How to spend a weekend in Ballarat
by Ashleigh Calleja
Ballarat is the heart of the Goldfields in Victoria due to the lingering history of the gold rush in the 1850s. Walking into this thriving city is an experience in itself with the heritage listed buildings maintaining the architectural style of the gold rush era. Whether you want to dive into the history of the gold rush at Sovereign Hill, eat delicious freshly made food or explore the beauty of Australian flora and fauna Ballarat has something for everyone.
How to get to Ballarat
Ballarat is located just one and a half hours from Melbourne in the western suburbs of Victoria. It is an easy drive following the West Gate Freeway and Western Freeway though it can get extremely busy around peak hour travel so it’s best to plan accordingly.
Things to do in Ballarat
Sovereign Hill is the heart and soul of the Ballarat tourist industry. This attraction takes you back in time to the goldfield era allowing visitors to pan for gold, explore mines and eat the sweet treats made on-site from scratch! The food here is so incredible, having won many awards, that the owners have started allowing visitors to come in on a food pass so make sure you grab some goodies for your snacks for the remainder of your weekend.
A favourite of locals, Lake Wendouree is filled with beautiful scenery and wildlife. For kids there are a variety of playgrounds around the perimeter of the lake that will always leave them with something new to do or there are always a variety of ducks and swans to feed. The lake also plays host to many events in Ballarat including festivals, rowing competitions and markets so be sure to look out for local events before planning your trip!
Ballarat Botanical Gardens
Located just across the road from Lake Wendouree, the Botanical Gardens are a lovely site for a quiet stroll through the beauty of local and international flora. If you’re looking for a more romantic setting head on over to the foundations, for a bit of cultural immersion walk through the busts of the former prime ministers of Australia (you’ll notice there are quite a few) or to experience the beauty of some of the more exotic plant life walk into the greenhouse to wonder at the wide variety of colours that greet you.
Ballarat Wildlife Park
To meet the wonders of Australian wildlife look no further than the Ballarat Wildlife Park. This absolute gem of a wildlife center is home to an abundance of Australia’s exclusive fauna including wombats, koalas, kangaroos, emus, Tasmanian devils, crocodiles and platypuses. Not only will you get to witness these incredible creatures in person and up close, there are a wide variety of shows with extremely knowledgeable staff and, the best part of all, you can feed the animals! That’s right, get up even closer to these amazing animals with the opportunity to hand feed the kangaroos and emus in the open range area of the park. You can even pat a joey!
Gong Gong Reservoir Park
For the more adventurous traveler Gong Gong Reservoir Park is the perfect spot for hikers. Gong Gong has tracks for everyone from the wetlands trail for younger children to explore the marshes learning about local fauna and flora to the 16km Yarrowee River Trail for more advanced hikers.
Kirks Reservoir Park
A lovely playground for young families and a perfect stop for a picnic lunch in the sun, with abundant open space and a variety of criss-crossing paths children will feel like they have entered a fairy tale land.
Lal Lal Falls
While you can no longer go down to the bottom of this waterfall, the views from the top are incredible and the various walking tracks make for the perfect day of exploring just outside of Ballarat. If you want to continue chasing waterfalls just make your way up the road to the beautiful Moorabool Falls.
Best places to eat in Ballarat
Whether you want a superior dining experience to get off those aching travelers feet or want to grab some take away lunch to enjoy in the sunshine of one of Ballarat’s gorgeous nature parks, Ballarat has some delicious options that will leave your taste buds begging for more!
The Forge Pizzeria
The Forge is home to the best pizza that I have ever tasted! Cooked fresh in wood fire ovens with incredible customer service. I would recommend the shearers for a delicious and hearty meal and the strawberry pizza for dessert. You won’t regret it!
Golden City Hotel
For a pub style meal to suit even the fussiest of eaters head to the Golden City Hotel home to the most decadent of iced chocolates.
Despite the wide variety of delicious food at Table 48, this restaurant is a stand out for one reason: garlic bread! Free with every dining experience you can’t go past the delicious and fresh made garlic bread at this wonderful restaurant.
Tokyo Grill House
For an experience that constitutes dinner and a show head to the home of teppanyaki in Ballarat to enjoy the spectacle of these skilled chefs! My personal recommendation is to get a banquet including the teriyaki chicken for a delicious experience without missing any of the show.
Il Piccolo Gelato
The absolute best ice cream that I have tasted in all of my travels, Il Piccolo cannot be beaten! Locally owned with a wide variety of fresh made flavours available every week, it cannot be missed! My personal favourites are caramel peanut, turkish delight and ferraro rocher but in my many, many return visits I have never been disappointed no matter the flavour I try.
Cold Rock Ice Creamery
Another delicious ice cream option is Cold Rock. Here you can make your own spectacular concoctions with a variety of flavours of ice cream and lollies to smash into them. Just place your order and watch as your tasty creation is born.