Best Things to See and Do in Ballarat, Victoria

by | Last updated May 25, 2024 | Victoria | 6 comments

Ballarat is Victoria’s largest inland city. It was founded from the wealth of gold found during the famous Victorian gold rush in the 1850s. Just like Bendigo, another city built from gold, Ballarat of today has much grand architecture and streetscapes in its CBD and surrounds. So while on a weekend road trip from Melbourne or while driving around Victoria or doing the ‘big lap of Oz‘, a visit to see what all the fuss is about Ballarat should be on your list. If you are wondering why you should visit Ballarat, here are the best things to see and do in Ballarat.

In this post I’m going to list the best things to see and do in Ballarat plus help you to organise your visit. No matter if you are a solo traveller to Bendigo, travelling with a friend or partner, or having a family holiday to Bendigo with kids, Ballarat is a city offering something, particularly gold related, for everyone to discover.

 

Best Things to See and Do in Ballarat

 

Sovereign Hill

 

No visit to Ballarat is complete without visiting Sovereign Hill and is one of the best things to see and do in Ballarat. Sovereign Hill is a living museum recreating the 1850s gold rush around Ballarat. You will step back in time to the gold rush days and discover how those who came to this golden area lived and worked. Streets have been recreated with shops and buildings with services needed. There are many people who volunteer or work there dressed from the time who are happy to explain why their character is there. From the blacksmith to the bankers to bar workers, you can chat to them all! And you can go on a gold mine tour and even pan for alluvial gold yourself! Then you can scream Eureka, which is what the miners screamed when they found gold! And don’t forget to check out a replica of the ‘Welcome Nugget’. It was found on nearby Bakery Hill and is the second largest gold nugget ever found in the world.

Sovereign Hill is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm. For everything you need to know about visiting Sovereign Hill, visit the Sovereign Hill website where you will find all the details and can also purchase your entrance ticket. If you prefer to go on a tour to Sovereign Hill from Melbourne for a day, check out this one that includes transport and entrance ticket to Sovereign Hill + Gold Mine Tour.

Copy of Welcome Nugget at Sovereign Hill

replica of 2nd biggest gold nugget ever found in the world

panning for gold at Sovereign Hill

pan for gold

Sovereign Hill New York Bar for an alcoholic drink.

have a drink at the bar

main street of Sovereign Hill Ballarat has been recreated to show how life was during the 1850s gold rush days at Sovereign Hill Ballarat

walk along the main street and visit all the shops and services

Blacksmith working with metal at Sovereign Hill

blacksmith shop

Clothes worn in the 1850s gold fields in Sovereign Hill.

follow the teacher back to school

The Eureka Centre

 

The Eureka Centre s located at the historic site of the 1854 Eureka Stockade. It was named after a hastily constructed fortification by the miners in the Eureka goldfield. Many of the gold prospectors in Ballarat became disenchanted with the government forces regulations and wanted reforms. On December 3, 1854 things came to a head and miners clashed with government forces. During the scuffle lasting 15 minutes 22 miners and six soldiers lost their lives. A visit to the Eureka Centre located in the Eureka Memorial Park is a must visit to explain this important time in Australia’s history. So a visit to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (MADE) is a must to discover the birthplace of Australian democracy.

You will find the Eureka Centre at 102 Stawell Street South, Ballarat. The Memorial Park is always open however, the Eureka Centre is open daily from 10am to 5pm. And it is home to one of Australia’s most compelling historic artefacts – the Eureka Flag. This flag stands for defiance in the face of injustice by the government.

 

Eureka Memorial Park Ballarat entrance. White gates with large sign.

entrance to Eureka Memorial Park

Eureka Centre built in the shape of the stockade in the Eureka Memorial Park Ballarat.

Eureka Centre in the Eureka Memorial Park

Eureka Circle with Eureka Flag in Eureka Memorial Park, Ballarat.

Eureka Circle on the spot of the Eureka Stockade

Pretend English soldiers guarding Eureka Fort playground in Ballarat.

playground in the Eureka Memorial Park

Walk around Ballarat CBD

 

Ballarat was built on gold and those who made their riches from the gold built very grand buildings. Today, if you walk around Ballarat’s CBD you will be treated to well-preserved colonial-era buildings. Lydiard Street is the beating heart of Ballarat’s grandeur and is the premier arts and heritage hotspot. So get your walking shoes on and enjoy the architecture of the buildings. These include the:

  • Art Gallery of Ballarat
  • Town Hall
  • Ballarat Railway Station
  • Her Majesty’s Theatre
  • Regent Theatre
  • Craig’s Royal Hotel
  • Mechanics Institute
  • Ballarat Library
  • enjoy what many of them have inside – cafes, restaurants and boutique stores.

 

Looking over Ballarat from Sturt Street.

looking back over Ballarat from Sturt Street

 

Get some Exercise at Lake Wendouree

 

Located to the west of Ballarat’s CBD is Lake Wendouree an artificial recreational lake in the suburb of Lake Wendouree. The lake is a wonderful place to get out and about and enjoy the outdoors. Scattered around the lake are yacht clubs and a couple of restaurants. If feeling keen, you can walk or ride a bike around the perimeter along the Steve Moneghetti track of the lake. It is 6km in length and will take you about 1 hour, depending on how fast you are walking or riding. The lake is found next to the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Tram Museum.

 

Lake Wendourie Ballarat is an artificial lake for outdoor activities.

sitting on a park bench watching the world go by at Lake Wendouree

 

Other Things to See and Do in Ballarat

 

  • Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens. A great place to enjoy the plant life and to let the kids run off some steam. It started as the police horse paddock and has a fernery over 100 years old. And features many statues including Australia’s only avenue of Prime Minister busts.
  • Take a ride on a tram on a visit to the Tram Museum.
  • About 12 km outside of Ballarat along the National Highway M8 is Kryal Castle. Home of medieval adventures with daily shows and attractions.

 

Tram ride at the Ballarat tram museum.

enjoy a tram ride at the Tram Museum

Wallace Statue in Ballarat Botanical Gardens.

Wallace statue in Ballarat Botanical Gardens

Organise Your Visit to Ballarat

 

Now you know what to see and do on a visit to Ballarat, it is time to organise your visit.

 

Where is Ballarat and How to Get There?

 

Ballarat was established in the 1850s after gold was found in this part of Victoria. In fact, the Welcome Nugget was found in Bakery Hill in Bendigo and is the second largest gold nugget ever found, after the Welcome Stranger Nugget. 

 

Getting to Ballarat by Road

Many drive to Ballarat which is around 114km north west of Melbourne and takes around 90 minutes or so to reach by car. It can be reached by a number of roads including the Goldfields Way from Bendigo. There is also the Midland Highway linking Geelong to Ballarat. Then the Hopkins Highway linking Warrnambool and Ballarat. But if coming from Melbourne you will probably take the Western Freeway M8.

If you need to rent a car check out the DiscoverCars website to compare car prices, check availability and to book. 

 

Getting to Ballarat by Train

Ballarat can be reached directly by train from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station. It takes around 90 minutes on the direct V/Line train to arrive at Ballarat’s beautiful old 19th century-built Railway Station. Check out pricing, the timetable and to purchase a ticket on the V/Line website.

 

Tours to Ballarat from Melbourne

If you would prefer someone else do the driving and take you to the best things to see and do in Ballarat, you could organise a day trip from Melbourne. Check out this one taking in Sovereign Hill from Melbourne.

 

When is the Best Time to Visit Ballarat?

 

Anytime is a good time to visit Ballarat. However, winter can be very cold and summer very hot. Spring and Autumn are perfect as the weather is a good temperature. But it is up to you when you visit, Ballarat and its history of gold isn’t going anywhere.

 

How long should you Visit Ballarat for?

 

Definitely visit Ballarat for a fews days which will give you enough time to see the major things Ballarat is known for. One of the best attractions, Sovereign Hill takes a day to visit. Then a day or two for the other sites. So you could easily spend 2-3 days or longer in Ballarat. 

 

Where to Stay in Ballarat?

 

If you are wondering where to stay in Ballarat well, Ballarat has a variety of accommodation available, with plenty of places in the CBD and surrounds. The closer you are to the centre of town the easier it is to walk to the major sights. Though it is best to drive to Sovereign Hill. Some places to stay in Ballarat include:

 

  • The Craig’s Royal Hotel on Lydiard Street has a lot of character and is right in the centre of Ballarat’s cultural area.
  • The Eureka Lodge Motel is where I stayed. It was across the road from the Eureka Memorial Park and is a great budget hotel and offered everything I needed for a pleasant stay.
  • If towing a van or bringing your tent, check out the Eureka Stockade Holiday Park.
  • For other accommodation options check out Booking.com – it’s my go to site where I book all my accommodation.

 

Are You Ready to Visit Ballarat?

 

I hope you are ready to visit for a few days to see some of the best things to see and do in Ballarat. If you have any questions about your visit or have visited already, i would love to hear in the comments following.

You may also like:

What to See and Do in Bendigo
Goldfields Way Road Trip – Bendigo to Ballarat

 

Ballarat Pin of Welcome Stranger Nugget, Lake Wendouree, Eureka Centre and Botanical Gardens.

6 Comments

  1. Adventures from where you want to be

    I lived in Ballarat for 11 years and you have posted a great list of all my favorite places, My favorite though was the old-fashioned lollies from Sovereign Hill.

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      Yes I popped into the lollie shop at Sovereign Hill and there were so many flavours to discover.

      Reply
  2. Anita

    Ballarat seems like a great place to visit. Eureka Centre seems interesting with lots of history in it. I would enjoy a tram ride in the Tram museum too. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      You are right, there is plenty of history to discover in Ballarat – particularly the history of gold in Australia.

      Reply
  3. Lisa

    Growing up in rural Queensland, I love visiting regional areas in Australia, but still need to visit much of Victoria. Ballarat has so much history and has so much to see. Great guide!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      Victoria is such an interesting place. I didn’t know how interesting it was until I went for a drive through the gold fields region of Victoria. Ballarat was so interesting. I hope you can tour around Victoria like I do.

      Reply

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Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve Sign shaped like a big white wave with Sharyn McCullum On the Great Ocean Road.

G’Day! Sharyn here, an Aussie loving discovering Australia. Let me show you around so you can discover Australia too.  Read my story here.

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