Bal­larat’s Many De­lights

Es­cape the big smoke and head to his­toric Bal­larat this month for art and ar­chi­tec­ture.

Where Melbourne - - Contents -

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.

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. kryal­cas­

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.

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.


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.


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 vis­it­bal­, or by email­ing vis­it­bal­

You can visit in per­son at the Bal­larat Vis­i­tor In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre, Town Hall, 225 Sturt Street, Bal­larat.

Gold pan­ning at Sov­er­eign Hill. Photo: Robert Black­burn/visit Vic­to­ria. Bal­larat Town Hall. Photo: An­drew Paoli/visit Vic­to­ria.

From the ex­hi­bi­tion “Beck­ler’s Botan­i­cal Bounty: The Flora of Menindee” at the Art Gallery of Bal­larat.

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