Historic Ballarat is an easy hour’s drive from Melbourne and a great place for families to explore Australian history, appreciate art, challenge their sense of fair play, frolic in the outdoors and get up close to Australian wildlife. Rich history abounds, together with a fresh new energy that sizzles with incredible food shopping, modern arts and culture. Plan your family visit around the obvious attractions of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E), Sovereign Hill and Ballarat Wildlife Park and enjoy the beauty of regional Victoria all in an easy weekend away.
Make your first stop M.A.D.E ., Australia’s museum dedicated to democracy. Built on the site of the Eureka Stockade and housing the original Eureka Flag, this engaging and enthralling museum encourages you to explore the concept of democracy through music, projections and speeches by the most influential orators of the 20th century. There are plenty of hands-on activities designed to get your kids thinking about the importance of democracy and fair play, and how they can make a contribution. A morning is not enough to explore all of the interactive exhibits and engaging technology of this award-winning museum.
Finish your visit with a delicious snack or a lunch at the Museum’s Saltbush Kitchen. We recommend grabbing one of the complimentary picnic rugs and letting the kids run loose in the Eureka Gardens and playgrounds.
Indulge in a double adventure, with arty indoors and outdoors play time.
The Art Gallery of Ballarat is the oldest and largest regional art gallery in Australia. There is art from the earliest period of European settlement to the present day, and regular new exhibits to keep you coming back. There is also a fine and growing collection of Australia Indigenous art. The Gallery is committed to supporting the making of, and appreciation for, the visual arts in the Ballarat region. A large selection of children’s activities and learning experiences are on offer suitable for all ages, from toddlers to teens.
Then head for the outdoors and explore Ballarat Botanical Gardens Reserve, overlooking picturesque Lake Wendouree. The beautiful gardens are spread over 409ha and feature sculptures and a dedicated lakeside walk. Kids will love the creative and cool adventure playground with its timber fort; slides and swings, a tee pee, monkey rings and balance beams, sandpit and a wooden train. Get ready to watch your kids magically turn this playground break into hours of play and imagination.
Enjoy the new and funky restaurants and cafes in this vibrant city. One of the latest entries into the Ballarat foodie scene is the highly recommended ‘Cat Fish Thai’. A delectable chefs degustation for the adults and simpler tasty Thai dishes for the kids. Make this a special night out and enjoy fantastic food in a funky atmosphere.
Take your time at Sovereign Hill, Australia’s favourite outdoor museum where the settlement of Ballarat in its first decade after the discovery of gold in 1851, is recreated. Australia’s very own Gold Rush saw thousands of international adventurers flocking to these Australian goldfields in search of fortune.
Sovereign Hill lets you step back in time from the moment you enter the original Main Street, with costumed ladies and gents of yesteryear parading, and soldiers marching along with great theatre. Pan for gold at the Red Hill Gully Diggings where it’s finders, keepers! Ride stagecoach, visit the original schoolhouse or watch old-fashioned boiled lollies being made, candle making, wheel craftsmanship and so much more.
Bring your own lunch for a picnic or buy a tasty treat from the original-style shops, including the bakery and café. You can even grab a bonus ticket that allows you to come back free the next day! There are so many special events at Sovereign Hill – a Lights Spectacular and Winter Wonderland to name just two –so check the dates to plan your visit so you don’t miss out!
Ballarat Wildlife Park is the perfect place for kids to get up close to native animals including giant tortoises, koalas, wombats, various birdlife, crocodiles, and Tasmanian Devils. In the open area, come face to face with a mob of the friendliest kangaroos you may ever encounter (they love having their necks scratched). For curious older kids, plan your time around the regular keeper talks where they will learn all about the animals and experience the occasional hands- on encounter. Get your camera ready for all the fabulous photo opportunities.
Only available on selected dates, plan your visit around an evening dinner show or feast at Kryal Castle just 8km east of Ballarat. The Castle reopened in 2013 and is Australia’s only medieval theme park – a legendary land of myth and medieval adventure with knights, dragons, wizards, kings, queens, princesses, fairies and so much more. This night time taste of Kryal Castle will have your kids begging to come back to experience the fantastic adventure park by day.
Take a moment to shop, eat and play at the child-friendly ‘Such N Such’ café and store. This stylish outlet sells great homewares and clothes, and has an indoor café serving good coffee and delicious local light fare. Best of all there is full size kids playhouse onsite, making it a favourite meeting spot for local families.