat Botanical Gardens
The Ballarat Botanical Gardens comprises of 40 hectares of stunning gardens next to Lake Wendouree. There’s plenty to explore in this beautiful oasis so be sure to leave enough time.
Some highlights for me included the Prime Ministers Avenue – with bronze busts of all 28 Prime Ministers located in the magnificent Horse Chestnut Avenue of the Gardens. A Sensory Garden, designed to engage all five senses. The Conservatory, with seasonal displays to capture different plants grown in the Botanical Gardens Nursery throughout the year. The Conservatory is free to enter and open all year round, except Christmas.
Art Gallery of Ballarat
The Art Gallery of Ballarat is the oldest regional art gallery in Australia and is home to a stunning collection of Australian art. With over 11,000 pieces of art, and regular exhibitions and events, is definitely worth a visit. Check out their site here, for the latest information on what’s on. Be sure to enjoy the gallery on the free tour, every day at 11am.
Ballarat Wildlife Park
Another favourite part of my trip to Ballarat was the Ballarat Wildlife Park! With over 100 animal species, the park can be enjoyed by all ages. Some animals I enjoyed seeing were the kangaroos, koalas, giant tortoises, wombats, Tasmanian devils and the reptile house. You’ll be able to get up close to a few animals and can pay to feed some of them too. Check out their timetable on arrival to see the different animal presentations they have running throughout the day.
The park is open every day (except Christmas) from 9am-5pm. The entry cost is AUD $38.50 adults, $29.50 concession, $19.50 children and $98 family. Tickets are cheaper if you buy them in advance online and there are annual membership options too.
The Eureka Centre
The Eureka Centre documents the Eureka Rebellion that took place in Ballarat in 1854. The rebellion is a key moment in Australian history and a significant moment in the fight for democracy and the rights of workers. There are various art installations, digital displays and artefacts in the centre. Open everyday from 9am-5pm, the Eureka Centre can be found at the Eureka Stockade Memorial Park. This is on the way to the Ballarat Wildlife Park, from the city, providing an easy opportunity to do both.
The Ballarat Observatory
Situated at Mount Pleasant in Ballarat, the Observatory is the perfect evening activity to view the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky. It’s one of the oldest observatories in regional Australia and is home to a fantastic collection of 18th-21st century telescopes. There is also 3D movies showcasing different aspects of our universe. The best time to visit is during the winter nights.
The Ballarat Pass
If you’re looking to do several things on this list, it might be worth buying a Ballarat Pass. This pass will give you access to various attractions in Ballarat, saving you time and money. It ranges from $68.80 – $113.80, depending on how many attractions you want to visit. Check out the Ballarat Pass here.
For anymore information on things to do in Ballarat, check out the official visitballarat site – particularly for food, drink and winery recommendations.
How Far is Melbourne to Ballarat?
Melbourne is roughly 120km north-west of Melbourne and is quite easy to get to via car or public transport. The most convenient way would be to drive. However, it’s very easily accessible by public transport. There’s a direct train from Southern Cross Station in the CBD to Ballarat Railway Station, which takes about 1hr 20 minutes.
Whether you decide to pan for gold at Sovereign Hill Museum, marvel at the Ballarat Observatory or feed kangaroos at the Ballarat Wildlife Park, there’s something for everyone. You can easily spend a few days exploring the city and its surrounding areas.
Other weekend breaks to do in Melbourne: The Great Ocean Road Itinerary and Road Trip
Or for something within Melbourne, check out the best markets to visit.
Happy Travels x