From panning for gold at Sovereign Hill to creating magic potions at Kryal Castle and seeing a tiger at Ballarat Wildlife Park, a world of family fun awaits in this historic inland city
Here are some ideas for your itinerary:
1. Sovereign Hill: a step back in time to Ballarat's gold rush era
Step back in time and discover the story of Ballarat’s history as a gold rush boomtown at this living museum. The precious metal was discovered here in 1851, triggering the greatest alluvial gold rush the world has ever known. A former mining site, Sovereign Hill brings the era to life with diggings, underground mines, costumed characters, coach rides, 1850s shops, schools and other dwellings. Make sure you stay AURA — a spectacularly evening sound-and-light show illustrating the history and importance of gold in the region. You can even book to stay at a hotel on-site.
2. Experience medieval magic at Kryal Castle
Get ready for a spellbinding adventure at Kryal Castle! Create magic potions, learn to sword fight, and be amazed by knights and horses as they battle in the championship joust! A range of special events, festivals and school holiday programs that bring medieval history to life are held throughout the year. To truly immerse yourself in the experience, stay overnight in one of the Castle Suites.
3. Explore the wild at Ballarat Wildlife Park
From adorable meerkats to rare golden wombats and even a majestic Sumatran-Siberian tiger, there are more than 300 animals on display at Ballarat Wildlife Park. Over 100 kangaroos roam free around the park and can be hand fed. There are daily presentations, but if you really want some excitement, make sure you time your visit around Crunch the Super Croc’s feeding on Sundays at 3pm. Grab lunch in the licensed café, or pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the outdoor tables.
4. Ride the trams at Ballarat Tramway Museum: fun for kids
Kids will have a ball climbing aboard trams at Ballarat Tramway Museum. The Display Hall was renovated in 2022 and features a fleet of trams crying out to be explored. Tram rides are also available along a track between the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and Lake Wendouree. Run by volunteers, the Museum is open every weekend and most Victorian school and public holidays.
5. Catch and dine at Tuki Trout Farm: from pond to pan experience
Catch your own lunch at Tuki Trout Farm and have it prepared at the property’s licensed restaurant in the ultimate ‘from the pond to the pan’ experience. Around half an hour’s drive north of Ballarat, the farm’s ponds are regularly stocked with rainbow trout. Tuki is open to the public every day during the Victorian school holidays from 11am to 5pm. Outside school holidays, the restaurant is open from Wednesday to Sunday. You can also stay overnight in one of three stone cottages on the property.
6. Taste the Goldmine Pancakes: A quirky meal at Lilly’s at Eureka
With a menu curated by a lolly maker, you are guaranteed a colourful and quirky meal at this café within the Eureka Centre at the Eureka Stockade Memorial Park, where the 1854 Eureka Stockade rebellion is believed to have taken place. In a fun throwback to the area’s mining heritage, the Goldmine Pancakes come dusted in ‘gold’ flakes and with a side of chocolate ‘dirt’ giving little ones the chance to fossick for some hidden gems (lollies!). Best of all the café opens out onto Eureka Stockade Gardens, which has a playground, pool and a splash park (open in the warmer months).
7. Cycle the highlights of Ballarat: Lake Wendouree Loop Ride
See the highlights of central Ballarat on two wheels as you cycle along the bike trail around Lake Wendouree. Starting opposite Ballarat Railway Station, the route passes Victoria Park, Robert Clark Conservatory, Ballarat Tramway Museum and picture-perfect boatsheds and jetties. Lakeside dining options include Pipers by the Lake (which has a kids’ menu and offers pre-ordered picnic packs), Ballarat Yacht Club, The Lake View Hotel and the Boatshed Restaurant. The iconic Tramcar Ice Cream Co. — a kiosk opposite the Botanical Gardens — is also a must visit with kids. The 10km return loop has a gentle grade suitable for all levels of riding experience.
8. Rainbow pancakes at Hydrant Food Hall: a popular choice for kids
Without a doubt, Ballarat’s most popular dish for kids would have to be Hydrant Food Hall‘s rainbow pancakes with fresh fruit, mini marshmallows and maple syrup! There’s also a kids’ breakfast board, complete with ham and cheese mini croissant, yoghurt, fresh fruit and orange juice. The café is located in a restored 1950s warehouse in a heritage laneway in the CBD. The large, open space is suitable for every season, with air-conditioning and a wood fire. With easy access for prams and wheelchairs, everyone can enjoy the relaxed vibe, great coffee and delicious food.
9. Ballarat Begonia Festival: vibrant floral displays
Plan your trip to coincide with the Ballarat Begonia Festival to marvel at the vibrant floral displays and experience market stalls, live music, family activities and roving entertainment. The Ballarat Botanical Gardens will play host to the spectacular sight of hundreds of rare begonias at the Robert Clarke Conservatory from March 11 to 13, 2023. Colourful installations will fill the garden, with the event’s main stage and floral clock returning. But if you can’t make it that weekend, never fear —the begonia display will remain until late April.
10. The Forge Pizzeria: gourmet pizza, theatre and kids' favourites
Housed within a red brick building in Armstrong Street, The Forge Pizzeria is a firm favourite with visitors and locals alike. Enjoy your dinner with a side of theatre as you watch the pizza makers in action as they toss the dough, whip up gourmet masterpieces and then cook them in the restaurant’s wood fire oven. Little ones will love the kids’-sized spaghetti Bolognese and Napoli pasta, along with the Hawaiian and margherita pizzas. Just make sure you all save some room for dessert! The Nutella and strawberry pizza and zeppole (mini donuts) are to-die-for.
Getting to Ballarat
Ballarat is around an hour and 30 minutes’ drive north-west of Melbourne. A shuttle bus operates from Melbourne Airport at Tullamarine, or you can catch the V/Line train from Southern Cross Station to the historic Ballarat Railway Station in the centre of town and arrive in 90 minutes. Ballarat’s location makes it the perfect stop on many road trips, such as ROLLiN’s Melbourne to Adelaide road trip. Why not stretch your Ballarat adventure into days of fun?
Select from five packages to explore some of the incredible fun-filled activities that Ballarat has to offer. Note that tickets to AURA are not included in any of the Ballarat Pass packages but can be booked directly through Sovereign Hill. Ballarat’s location makes it the perfect pit stop on many road trips such as ROLLiN’s Melbourne to Adelaide road trip. Why not stretch your Ballarat road trip into days of fun?
Where to stay in Ballarat
Located opposite the trailhead for the Lake Wendouree Loop Ride, Quest Ballarat Station offers a range of one, two and three-bedroom apartments.
In partnership with Visit Ballarat
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