Ballarat is one of Victoria’s exciting regional centres, located just over an hour from Melbourne by train, bus or car. Whether you’re visiting for the day or studying and living in Ballarat, there are many fascinating historical and cultural sights to explore, as well as beautiful natural destinations and a vibrant nightlife.
We’ve put together a list of nine fun things to do in and around Ballarat for you to enjoy!
Sovereign Hill is an outdoor museum that brings the gold mining history of 1850s Victoria to life. The site provides a unique Australian outback experience and has been named Australia’s best major tourist attraction four times!
With enough to keep you entertained for a whole day, fun activities include watching the troopers and red coats, panning for real gold in the diggings, coach rides and hands-on experiences (like old school sweet-making).
Ballarat Wildlife Park
Ballarat Wildlife Park is a family-owned, interactive wildlife park that specialises in native Australian animals and exotic reptiles. The park is home to kangaroos, koalas, wombats, Tasmanian devils, eagles, giant tortoises, crocodiles and alligators, as well as lizards and snakes – just to name a few! Don’t miss the chance to see a rare Sumatran tiger in the Tiger Sanctuary, too!
If you’re feeling brave, you can book personal encounters with koalas, meerkats, wombats, snakes and giant tortoises. Remember to take plenty of photos!
Located just outside Ballarat, Kryal Castle is a modern-day castle built in the 1970s by local, Keith Ryall. Ryall’s imagination was captured by a World War II sword brought home and gifted to him by his grandfather, and he decided to build his very own castle! Fun fact: It’s Australia’s only medieval adventure park! You can spend a day wandering the medieval halls, trying out archery and exploring the maze. For a truly unique experience, join the crowd to watch a Royal Joust. Enjoy Ballarat’s knights in shining armour as they compete in Australia’s only continuous jousting tournament.
The Art Gallery of Ballarat
The Art Gallery of Ballarat was founded in 1884 and is Australia’s oldest regional gallery. The Gallery features a collection of historical and contemporary art, including paintings and drawings, sculptures and decorative arts. It also specialises in work by local artists and pieces about Ballarat’s growth through history. It’s a great place to learn more about the history of Ballarat, as well as enjoying Ballarat’s thriving arts scene.
The gold rush history of Ballarat is one of the city’s most fascinating things to learn about. To find out all about the Eureka Stockade and the Eureka Rebellion, head to the Eureka Centre in Eureka Stockade Memorial Park. The Centre explores the social history and cultural impact of the gold rush in Victoria and tells some of the stories about the men and women who fought for miners’ rights. It is also home to one of Australia’s most compelling historic artefacts – the Eureka Flag.
Lake Wendouree Precinct
Lake Wendouree is located in central Ballarat right next to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and near Victoria Park. It’s a great place to get active and enjoy the outdoors. Take advantage of the running and walking track, cycling trails, playgrounds and fantastic picnic and BBQ facilities. The lake also offers opportunities for fishing, sailing and rowing.
After you’re done enjoying the sunshine, we suggest snacking on handmade croissants and pies from 1816 Bakehouse as you relax under 100-year-old trees in the Botanical Gardens.
Drive to Buninyong
Buninyong is one of Victoria’s most charming villages, located less than 15 kilometres from Ballarat. Legend has it that a young Buninyong blacksmith found gold there in August 1851. This put the town on the map and it has been thriving ever since. As well as many delicious places to eat in the village itself, you can also visit the nearby Lal Lal Falls or Moorabool Falls for a picnic. Don’t forget to stop at Mount Buninyong, an extinct volcano, to check out the view and take some stunning photos.
Bridge Mall Farmers Market
Located in Bridge Mall, in the centre of Ballarat, the Bridge Mall Farmers Market is held on the first Saturday of every month. With fresh food, vegetables, bread and more from over 50 growers, farmers, bakers and makers, you’ll be sure to pick up some tasty treats to take home. Enjoy live music as you bask in the sense of community spirit.
Shopping on a student budget can be tricky at times. Luckily, there is a huge range of great places for second-hand shopping in Ballarat. So, you can update your wardrobe with unique vintage pieces, grab some books, or find cool knick-knacks for your house, all while shopping sustainably!