Ultimate Ballarat guide: things to see and do in Ballarat

Sovereign Hill

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted July 29, 2022


From panning for gold at Sovereign Hill to jousting battles at Kryal Castle, there’s plenty to do on a getaway in Victoria’s Central Highlands.

Just 90 minutes from Melbourne's CBD lies Ballarat, Victoria’s largest inland city. Derived from the Indigenous words for ‘resting place,’ the historical town is filled with a rich heritage of Gold Rush history, Victorian architecture, and stunning landscapes from rollicking hills to lakes, trails and gardens.

Famed for being the home of the richest goldfields in the 1850s, fortune hunters came from all over the world with hopes of striking gold – literally. As the population grew, so did the city, where in modern times it is a melting pot of notable landmarks, cosy dining institutions, tourist attractions and natural beauty.

Whether you’re going for a day trip, weekend or longer stay, here’s our guide to the best things to see and do in Ballarat, Victoria. 


Things to do in Ballarat

Ballarat is a city of rich history, making it the perfect inland holiday for those looking to brush up on their Australian knowledge in a fun and interesting way.

Whether you’re looking for a fun day of family activity, wanting to find gold or you just want to soak up some nature, Ballarat has activities for young and old.

Attractions and experiences in Ballarat

Sovereign Hill

No visit to Ballarat is complete without a visit to Sovereign Hill. While some might remember heading there on school excursions way back when, the program is constantly revised to keep it a new and engaging experience on each visit.

The tourist attraction is an authentically recreated town that brings the Gold Rush of the 1850s to life, and is set on a former gold mining site. Set with coach rides, panning for gold experiences, candle making, old timey characters and stores, costumes, foods and activities, you can spend a day (and in winter, a wonderlights night!) getting lost in the past at this fun and interactive experience for the whole family to enjoy.

Kryal Castle

Featuring a sprawling medieval village of activities including jousting, archery, sword fighting, wizardry and more, get ready for a day like no other at Australia’s only medieval theme park.

Take a photo in 15th century costumes or a seat as a knight at the round table, grab some books on witchcraft and wizardry, lose yourself in the lavish castles, tunnels and old time shoppes with activities and fun for all ages with a visit to Kryal Castle.

Ballarat Wildlife Park

Animal shows, tours, close up encounters and even the world’s smallest penguins? See all this and more at Ballarat Wildlife Park, featuring a range of beloved Australian animals like kangaroos and saltwater crocodiles amongst Sumatran tigers, friendly meerkats, giant tortoises and even a Komodo Dragon.  

Gold Rush Mini Golf

Come rain or shine, you can get lost in the fun at Gold Rush Mini Golf in Ballarat. Featuring two themed courses (one indoor devoted to dinosaurs and one outdoor celebrating the gold rush history), and featuring a sculpture of The Big Miner to join the list of Big Things on a holiday drive, it’s sure to keep you entertained from dawn to dark.

Galleries

During the day, consider a stroll through the Art Gallery of Ballarat, which features free guided tours at 11 am daily and a rotating range of exhibitions featuring Australian impressionists, ceramics, Indigenous art, metalworks, Australian paintings and more. 

 

Take a horse and buggy ride at Sovereign Hill.
The splendid conservatory at Ballarat Botanic Gardens. Image: Robert Clark.
Take in the sunrise with a stroll around Lake Wendouree.

Museums, tours and monuments in Ballarat

Tramway Museum

Prefer your art in motor form? Consider a visit to Ballarat’s Tramway Museum, where you can indulge of the tramway experience that existed all the way back in the 1880s. You can also continue the fun with a guided ride on the restored electric trams that are over 100 years old, from Zoo Drive at the museum down to Lake Wendouree.

Ballarat Aviation Museum

Alternatively, if you prefer your transport in the sky-high variety, rake a look at the Ballarat Aviation Museum at Ballarat Airport. Originally used as a RAAF base during WWII, marvel at a great range of war and recreational aircrafts, plane engines, radios and wartime relics from the 1920s to now.

Nature

If the sun is shining and you’re looking to enjoy the great outdoors, consider a leisurely stroll by Lake Wendouree through the stunning Ballarat Botanical Gardens.

Covering over 40 hectares, the gardens are home to conservatory displays, marble statues, and Prime Ministers Avenue, which featured bronzed sculptures of the former leaders of Australia.

Avid cyclists can also enjoy a ride down Victoria’s longest off-road cycling trail along the Great Dividing Range, while those who prefer a hit on the green can enjoy a round of scenic golf at the tree-lined course at RACV Goldfields Resort.

Monuments

Located in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens lies the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial (POW), commemorating those left behind and acknowledging the sacrifices made by 36,000+ Ex-POWs.

Just four minutes’ drive away is the Arch of Victory, the largest commemorative arch in the country, and stands as the gateway to the Avenue of Honour. The longest memorial avenue in Australia is decorated with memorial trees that are each accompanied by a plaque naming the 3,801 WWI service personnel that enlisted.

Also be sure to check out The Eureka Centre, located in the National Heritage-listed Eureka Stockade Memorial Park, which is home to the Eureka flag and symbolises the site of the 1854 Eureka Stockade.

 

Visit the meerkats at Ballarat Wildlife Park.
Tee off amongst the trees at the RACV Goldfields Resort Golf Course.
Prepare for battle at Kryal Castle.

Best places to eat in Ballarat

Ballarat and the wider Goldfields region has become renowned for its gastronomy scene, and is home to some of the best regional pubs and nearby culinary experiences.

If you’re looking for a cosy night, get settled into a sofa at Hop Temple, with a relaxing vibe and American-grill-inspired menu.

Down at Craig’s Royal Hotel on Lydiard Street, you can indulge in top-notch pub fare, and even keep an eye out for the alleged ghost that haunts the venue.

Those with a love for pizza and pasta can get authentic Italian at The Forge Pizzeria on Armstrong Street, or even take the family to the last remaining dine-in Pizza Hut in the state.

Nearby Creswick also features RACV’s premiere Central Highlands restaurant at the RACV Goldfields Resort. Named after the Creswick brothers who founded the town in 1842, Three Founders features a seasonal menu that celebrates the best of the region’s food and wine scene. Guests can elect to dine indoors or relax on the outdoor terrace.

It’s also worth keeping up to date with the latest events on in the region, as Ballarat frequently features foodie pop ups such as winter night markets, festivals, food trucks and farmer’s markets.

Best places to grab a tipple in Ballarat

If you’re wanting a big night out, head out to the boozy and boisterous Piano Bar, and have a singalong with friends new and old to some of your favourite tunes

If you’re looking for a vino with a relaxed atmosphere, head on down to Ellington’s, a neighbourhood local that features rooftop views, regional wines and a curated selection of share plates and favours.

Those who like their cocktails to arrive with a bit of a bang will love stepping back in time at 18th Amendment Bar, which is exactly what it sounds like. Based on a hidden Chicago speakeasy when alcohol was prohibited, the underground jaunt features signature cocktails like the Jitterbug, The Boardwalk Empire and the Shimmy Shimmy – just be prepared for when they light up before your eyes! 

 

Looking for an amazing travel experience? 
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