A former 19th-century gold-rush town on the Yarrowee River in Australia, Ballarat still harbours a grand collection of Victorian-era architecture scattered amongst heritage streets, modern art galleries, microbreweries and lavish botanical gardens. Even the city’s main rail station, opened in 1862, ranks as one of the most impressive heritage buildings in the country.
Things to do in Ballarat
The biggest tourist draw in Ballarat is Sovereign Hill, an authentic re-creation of the village during its 1850s gold rush. Like a living-history museum, the simulated township features costumed actors portraying everyday life in a gold-mining community. See the original mine shaft and equipment, go panning for gold, and watch the hourly gold pour.
A walk down Sturt Street reveals numerous sculptures and statues, including Queen Victoria watching over Town Hall and a bandstand commemorating local musicians on the RMS Titanic. Be sure to head over to Lydiard Street for its nostalgic pubs, lively cafes and the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Visit the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka, and sample indigenous ingredients at the on-site Saltbush Cafe, including wattleseed, finger lime, mountain pepper and native saltbush leaves.
Enjoy Ballarat’s wild side at the interactive Ballarat Wildlife Park, home to Tasmanian devils, dingoes and tree kangaroos. Lake Wendouree offers trails for hiking and cycling, while Ballarat Botanical Gardens is where to view bronze statues of the Prime Ministers of Australia. A scenic way to get around, ride the authentic vintage tram that runs along the lake to the Ballarat Tramway Museum.
Getting around Ballarat
Ballarat is home to an extensive public transportation network with commuter trains and in-city buses. A free visitor shuttle bus operates from the Ballarat Visitor Information Centre, servicing the main tourist attractions. A free Hopshuttle tourist bus is available on weekends, or you can rent a bike from one of the several bikehire companies.