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There are plenty of things to do in Ballarat in Victoria. Ballarat is a pretty historic town that’s just 60 minute’s drive from Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. There’s also a Ballarat to Melbourne train if you would prefer not to drive. Back in the 1850s there was only one reason people came to Ballarat – to strike it rich! 

More than 20,000 prospectors flocked to Victoria’s largest inland city to seek their fortune and flaunt their new-found wealth on streets lined with grand Edwardian buildings. Ballarat was a boom town and became world famous for its culture and prosperity. While the miners of Ballarat are long gone, a proud artistic heritage, fine architecture and fascinating stories remain for visitors to discover.

Craig’s Royal Hotel

Ballarat things to see & do

History comes alive at Sovereign Hill, a recreated goldfields township spread over 25 hectares which offers plenty to see and do including the chance to pan for gold. Guides dressed in period costume walk the streets and much of the site is original and open to the public, including a deep shaft where the miners used to toil. 

Panning for gold at Sovereign Hill
Sovereign Hill main street

At night the dusty streets are home to Blood on the Southern Cross, a dramatic recreation of the Eureka Stockade battle which shaped Australia’s democratic history. Dress warmly for the nightly show, even in summer, as the goldfields are as chilly now as they were back then. 

Blood on the Southern Cross show at Sovereign Hill

In the centre of town you’ll find Australia’s oldest provincial gallery, the Art Gallery of Ballarat, which houses the preserved remnants of the original Eureka flag and the largest regional collection of Australian art in the country. 

Art Gallery of Ballarat

If you’re looking for a good excuse to hold each other tight sign up for a spooky glimpse into the past with Eerie Ghost Tours. Daring travellers can roam the back alleys and explore creepy underground cellars with a gothic guide who enjoys nothing better than scaring people silly.  

Ballarat restaurants

Craig’s Royal Hotel, a grand venue which opened in the 1850s, remains the dining establishment of choice for a special evening out. On a clear night you can star gaze through the hotel restaurant’s glass roof. Music lovers can dine to the smooth sounds of jazz and blues at L’Espresso, a CD store doubling as a smart cafe. Sweet Decadence at the Art Gallery is perfect for lunch or a reviving cup of tea.  

Dining at Craig’s Royal Hotel

Where to stay in Ballarat

Guests at the well-priced Comfort Inn Sovereign Hill can slip through a side door to gain instant access to the historic site. Craig’s Royal Hotel has hosted royalty and remains the most elegant accommodation in town. It’s also one of the spookiest stops on the ghost tour.

One of the rooms is said to be haunted by the owner, Mr Walter Craig, who dreamt of his own death. Unfortunately for him, dreams do come true. He passed away unexpectedly the very next day.  

Disclosure: The writer visited Ballarat with her family at her own expense.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.