Ballarat’s Many Delights
Escape the big smoke and head to historic Ballarat this month for art and architecture.
OVER THE HILLS, but not far away, is an enticing pot of gold calling out for you to come and play. Ballarat, just 115km from Melbourne and easily accessible by train, is the historically rich and culturally warm city just waiting for you to explore.
Art and architecture are abundant in Ballarat and its historic villages, such as Clunes, Buninyong and Creswick, and they enrich the region’s ambience. Couple the striking streetscapes with awardwinning food and wine outlets and Ballarat will tempt you to linger a little longer.
Of course you can fit a lot into one day—but why not make a night (or several) of it? Stay in a rural retreat, fantastic family caravan park, or indulge in one of the city’s grand accommodation options.
So, let curiosity get the better of you—jump in the car, step onto the train, or get on-board a bus—and visit this handsome city in all its golden glory.
Sovereign Hill, an internationally acclaimed tourist attraction, brings to life the colour and excitement of Australia’s 1850s gold rush. It’s just like stepping back in time to gold rush Ballarat—from the hustle and bustle of Main Street where costumed ladies and gents parade their new-found wealth, to the excitement of the diggings where visitors can pan for real gold! There’s also an underground mine tour, a spectacular $150,000 gold pour, the Redcoat soldiers who fire their powerful muskets, and much more.
By night, entertainment continues at Sovereign Hill with the multi-million dollar sound-and-light show, “Blood on the Southern Cross”—the legendary story of the 1854 Eureka Rebellion. Convenient on-site accommodation is available at Sovereign Hill Hotel.
On now at the Gold Museum is the “Re-awakening the Dragon” exhibition which showcases items once used by Ballarat’s Chinese community for social, cultural and religious ceremonies, including the spectacular Loong dragon.
No matter what time of year you visit, Sovereign Hill will come alive with the sights and sounds of the goldfields—and you might even strike it rich in your search for gold!
If it’s animals you love, then enjoy interactive play with some of Australia’s most-loved creatures at the Ballarat Wildlife Park. Hand-feed more than 100 free-roaming kangaroos and emus, cuddle koalas and wombats, see Tasmanian devils, and brave the reptile house with its crocodiles and snakes. wildlifepark.com.au
Kryal Castle is Ballarat’s land of medieval adventure—and it’s fit for all ages to explore. Discover myths, legends and fairy tales, be entertained and thrilled in the Torture Museum, and witness the special-effects dungeon and the dramatic main arena shows. You will be enchanted bythe story of the Land of Kryal, all set in the real-life castle on the hill. kryalcastle.com.au
Another world-class attraction in Ballarat is the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (MADE). MADE is a digitally-immersive, state-of-the-art museum. With the evocative 158-year-old Eureka flag as its centrepiece, MADE’S interactive exhibitions explore the past and future of democracy—looking at culture, civics, history and citizenship. made.org
Or, if you want to see the works —why not bundle the four abovementioned attractions together to save 15 per cent on entry? Purchase the ‘Ballarat Pass’, which is available from the Ballarat Visitor Information Centre at Town Hall, 225 Sturt Street and enjoy other bonus offers around the vibrant regional city too.
INDULGE THE SENSES
Ballarat’s picturesque Lake Wendouree is famed for its recreation opportunities and a chance to get up close with nature. It’s the former site of the 1956 Summer Olympics. The Lake is just a stone’s throw from the iconic Ballarat Botanical Gardens. Home to the avenue of Prime Minister busts, marble statues, and huge shady trees—it’s one of Australia’s oldest and finest gardens set amongst 40 hectares. For a touch of wellbeing, how about booking in to one of the region’s many luxurious day spas? Or, if it’s food for the soul you are after, you can fulfil every need at gourmet patisseries, charming cellar doors, or award-winning first-class restaurants.
Founded in 1884, the Art Gallery of Ballarat is the oldest and largest regional gallery in Australia. Home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Australian paintings in the nation, works featured here are just a small selection from a holding that extends from convict artists of Van Diemen’s Land to the present day. General entry is free and special exhibitions are regularly alternated.
EXHIBITIONS AT THE ART GALLERY OF BALLARAT
Art Gallery of Ballarat is staging several exhibitions this month. On until 27 May is “Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: The Flora of Menindee”, an exhibition by 20 Melbourne-based botanica artists that was inspired by the 150th anniversary of the Victorian Exploring Expedition (VEE), better known as the Burke and Wills Expedition, and the work of pioneer botanical collector Dr Hermann Beckler.
Beckler was in charge of the VEE Supply Party, which remained in the outback area of Menindee on the Darling River in south-west New South Wales. During this time, Beckler collected 120 plant species. His original plant collection is now a national treasure, housed at the National Herbarium Victoria.
Over eight consecutive years, 26 artists have visited Beckler’s collecting grounds around Menindee to locate, collect, preserve and illustrate the same 120 plants species collected in 1860–61. The works provide an accurate representation of the plant subjects, as well as revealing the different style of each artist. This unique collection of artworks includes a range of additional materials that are integral to the project, as well as working drawings and diaries from many of the artists portraying their artistic process and experiences in the outback.
■ Find out more about Ballarat by calling 1800 44 66 33, online at visitballarat.com.au, or by emailing email@example.com
You can visit in person at the Ballarat Visitor Information Centre, Town Hall, 225 Sturt Street, Ballarat.